10 Pieces of Advice for Traveling to Buenos Aires
1. Get to know the climate of Buenos Aires
This is something that seems very basic, but it’s not. I come from the DMV area where the weather for the most part can be pretty predictable. There are four seasons that give relatively the same weather patters. Buenos Aires has the most volatile weather patterns I have ever experienced. I came in “winter,” which is summer in the DMV, and it was around 70 degrees. Two weeks later as we moved closer to spring it seemed like it actually got colder, with temperatures around 50 degrees. I ended up getting a bad case of strep throat (I almost never get sick) my first month here. Now that it is moving towards “spring” it has started getting a little warmer but unfortunately for me I have to go back to winter in the U.S.
2. You will never be bored in Buenos Aires
Living in a suburb area in Maryland, sometimes it seems like there is absolutely nothing to do without spending money. However in Buenos Aires you could actually find something to do every single day without spending a peso. There are countless parks, and museums- while some require a entrance fee it’s usually very small. For myself, I personally enjoy people watching. Argentines are very animated, and Castellano is a beautiful language. I simply enjoyed listening to the Argentine “jerga” as people interact and go about their daily routine.
3. Have a Basic Knowledge of Spanish
In my last post I stressed the significance knowing the language has in your traveling abroad experience but I can’t emphasize it enough. I’ve witnessed people here who have no knowledge of the language and it can bring about very frustrating experiences. It makes the person feel sheltered because they aren't able to efficiently express themselves in Spanish. I recommend at least a basic Spanish course to at a minimum survive in this jungle of a city.
4. Time is NOT of the Essence
Coming from the United States where pretty much everyone pushes punctuality, the culture here is completely different. There have been times here that I just really wanted food or a coffee to-go, instead of sitting at a table with a full dining experience. I’ve realized the sometimes, however, it is good to just sit and relax and let someone cater to you. Especially with friends, having a coffee break to just sit and talk sometimes is so necessary. This aspect of Argentine culture has taught me patience, and the art of relaxation, which Argentines happen to do very well.
5. Expect Stares
For me especially as a black woman, that is one of the main things that I had to get used to. People of darker skin just are not as common here, so it’s only natural for people to stare at things that they have never or aren’t used to seeing. As for the catcalling, well of course just like any big city there are men who think that it is socially acceptable to “cat call” or make remarks at women. Specifically for me, because I am black, I heard things such as “hermosa moracha” or “linda moracha.” I learned to ignore it, avoid making eye contact and keep walking. Although at first the stares and catcalling may seem a little uncomfortable, don’t let it take away from the overall well-mannered people of Buenos Aires.
6. Riding Any Form of Public Transportation Between 4pm-8pm is a Terrible Idea
I’ve been on the train during New York’s rush hour and Washington D.C.’s rush hour, both large U.S. cities. There is nothing like the Buenos Aires City “hora de pico” (rush hour). For me it was a funny experience watching people pack themselves like sardines onto a “colectivo” (bus) or “subte car” (subway). There is absolutely no definition of personal space; just when you think it can’t get anymore crowded they somehow manage to pack in 5 more passengers carrying they’re overstuffed purses or briefcases.
7. Argentines Have a Very Mean Sweet Tooth.
I knew the Argentine sweet tooth was very real when my host mom found out that I wasn’t putting dulce de leche on the cake she left out for my breakfast every morning. I couldn't understand why I would need a huge sugar rush at 9 in the morning, but it turned out to be a common pattern here. Sugar is an essential piece to Argentine culture. All calories and carbohydrates go right out the window, and somehow the Argentines manage to remain very thin. Between the medialunas (croissants), and tartas for breakfast, to Argentines casually adding 4 packets of sugar to a tiny cup of coffee, if you have a sweet tooth Buenos Aires is the place for you.
8. Being a Night-owl is Essential
In the United States it seems like we get a pretty early start on our day, and finish relatively early. In Buenos Aires, it seems to be the exact opposite. For one, having dinner before 8:00pm is completely unheard of. In fact some restaurants don’t even open for dinner before 8:00pm. I’ve been in cases where I haven’t had dinner until 11:00pm--and you can guarantee I was half asleep at the table. Going out to any event or even a friend’s house for dinner, expect that no one will arrive on time. A party or gathering starting at 11:00pm, expect people to arrive closer to 1:00pm and stay out until 6:00am or later- yes it does happen! I felt like being out in D.C. until 3:00am called for a pretty long night out with friends but here there is no comparison. So rest up during the day and have a few coffees before dinner because you’ll need all the energy to make it through the night.
9. Two things you don’t bring up at the dinner table: Fútbol and Politics
I think this piece of advice pretty much explains itself. Unless you are prepared to defend yourself, and are very comfortable with your Castellano, don’t bring up these two topics. I’m speaking from experience.
10. Prepare for “Overly” Affectionate People
When I say “overly affectionate” I mean that in the most positive way. Argentines are the most charismatic and affectionate people I’ve experienced. The tight embrace and kiss on the cheek when they first meet you is a glimpse of how affectionate they are. They love to talk, and ask questions- and even offer suggestions although you may not have asked. In the United States sometimes we can come off as very cold, with a simple “Hello” or handshake and then we are on our way. In Argentina, a simple “Cheee como andas?” opens up the door for conversations and sharing that turns into a meaningful 5 minutes. The people of Buenos Aires are some of the warmest inviting people that I have encountered and I am beyond thankful that I was able to spend 5 months experiencing their culture.