buenos aires, argentina - anonymous' thoughts after months there in their 30s

posted by anonymous on 12/12/13.

4

How much time have you spent in Argentina?

3 months.

How old were you when you came to Argentina? Where were you before?

34 - I had just moved from Medellin, Colombia.

What brought you to Argentina? What made you choose Argentina over any other place you could've gone?

I wanted to get a good mix in my year of slow travel around South America - Buenos Aires is the big city of South America - they call it the Paris of the south, and you really do get that sensation of being in European city with all that old world architecture.

Describe the city you lived in in Argentina and your impressions of it.

It was a huge city - there was a sense of faded glory about it - which makes sense historically. There's a lavishness about the architecture and the food and culture that mixes with the current economic situation that contributes to that feeling.

How does the city you lived in compare to other cities in Argentina? What drew you to the city you lived in over other cities in Argentina?

It's like any big city in the world - people are little bit brusque, it takes forever to get anywhere - but I wanted to live there to get that classic Argentinian experience, and I felt like I really got it. But if I were to go back I'd probably live in a smaller city like Mendoza.

What are the people of Argentina like? In what ways are they different than people in other places you've lived?

There is a sense of melancholy - and I'm not entirely sure if it's Argentina or just Buenos Aires - people almost seem morose. People just seemed sad. Dour faces, just this vibe of tragedy. I had a friend in Colombia from Argentina, and I teased her all the time because she almost never smiled, and even her smiles were steeped in a subtle sadness.

There was this cooking show I used to watch in the mornings when I was Buenos Aires - a travel/cooking show sorta like Anthony Bourdain's where the host, Francis Mallmann (arguably Argentina's most famous chef) would travel alone with his dog. He'd be in the woods alone, and he'd take a pack, and hike in the snow to a secluded spot even more in the middle of nowhere, and cooks his food after setting up a fire, and stare off into the distance, like he was a battered war veteran grappling with some hidden dark past.

But it would be hilarious - he'd also have insane ingredients - fine wines, multiple fires and pots going - his idea of "roughing it" was ridiculous, and it's that juxtaposition which really stands out to me. Until recently the idea of a doggy bag was unheard of - you regularly see people leave half their food on the table at a restaurant because the country has so much damn food. Yet this tragic element remains.

The show was saturated with that feeling of melancholy, as was all of Buenos Aires. There are some articles on the city that touch on this feeling of tragedy (I think one by the NYT) - and it is understandable given the nation's history - once Argentina was one of the wealthiest of countries - but now the economy is in shambles. Yet still the people walk next to buildings - luxurious belle epoche buildings. It must be like constantly being reminded about how great you once were. You go to antique stores or markets and you see family treasures that harken on old world European elegance being sold for a pittance.

But again there are the reminders - steak everywhere, so much cheese on pizzas that you could make an entirely new full pizza with the leftover cheese...all these little things.

There were many times when I looked at people walk by and all I could think from their manner was "there he goes - he's still soldiering on," despite the fact I've been to places far far more impoverished and the guy was wearing a suit.

Was making friends and meeting people in Argentina in general easy or difficult?

I actually never really made that many friends in Argentina, mostly because my job had me traveling and running around quite a bit. Also I had gotten used to getting up and going to sleep early from Ecuador and Colombia and all the expat meetings started at the earliest at 11pm!

How does the language barrier affect you (if it all)?

At first it was a little difficult understanding the accent - but a lot of people spoke English in Buenos Aires.

Any social/cultural advice for others who might come to Argentina? How do people in Argentina socialize differently than other places you've been?

Be prepared to stay out late. Be prepared to only go out until really late.

Does your money go further or not as far as it does in other countries and cities? Are you able to afford a better standard of living than in other places you've lived, or able to afford less?

It was definitely more expensive. But the local cafes were fairly cheap and were a great place to study or read.

Any good stories you can think of that you haven't mentioned yet?

I was working for a PR tourism company that focused on luxury travel. So I was primarily running around reviewing and writing about that - which was pretty hilarious because normally I backpack - I don't really stay in luxury accommodations. What shocked me about Argentina were some of the places that I've never heard of - Northern Argentina is home to the Ibera Wetlands, and I got the chance to go boating on the marshes, go birdwatching, I'm not much of a "birder" but the sheer number of birds and the enthusiasm of my guide got me into it. Later on the trip I got to visit a number of ruins of Jesuit missions - the Jesuits ended up building them with the local Indians, and it ended up becoming a point of contention with Spain, eventually leading to their expulsion from South America. The missions were massive structures that were being reabsorbed into the forest and it really felt like a South American version of Angkor Wat - and I really wasn't expecting to see that.

It wasn't an area that was on my list of destinations to see, but looking back I'm really grateful that I got a chance to visit.

What are your favorite things about Argentina? Least favorite?

There were a number of local places where people would gather to Tango - and it wasn't showy or over done like the many tourist shows - you'd see old men decked out in suits and ties dancing with younger women who wanted to practice - and those old guys had the moves! When you see something like that in an area where it's not emphasized for tourism,

it's unexpected, and you feel a surprise of authenticity - it makes you feel that the magic of travel is still there if you're willing to explore. I feel like I had a lot of moments like that in Argentina.

My least favorite was the food - I met up with a friend and fellow expat who had been living there for several months when I got there. We decided to walk around to get a bite to eat - but his caveat was that we weren't going to eat pizza. We walked for 5 hours and finally said that we'd stop and eat at the next place we saw. It was a pizza place.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing was the steak - Argentina is supposed to be famous for its steaks, but as a Texan, steaks are supposed to be medium, not well done - and there every steak is overcooked.

Would you recommend Argentina as a place to live, travel to, or neither?

Yes definitely - I think Argentina also has so many places to explore - you've got the wetland to the north and Iguazu Falls. You've got the wine growing regions of Mendoza and Salta, you've got Buenos Aires, and you've got the stunning natural beauty of Patagonia, not to mention the Antarctic. I think I got to see a lot, but it's nowhere near what I'd like to do, and I'd go back in a heartbeat.

5 comments

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