Buenos Aires, Argentina Report of what it's like to live there - 05/14/11

Personal Experiences from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina 05/14/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

yes

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Florida- 9 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Singles and couples tend to live in the city in beautiful apartments. Families are in the suberbs in single family homes with a pool, but have an hour commute to work.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Local meats, and fruits/veggies are good quality. Prices are similar to US. Imported goods are hard to come by, so if you have a favorite brand (mac&cheese, cereals, snacks) you may want to bring it with you.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Paper products, spices, clothes.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and Burger King are here. A combo is a bit more than US standards (current price is $8 for a combo meal) but the 30% inflation may make this even more expensive.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There are several Vegetarian restaurants, but steak is king here.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I haven't had any problems.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the embassy; it takes 1 week to get packages from the US.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is available, we pay about $5 an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The U.S. Embassy has one, but for the monthly fee you could also chose another. Many apartments also have their own gym.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use our debit card all over.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Two Christian churches in the suberbs have English services. I'm not sure of other denominations.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

One local newspaper, but there are often complaints that the govt censors the news.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is needed. Don't count on anyone speaking English to you. Even if the locals know English, they get annoyed with foreigners who don't speak the local language.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sidewalks are horrible, so getting around in a wheel chair would be nearly impossible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All available, all inexpensive. The trains and subways can get crowded and stinky, but for 40 cents, you can't beat it!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car is suitable, but getting it here depends on customs' rule of the day. It took us 7 months to get our car. A few years back, some waited for 1 year. Others never got their car. Cars are very expensive here though, so its best to ship one if you can.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We have high-speed wireless and pay just under $50 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You need to have legal residency to get a cell phone, so it may take a little while to get one. There are a few companies, we used Movistar which was reasonable priced.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but the customs process is a full day event. Very challenging, so be patient.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets are great, reasonable costs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not unless you are a teacher. Also, wages are much lower here, so if you do find a local job with an NGO, don't expect a great salary. Avg salary for a professional is $1200 USD month.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

business

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Home invasions happen in the suberbs, but I'm not aware of it actually happen to Embassy staff. We have bars on the windows, gates, alarms and roving security. More often, people are victims of circumstance. Pick pockets and car break ins for electronics.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Great medical care. Many chose to stay any have their baby here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Overall good. Exhaust in traffic can be a problem if you are behind a bus, but nothing worse than any other large city.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Reverse seasons. Summer Dec-March with highs in the mid 80s. Mild winters June-Aug. Spring and fall are wonderful.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My daughter goes to Lincoln- the international school. It has a great reputation from K-12, with many students getting into great US Universities after graduation. The school offers many after school activities, has a pool and track and field for sports. The teachers and Admin staff are great as well.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Not sure, many families have nannies, so I haven't heard about the daycares.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, its all here. Many kids particpate in the school sports, but others are taking gymnastics and karate through local programs.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, especially out in the suberbs.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. The biggest problem is that many come here with high expectations and then are disappointed when faced with the challenges of living in a developing country. Expectations and reality seem to be off kilter a bit. The driving sucks, locals are not warm towards foreigners, and the country is experiencing 30% inflation so prices keep rising.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Plenty to do and see. Polo games, dance clubs, restaurants, concerts, tango shows.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, its great for everyone! Great nightlife, loads of restaurants, many activities to meet all interests. The only downside is that there is so many options, the expat community is not very cohesive.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, the city is liberal compared to most of Latin America. There are specific gay night clubs for those who are interested. Still, you may not see much PDA among gay couples.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

My favorite moments have been when I left the city. Day trips to Tigre, weekends to the beaches.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are lots of parks where the locals like to hang out and picnic. Many boutique shops, sidewalk cafes, casinos, polo fields, cultural activities, etc...

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

leather goods are popular, the wines are fantastic.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great steak and wine. Plenty of activities within the city such as concerts and art programs

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11. Can you save money?

No, it's pretty expensive living here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but a few years is enough for me.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

driving habits of staying in your own lane, and your expectations that this is Europe. You can also leave wine.

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3. But don't forget your:

peanut butter, maple syrup, kraft macaroni and cheese.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Evita- you need to know the story of Eva Peron

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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