Buenos Aires, Argentina Report of what it's like to live there - 07/11/19

Personal Experiences from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina 07/11/19

Background:

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

This was not my first expat experience. I've also lived in Kitakyushu, Japan; Madrid, Spain; Paris, France; and, Caracas, Venezuela.

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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?

My home country is the United States. The home city is questionable, but usually, when we're not outside of the USA, we are in Washington, DC, or New York, NY. From Washington, DC, there is no direct flight to Buenos Aires, so you usually have to fly through Atlanta or Miami. From NYC, there is a direct flight from both JFK and Newark to EZE (the international airport in Buenos Aires).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years, with one more to go.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in the city, in the area called Palermo Chico. We chose to live here because we like city living (see above for previous cities lived). Most (but not all) families choose to live in the suburbs so that they are close to the international school. Out in the suburbs, most families have houses with pools and grills in their backyard. The commute in car is about 30-40 minutes from the suburban areas to the US embassy/city center, depending on traffic. In the city, we have a big three-bedroom apartment, with maid's quarters (which can be made into a small bedroom or office, if desired), right in a fantastic part of town. We have multiple doormen, a gym, a pool, and a parking garage in our building. And right outside our door, everything is walkable: the grocery store, the embassy, the movie theater, and the social club that we go to on the weekends. The walk to the US embassy is 15 minutes from door to door.

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

There is a lot that you can find here, and right now, because the dollar is strong here, most food items are cheaper for us to buy here. Basically, all of your needs can be met here, however, some items are costly, like: children's toys and clothes. We buy clothes, toys, and some household items from the Internet and have them sent here because it's cheaper to do so. The household items that we buy here (like toilet paper or paper towels) are more for personal taste rather than necessity.

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

Paper towels, toilet paper, and blue tortilla chips.

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

There are TONS of restaurants available here. The go-to food-delivery services are called Rappi or Glovo--for food. One expat I know ordered beer through a delivery service; another orders pints of ice cream. There are pizza deliveries, roast chickens, sushi, and Mexican food; even toothpaste can be delivered from the pharmacy.

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

Not in the city housing.

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Daily Life:

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

We have a postal service at the embassy where we can receive and mail packages. It's my understanding local postal facilities should be avoided.

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

Very available and very reasonable. There are reputable services where people can find household help, or you can find advertisements on Facebook groups or through personal (or business) networks. Our current domestic helper has been with us for two years, and we found her through her previous boss, who was a friend/colleague. We pay her about $500 USD/month; this is high compared to the legal going rate.

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

Very available. Gyms are all over the place as are personal trainers working with clients in the expansive parks here in the city. I'm not sure about the costs.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted, but it seems that VISA is still more preferred than Mastercard. ATMs are common, but they have limits to what you can withdraw, and there are always service fees for foreign ATM cards. They can be used, but with caution. There have been reports of people getting robbed after using ATMs. We usually withdraw our money in the US Embassy.

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

There are a few English-language churches in the city. There are many synagogues and Jewish community centers and schools, but they are mostly Hebrew-Spanish. I'm not sure about other religions.

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

You need to know Spanish to get around here easily. I'm sure some people are find moving around the city without knowing a lot of Spanish, and it can be done, but knowing the language helps so much more. There are plenty of local language classes and tutors available.

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

Maybe. Things are not always wheelchair accessible, for example. Many of the sidewalks are broken and/or cobble-stoned. That said, I have seen blind people walking in the city, and I have seen a few wheelchairs. Buses have seating for wheelchairs, but I'm not sure if there are elevators in the subway system. Throughout the past two years, I have seen improvements in the way the city is trying to modernize and make more accommodations for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

VERY. Buses and taxis and subways are safe and affordable. Taxis are super cheap and are used a lot. There is no UBER service here; it is illegal. Cabs are readily available and are also linked to an Uber-like system called Cabify.

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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?

I'd recommend bringing a small car. We have a VW Golf, and it is great for the city. There are SUVs here, but they are harder to park in the tight city spaces. Note: your car will get knicked and sideswiped and beat up a bit.

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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?

Home Internet access is available. Ours was set up when we arrived, but I think it typically can be installed within two weeks.

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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?

I keep my home-country plan active, for emergencies, and I have a local provider on a pay-as-you-go basis.

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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?

There are many people with pets here, but we do not have one. There are good vets and kennel services available. I'm not sure about the quarantine rules.

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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?

The expats I know either have their own businesses (English teaching, speech therapy, personal training, for example) or are telecommuting (lawyers). Some have found positions within the local economy but few. The local salaries aren't comparable to what they would be in the United States, for example, so it makes more sense, from an economic perspective, to find work that pays in US dollars.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not sure. But I think...many?

