The 6 month anniversary of my arrival in Buenos Aires has come and gone. And I thought it due time to write about what life is really like in Argentina. And what I’ve learnt living in the bustling metropolis of BA.
I’m still living in airbnb rentals, working online and slowly looking for a place to call my own. I’ve persisted with Airbnb rentals, despite longer-term private rentals being a heck of a lot cheaper. Because Airbnb gives me flexibility and I’ve been able to try out different style buildings and different neighbourhoods. And I’ve been testing the waters because I’m strongly considering real estate in Argentina.
I’m still unsure as to whether I want to take the plunge and buy real estate in Buenos Aires. But I will cover the process in depth in a series of articles, if or when I do. You’ll just have to subscribe to the blog or bookmark the site and check back regularly for that series.
Though I’m technically in my 9th month living here in Buenos Aires, I’m really only now starting to feel at home. During the first 6 months I tried out a series of BA’s different ‘barrios’ (suburbs) to see which one I liked best.
I’ve lived in Palermo Hollywood, Recoleta, Centro, Belgrano and I’m now back in Palermo Hollywood. Each suburb had its own unique charm and appeal but Palermo Hollywood just seems like its more my speed. Palermo Hollywood is much more subdued than other barrios, though Palermo Soho and Villa Crespo have a similar vibe.
It’s one thing to live in a big city. But it’s another thing entirely to be unable to get the big city out of your house when you’re trying to work or sleep. And that’s the first thing I’ve learnt living in BA.
Peace And Quiet Are Rare Commodities In Buenos Aires
The first thing I’ve learnt is that peace and quiet are rare commodities in Buenos Aires. You need to be really careful about the suburbs you choose to stay in and the location of buildings. If its a busy part of a bustling suburb and you’re near a main road, it doesn’t matter how much sound deadening an apartment has. Because you’ll hear the outside world 24/7.
I now make a point to pick apartments that are on the rear of buildings and on higher floors. I’ve learnt the hard way that front facing apartments get a lot of road noise. And that the incessant honking from cabs and passing motorists will drive the average person bonkers.
Apartments with soundproofing on quiet streets are gems. They’re worth every penny. You’ll more often see apartments advertised as quiet and cosy. Yet they will be the exact opposite. They’ll be noisy broom closets on busy arterial roads.
Living in Buenos Aires you have to be careful when renting an apartment. You need to choose carefully the barrio and block you want to live on in Buenos Aires. As each block is its own microcosm of activity. A unique community in a sprawling metropolis.
Parks Are Central To Life In Buenos Aires
With the average apartment in Buenos Aires ranging from 30-60 square meters, parks are the central hubs of life in BA. Parks are where you go to meet friends, get some sun, drink coffee, play chess and just watch the world go by.
Yet you might think that life packaged into small spaces and crammed into bustling corners of an otherwise sprawling metropolis might be lesser somehow. That the American, Australian or Canadian dreams of big houses with large yards are somehow better. Well, I’d disagree.
I’d have once agreed that bigger is better. And that studying hard and then dedicating oneself to an employer so as to progress up some workplace ladder was important. That having an important job title, big house or a flashy car was somehow a measure of a man. But not anymore.
There’s a quote I like. And I think it sums up those who slave away each and every day to pay off inflated mortgages. To buy flashy stuff and have fancy titles. The angry mass of dejected workers in western countries who only realise long after they’ve started the trek, that they took the wrong path.
It goes like this:
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club
Choosing the downsized life in small apartments in Buenos Aires, where parks are the central hubs of daily activity, you get a new appreciation for cost versus value. The apartment might be small, but it costs less. And its value lies in the additional quality of life it gives you in return.
The apartment is merely where you sleep and shower. Out in the parks, in the streets and in your barrio is where you do everything else. At home in Australia I’d make coffee at home, work at home, eat at home and often socialise at home. In Buenos Aires, its in the parks and tree lined streets of your barrio that you experience life.
Watching the Argentines, or more aptly called porteños (natives of Buenos Aires), go about their daily lives in the streets of Buenos Aires you soon learn that while money is a necessity, it isn’t itself the goal. And Argentines have a strange relationship with money.
