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Sunday, August 12, 2007

How is the Expat Experience in Argentina for Children?

One of the most important things we took into consideration when making the decision to move to Argentina was “How is this going to affect our daughter?” We know that there will be challenges to face and adjustments to make once we've relocated, but in the end, we want this experience to be a positive one for every member of our family. We are fortunate enough to have family members who either moved their children overseas, or who spent part of their childhood in another country. We took their experiences into account. There were challenges to be sure, but overall, each child's life was made richer by their expat experience. Seeing their successes as adults was also very encouraging to us, and was right in line with what we want for our daughter. We want her to learn that the world doesn't end at the city limits. We want her to learn about other cultures, other perspectives, other ways of living. We want her to be an open-minded, well-rounded adult. We believe that this move will be a rich experience for her.

Knowing what we know about other children's expat experiences, we were able to go through with the decision to move to Argentina. However, Jammer and I know that it is prudent to continue to gather as much information as we can from people who have been there & done it already. With that being said, we'd like to direct the following questions to those of you who have relocated to Argentina (or other foreign countries) with your children. We know we can benefit from your experience and we welcome you to click the comment link below to add a comment to this discussion.

1.How long did your child(ren) take to learn the language?

2.What do you think are/were the biggest challenges for your child(ren)?

3.In your opinion, what is/was the best part of the experience for your child(ren)?

4.What tips do you have for future expats to help their children manage the transition to Argentina and assimilation into its culture?


Related link: raising bilingual children

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our experience has been very positive but different for each of our four children so I can only imagine our family's experience will be unique to us.

The rate of becoming fluent for our kids depended on their age. The youngest, at 15 months when we arrived, could understand everything immediately and when she began talking she was bi-lingual. She attended a local jardin. As the kids got older, it took longer but I would say all of them were functionally fluent after 6 months, verbally fluent after one year and now after nearly 4 years are totally bi-lingual(verbally and literately). Our children attend the American school which teaches 2 hours a day in Spanish across disciplines. I would imagine in a local bi-lingual school the fluency would happen more rapidly. School, social exposure to Latin speakers and traveling as a family when you all must make the effort will affect how quickly you learn the language.

I think the biggest challenge was experienced by the oldest child. The culture of the playground is a different place in Latin America. There is a much higher tolerance for bullying and social exclusion by parents and teachers. The school that my kids attend has a zero tolerance but it still can be
a much more intense and unpredictable place due to the cultural influences of the school. I am not making a value judgment about this, but there is a difference and it was a bit frightening to my son before he was able to figure out how it all worked. I should mention that there many examples of families that have transferred their children out of private bi-lingual schools into the American school. This is not just for the case for North Americans but other South Americans. If your child is older than 6 or 7 the opportunity to inculcate (unless he is a great futbol player)can be limited. Circles of friends are often the same through generations and they are not always open to new friends. Even with fluent Spanish you and your child might not find these schools welcoming.

The best part of the experience is what has naturally happened to our family..we depend on each other and are much closer. This is partly because of the period when we first got here and all we had was each other. The other reason we are closer is the family cultural of Argentina. The family unit is a much more cohesive (literally) unit than what we had experienced in the
US. My kids spend much more time with their dad and I am not running them everywhere and managing my kids. I always say here I feel like my head and my body are in the same place. Obviously, my children's world is much bigger, their brains are wired for language and they all have been bitten by wanderlust.

My advice would be to learn the language (everyone in the family, even the dog), travel beyond BA (Argentina is so much more), embrace the great things about Argentina (futbol, ice cream, parilla, the pace of the weekend and mate) and celebrate where you are from....

8/16/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately we have only been here since May 2007, therefore I can't give you a great deal of info regarding language and schools, since our daughter is only 15 months. However I will say, the family unity is pretty incredible, most Argentines are so natural and involved with children, infact at times I feel like the cold Norteamericana. Anyone from our neighbors to the laundry guy will always stop and kiss our daughter and they are truely sincere about it. Definately a culture that celecbrates children.

There are also alot of fabulous activities and events for kids, from classes at Club de Amigos to Toy shows to the Kid's Museum at Abasto...lots to do!

