Should a new expat spend his initial days in Latin America mostly among other expats or should he start by going being outside of the gringo bubble?
It's a question that some expats might ask themselves.
Well, to be fair, only a few do actually in my opinion.
Most tend to gravitate towards hanging out with other foreigners in their initial days and many never leave "the gringo bubble" as I wrote about here.
But some expats are more conscious of this fact of life down here and might decide to instead spend their initial days outside of the bubble from the first day living down here.
When it comes to my personal experience with it, I arrived to Latin America with other gringos on my very first trip down here but it was to an area that was very rural and didn't have many foreigners as you can read about here.
In the subsequent trips, I sometimes hung out mostly with other foreigners and sometimes I was by myself with no other foreigners depending on the trip.
Though I'd say my earlier experiences in Latin America involved way more foreigners in my life than my life right now.
As of right now, I have a very few close gringo friends and sometimes I reach out to meet other foreigners at gringo events but 99% of the people I interact with on a daily basis are local Latin Americans.
And, when I think of other foreigners I have met down here, most do prefer taking those first steps with only other foreigners in some gringo bubble.
While others might come down here choosing instead to only hang with other locals because they want to learn Spanish and they want an "authentic" experience.
Let's break it down anyway why any gringo would choose one or the other as how I see it.
The Argument for Starting in the Gringo Bubble
Let's break down the main arguments I see for why you'd start your earliest days down here with other gringos.
First, you don't speak Spanish.
While this could be an argument for why you should spend time outside the bubble to force you to speak Spanish more, I can get why someone new to Latin America would prefer a place that is more friendly to someone with very limited or no Spanish skills.
Life will be easier in general.
And, in theory, you could learn Spanish on the side to eventually branch out from the gringo bubble.
While many gringos don't do that and never leave the bubble, some do.
Second, you'll have more people who are like you.
In the same boat.
Other foreigners who are new to a strange land with no friends or family.
Easier to make friends in that regard with people like you from the same culture.
Third, places that are in the gringo bubble tend to be more comfortable materially.
They tend to have more tourism attractions.
If you are new to Latin America, you probably are not going to indigenous villages of rural Mexico like I did on my first trip.
Instead, you want to see the shit everyone tells you to check out.
After all, you might not have years down here like I do and will only be here for months or weeks perhaps.
Therefore, you want to see and be in the places that everyone recommends.
I get it.
If I was going to live in another region like Europe or Asia, I'd start by checking out the most recommended spots first before digging "below the surface" to see shit nobody talks about.
But I get why you'd start with the shit that people do talk about first.
Fourth, places outside of the touristy area and gringo bubbles tend to be safer (though not always and they do have their own problems). Still, if you are new to Latin America (and maybe new to travel in general), I get why you'd be too intimidated to see "rougher" areas first.
In fact, I wouldn't blame you for not ever wanting to go to "rougher" areas but I definitely get why you might not see that as the ideal place to take your first steps down here.
Fifth, areas that are nicer tend to have more events for you to enjoy. These events have more gringos who are like you.
In the last some odd months, I have gone to more events to meet more people and many of them are in those touristy areas because that's where other foreigners tend to be.
The Argument For Starting Outside the Gringo Bubble
Let's break down the main arguments I see for why you'd start your earliest days down here without many other gringos.
First, you might feel that being in the bubble with other foreigners will discourage you from taking Spanish learning seriously.
While you could learn Spanish while living in said gringo area, you will have an easier time learning it I think outside of said area.
Less people who speak English.
You can't lean on them as much.
Will be forced to speak Spanish and understand quicker.
Second, there's a certain appeal to areas that tourists don't see.
Perhaps you want to feel like you have seen "the real Latin America" as I wrote here.
Or perhaps you are like me and you want to dig "below the surface" beyond what touristy areas show after having seen them.
And you might want to see more "normal areas" given you are from a small town of a flyover state that so many people disregard.
What are the "flyover" areas of Latin America, you ask?
Let's find out!
Third, some gringos are just more adventurous and they'd find starting out on the tourist trail to be boring.
I get that.
They'd rather have tea with the Taliban than an afternoon in Cancun.
Fourth, by going outside of the gringo trail, you will likely hang with more locals than gringos.
Locals tend to more easily show you places that you never would have heard about otherwise because few gringos have heard of them (they can also teach you more about life down here a bit easier usually than a gringo -- especially if said gringo is new here also).
Anyway, that's all for now.
Anything to Add?
Honestly, if I was going to travel to a new country where I knew nobody and didn't know anything about the local culture or language, I'd probably start out in the gringo bubble.
Granted, I could go to a country like Cuba and it'd be outside of the gringo bubble in part because I am more familiar with Latin America and know Spanish.
But some place like South Korea or Russia?
Then I'm sticking to the gringo bubble in those earlier months probably because it sounds like an easier transition to a new society that I am not at all familiar with or have any semblance of understanding.
But, for me personally, I prefer going outside of the bubble eventually.
Sooner than later.
Still, as I wrote here, I don't judge gringos for never leaving the bubble even after years here.
Most immigrants around the world tend to stick to their own and form their own community in a new country.
And, quite honestly, I don't give a fuck who you spend your days with.
Be it other gringos or local Latin Americans.
Whatever you are comfortable with.
Still, it's a discussion as to how you should start your time down here: with others like you or the locals?
Why not both?
Good idea also!
Though, if you are new here and with no Spanish, I'd imagine the locals you would hang with are upper middle class types who speak English well enough or want to turn you into a English practicing dildo.
That does feel different to me than hanging with locals who like you for you and not because of shit like that.
But that's another topic for another day!
So should you start your days down here with other gringos or locals?
While I think the answer depends on the person, I'd lean towards gringos if you are new here and with absolutely no Spanish.
But do try to break out of the bubble eventually if you want a cooler experience.
Some of my coolest experiences down here have been outside of the bubble.
But I'll leave it at that.
Got anything to add?
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Thanks for reading.