Tips For Making A Start In Argentina As A Foreigner
In the 20 years I lived in Argentina, I met many foreigners visiting the country who said they would love to live there if they could only find a way to make a living. It was easy to understand how they could feel that way. Despite its many ups and downs, it’s a beautiful country, Buenos Aires is a jewel of a city, the climate is great, and the people are friendly.
So, how can a foreigner make a go of it in Argentina? Here are five ways:
- Expatriate: Get the company you’re working for to send you there. Of course, in most cases this will be for only a few years before you’re rotated to your next assignment.
- Teleworking: Have a job that allows you to work remotely for employers/clients outside the country. Lots of people who work in fields like IT, design and publishing have taken this route and they can get the best of both worlds: an income in foreign currency and the pleasure of a great place to live.
- Investor: go there and start your business make a investment.
- Local Employee: Go there and find a job.
- Entrepreneur: Start your own business venture.
For the adventurous the last two options certainly offer an adventure, and many who have taken the challenge have succeeded. Despite having much in similar with the US or other Western countries, Argentina is very different in ways that might not be readily apparent. For those who have considered taking the leap, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Relationships. Family and personal relationships are very important. Unlike in the US, where people move constantly and the rules tend to be clearer, feeling you can trust the people you are working or doing business with in Argentina is critical. You can build that trust, but it takes time.
2. Learn Spanish, and don’t be afraid to use it. Sure, we all know the importance of learning the local language. The hard part is being willing to put yourself in situations where you need to use it and learn to take your errors in stride. In my early days as a journalist, I once went on a TV program to speak about the then government’s latest “measures” to fix the economy. It was only afterwards I learned that instead of saying medidas (measures), I kept saying medias (socks).
3. Network, network, network. Ok, so you don’t have relationships that go back decades and your Spanish needs some work. What to do? Beyond doing the kind of networking within your area of interest you would do in the US when you’re looking for a job or doing business, network and socialize as much as you can in other circles too. As suggested in item 1, relationships run wide and deep in Argentina so the person you are talking to might not be in your line of work but he or she may have a primo (cousin) or childhood friend who is and would be willing to make an introduction.
4. It takes time to understand local rules and regulations, and keep you up to speed.
5. Assess your tolerance. Argentina’s economy has had its ups and downs. You need to be the kind of person who can adapt to change and figure out how to work around obstacles you may encounter.
6. Figure out your competitive advantage: Beating out the local talent for a job or in a business field can be tough, unless you have some competitive advantage. In my case, the combination of my business experience and ability to write well in English opened opportunities for me, first as a freelance journalist and then as a newspaper editor. Maybe your competitive advantage is experience with a business concept that hasn’t been tried yet in Argentina or an extensive network of contacts or business associates back home that can be leveraged somehow. Whatever it is, you’ll need it.
7. Have realistic expectations: Even if you have an outstanding resume, you might have to settle for less than your dream job, until you get established and prove yourself. If you’re starting your own venture, you might not want to go all in right away but give yourself some time to get the lay of the land. When folks down there start to see that you’re planning to stay for a while – and not just out to make a quick buck – opportunities will open.
Of course, staying long enough to pursue your ambition will require you to get residency in the country, but an immigration lawyer can tell you more about your options for that.
Starting anew as a foreigner in Argentina can be challenging, but if you’re willing to invest the time and effort it can be done. It is, after all, a country like the US that has become home to millions of immigrants over the years.
Dan Krishock is a former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald. He has worked for Tenaris and Weatherford and now works in Houston for a leading company in the energy sector.