Hola amigos! It’s my second-ish week here in Buenos Aires and I have to say I’m starting to like it very much. Of course, I’m not a big fan of big cities and, besides, I’ve only been in the best areas of BsAs – so it’s not entirely correct to say I like it – let’s say I like what I’ve seen so far.
Claro, some stuff is ridiculous too (is there really a perfect place on Earth?). So let’s see if by being brief I can give you an idea of where I find myself right now.
Love: the sun & el Parque
When it’s sunny in BsAs (most days), the city (or at least the area where I’m staying) transforms itself into a beach town atmosphere. Everyone, and I mean everyone including elderly people, get their fitness outfit out and go to the park. From tennis to soccer, from jogging to open-air gym, from rollerblading to sleeping… El Parque de Tres de Februero has got you covered. I can literally enter the park within a 5min walk.
Love: the people
Someone outside Buenos Aires always reference to the “BuenosAireans” as the “Porteños“. Apparently the people from BsAs are a bit posh, wealthy, lucky, they have it easy.
Not sure dudes, but I met many people from here and they’re all lovely. And when people are lovely you can survive in a big town with no Spanish, no friends, no family – basically nothing.
Cheers everyone, I really like the Porteños!
And with this I mean smog, yes, but also noise, crowds and lack of space. A friend of a friend when I explained him my itinerary said “awesome, you’re going to love it when you leave Buenos Aires” (of course, he said that in Spanish so hopefully I understood correctly!).
Noise is like in Rome. After 9 years in Ireland I forgot how important it is living in a quiet place. Noise kills.
Space is very similar to a Paris or Rome situation. All the buildings (hey, TALL buildings – like, my one has “only” got 13 floors) are close to each other.
Just too, too many people for me (and exactly 3 million in the city and 12,741,364 in the Metropolitan area).
Like: los Colectivos
You might be wondering – what the heck is a “Colectivo“?
Well, it’s how they call the local buses in here – and the name exactly suggests that Buenos Aires buses are really cool!
Colectivos have no timetables. They ALWAYS run. Sometimes 3 of them arrive at your bus stop one after the other. EVERYONE uses the bus. EVERYONE enters from the entrance (unlike in Rome), tells the driver their destination, and swipes their SUBE card that automatically gets charged with the fee. And with fee I mean a few pesos (1 EURO = 17 ARG Pesos).
The cool thing about los colectivos is that you need to get one. Impossible to explain. Drivers are CRAZY. As soon as you step in (on the first step), they release the hand-break and drive away. With the door still open. If you don’t know your destination they send you back out.
On the road, it seems los colectivos have an unwritten yield rule. They’re free to change lane suddenly, no matter if a car is already there. They brake like crazy. They speed. They brake again. They basically rally through the streets of Buenos Aires. Maybe drivers are awarded if they get to destination first? Lol.
Each bus is “branded” and each vehicle has a different colour, different “unique selling points” shown on the sides (e.g. “air conditioned”) and it’s something you really have to try – the following image doesn’t definitely make justice.
Dislike: everyone speaks Italian or English 🙂
Hey, I came here to learn Spanish… but as I said last week, I’d say 40% of Buenos Aires people have Italian relatives or is married to one. And chances are that the other 60% is either learning Italian or English.
This should be something to love for us Europeans – however I need to improve my Spanish, which… es no bueno so far 🙂
I’ve attended many “language exchange” events and I have to say it’s much better than a school. I go there after work usually, get a cerveza, and chat to random people a little in English or Italian and then a little in Spanish. Really cool thing. Gratis (free) of course.
Like: porters (the human ones)
In Belgrano (where I’m staying) and Palermo – probably the wealthiest areas of BsAs – each building has its own porter/doorman. And I mean 24/7, 365 days a year.
“Porters” are something that in Italy doesn’t almost exist anymore (well, my parents have one in their building in Rome, so here’s the exception), In here, it’s a mix of wealth (I live in a very nice building) and security (there is always someone at the entrance who opens the door for you, residents have no keys).
