I’ve lived one quarter of my life in Buenos Aires, and I’m here to stay. I fell in love with Buenos Aires and the people during my first visit 20 years ago. It was an easy decision for me to start a new life in Buenos Aires. I’ve never regretted the move to Argentina.
A couple of months ago, a tango friend and I were attending an outdoor concert. Luis knows I’m from Chicago, and asked me an interesting question: “Can you tell me the best thing about Chicago?” I thought for a few seconds and said, “Luis, I can’t think of anything. I haven’t been there since October 2006, and I’m not going back. My life is in Buenos Aires.”
I had to acclimate to a new culture and language through total immersion on a day-to-day basis. There was no information on the internet about living in Buenos Aires as we have today.
We had tango music in our home during the 1950s. My parents bought long-play records of various orchestras that were popular in the USA. I remember that my sister and I asked our parents to show us the steps they learned at the park district dance classes.
We had to learn a second language in high school — German, French, Spanish or Latin. I chose Spanish and studied it for two and a half years. Even though I didn’t use it for many years, I was glad I learned vocabulary and verb conjugation. I needed to speak Spanish to survive in Buenos Aires. There was a period when I was afraid to answer the telephone, preferring to avoid conversation. I listened how Argentines use the language for three years before it made any sense. My accent is obvious to Argentines, but I can make myself understood. That’s all that matters to me. I hear more English being spoken these days in Buenos Aires than when I arrived in 1999. Argentines are the best English speakers in Latin America.
I left my American lifestyle behind and embraced a new culture. Instead of having to depend on a car for transportation, I walk and take the bus. I gave away my television five years ago, and I don’t miss it. I don’t have air-conditioning in my apartment when a small fan keeps me comfortable on hot days. I don’t use a credit card or even a cellphone.
Life today in my Buenos Aires neighborhood reminds me of the way it was growing up in Chicago during the 1950s. Neighbors knew one another and took the time for some conversation. Shopkeepers knew customers by name. I regularly meet neighbors on the street who have time for a visit. The friendly shopkeepers who call me by name are the ones I patronize. It’s nice to feel part of the community.
I have a great life in Buenos Aires — no stress, mild weather with mostly sunny days, loads of free concerts to attend, good friends, and most of all, tango with the milongueros viejos.