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

Most diplomats at the local embassies wear suits and professional work attire. Formal dress would only ever be required for formal receptions.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not outside of normal personal security concerns that one would have in any major international city.

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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?

There are no particular health concerns. The quality and availability of medical care here is high. I haven't heard of anyone needing to be medically evacuated from post.

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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?

Good. No air quality issues.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Buenos Aires is very attuned to gluten-free diets at the moment. Celiac issues seem very prominent. There are fewer concerns (or knowledge) about other food allergies. Our local school, for example, doesn't have any stipulations about peanut allergies.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not to my knowledge.

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

Four seasons, just opposite the times of the Northern Hemisphere. Summer is very hot and humid in January and February. Winter is pretty mild and rainy. It doesn't really snow here in Buenos Aires.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several international schools available, but Lincoln International School is the one that most embassy families attend. Northlands is another favorite, and there are others.
We chose to send our children to an Argentine private school so that they would be more inclined to learn Spanish. They go to Colegio Aletheia, which I would recommend!

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

I'm not sure about the other schools, but our school does not make many accommodations for special needs kids. They do not have speech-therapist on staff, for example, or any kind of behavior therapist. I don't think they do at Lincoln either.

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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?

There are TONS of preschools available. Not very expensive. Most schools offer pre-turno or post-turno (before and after school care).

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

Yes. Lots. Some of the after school activities tend to adhere to old-school gender lines, however: field hockey for girls; soccer for boys. However, some of this is changing. This year, for example, there was a girls soccer after school activity offered (for the first time ever!). There is also swimming, volleyball, art classes, music, gymnastic, dance, skating. LOTS!

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Expat Life:

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

There are a lot of expats here, in various forms: embassies, businesses, banking, consulting, travelers, etc. It's hard to tell, but it's a big community. Overall, I think expats really like Argentina.

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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 are newcomers groups and international groups. There are various Facebook pages with people wanting to meet other friends, new mothers, enthusiasts for various activities.
There is the American Club, the Buenos Aires International Newcomers group (mostly on-line), and various embassies that host events.

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

It's good for all. Buenos Aires is an amazing international city that has a great going-out scene for singles and couples. There are tons of bars and cool restaurants and trendy going-out areas. There are dance clubs and all sorts of theater, music, comedy, and food events.

For families, Buenos Aires is the greenest city I've ever seen. There are green spaces all over this city, and families are welcome everywhere: from parks and outdoor spaces to restaurants. The city is very family-friendly, and Argentines are very family-focused, so it feels wonderful to be a family in this city!

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

I think there is a vibrant LGBT scene here. Again, huge international city with all sorts of options for all sorts of people.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Super easy to make friends with locals here. But it helps to know Spanish.

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

Not that I have experienced.

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

We've loved living here. It's amazing to just walk the streets and explore. I love finding little hidden streets in Palermo Soho or in Recoleta. I've also loved watching my girls become friends with Argentine kids in their school. The parents and families have been so welcoming to us, as well. We've made some really good friends through our girls' school.

We've also traveled quite a bit, and I'd recommend getting out of the city to see all of the beauty of this country. We went to an estancia in Junin; we went to the Salentein bodega in Mendoza; we went to the estancia El Bordo Las Lanzas in Salta, which was amazing; and I'm about to head to Bariloche in a week. All of these experiences were beautiful and stunning. Salta was one of my all-time favorite places to explore.

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

There are great parks all over the city. One of our favorites is the science park next to the Science Museum in Palermo Soho. But I also like walking around the Rosedal.

We love taking walking trips around San Telmo or Recoleta or Palermo Soho.

I kind of love the Mercado de las Pulgas.

I really love the streets where I do the shopping every day: Scalabrini Ortiz, Cerviño, Ugarteche, Cabello. This is my world right now, and I love it. I know all of the merchants, and they know me, and that makes the place feel very homey.

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

Not really. Maybe pick up some leather items?

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

Everything is accessible, and I love that. In particular, I love seeing the purple jacarandas bloom in November and cover the city with purple flowers. I love the trees that canopy virtually all of the streets. I love the crazy traffic (really, I kind of do!) I love the aggressiveness. I love the sweet kindness toward children. And I love the late hours (sometimes).

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

People don't pick up the dog poop on the sidewalks. So annoying.

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

I would move to this city in a heartbeat. I don't want to leave.

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

Adherence to rules.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience. Sometimes things take longer than they should. Sometimes people don't obey the rules. Sometimes people aren't on time. But...you learn to roll with it.

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

Not that I can think of.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is an amazing city. I hope you will love it as much as I do.

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