Buenos Aires, Argentina Report of what it's like to live there - 08/13/14

Personal Experiences from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina 08/13/14

Background:

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

No, I have lived in another Central American country.

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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?

Southeastern United States, 12+ hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year, 2 more to go.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

In the city, high-rise buildings with views of the city and water. Suburbs, beautiful large houses with yards and pools.

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

We are at 40% inflation right now with it rising every day. There are very few imports here, so the cost of the few that make it through are very high. Think US$8 for a regular size jar of spaghetti sauce or US$5 for a bad of goldfish crackers. This a DPO post (currently), so most embassy employees patronize amazon and sites like that vey heavily! I thought it was crazy to order toilet paper and Lysol wipes and basic items via DPO but the lack of variety and the quality of Argentine products make it necessary. I caveat this to say that we did not move overseas to try and recreate the American experience. However, some things are necessary for the health and mental well-being of your home and its members-- and we cannot find those items on the local market.

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

Tons of cleaning supplies, saran wrap, and aluminum foil.

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

Tons of restaurants, some variety. Fast food is okay but not the same taste or offerings as the States so we avoid most of them. The cost is also astronomical!

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

Mosquitoes in the summer can be bad.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the Embassy.

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

Labor laws here are very protective of domestic help and make it difficult and tricky, though not impossible to have a nanny or housekeeper. Make sure you understand the labor laws and manage your own and the employee's expectations. This a "sue happy" culture in which the man, i.e. the employer, never wins!

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

Everywhere! This is the place if you want to work out. Because of the saturation of facilities, prices are reasonable. I enjoy pilates and am able to take reformer classes 3 times per week for less than US$40 per month.

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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 never use ATMs and limit our use of credit card due to the inflation rate and difference between the official exchange rate and the blue dollar exchange rate.

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

Most Argentines speak English, but will not speak it with you; you need Spanish to conduct daily life activities.

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

Possibly, depending on the disability. While I have seen some wheelchair ramps and handicap accessibility accommodations, that is not the norm or the law here.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and affordable and plentiful as long as it's not raining,

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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?

Small cars, small SUVs. Research the cars that are here and try to bring a car of that make. There are a lot of local restrictions on the type of car you can bring in, age , color, etc. If you live in the city, you can do without a car.

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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?

Yes. But our bill has increased several times due to inflation. It's something to consider when choosing packages.

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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?

Cell phone packages are relatively inexpensive. However, due to inflation your bill can and will rise unexpectedly.

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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?

They love pets here, especially dogs. There is a pet store and vet on every corner!

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes! Crime is escalating here due to the economic woes. The suburbs are especially dangerous and there have been a plethora of issues reported. Living in the city isn't any less dangerous per say but living in an apartment building with 24-hour doormen add an extra layer of security that living in stand-alone suburb housing cannot provide. That being said, if I had school aged children I would think twice about living in the city because I would not want my child in traffic for 45 minutes each way. My concern is not the time on the bus but the risk of car jacking or the bus being forced off the road so that a robbery may be committed. It's happened to families and individuals, but no school buses--yet.

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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?

Hmmm. This a difficult question. The kids under the age of 6 are constantly sick here. They say that's normal, I've been to several doctors, but it doesn't seem right to me. We lived in another post and my daughter had the normal colds but nothing like this. The doctor who seemed most competent to me said I should expect 10 days of increased cold, allergy like symptoms, 10 days where the symptoms decrease, and 10 days of little to no symptoms. Then the cycle would begin again. I've talked to others who have experienced the same.

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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?

Excellent.

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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?

4 seasons with winter lasting from June to September. Lots of expats avoid winter weather by returning to the States during this time with their school-age kids.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

They love children here. There are lots of options for daycare/preschools covering all price ranges. Of course if you want English-speaking teachers and administration, it's going to cost more. All schools have uniforms, which is an additional cost.

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

Yes. There are specialized clubs (think country clubs or very exclusive YMCA) for kids. Club de Amigos is a popular one in the city but there are others. There are also family type clubs with programs for kids.

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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 expat community with okay morale. I think that several things affect the morale including the nagging feeling that you should love this place because it's Argentina--but most have some gripe about the place and people. I think the morale would be greatly improved with adjusted expectations and goals. This country offers the opportunity to travel and see some amazing terrain and wildlife. You should come with a focus of what you want to get out of the post and make that your focus. It's too easy to get bogged down by the day to day issues here that are a part of the culture and will not change, which can make for an unpleasant experience.

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

There is a vibrant restaurant community here that make eating and drinking wine a sport.

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

All!

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

Yes. Because of the size of the city, there is a community for all.

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

Yes.. Despite the size of the city and country there is a lack of diversity. Thus, as a person of color you will stand out and draw attention wherever you go. People actually reach out and rub my child's head as a norm here. At first I thought they were being friendly and affectionate, but on more than one occasion I have caught people actually feeling the texture of my child's hair and that is creepy and not okay. There is a large Asian population here, but still relatively small in the grand scheme of the population.

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

Getting out of the city and traveling within the country.

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

Too many to count. Check the usual tourist books and websites.

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

Big city living with lots of museums and unique culture. Very dog friendly.

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Maybe, with adjusted expectations and more research. I think I focused my research on touristy things and not on the hardship of life. However due to politics here, there is not a lot of information. For example there are no government produced stats on crime or inflation for that matter.

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2. Do you have any other comments?

I hope my comments were balanced and not overly negative. I don't feel we, or many people I talk to, had an accurate depiction of the city and its living conditions. As an expat brought here by the government or a company, you are going to live better than the average person, and it's not bad living. I suggest you speak with someone who has no interest in convincing you about moving and ask the lots of questions!

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