QTRAVEL – Few things compare to the adventure of moving to another country. From the moment you step onto the plane, your reality will be totally transformed, along with your life.
But the direction this plane travels in will also make an enormous difference. Every corner of the planet offers an extensive menu of opportunities, challenges, encounters, contradictions, scenery etc. Latin America, with its incredible cultural diversity, will certainly make its mark on each and every person who decides to call it home.
In order to make your experiences as profound as possible, we’ve developed a short list of 7 habits we think contribute to the happiness of an expat in Latin America. Whether you’re from Europe, the U.S., Canada, Asia, Africa or even another part of Latin America, if you integrate these 7 habits into your life in Latin America, you’ll be much closer to understanding and appreciating the authentic local culture.
A happy expat in Latin America…
- Understands that each country in the region is different. Each country has experienced a variety of historical events that have given them their own unique and special cultures. Interacting with Argentines will be a very different experience from interacting with Mexicans, Colombians, Bolivians or Panamanians. Without realizing this, we limit the possibilities of understanding the distinctive nature of each country.
- Knows that not everybody speak Spanish, but the one that speak Spanish, it is not the same Spanish. There are Spanish, French and Portuguese Speaking Countries in Latin America, but also many aboriginal languages are spoken throughout the region like Aymara, Guarani, Quechua, etc. But even the Spanish spoken in the different Spanish-speaking Latin American countries can be a matter of a few unique (and untranslatable!) words, grammatical structures, idiomatic phrases, accents and even ways of saying the same word. It all varies from country to country and, even though Spanish is the most spoken language, a happy expat in Latin America knows that they won’t know how to speak the exact Spanish in the country where they’re going… but will enjoy learning all the new words and phrases.
- Accepts that things don’t always work like the did back home. This is especially true for expats arriving from developed countries… although it can even affect people from other Latin American countries. Sometimes the lights go out, or the metro/subte isn’t running and you end up late for work. Maybe your friends will make you wait forever to meet up, or you see more trash in the street than you typically do in your old country. A happy expat accepts that in Latin America sometimes not everything goes according to plan, and develops a certain level of flexibility to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
- Isn’t afraid of insecurity… but they take precautions. Arriving afraid of Latin America is probably the biggest mistake an expat can make. A happy expat understands that there are problems of insecurity in the region, but instead of shutting himself or herself off in an “expat bubble” or staying in one place out of fear, they take the necessary precautions to be able to live a normal, adventurous life.
- Has the heart of an adventurer, and seeks to get to know Latin America profoundly. Every Latin American country has as many identities as there are ethnic, social and cultural groups in the world. However, many expats only limit themselves to interacting with only one of these identities, probably the one most like their own. Latin America offers and infinity of places to discover, people to meet, stories to share and new points of view to consider. A happy expats seeks them out, explores them, questions them and learns in the process about the enormous diversity Latin America has to offer.
- Doesn’t let poverty, corruption and inequality get them down. Crying, complaining or deluding oneself about the primary challenges of the region aren’t going to change anything. A happy expat seeks to understand the underlying causes of these problems (without necessarily accepting them), so that he or she can find the best way to contribute toward making a true, sustainable difference, and to also understand that these issues are more complex than will be possible to solve with the first idea that pops into his or her head. Things don’t usually change overnight.
- Messes around, dances, jokes and has fun. From trying an exotic dish or exploring the sierras of Peru, to disorderly dancing the salsa in Cali Colombia or attending a soccer classic between Boca and Rivera at the Bombonera in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Latin America has an ample range of opportunities on offer for living life to the fullest, bringing your senses and emotions to a level you’ve never experienced before. This makes an expat in Latin America very, very happy.
What other habits would you add to the list?