I just have to say that the food thing here has been my biggest dilemna...no really! I particularly like healthly things and of course that is not very accessible here, such as pre-made products, i.e. baby food. So I had to get very creative and experimental which finally resulted in some rather lovely staple meals for my picky one yr old that I have now mastered into a rotational freezing system. I am suck a geek, but who wants to spend so much time cooking.

Oh and I would recommend that a car be a must have, especially if you have young children. Plus you'll be more inclined to take weekend excursions outside the city.

Best of luck!

8/17/2007 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger ImagineArgentina said...

What a wonderful response! Thank you for your honesty and for truly capturing the essence of adventure and culture. I wish the best to you and your dear family...my wife and I are very familiar with the situation. I also encourage all to embrace those things around you, but never forgetting who you are and the experiences that shaped you. When my wife and I married in August 2002, she left her home in San Juan to relocate to the US while I finished school for a few years. We, too, grew much closer because of the challenges, but we lived the Argentine culture proudly, despite the new location.

8/17/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Maya Frost said...

It completely depends on the age of your children. Starting with a baby? No problem. We moved here with two of our four daughters--they were 15 and 16 at the time, so you can imagine it was quite a bit more challenging. The great news is that we learned all kinds of things about getting educated while living abroad, doing things "off the track" and getting a fantastic education in very unusual ways. I'm actually writing a book about it so other families can discover ways to skip the SAT, save thousands on college tuition, live abroad, become fluent and get an outrageously relevant education without paying for the American school experience. Feel free to contact me at maya@Massageyourmind.com if you'd like to know more!

8/19/2007 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger jammer said...

Here is another AWESOME article on this subject from EscapeArtist.com How to find the right school abroad

8/20/2007 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

Hi,

I am flattered that you linked to a post of mine. I wish I could help by adding more to the conversation but I think our situation is so different because my kids were actually born here and this is their home. At least, I got them to think of their grandmother's home in the USA as their second home. They really feel like it's their home over there as well.

Anyway, you have some great comments added to your wonderful post. Congratulations!

9/10/2007 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Hunter said...

I agree. Age makes the biggest difference. I'm a teacher at an American international school here in Buenos Aires (www.baica.com), and I see a big difference between our high school kids and our younger elementary kids. The younger kids integrate faster and more fully. They're still young enough that making friends isn't something that is a make it or break it issue in their lives, and for most young kids at our school, they make friends easily with kids from different countries all around the world. The older kids can have a much harder time. They can be resentful or spiteful or just plain mad that their parents made them move to a place that is to them, extremely foreign. For middle schoolers and high schoolers, their identities are very much wrapped up in their social involvement. Forced into making new friends or into an environment where the culture can be different, these "3rd culture" kids tend to have more struggles adjusting to life in a new place.

9/16/2007 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I have two step daughters, ages 9 and 12. I am wondering how they would fair in Argentina. Both are very intelligent young ladies, highly adaptable kids. Are their childrens activities, such as dance lessons, swimming lessons, karate lessons? What are the schools like in San Rafeal? That is the area that we would really like. Please let me know as soon as possible. Thank you.

10/10/2007 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you truly loved your children then you would NOT even CONSIDER taking them to Argentina. If you HAVE to do it because you're a slob who puts his/her job before the children's interests, then make sure you get to live in a well securitized location and that your children will only move within the protected confines of the American expat community. In other words; lock yourselves up in 'un barrio cerrado' (aka: urban ghetto)somewhere in La Lucila or Olivos.

And always have some Hostage Cash Ransom Money ready, por si las putas ....

7/23/2008 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't recommend uprooting american kids to move to Argentina. It is a difficult place, and even more so for foreign children. Argentines are not particularly friendly to foreigners, let alone their kids...

8/21/2008 12:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to the last two comments: do you really think kids are safer in the USA? you sound more like an Argentinean who does not want Americans, so you suggest everybody to stay in they countries? because you had a bad experience? did you have to pay ransom for the kidnapping of one of your kids?? wow! I feel sorry for you.

Argentineans are not friendly to upnoxious people, no matter what age, Americans sometimes are not friendly among themselves, politic comments about a particular country is common everywhere.

Argentina can offer so much besides good food.

10/20/2008 07:26:00 PM  

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