Money In Buenos Aires
Having been through financial crises and having suffered ridiculously high inflation for decades, Argentines have developed a different outlook on finance. Money comes and money goes. Whether through rising costs, depreciating currency or by their own government consistently screwing them in every possible way.
Argentines and particularly younger residents of Buenos Aires, seem to have taken Chuck Palahniuk’s words from the quote above, to heart. So instead of chasing the latest greatest thing, or throwing themselves into work or study, large masses of younger porteños seem to find solace in their hobbies and youth subcultures.
Argentines Take Their Hobbies & Subcultures Seriously
Whether you’re a tattoo collector, punk, goth, skater, anime fan, cosplayer or just a book nerd, there’s a place for you in Buenos Aires. Argentines and young porteños in particular, throw themselves into their chosen subculture with a vigour the likes of which I’ve not seen elsewhere.
Mohawks, tattoos and strange attire from all youth subcultures abound in Buenos Aires. I’ve seen punks in Buenos Aires that are so punk, they’d put the East Germans of the late 70’s and 80’s GDR to shame.
I’ve seen anime cafes packed with cosplayers who looked like something from a Marvel movie. Even the bibliophiles are represented, with the worlds most beautiful bookshop (El Ateneo Grand Splendid).
Sitting at a street side hole in the wall bar in Palermo Soho, with my Peruvian turned German tattooist when he flew into Buenos Aires for Christmas, he seemed taken aback by just how many of the youth walking past were rocking facial tattoos.
Generally, a tattoo placement so overt and noticeable is the domain of bikers, gangsters and those most hardcore of tattoo enthusiasts. But in Buenos Aires, a facial tattoo is the domain of your average vegan teenage girl with a hello kitty backpack.
Even split tongues and tattooed eyeballs are not that uncommon amongst some youth subcultures in Buenos Aires. And a walk through Galeria Bond Street in Recoleta is something I recommend to all my foreign friends and those who want a glimpse of how far down the subculture rabbit hole one can go in BA.
Galeria Bond Street is a block from El Ateneo Grand Splendid and its a 5 story shopping mall filled with the edgiest tattoo parlours in town. At Bond Street you can expect to find everything from bondage apparel through to heavy metal and hello kitty. With a spattering of graffiti, grunge and grow shops thrown in for good measure.
Argentines take their hobbies and subcultures seriously. And they aren’t shy about displaying their individuality. They live their lives in full colour in the grey concrete jungle of Buenos Aires. And they dance on the streets of their barrios in this concrete jungle. A jungle interspersed with parks and made more lively with street art.
Street Art In Buenos Aires
Street art and murals are everywhere in Buenos Aires. Take a walk around your barrio and you’re sure to stumble upon graffiti murals, sticker bombed walls and signs, or commissioned pieces adorning the sides of otherwise ugly concrete high-rises.
Murals in Buenos Aires come in all shapes, sizes and colours. You’ll find everything from artworks carrying political messaging through to brilliantly colourful artworks intended to do nothing more than beautify a block. Street art in Buenos Aires is everywhere you look and its in sticker, graffiti, tile and mosaic forms.
Every street or alleyway you turn down will be different from the last. And occasionally you’ll stumble across some real gems. Including the worlds longest mural. Some artworks in Buenos Aires have become part of an official self-guided tour.
You can even book one of many walking tours and street art tours from private guides all across the city. But really, you don’t need a tour guide. Just walk around the city, particularly Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Soho or Villa Crespo and you’ll see murals and graffiti works everywhere.
Even when just sitting in a bar in Buenos Aires you will likely encounter some form of street art. Bars, takeaway joints and convenience stores in areas like Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Soho and Villa Crespo often have local street artists paint their buildings facade. Just having an afternoon beer or grabbing some takeaway, can be a colourful experience in Buenos Aires.
Pick A Great Local Bar In Buenos Aires And Become A Regular
Find a local bar in Buenos Aires and stick with it. Depending on your suburb, there will be several bars on your block or at least one within a two block radius. Brew pubs are even quite common and are becoming trendy.
I’ve learnt that by picking my favourite local bar and becoming a regular, I’ve had opportunity to meet interesting people and learn more about Argentina. And because Buenos Aires is such an international city and huge cultural melting pot, I’ve found myself in interesting conversations with locals and travellers alike.
