Emily is an investigative researcher and writer specializing in existential urban migration. She has a Master's Degree in International Migration Policy from the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) where she first began her research with a case study of 27 Americans living in Buenos Aires.
Emily is from Montpelier, Vermont and also lived in both San Antonio and Austin, Texas. She permanently left the United States in February 2006 and has lived in Madrid, Prague, and currently resides in Buenos Aires.
One of the best explanations right now as to why Americans or other expats decide to live abroad is the theory of “Existential Migration” (Greg Madison, 2006). Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, existential migration (based partly on Heidegger’s alternative understandings of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’, and the concept of ‘home as interaction’ rather than ‘home as place’) is seen as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about one’s own existence by moving abroad and becoming a foreigner.
“Rather than migrating in search of employment, career advancement, or overall improved economic conditions, these voluntary migrants are seeking greater possibilities for actualizing, exploring foreign cultures in order to assess their own identity, and ultimately grappling with issues of home and belonging in the world generally” (Existential Migration, Madison, 2006).
A guide for expats: enrolling in a master’s program at UBA
Very often Buenos Aires expats ask me questions about doing a master’s degree here, so I’ve decided to share my experience. I’m also happy to help if anyone has any specific questions that aren’t answered here.
VERY proud of UBA for being recognized as the top spanish-speaking university in the world. While studying International Immigration Policy at UBA’s School of Psychology, my professors encouraged me to research Americans that had immigrated to Argentina, eventually leading to an in-depth thesis investigation and analysis…. eventually leading to the launch of this blog.
There are many reasons why being an expat is the best life ever (check out my Top 5 reasons being an urban expat is the best), but living abroad also comes with a fair share of struggles and sacrifices. Here are my picks for the top 5 struggles of expat life.
I like to keep the information on this blog a bit light sometimes, so what better way to do that then to talk about wine! I have been to a few wine tastings in Buenos Aires (in the Palermo Soho area) over the years and here are a few of my favorites.
Today, the urban destinations of American expats are numerous, and expanding. In addition to the more traditional destinations (Mexico, Canada, Israel, Australia and many countries in Europe), in recent years we’ve seen new currents of American migration, especially towards Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. They tend to choose these destinations for a combination of personal, cultural, linguistic, educational, professional and economic reasons. It’s also important to mention that many Americans are also heavily influenced by their family and social networks, and often choose their host country, and city, accordingly.
Above all, the trend of American expatriation to urban destinations is the most notable, especially to “global cities” where they find international lifestyles, cultural opportunities, diversity, excitement, and of course growing urban expat communities.
Moving to a big city abroad is an an exciting adventure!
You meet people from all over the world. As a foreigner in a big city it’s just natural that you fall into the international social scene and meet other amazing urban expats.
Freedom and independence. Living abroad is essentially living outside the box and as a foreigner you generally aren’t held to the same expectations as locals, which means a life of independence and freedom from society’s rules and expectations.
Freedom from a boring life. Everything is new and different: new language, new culture, new food, new friends, new customs…
You increase your intelligence. Yes, all these new and different experiences, new language, new culture expand your mind in ways you never thought possible.
You also learn a lot more about yourself and grow and change so much just by getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself.
The expat community is starting to worry…and they should. Seems like Argentina’s lax approach to north american immigration and long-term “tourism” is no longer the standard. It’s still early, and only a couple cases have been reported, but that fact is that a couple of north americans weren’t allowed into the country when they returned Ezeiza after visiting family in their home countries (U.S.A. and Canada). Here’s what the “rejection” notice looks like. You’ll notice the reason is listed as “pseudo turista”.
Lots of young and educated Americans are expatriating from the United States, more than ever before. Why? Here are a few of our theories, based on interviews with 27 Americans living in Buenos Aires.
1. The Rat Race
Many of the Americans interviewed mentioned their dissatisfaction with the “rat race”, the “fast pace of life”, the “competitive” atmosphere and the “work-oriented lifestyle” in the United States. According to them, Americans place too much emphasis on professional success and spend too much time working.
The grand majority of the Americans interviewed admitted to having more foreign friends than local ones, and they believe that a large contributing factor to this situation is that there are simply more ways to meet “expats” than there are to meet locals. If you compare this post on meeting locals to my post on the top 5 ways to meet expats in Buenos Aires you’ll notice one glaring factor that makes all the difference: the internet. While this is the preferred method of many for meeting other foreigners in Buenos Aires, very few mentioned this as the way they met their local friends.
So how did they meet their few precious porteño friends? Here are the top 5 ways these Americans made local amigos in Buenos Aires.
First of all, a lot (more than half based on my research) of Americans living in Buenos Aires do so under the “tourist” category, meaning that upon entering the country they get a stamp in their passport that allows them to stay in the country for 90 days of “tourism”. However, I discovered that many Americans have been living in Buenos Aires for years as “tourists”. Some of them leave the country every 90 days and then get a new stamp when they re-enter, but most of them tend to “overstay” their 90 days, and pay the $300 peso fine when they do eventually leave the country (many claim it’s cheaper than taking a trip every 3 months).
Why don’t I have any porteño friends? You’re not alone.
Americans living in Buenos Aires don’t have many local porteño friends. Why?
During the interviews I conducted for my research on Americans living in Buenos Aires, I asked the participants about their social lives in BA. First of all, while the majority have an Argentine partner, the majority also claimed to have more foreign friends (primarily English-speaking) than local ones.
The good, the bad and the ugly of the transience of the expat communities in global cities.
The revolving door of expat friends when you live abroad
Most of the participants in my case study of Americans living in Buenos Aires claimed to have more foreign friends than local ones, and in many cases, those friends are English-speaking or American friends. In this context, many commented on the “revolving door” of expat friends in Buenos Aires due to the typically temporary nature of American expatriation to Buenos Aires.