…I implore you to reconsider.
Nah, just joking (sort of).
Fast forward a mere few weeks, and I, myself, will have been living in Buenos Aires for seven years. Seven freakin’ years, man. It’s been a hell of a ride.
Every so often, when speaking with a random Argie, there’s usually the question, “But… you’re going back at some point to live in the States, right?”
“No, no,” I have to explain with a sly yet sheepish grin. “I’m here forever. I’m one of you.”
Overall, while I can’t deny that I’ve had many successful experiences while living here thus far, I can’t help but wish that I had been better informed and knowledgeable about coming here with the intention of making it work long-term. It would have saved me a lot of time, effort, grief, and of course, money.
While I can’t lament or take back the past, I *can* take this opportunity to impart my wisdom upon those who might be considering making Buenos Aires their home on a long(er) term basis. Some key points to make are:
Ask yourself, “If I were stranded on a deserted island…”
A fun, rhetorical, introspective question, but a valid one to contemplate if you are considering moving here. Though Buenos Aires is not a deserted island, it is not easy to access many of the comforts of home (and in more remote provinces, even less so). Whether it’s a comfort food like a super spicy condiment, a sturdy pair of *quality* elegant shoes, or an electronic gadget, the chances are that you might not find it here (even on Mercado Libre). And if you do, it is likely a king’s ransom. The reality is that anything not domestically produced/manufactured is difficult to come by. “Protectionism” policy at its
As for having people send you care packages from abroad, don’t plan on anything that gets sent to you from abroad to make it (at least not in its entirety). If it does, plan on spending a long afternoon in Retiro and possibly shelling out more money in “taxes” to take it home if aduanas deems it necessary.
In all seriousness, it is absolutely worth it to pay for an extra piece of baggage or two when coming here. Apart from your absolute essentials, you’d be surprised how quickly you can fill up the luggage.
“Pessify” your mentality…
As in, don’t think in terms of foreign money, think in terms of Argentine pesos. Don’t bother renting in USD, nor using Yanqui websites (ie: Craigslist, TripAdvisor, etc.) to find lodging, which list apartments almost exclusively in USD. Legally, a landlord here cannot require you to pay rent in a foreign currency, so don’t.
For a lot of people, that eliminates renting in the likes of Palermo Hollywood, but if you are here for the long term, you are presumably here for the real Argentine experience. Acquiring an apartment without a “garantia” is difficult, but not impossible (speaking from personal experience).
Furthermore, you can’t compare prices from pesos to US Dollars, or you’ll go crazy. While there is already usually a notable discrepancy in prices when contrasted with Europe or North America, the fact is, trying to convert the exchange rate into something comparable that you can get here here is “al pedo.” This is especially true when you factor 30-40% annual inflation into the equation.
… But come with lots of foreign ca$h in hand.
Your best bet is US Dollars over other currency (dolla dolla bills, ya’ll), as you get a more favorable spread. Bring 100s; forget small denominations. And make sure that they are crisp, clean, and unmarked. Even though the cepo monetario is supposed to end in the next few weeks when Macri takes office, it is still in your best interest to have an emergency stash of greenbacks to exchange if/when times get tough. Based on what I’ve seen and read post-national elections, I’ve got a premonition that 2016 will be an especially good year to have those reserves.
Bring your ever-loving sense of patience delicately wrapped in a warm blanket of tolerance.
Almost anything and everything industria argentina falls apart or malfunctions. Transport often doesn’t run efficiently on time. Queuing in this country is The pace here in general is run on the mañana mentality. This was a big one for me. The fact is, you’re no longer in the first world (though as my Argentine husband likes to point out, you’re not in the Congo, either – Jaja :D). Take a deep breath, count to 10, and carry on.
… But leave your Yanqui mentality back in the States (or wherever it is you come from).
It is not realistically sustainable to take taxis everywhere and to eat out every night. Take the colectivo and subte, cook dinner at home, and, learn to make do the best you can con lo que hay.
Learn Castellano. Learn it well.
This is something that I cannot stress enough to ya’ll. The annoyance that I have for English speaking foreigners who come here expecting to be catered to in English borders on the psychotic. And I see it time and again. Make the effort and step out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a little at a time. By depending on English to get by, you are setting yourself up for more than just being taken advantage of and limiting your ability for getting around the city, you are missing out on a rich experience. What’s that they say? “Learning another language is to gain another soul.”
Have an alternative to just teaching English
English teachers here are a dime a dozen, native speaking or not. It’s incredible how many naive English speakers come here (most of whom don’t know a heck of a lot of Castellano) who think that their English will automatically open prestigious doors for them. Teaching English as a foreign language for most people is only a short-lived gig, especially when it’s not something that they formally studied or are particularly passionate about long-term. Always come prepared with professional skills, abilities, and knowledge that will set you apart from the large pool of qualified candidates, just like you would in your home country.
Double up on the electronics
Do the brand names Candy, Bangho, and Noblex ring a bell? Didn’t think so. Most electronics here (name brand or not) are easily two or three times what one would expect to pay in the United States, and what is readily available is not impressive in terms of variety or quality. Personally speaking, I know that I would quickly go mad if I did not have my Amazon Kindle. It’s worth its weight to me in diamond encrusted gold.
Also keep in mind…
Get a SUBE card – Not just for transportation at a subsidized fare, but for some random discounts throughout the city.
Get a Guia T – A pocket-sized booklet with pages of maps and bus lines in Capital Federal. Much less conspicuous and attention-calling than a regular map.
Get Whatsapp – Free messaging app. Besides, text messages are sooooo 2012!
These are just a few points and words of wisdom to get you started. As with any major life decision, think long and hard about what your long-term aspirations are. Buenos Aires has been good to me over the years, but it has also kicked me in the butt. Hard. With a steel-toed boot. Many, many times.
With that being said…