Though the favourite topic of conversation always seems to wind up being why the economy sucks, or which politician is shafting Argentina that day, you do get to learn quite a lot about other places to see in the city and its surrounds. And my list of places to visit in Argentina has grown exponentially. As has my love for this country.
In other parts of the world with a high transient population you need to be mindful of tourist traps. But it’s much less so in Buenos Aires. And I’m yet to encounter a bar, restaurant or other establishment that I’d call out as a ‘tourist trap‘ that’s not in or near, a hostel.
I simply can’t stress enough how being a barfly has opened doors and provided me with opportunity. And it’s taught me a lot. I’ve learnt about travel in Argentina. I’ve learnt about the best empanadas, steak, wine and out of the way places in the city.
And I’ve learnt about cryptocurrencies, encryption, which delivery apps to use and the dolar blue. I’ve even learnt about money laundering from foreign nationals and met pilots from countries I’d never heard of. Drinking in Buenos Aires is an experience, just watch out for the spicy señoritas.
Argentine Women In Buenos Aires
Argentine women are like cats. When they like you, they like you. When they don’t, well, they don’t. And which way they feel on any given day can change faster than the average horse race.
It’s actually no wonder to me now, why Argentine men are considered some of the best pickup artists in the world. Man, they really do need to work for it. Argentine ladies take a lot of work. Not to the level of Cuban women, but close.
FYI, two gay Cuban friends were once asked why they were gay and their response was, ‘have you met a Cuban woman?’. And while from experience I’d tend to agree that the Cuban ladies are more difficult to deal with, the Argentines are harder to meet and more labor intensive if you do manage to get one to give you their phone number.
Meet an Argentine lady at a bar and she’ll want to go home with you. Meet an Argentine lady at a coffee shop, on the street or on tinder and you’ll need to convince her you’re ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ or the second coming of Christ, just to get her to give you her phone number and agree to a dinner date.
Argentine ladies will make you work for their attention like its your full time job and your boss expects double overtime. If you aren’t at least 6 foot tall, unique looking and interesting or funny, you’re shit outta luck with the Argentine ladies. It’s a good thing I’m 6 foot tall, heavily tattooed and highly educated or I might have had to go the way of my Cuban friends.
Thankfully I’m unique enough in Buenos Aires that the spicy señoritas in Argentina don’t know how to play me. They don’t quite know how to make an Australian dance around like their own personal puppet on a string. So I get away with doing a lot less than most guys when dealing with Argentine ladies.
I simply be me and if necessary, roll up my sleeves (thanks Jimmy) and I’m golden. I flash the ink, continue on my way and give them a taste of their own medicine – I ignore them. And they hate it. So much so they will then being doing everything in their power to get my attention so they can then turn around and go back to, well, ignoring me. But it doesn’t work.
I have shiny object syndrome. I’m easily distracted by tattoos, motorcycles, classic cars, graffiti and well, just about everything in the big beautiful city that is Buenos Aires. So the Argentine ladies never quite win their battle with me. And boy, does it piss them off.
Argentines Take Passive Aggressive To A Whole New Level
If you’ve never met an Argentine they’re for the most part some of the warmest, most loyal and most polite people you’ll ever meet. But if you annoy one, they’ll take passive aggressive to levels you’d have never thought possible.
A lot of Argentines have Italian heritage. And porteño Spanish sounds a lot like an Italian trying to speak Spanish with a lisp. So that should tell you all you need to know about them.
Argentines have the fiery Spanish traits and the overly dramatic Italian traits (talk with their hands, beep at everything, swear a lot). They’re a twofer. You get both the Italian and the Spanish with a porteño friend. And you need to make sure you are appeasing both their Spanish and Italian sensibilities.
For little things that the average Australian would just shrug off and carry on, an Argentine would likely have a hissy fit and act like a teenage girl that hasn’t got their own way. And you’ll frequently see them at traffic lights with half their torso out the window waving both their hands around while cursing all and sundry.
They’ll be beeping and cursing, waving their arms around and acting like some otherwise insignificant thing is a monumental travesty. They’ll be acting like the whole universe has suddenly cursed them and yet, nothing ever escalates. I’ve not once seen anything that looked like it would escalate to an actual confrontation. Not even in bars.
Coming from a country where such carry on would likely turn into a fist fight, I find angry Argentines entertaining to watch. When two Argentines have a problem they will yell at each other, wave their arms about and create a spectacle, playing it up for all the on lookers. And then, nothing.
