11 Life Skills I’ve Learned From Living In Argentina


1. When life gets hard, sometimes its better to do nothing

I’ve learned that sometimes problems solve themselves if you don’t do anything. Usually by waiting and not taking action, the problems resolve on their own or disappear altogether. Also, there are usually plenty of other issues going on at the same time so while waiting for one to solve itself, you can focus on all the others. The culture of Latin America is very relaxed so most of the time, I am the only one worrying about a problem anyway.

2. Some things may happen for a reason but others are just random

Does it mean something if all the traffic lights turn green just as we start driving? If I spill tea all over myself during class, does that mean I’m going to have a terrible evening? I constantly try to find patterns and reasons for everything that happens in my daily life. But often I find that things are completely random. I think I met the people I did for a reason and that through working hard and some luck, I have the jobs that I do and the apartment I wanted, but what about other things? Is there a reason I was born into a family who could give me a proper education so I don’t have to sell vegetables on the streets of Buenos Aires?

3. Bilingual relationships are more fun than monolingual ones

Relationships abroad are much more fun than in the US. In my relationship we speak Spanish and English. Its funny when I completely mess up a sentence in Spanish or when my boyfriend gets the phrasal verbs confused. Its: I passed OUT last night, not I passed AWAY. There’s a difference… Also arguing is a lot easier. When neither of us understands exactly what the other is saying, its makes fights less important and often less hurtful. And things are generally just more fun in another language. Although it can get frustrating when you can’t understand your boyfriend’s father’s accent at all.

4. There are many many different kinds of people in this world

There is a family of Bolivians who sell fruit across the street from my house. Most of them are missing teeth and probably didn’t go to school for very long, but they always want to know how to say the vegetables I’m buying in English. There are people who rob you for money to buy food and people who rob you for money to buy drugs and people who send their kids out to rob you for them to have money to buy drugs. There are people who live in the slums and work hard every day and there are snobby businessmen who litter in the streets. I’ve learned that people are raised to be good and people are raised to survive and how they end up varies on their families and environment. After growing up in a small town in CT, I thought most people were generally the same and either chose to do bad things or chose to be good. But it’s not that simple. 

5. Be more patient

Our culture expects everything to be instantaneous, but it doesn’t all have to go at warp speed. Things tend to take a while, I’ve learned, especially in Latin America. Cashiers at the grocery store, the bus drivers, meals with my boyfriend’s family, and the internet all seem to move at a glacial pace and it drives me nuts. But time isn’t as important here. We need to learn to be more patient, me especially.

6. Don’t let one bad thing ruin your whole day

When traveling or living abroad, its easy to get frustrated over little things and let them spiral out of control. The next thing you know, you’re cursing the entire country and all its inhabitants just because there’s yet another protest on your street or the immigrations officer gave you a hard time. Bad things happen and then good things happen. Don’t let one unfortunate incident ruin your mood.  

7. Learn how to make due with what you’ve got

Wanted to download that movie but the internet isn’t working again? The subway broke down today so now you have to figure out another way to get to work? Things like this happen frequently in Buenos Aires and you have to just take a deep breath, accept it for what it is, don’t get upset and choose something else. Argentines don’t even blink an eye when their day doesn’t go according to plan. In fact, they don’t even make plans really. It’s a good thing timing isn’t really an issue here, so if you’re late to work because the subway isn’t running, no one will even notice. In fact, they will probably be late too.

8. Be more easy going

Things won’t go according plan, people will cancel at the last minute, the food will burn because you can’t control the oven temperature, your cell phone will just stop working and there will be construction that makes your overcrowded bus 20 mins late. It’s important to learn to go with the flow and let these things go. It’s hard (especially for someone who likes nice, neat plans), but it’s a necessary life skill. Just remember that it’ll all be okay in the end, as long as this bus comes eventually and gets to your destination…

9. People will rob you

I’ve read travel articles and blogs that have talked about how people are generally good. That through their travels, authors wrote about how trusting others were and how human nature is more good than bad. However, while I’m not saying this is wrong, I’ve learned not to trust anyone I don’t know in Argentina. I’ve heard many many stories of people being robbed and some being killed for not giving up their watch or shoes. Being killed over a pair of shoes! The thing to remember is that this may not point to evil human nature, but just the conditions of the people robbing you. With the out of control inflation in Argentina at the moment, the poorer populations are more desperate. And when kids see their parents violently robbing someone, they too turn to this type of behavior. It’s sad, and these aren’t nice people, but everyone has a story. Just try to be careful.

10. Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do

Lastly, in Argentina I am constantly outside my comfort zone. Even going to the shop on the corner, I know I look like a foreigner and I know I don’t sound native in Spanish and those two things make me feel just a little uncomfortable. Always. But meeting my boyfriend’s family and friends in Spanish, getting a job, dealing with problems with my apartment, ordering food, talking to the bus driver, and pretty much everything I have to do here in Buenos Aires is different from what I’m used to and puts me outside of my comfort zone. But I’m learning a whole lot and I know that’s what counts. If or when I move back to the US, I know that I will be able to handle almost any situation.

11. Everything changes all the time

I like routine. I don’t like change. But unfortunately, life is changing all the time. As soon as you’re comfortable with one thing, it changes. People move, jobs end, places close down, relationships fall apart, friendships bloom and disintegrate and there’s no way to know when anything is going to happen. Most things don’t turn out the way you expect and most of the time, that’s better. Just take it one day at a time and enjoy what you have while you have it.