Last week my friend Linda was here visiting from the Bay Area. She became a part of my pack so to say. She hung out with me and my friends. At one point when we were together she told me that she thought I was doing well living here in Buenos Aires. "You seem really happy, much calmer than when you lived in the Bay Area." she said to me. Linda teased me. "You are the same." She said to me. "Always busy. Always doing something. Only now it is different things."
We had lots of conversations about lifestyle differences. She is no stranger to living in another country. She moved to the U.S. from England more than 10 years ago. She told me that even though the language is the same, there are still cultural differences. More than most people would imagine.
Linda like most of my friends, knows, that I did not move here for tango. I moved here because I like the life here. I did not come here to "reinvent" myself. To become another person. Or become something I could not be elsewhere. I had a great life in California. Lots of friends and many many good things. There was always this little piece missing. I found it here. I am nocturnal. I can be nocturnal here and not be alone. I also like to be around people. Here in Argentina, if you are alone, as one of my friends Vero says, "There is something wrong with you."
In North American the thrust is for privacy. Here everyone knows your business. Sometimes I have to remind myself not to talk to my North American guests the same way I do with my Argentine friends. We talk about everyone and everything concerned with everyone. It is just how it is. I know things about people I only met once or never met. Because my friends talk about their friends, their family. In North America this would be considered bad form. Here it is normal. I am no longer amazed now when I meet people for the first time and they know all about me.
The other thing I like is how friendships are. I have been asked many times by other ex-pats if the Argentines I know ever invite me to their homes. This is kind of an interesting question. North Americans are proud of their homes. I tell my Argentine friends how when you go to the home of a person the first time they always give you a tour. Or if they change something, they want you to see it. Events are created around new homes, new couches, new bathrooms.
My Argentine friends think this is funny. When Sandra moved into her new apartment I asked her if I could see the rest of it. She did not offer a tour. This is standard for most of my friends. Seeing their apartment or house is not on the agenda. Having mate or dinner is.
I do go to the homes of my friends. They invite me for one reason or another. The thing is, most of the time we go out. The main reason is space. Most apartments are much smaller than apartments in North America. That and people come from different sides of the city, so we tend to meet somewhere easy for all of us. OR around an event like shopping in Plaza Serrano, or the theater or a movie.
The other thing I notice is that people here keep their friends forever. I think this might be the reason why many people who come here find it difficult to meet "locals" and develop deep friendships. (Besides the language) People tend to keep their friends from grammar school. They stay in their same little groups. Many of my friends meet with their grammar school friends once a month to have dinner. Some go in groups as large as 20 or more.
I think people in North America are more migratory. I changed states and parts of the country twice before I moved here. In California I lived mostly in the North, but I lived for a time in the South. I moved many times in the 31 years I lived there. I have no contact with anyone from grammar school, although several old friends from high school have found this blog and emailed me. They too have migrated from our old stomping grounds to other parts of the country.
Here people tend to stay put. Not only in the same country, but in the same apartment. People live at home with parents longer. People don't sell apartments and trade up. Not unless they have a reason. A new baby, someone dies, gets married, life events.
The thing I like is sharing time with my friends. I shared time with my friends in the U.S. but not in the same way. Like wanting to have coffee with my friends in California. I had to make an appointment, put it in my agenda, sometimes for 6 weeks in advance. Here I just call one of my friends "Quieres tomar un cafe?" and we meet.
Weekends here are for friends and family. My weekends before were for me. Saturdays I meet friends to go shopping, go to lunch, have mate. Recently on Sundays we have been doing lunches too. Last week Sandra locked herself out of her apartment not once but two times. The first time she had to go to a locksmith. The second time I asked our friend Jorge if he knew how to open doors.
He has lots of businesses and is one of those handy kind of guys. I figured it was worth asking. After staying out until 5:00 am with me, Sandra, and Linda, he went over to Sandra's at 11:00. Sandra of course ended up staying at my house because she couldn't get into hers. At noon I came over to have mates with her and Jorge. Then Linda came over. Sandra cooked Sunday lunch, and then later we all went for coffee. Other than the B&E of Sandra's door, this was a normal Sunday. Lunch with friends.
I am finding that every Sunday we are together. A group of us. Sometimes one of cooks. Sometimes we meet in a restaurant. We are always together sharing. This for me is a big difference. Before my house was my sanctuary. Somewhere I could run and hide from the world. Be alone. Now my doors are wide open. Like the arms of my friends.