Despite an increasingly strained political situation between Argentina and Great Britain (caused by the Falklands Islands) there has been little evidence of British expats experiencing any problems while living in Argentina, suggesting this is more about diplomatic agendas than anything else. In fact, the British community has never been stronger, and a quick glance at street signs or names of football teams across Argentina reveal the influence that Britain and the English language still have in the country.
The Falkland Islands
The Falklands War lasted for just over 10 weeks in 1982 but continues to be the main talking point between Argentines and the British (with the possible exception of Maradona’s “Hand of God”). The fact that the war started and ended so quickly is perhaps one of the reasons why its events embedded themselves in the Argentine and British psyche so deeply. It’s also for this reason that it is such a great talking point between members of these two nations, with both nationalities happy to talk about the islands (known in Argentina as the “Malvinas”) and their current occupation in detail.
English Names in Argentina
Just take one look at the Argentine football league and you will see a barrage of English words; the two main football teams are named River Plate (named after the river that runs through Buenos Aires) and Boca Juniors, while other teams in the top division include Argentinos Juniors, Arsenal and Newell’s Old Boys. The last of these was named after English immigrant and football coach Isaac Newell by some of his ex-pupils. The team shares a huge rivalry with Rosario Central, a team that took its name from the British-owned Central Argentine Railway company.
Other examples of the English language can be found in place names, with Banfield (named after railroad engineer Edward Banfield), Hurlingham, Washington, Lincoln and City Bell, just some examples of these. British expats therefore should feel they will get a slight head-start in Argentina when it comes to learning a new language.
British Colonies in Argentina
While English families played a large part in setting up colonies in a variety of Argentine provinces, it’s the Welsh who really left their mark. Encouraged by the Argentine government who wanted friendly settlers to occupy land that could otherwise have fallen into enemy hands, the Welsh emigrated to Argentina in their thousands in the late 19th century. Today there are still many Welsh speakers in Argentina in small towns such as Gaiman, Trelew and Puerto Madryn where tea shops and bakeries with names like Griffiths are still plentiful. This link has made Argentina an interesting destination for Welsh expats looking to retain a connection with their past.
Sport in Argentina
Have a quick scan of the Cultural Calendar for the Argentine Embassy in the UK and you will find polo to be a very prominent fixture, with events often matching the sport with the great Argentine tradition of barbecuing meat. Other popular sports in Argentina include football, rugby and tennis, a fact that could leave the British expat feeling very much at home.
British Communities in Argentina
Thanks to groups like the Argentine British Community Council (ABCC) it’s possible that British expats may in fact feel more at home in Argentina than in Britain. Constantly arranging truly “British” events such as car boot sales, village fetes, fun runs and fundraisers, the ABCC see their duty as upholding the British tradition, which includes saying “please”, “thank you” and being on time!
Argentina’s love for football, rugby and polo, when allied with their own traditions around barbecues and wine, make the perfect combination for a British expat looking to experience the new culture that comes with living abroad while also maintaining a sense of familiarity. The involvement of Britain in Argentina’s history also provides a great way to get involved with the country.
The British media will always focus on the Falkland Islands whenever any politician or leading figure mentions their name, so this will always form the opinion of Argentina from Britain. But while Argentina continues to welcome the British to its shores and has no intention of erasing the British influence and English language from its own traditions, it’s fair to say that Argentina will continue to be a popular choice for British expats looking to move abroad.