A massive, Spanish-speaking country in South America is not the most obvious place to search for the Irish diaspora or discover fascinating titbits about Irish history. It certainly isn’t where you’d expect to hear people speaking with a Westmeath accent. We all know about the waves of Irish migration to North America and Australia, but we are less aware that Irish people travelling to Argentina are following a well-trodden path.
The Irish who moved to Argentina were primarily from Westmeath and Longford. In those counties, they are remembered today. The Longford Westmeath Argentina Society hold barbeques and tangoes in the midlands and also foster connections between here and there.
Expat Life in Argentina Today
For starters, you need to speak Spanish to really integrate in Argentina. Like English, Spanish is spoken differently in different places so consider your school Spanish a starting point. English is mandatory in school and widely spoken, but it is not the official language. There is a limit to how long you can get by without good Spanish. Like the Irish, Argentines value family time and Sundays are set aside for the relatives. Unlike the Irish, Argentines will let you know very plainly when you are in the wrong. People are far more direct and willing to argue than in Ireland. But if you find that very upsetting or have trouble adjusting, help is at hand. Argentina has one of the highest rates of psychologists per capita in the world.
Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world and the second largest country in South America. It is indescribably vast, although a huge portion of the population is clustered in Buenos Aires. The sense of open space in the countryside can be intoxicating for those of us from a small island. And the country offers so much to see for those who love the outdoors, from the Andes to the ocean.
One major adjustment might be a deal-breaker though. While it isn’t mandatory, the tea to drink in Argentina is not tea as we know it. It is mate, a hot infusion of yerba mate leaves traditionally steeped in a gourd and drank through a metal straw. It takes some getting used to, but the combo of antioxidants and vitamins it packs appears to be what keeps the Argentinians socializing late into the night. Maybe our lads should try some before the rugby match on Saturday.