In 1988 there was a movie starring William Hurt called "The Accidental Tourist." Hurt played a character who writes tour guides for people who hate to travel. The tour guides tell people how to find American food, avoid the locals, so that they never feel like they have left home.
We all know tourists who complain about things not being as good as where they are from, why don't they speak English. These are tourists. However there is another catagory of people who I like to call the "accidental resident."
The accidental resident comes in various flavors. They can be someone who travels to a place several times a year, immersing themselves in the local culture or someone who actually stays in the remote place for an extended period of time. One is the temporary accidental resident and the other is the permanent accidental resident.
It doesn't even have to be another country. It could be another city or state. I know people in California who spend inordinate amounts of time in New York or Florida, but they never make a committment to live there.
My experience of course is more with people who come to Buenos Aires. Although I realize after this post is published I will hear from my friends in Mexico, Thailand, Australia, and other parts of the world The accidental resident can live anywhere or be found in any country of the world. They can be from any country, not just the USA.
Before I moved to Argentina, I was an accidental resident. I was an accidental resident of Paris, of Mexico, and finally Buenos Aires. I spent alot of time in Paris and in Mexico. I fantasized living in both countries. I would look at apartments, I made friends. I even had a job offered to me in Paris. But I could never make the committment to actually move.
Then I went to Buenos Aires. That was the end of my trips to Paris and Mexico. In Spanish we say "Buenos Aires me engancho." I was hooked.
I came to Buenos Aires 18 times before my official move. I had what I called my "other life." I would leave the Bay Area and land in Buenos Aires. I would fire up my Argentine cell phone as soon as I could. When I got to the apartment I had rented, I would start to call my friends.
My Argentine life would start. Milongas from late afternoon to sometime the next morning. Practicas with my teaching friends, cafes and pizza. Anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, "I lived in Argentina."
I would return to the Bay Area with Argentine wine, dulce de leche, dried pasta, mate, and whatever else I could bring. I looked for Argentines to befriend. I was a little crazy now that I look back.
I considered myself an expert on Argentina..even though I didn't live there. I was the temporary accidental resident. This is what is so annoying about temporary accidental residents. They think they know it all. (Myself included.) I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with people who come here and know more about living in Buenos Aires than the people who live here.
Many times they refuse any type of recommendations, help, or information..because they know it all. The sad thing is most of the time they have no clue. They are immersed in one part of a culture and that is all they know.
Last year when I was on the bus with a couple of Argentine women coming home from the milonga we had a conversation about the current situation. We talked about the inflation, the insecurity, and politics. Both women laughed at me. They remembered how when I would come on my visits when I was a temporary accidental resident. I would argue how safe Argentina was, how easy it was to live here, how everyone was so friendly. Really living in a place can change your perspective.
Now what about the other accidental resident? This is usually but not always a temporary accidental resident who has moved to a new country,state, or city for a reason other than work or family. Do not confuse the accidental resident from the person who actually has made a committment to their new residence. The accidental resident usually never leaves the cocoon of their native country or city.
If they have to learn a new language..they almost never do, and then complain that nobody understands them. They hate the food. They don't like the people. Nothing is as good as where they came from. The system is all screwed up. They surround themselves with other accidental residents who feel the same way as they do or people who speak their language. You have to wonder why are they there? Usually they begin to wonder that too, and they leave.
Like my friends in Mexico, Thailand, and everywhere else I made a committment to live in Argentina. I have permanent residency. I work, I pay taxes. I learned to speak Argentine Spanish. I find it really annoying to have to listen to foreigners complain about the food and everything else here.
People always ask me; "Why are you here?" It is a very simple answer, I like it here. I have a good life. Maybe my life is not as easy as it would be if I still lived in the USA, but I like my life here. I have good friends. They are from everywhere. I actually see my friends and I don't have to make an appointment in advance to do so. I love my work teaching English.
I love the food. I get tired of the complaints. Argentina has great fruits and vegetables. I get wonderful walnuts here. In the US I never ate chicken, the chicken here is delicious and so are the eggs. No, there is no cheddar cheese here, but so what? I love pategras and queso Mar del Plata. There is no sour cream but I love Casan Crema and if I absolutely have to have sour cream it is easy to make.
Like some of my friends we make the things we can't get here; kosher style dills, greek yogurt, different kinds of bread, Thai food, Mexican food. (The Thai and Mexican food here is not that good..better to make it yourself.) I don't miss anything enough to complain about it.
I have always said the only reason to change your country is if you have to, (work, political persecution) or because you want to. If you want to, you need to really like the place. If you change because it is cheaper or for a hobby, you might be severly disappointed, and then people like me are going to have to listen to you.