They’ll simply storm off in opposite directions never to meet again. But they will carry a grudge against that other stranger for the rest of their lives. They’ll take passive aggressive to a whole new level. Personally, in a country with such fantastic wine and craft beers, I’d have thought they’d just have a drink and get over it.
The Wine, Beer, Steak And Local Produce Is World Class
Buenos Aires is both a foodie and an alcoholics paradise. With such amazing food and drink, I find it difficult to understand why some Argentines can ever get angry at all.
I mean, sure, they do have lots they can complain about with the economy taking a decades long trip down the toilet. And the Argentine peso is up the proverbial creek without a paddle, but that’s the extent of the negatives I’m yet to find.
In a land filled with beautiful women, fantastic steak and world class wines, what really do Argentine men have that they can be so touchy about? Have a steak and a bottle of wine and chill the fuck out. And that’s what most Argentines, the ones I’ve met anyway, do on the sabbath.
Sunday’s are for asado (barbecue), wine and fernet (aromatic spirit). On any Sunday in the warmer months, the city is alive with the smell of barbecue. Everyone everywhere will be barbecuing on their balconies, rooftops and in their local parks. And if it swam in the ocean or grazed on land, it goes on the grill on Sunday.
I’d hate to be a vegan in Buenos Aires, particularly on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. Because the smell of asado is everywhere. It’s a vegans nightmare. Yet for everyone else, it’s divine.
During the week when the barbecues aren’t happening, there are a dizzying array of restaurants on offer. Residents of Buenos Aires love their steak, ham, cheese and burgers, and everything in a convenience store comes in just those four flavours. Yet there is a huge range of restaurants catering to other tastes.
I’ve found so many different asian, Peruvian and other restaurants that I like, I’m yet to cook a single meal. Not one. In 6 months. I haven’t turned on the stove. Pushed a button on the microwave. Or even taken a fork out of the draw. The food is so good in Buenos Aires and so cheap that it’s not worth cooking.
And you don’t need to travel far to find good food in Buenos Aires. There’s often a few restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlous on every block. And a DIA convenience supermarket within a block or two. Even if you don’t speak Spanish or have dietary restrictions, eating out in Buenos Aires is easy, cheap and delicious.
For those who can’t be bothered going out or during winter when it’s so cold nobody wants to be outdoors at night, BA has a couple of excellent food delivery apps. There’s no Uber Eats but what BA does have are Rappi and PedidosYa. Both of which are easy to use, even if you’re lacking Spanish language skills.
With the exception of what I’m calling Cheech & Chong’s (not their real name) ice cream parlour a block from me, I’ve never found it hard to get good food in BA. At Cheech & Chong’s they’re always so blazed that it makes buying ice cream in Spanish just a little more difficult than normal. But damn, they do have good ice cream. And brownies.
Final Thoughts – The Next Six Months
I’m going to be in Buenos Aires for the next six months. And likely longer as it makes a great home base from whence to explore all the neighbouring countries. That is, once you’re done seeing all that Argentina has to offer. Which is more than a lot and likely a lifetime endeavour in itself.
Over the next six months I’ll be investigating property ownership in Buenos Aires. And I’ll be writing about it on this website. Mainly because there seems to be conflicting information on the internet about real estate in BA.
The quoted fees on real estate transactions, paperwork and process details seem to vary across sites. So I’ll need to get first hand information from an agency. And I’ll then post about it on this website to try and make it easier for others in considering real estate in BA.
I’ll keep exploring BA. I’ll keep visiting new barrios, museums, galleries and keep being a barfly in all the wrong places. And I’ll keep chasing the spicy señoritas and learning from the Argentine men. Heck, I might even take language lessons and a tango class or two.
I guess you’ll just have to bookmark the website, subscribe or check back regularly to see what I end up doing to round out my first year in BA.
Where Can I Get More Information About Buenos Aires?
If you’re interested in Buenos Aires or Argentina in general you should visit our Complete Buenos Aires City Guide.
The Complete Buenos Aires City Guide is updated regularly. And it seeks to answer all of your questions regarding Buenos Aires and Argentina in one place.
You can read the Complete Buenos Aires City Guide for free here.