Saturday, August 13, 2011

10 Observations from Living in Buenos Aires

**Stolen from IndieTravelPodcast ( - Adjusted slightly to me and my observations.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful and complex place. Sometimes it’s maddening, with the traffic (& NON-STOP CAR ALARMS!) and exhaust fumes and dog shit; but at other times — when sitting in a historic café, reading a book and sipping a cup of wine, for example — I am so happy I decided to move here to Argentina.

There’s a lot that’s endearing about Buenos Aires, and other things that grate a little. But it’s an amazing city, and with an open eye there’s a lot to see.

1. There is a newspaper stand on each street corner.
The newspaper stand is not just a place for a journal or a magazine; it’s also a social club. One can buy an Argentinian porno mag called “Young and Dirty,” featuring twenty-something woman posing as teenagers. The Nudity is obnoxious and crude for me personally - but the newsstands are amazingly useful and friendly places to walk past. The print industry is still alive. VERDICT: WIN

2. The service at restaurants is HORRIBLE.

In café's in the morning’s, the hip, tattooed server takes your order in a tone that leads one to believe that one had somehow disrupted her from living her life. Oh, and if you want your cuenta (bill) now, you should have asked for it fifteen minutes ago. But - the wide range of restaurants - the tastes; the flavours - for $20 - is amazing! VERDICT: FAIL

3. One must watch where one is walking.
Or one will land in dog poo. It’s everywhere, like little satanic piles of anti-karma. It smells, it gets over your shoes, and everybody is perfectly fine with this reality of the dog-shit city. People walk their dogs and they shit everywhere - I am a dog lover til death due me part - but Is it REALLY that hard to pick up the poo and put it in the garbage cans that are on every street corner? VERDICT: STINKY FAIL

4. The locals drink yerba mate, everywhere.
Mate is a type of loose green tea that is extremely energizing and healthy. It’s charming to see people walking around with their thermos, mate cup and metal straw: in the park, on the subway, waiting for the bus. What a bunch of suckers! If North Americans carried their personal coffee mug around with such commitment, Starbucks-related waste would drop through the floor. VERDICT: WIN

5. The men greet each other with a kiss on the cheek.
From my Canadian cultural perspective, where affection between men is expressed as a punch in the arm, it’s a civilized and intimate salutation. Please take note, uptight western cultures. Everybody is friendly, close, and warm. You greet everybody with a kiss on the check, and for me - each day as I leave work, the security guard at the front gives me a huge hug and kiss, we converse in extremely broken Spanish (on my part) and it cheers me up daily to feel that connection to people you don't feel daily in the Canadian culture of 12 inches distance at all times. VERDICT: WIN

6. Graffiti and street art are pervasive.
There seems to be a permissiveness (and dare I say “celebration”) of street art here in Buenos Aires, of which I haven’t seen in other cities that I’ve visited. The sides of buildings are simply urban canvases, providing a smorgasbord of colorful graphics to the eyes of locals and travelers. The only negative is that every building is not are - some buildings are simply covered in hundreds of spray paint signatures which ruins the natural beauty of marble buildings. But when it is art - it is stunning. VERDICT: WIN

7. Breakfast consists of café con leche y medialunas.
I’m a big breakfast kinda person; I love my cereal and omelets. In the morning, the porteños (people born and raised in Buenos Aires) have bellies still bulging from the immense piece of meat they devoured the night before. This means that breakfast is a coffee and a couple of croissants called medialunas. The fresh deliciousness of baking - the awakening smell, the delicious taste, the soft warm fresh-out-of-the-oven - ness - Makes Buenos Aires feel a bit calmer and a bit more homely, as I exchange pleasantries with my pastry lady each morning. VERDICT: WIN

8. Locals are ambivalent to tango.
Just as a New Yorker might not care about the Statue of Liberty or an Australian might think that kangaroos are simply big bouncy rats, the folks of Buenos Aires are a bit tangoed out. This is entirely understandable but somewhat of a letdown after the city is continuous touted as the city of Tango on every street corner. I have only seen one street tango show - and it is on the tourist street - and they don't let you watch for 1 minute without showing money in your hand to pay, before shooing you away. VERDICT: FAIL

9. The wine floweth cheaply.
For around $10, you can get a decent bottle of Malbec at most restaurants across the city. Or grab some empanadas and a bottle of vino (pronounced bino) from the grocery store ($4), and you’ve got a cheap meal in the park. Wines from all around the region - from Mendoza, to Chile, to Uruguay - the wins are diverse and delicious. VERDICT: WIN

10. The mullet reigns supreme.
I’ve never seen such a saturation of hipster haircuts in all my travels. Unfortunately, I don’t have official government statistics, but the mullet per capita here in Argentina is most likely dominating the international mullet scene. The look is horrid - and sometimes there are braided rat-tails in back - for somebody who views clean cut haircuts as respectable - this messy-dirty mullet rat-tail only illicits images in my head of shoving their head in the nearest fountain and giving them a nice presentable hairstyle! VERDICT: FAIL

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