Carrie: “living abroad opens up my view of the world and exposes me to new ways of thinking”
Carrie is our People of the World editor and has just moved from Bali, Indonesia to Mendoza, Argentina. In this interview she tells us about living and running a business abroad and how she and her family are adapting to life in Argentina.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am an American, currently living in Mendoza, Argentina. I love travelling and seeing the world and learning about new cultures- my goal is to see as much of the world as possible. I am also an entrepreneur/small business owner and mom to a two and a half year old boy with another baby on the way in July, so I keep busy!
Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?
We just moved to Mendoza, Argentina about a month and a half ago from Bali, Indonesia. My husband and I are from New York, but have lived abroad since 2002. We started out in Barcelona, then London, then got more adventurous and lived in Rio and Montevideo for a brief while before moving over to Bali. Our first move abroad was to go to IESE business school in Barcelona, and then we fell in love with the life abroad. One of our goals is to teach our son Spanish and we love Argentina, so that is what prompted this most recent move. We do miss being home and seeing family, and one of the benefits of being in South American rather than Asia is the time zone (no more 13 hour jet lags!!) and ability to get home more frequently.
If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. If you have kids, what culture do they most associate with?
Even though I have lived all over, and was raised in Mexico City, I would still describe myself as American through and through. For me, I have found that living abroad opens up my view of the world and exposes me to new ways of thinking, but doesn’t necessarily change how I define myself culturally. That I believe is deeply ingrained by your parents and family growing up. I am not sure how living abroad will impact my son’s feeling of culture. He hasn’t had any experience living in the US and was born in London, so who knows what culture he’ll associate with!
Can you describe a typical day for you?
Right now, we’re still in the process of settling in, so we haven’t yet gotten into a routine. We wake up late for us, at around 8 am (until now over the last couple of years, I would wake up at 5). Argentines stay up super late- it isn’t unusual for kids and toddlers to be awake at midnight- and most restaurants don’t even open until 8:30 pm for dinner- so after spending two weeks being woken by neighbors at 1 am when they were finishing up dinner we decided to adjust and go to bed late now too!. We’re settling our son into school so we take him and drop him off for a little while in the morning while my husband and I work. We have a light lunch at home as a family, then a babysitter comes in the afternoon for the second shift of us trying to get some work in. Dinner’s usually at 7:30/8 pm. On the weekends, we try to make a point to take a day off and go to a vineyard, but we’ve also been doing a lot of house hunting and errands to try to get ourselves settled in here.
What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?
The best part of living in Chacras de Coria, Mendoza, where we are now is the beauty of the natural scenery. Each day I see the snow-capped Andes mountains from afar, drive through vineyards (they even have vines growing at the airport!) and although Mendoza is technically a desert, it is extremely lush and green.
What I have found hardest is trying to understand how things work here. Ironically, in Bali, which is so much further and so different culturally, there is so much tourism that many people speak English, people there like Americans and have a very laid back style of things so maneuvering day to day wasn’t hard at all. Here, we are still learning how to make things happen. For example, finding a house is a real challenge for a foreigner as you need an Argentine guarantor and they want you to pay in dollars, but foreigners aren’t allowed by the government to take out USD from the bank (so really hard to pay in cash!). And there are restrictions on gas so the queues to get gas can be as long as 20 cars, if you can even find a gas station that has gas! So, we’re still learning how to integrate ourselves into the culture and learn the ways of the world here! On the plus side, Argentines are friendly so we get lots of tips and suggestions.
What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?
Spanish and English. In Mendoza, no one speaks English so I use my (rusty!) Spanish to get around day to day. Our son is going to a little school here and the teachers only speak Spanish so we spend a lot of time trying to practice with him at home too. But amongst ourselves (my husband, son and I) we speak English.
Describe a favorite typical meal from your country
The food here in Argentina is fantastic! Everything from the bakeries to the restaurants are amazing. Argentine chefs have a way of cooking simple meals like grilled steak to perfection, with just the right spices and flavors, so that the meals aren’t too fancy and yet are delicious. A personal favorite is the alfajore: two cookies with dulce de leche on the inside, with a little bit of coconut. If you’re a real sweets lover, you can even get alfajores covered in chocolate.
What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?
People are often surprised at how European the cities in Argentina feel. I think a lot of people come to Argentina expecting a very Latin feel, but Mendoza and Buenos Aires feel to me more like a European city than like their Latin neighbors.