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There are six basic types of expat* that you will come across in Buenos Aires. They are, in decreasing order of how likely you are to meet them:
(*Disclaimer: The characters described below are entirely fictional and not based on any real-life expats. Except number 4. And number 6.)
1. The “artist/musician/actor/photographer/yeah, I teach English, basically” expat.
Buenos Aires was meant to be the launchpad for her momentous ascent on the global arts world, lauded as the multi-talented human epicentre of a vibrant cultural scene of her own making in the
dog shit capital ‘Paris of the South’. But her indie-cumbia-gospel quintet succumbed to local indifference, her acting career highlight was as a 200-pesos-a-day extra in a sexist Quilmes ad, and her paintings resemble angry sheep revisiting their breakfasts. Which is more than you can say for her photography.
All she’s got to show for the last five years is a dog-eared pile of phrasal verb list and TOEFL practice tests, although she’s long lost any enthusiasm for teaching English, instead using her classes to watch Mad Men and chat to her better-looking students about their love lives. Likes to think of herself as more psychoanalyst than English teacher, which is fine because she isn’t really qualified to do either. Eventually moves back to the UK to teach Spanish in high schools and, understandably, commit suicide.
2. The ex-banker frat-boy expat
The fresh-out-of-Harvard, one-time Bright White Hope of the business world, he was the first in the firing line when the credit crunch came a-crunching in 2008. Landing in Buenos Aires with self-important dreams of founding some entrepreneurial-creative-philanthropy money pit, he soon realised that a far better investment was to shoot his huge bank-job pay-off load on five years of unrepentant partaying. His days are spent in his designer hammock or doing something unconventional with a Frisbee, and his nights alternate between Sugar and Magdalena’s Party (he’s been banned from The Alamo). Can’t stop talking about how awesome Creamfields is gonna be this year.
Speaks next to no Spanish, his one attempt at conventional learning coming to an abrupt end when he had sex with his teacher. After the first class. On the desk. But because he’s two feet taller than you, has the most perfect handshake, is always impeccably dressed, and seems at times to perspire money, you know you’d probably marry him if you were younger and dumber and the right gender. Instead, you just resent and despise him and his amazing Palermo loft, as you take the bus home to your damp hovel in Almagro.3. The yoga vegan enlightened world traveller expat
Hasn’t washed her hair or shaved since she arrived at Ezeiza and writes ferocious blog posts no one reads about the importance of natural beauty, always neglecting to mention that discreet plastic surgery she had on a skiing trip to Mendoza. Pushing 60 but looking early 40s, when she isn’t meditating or whipping up an impromptu lunch of avocado, quinoa and arugula, she’s telling you on Facebook about how she just meditated and whipped up an impromptu etc. and so on. For such an apparently zen-like figure, she gets into an awful lot of fights on Facebook, resulting in major defriendings and midday openings of gin bottles.
Kind of wound up in Buenos Aires by accident, back before she renounced men forever, and now can’t find her way out, so every new day here is a struggle to fight the resentment bubbling just below the surface and keep her chi in check. Has no idea what’s going on in the country she lives in and hence is constantly asking angry questions on Facebook like “Why are all my neighbours shouting?” and “What are all these fireworks for?!?!?” and “Why is X so expensive/hard to find in this damn town?”, to which the answers are 1, Argentina just won the World Cup in a minority sport; 2, it’s New Years Eve; 3, because, well, Argentina.
4. The “actually I prefer to think of myself as an immigrant” expat.
Been here so long, he refuses to mix with any Johnny-come-lately who doesn’t have a DNI and an expired passport with at least 15 Uruguayan stamps. Lives somewhere you’ve never heard of like Villa General Mitre and when you ask him where that is, he snorts “You know Palermo? Yeah, nowhere near there.” Ostentatiously supports an obscure football team in the B Metropolitana which had a brief flirtation with success back in the mid-90s.
The worst kind of pedantic linguist, he hauls Argentines up on matters of minor grammatical import in their own language, speaks Spanish with a comical cordobés accent because his wife’s family’s from there and having a porteño accent would be, like, so BA “newby”. Insists on speaking Spanish to native English-speakers, with the excuse that “yeah, I don’t really speak that much English these days, actually”. Twat.5. The Pilar/Hurlingham expat
You suspect this one may actually just be an Argentine with a really good English accent, if it wasn’t for that shock of red hair, the cricket whites, and that quintessentially Anglo-Saxon trait of functional alcoholism. Dig a little deeper and it turns out he has distant blood ties with some genocidal Irish-Argentine folk hero and can trace his family tree to Sarah Ferguson and Chris de Burgh. His Argentine wife speaks English with one of those near-perfect RP (River Plate, rather than Received Pronunciation) accents that are the hallmark of an expensive Lenguas Vivas/Joaquín González education, and is incapable of speaking her native Spanish without dropping in and out of English entirely unnecessarily, as in “Deberíamos ir a tomar un nice cup of tea algún día”.
6. The blogger expat
The massed ranks of the world’s English-speaking press never got back to him about that “Laugh-out-loud column about daily life in Buenos Aires” pitch, but that hasn’t put him off churning out weekly lists of lazy stereotypes of both his expat social group and his gracious Argentine hosts that invariably cause more offence than laughter. Fancies himself as a foodie/wine expert, if only so that he can have a boozy three-hour, five-course lunch without feeling guilty about the path his life has taken. Believes anything that cannot be reduced to a convenient list is not worth writing or reading, and that all forms of humanity and culture can be whittled down to six essential “types”. Spends half his week spamming his own industrious drivel-ridden output on Twitter, since everyone on Facebook except his mum long since blocked the annoying little twerp’s updates.
bitchy stereotyping reporting by Marc Rogers.
More Tunnard at www.danieltunnard.com
More of Tunnard’s questionable humour at Gringo Standup, Argentina’s finest English-language standup comedy show.
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