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Katie Metz, Necochea

My name is Katie Metz, and I’m a yanqui (Argentine slang for an American) from Philadelphia living in Argentina. Love brought me to the seaside city of Necochea, Argentina, where I work from home as a freelance Spanish-English translator.

I write about my musings and reflections on Argentine culture, food and current events on my blog Seashells and Sunflowers. You can also find me on Twitter @katiealleyWhere, when and why did you move abroad?

I met my Argentine boyfriend (now fiancé) Daniel four years ago. After maintaining a long-distance romance for two and a half years, we finally decided that for the benefit of our relationship, one of us would need to make the leap into the unknown. For personal reasons, we decided that it would be easier for me to move to Argentina than for Daniel to move to the United States, particularly since he’s involved in his family’s business. I moved to Necochea, Argentina, a coastal city of 65,000 inhabitants in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, back in March 2009.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The greatest challenges I faced during the move were probably of a financial nature. I had just started up my translation business, and as with many new business ventures, it took a while to gain momentum. I was also trying to sell my home in the midst of the U.S. housing crisis, which, needless to say, proved to be difficult. In addition, as I was moving independently and not as part of an expat relocation, I had to bear all the costs of the move myself. After investigating the costs of shipping my things in boxes or a container, I determined that it made more sense to sell most of my belongings and buy what I needed in Argentina. I used Craigslist and yard sales to sell most of my furniture and other belongings, and I felt this was a successful approach.

How did you find somewhere to live?

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I was spared the process of house or apartment hunting, as I moved in with Daniel when I arrived.

Are there many other expats in your area?

I’m not aware of any expats in my immediate area; however, there is a small expat community in Mar del Plata, a larger city about 1.5 hours from Necochea. I have made friends with a few English-speaking expats there, and I get together with them every couple of months. I occasionally visit Buenos Aires, the hub of expat activity in Argentina, and I have a network of friends there who are a wonderful source of support and information as well.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

I have a very positive relationship with the “locals,” particularly since I’m about to marry one! I’m extremely fortunate to have the support of Daniel and his family, who have helped me tremendously in terms of my adjustment to life here.

On the whole, people have been welcoming and friendly. Since there are very few foreigners here in Necochea (and even fewer Americans!), I’m something of a novelty. Argentines are generally quite curious as to why a U.S. citizen would choose to live in a small city in their country, and I’m normally asked a rather predictable set of questions including “Do you like Argentina?” and “Do you miss living in the United States?”

The shopkeepers that I interact with on a weekly basis (baker, owner of the corner store, butcher) all know me and make a point of greeting me, something that never occurred when shopping in the large supermarkets or “big box” stores in the U.S. I also joined a community chorus as a way to indulge one of my hobbies – music – and to meet new people, and I felt accepted by the group from the very beginning. I truly feel as though I’m part of the community here.

What do you like about life where you are?

Argentine culture values family and friends above all else, with work viewed more as a means to an end. I find that this attitude jives with my sensibilities regarding family and career more so than the typical American attitude, which often places career ambition before relationships.

I enjoy the slower pace of life in Argentina. I work comfortably from home, and my flexible schedule ensures that I have plenty of time for the family and friends that are so cherished here. I have an excellent relationship with Daniel’s family, and we often spend lazy weekend afternoons together chatting, drinking mate, going for drives around the city, etc.

I live just 10 minutes away by car from the Atlantic Ocean, and if the mood strikes me, I’m able to go for a walk on the beach in a heartbeat. I also enjoy relaxing down by the river (only five minutes away on foot), and Daniel and I often picnic along its banks when the weather allows. Being surrounded by natural beauty provides a sense of calm and serenity; life is just more relaxing here.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I miss my family and the friendships that I had cultivated back in the United States. I wish I had more opportunities to visit my family in Philadelphia, but the expense of traveling is a limiting factor. Fortunately, family members have been able to travel to Argentina a couple of times since I moved here.

I miss American efficiency and customer service at times. Argentine bureaucracy can be infuriating, and the number of steps one must complete for the simplest of transactions would test even the patience of a saint.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Try to maintain realistic expectations about what your new life will be like. Connect with other expats who can offer advice and understand your situation, even if they don’t live around the corner. And lastly, be willing to laugh at yourself and the blunders you’re sure to make as you adjust to your new surroundings, language, culture, etc.!

What are your plans for the future?

Daniel and I are planning to marry early next year, and we’re looking forward to starting a family. For the foreseeable future, we intend to live in Argentina, but a move to the United States at some point in the future is not entirely out of the question.