By the way – guess the name of one of the 3 porters in my building (the one that does the afternoon shift)! Of course. Couldn’t be more impossible. Leave a comment below if you want to try 🙂
Anyway, back to the porters… sometimes you get this (lol):
Don’t know yet: Mate
I was wondering the other day why so many people on the streets bring a flask with them. You’d see them on the benches, in the park, with friends or alone, drinking this thing… mate.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I still haven’t tried it. And many people told me it’s disgusting. But before I go I have to do it. I’ll report back next week.
Dislike: you need your ID for everything
Despite I look young (well, I have to wear a hat to hide… something in order to actually look so), I think I never used my ID/Passport in Ireland for 9 years.
In here, you enter the phone shop to buy a SIM card (called “chip”), and the guard at the entrance requires your ID.
You go to change money (see below), and the people behind the counter take a copy of your ID.
You enter an office (for a Meetup for example), and an ID is strictly required.
By the way, now I always carry a photocopy of my Passport in my wallet, at least I’ll be ready if they ask for it in a restaurant or something.
Hate: yogurt/milk… bags
No need to say much here. Three letters would do.
Freaking Love: la lavanderia
In here, few have washing machines at home. Honestly, why bother?
In every corner of the streets you find at least one lavanderia. One is 24/7, the other is “wash in 1 hour, guaranteed”, who knows what lavanderia I haven’t seen yet!
It’s totally common for people of BsAs to bring the dirty, smelly clothes there and get them back same day or within 24hrs.
Please note: they’re washed carefully, dried and even folded. Cost? See the image below:
Actually, the lady told me a couple of days ago: “So sorry, but with this amount of clothes I’ll need to do 2 washes instead of one… is that ok?“.
My answer after doing a currency conversion: “So, it’s 8 EURO instead of 4 EURO? Ah, sure, lol, that won’t be a problem… go ahead :)”.
Yep. Love this.
Seriously, I’d eat them for breakfast too. They’re so tasty, and you can pick the fillings like for a pizza. It’s like tapas within some sort of delicious pastry. Mmmmmmmmmmm….
Like: money exchange “places”
You’d probably figure this out if you ever go to Argentina – but NEVER try to exchange money at the airport or in a bank – standard conversion rates and ridiculous commissions apply.
Not sure why, but I’ve never seen so many “currency exchange” shops in a city, even outside the touristy areas.
Pity I don’t have a photo, but maybe they’d arrest me.
These places, honestly, look dodgy. But the conversion rate you get and low commissions are worth the dodginess.
In the last few years I drastically reduced my… intakes of sugar (and salt). To be honest, they’re not needed. Italians out there: try this before slagging me.
Well, it feels I’m back in North America. Sugar is freaking everywhere. The only difference: food is actually delicious and overall healthy.
It took me ages to find cereal/granola with no added sugar. And no-sugar-added juice is almost impossible. I take if this is difficult in BsAs, it will be basically impossible elsewhere!
Yes, I can tick the box. Today I had a great yoga session. In the park. And what a great day for it (24 degrees and sunshine).
Great thing is – the Parque has “health check” stations. Anyone can get some analysis done for free (cholesterol, pressure, etc.), and they’re open 7 days a week.
And each of these stations offers free activities (second photo). Including walking, roller-blades, yoga, dancing…
Adore: the beautiful smell of STEAK
Trust me. It’s everywhere.
It’s like if there were people selling barbecued meat in the park. And if ALL restaurants were “parrillas” (grill). And if all the food available was 90% barbecued meat…
Oops – that’s actually true.
My brother would probably quit veganism after 5 minutes.
Yo estoy mui contento 🙂 Parrilla (also called Asado) every day!
Well, with that said, this night is “the night of the museums”, so I’m going out to eat something and get some culture intake.
Hope all is well with you,