Buenos Aires, Argentina Report of what it's like to live there - 07/10/08
Personal Experiences from Buenos Aires, Argentina
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I lived in Paris for a year as a child.
2. How long have you lived here?
Traveled there multiple times in '05, '06 and early '07. Moved to Buenos Aires in Aug '07 from NYC. Returned to the U.S. June '08 for 3 months for work, will be returning Sept '08 for the long-term.
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Moved to start a business with a friend.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
NYC to Buenos Aires is direct flight on American, about 11 hours. Also you can fly directly from Miami (but then you have to deal with Customs in Miami - my definition of hell on earth). It's fairly easy to fly there from any major city in the U.S. although generally you will connect through Miami or Dallas.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I rented an apartment in Las Canitas - it was approximately 15 minutes in a taxi to Puerto Madero, Retiro, Palermo, etc (except at rush hour). When going to Pilar, it took 30 minutes without traffic, up to 80 minutes with traffic at rush hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are definitely getting more expensive. Again, if you have dollars, the city still remains a relative bargain. Supply is good in the larger chain supermarkets (Jumbo & Disco & Cotco)
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Hot sauce (they don't have anything spicy here), electronics (they are EXPENSIVE here).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast Food - yes but why would you want it? There is a huge amount of good restaurants from very inexpensive parillas to high end gourmet restaurants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
It's a problem - shipping is *very* expensive & things have a tendency to get lost in transit.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very available & very inexpensive.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
No problem using ATMs or Credit Cards. Be aware however that if you are using an ATM from a U.S. bank, they have started imposing withdrawal limits of $300 pesos at a time. Also, ATMS are usually closed in banks every afternoon (from 1-2 or 2-3) to restock cash. You also will be charged a transaction fee for using your credit card or ATM by your U.S. company usually.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
In Buenos Aires, most people speak some degree of English. If you are out in the provinces, that percentage drops precipitously. Obviously you will want to have some rudimentary Spanish to get around.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
A lot of difficulties - sidewalks tend to be broken up & difficult to traverse.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Same as the U.S.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes - trains, subways, buses and taxis are affordable and safe. If taking the train, bus, subway - watch your wallet & try not to advertise that you are an expat. Taxis are fine as well - if you have any concerns, you can take a remise.
3. 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?
As noted before, car theft is on the rise. If you do have a car, it is worth making sure you have garage parking. Otherwise, you are obviously at higher risk, especially if driving a luxury car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Easily available & very inexpensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Buy one there. If you don't have a DNI, you won't be able to sign a contract but you can do a pay per use phone & just refill it by buying cards at any kiosko or locuturio.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Get Skype. Otherwise, you can use Vonage, etc.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Dog walkers are everywhere, vets are easily found (but it behoves you to speak Spanish if you need to talk with your vet)
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 really. If you want to work here, it is best if you are starting your own business or are tranfered here by your company. There are some teaching English jobs but they are competitive and don't pay enough. If you are bi-lingual & have specialized skills (IT, advanced degrees, etc) there are more options.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Stylishly casual. They love their jeans here but they are worn with great shoes & a cute shirt (men and women). You don't see many women out in dresses at night. Business varies from business casual to suits but again, people always look sharp even when they are casually dressed (aka - NO sweatpants, torn jeans, sneakers, stained tshirts, etc).
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Moderate. There is a great deal of auto pollution in the city. There were also extensive fires this year.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not really. It generally is a bad idea to wear an expensive watch - I have had 3 friends mugged for their Rolexes. In general, the same precautions as any large city, don't carry large amounts of cash on you, don't flash expensive jewelry, don't carry a lot of credit cards, be aware of pickpockets in tourist areas. The other note is auto theft is fairly common, be sure to park in a garage.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is inexpensive (I was paying $350 pesos a month, so a little over US$100) for premium health care.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winter tends to be rainy and grey, especially July & August but not that cold (average in the high 40s). Spring/Fall are beautiful, summers are usually in the high 80s and humid. Most people try to leave the city in January for the beach or countryside.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
It varies, some are thrilled, others frustrated by the inefficiencies of life here.
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?
Yes - incredible! Entertaining and going out is a way of life here. But be prepared, the party starts late. Dinner at a restaurant isn't before 10, bars don't get crowded until 1 & clubs won't be empty until after 3:30 or 4 in the morning.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes to all of the above. Buenos Aires has options for singles, couples and families. It is a very energetic city with a never-ending list of activities available (especially if you are earning in dollars). It is also easy to meet people.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. There is a strong and thriving gay community in Buenos Aires. Caution should be taken when out of major metropolitan areas, however.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Buenos Aires is VERY white and very non-diverse. Also be aware that Argentines are *not* PC.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is a never-ending list of things to do from plays to art exhibits to restaurants to days in the campo to boating to..well, really your imagination is the limit.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Anything you want - lots of great silver, leather goods, handmade belts, shoes, etc.
9. Can you save money?
If you're earning dollars or euros, absolutely. If you're earning in pesos, no. Inflation is a factor here, the official inflation rate is 10% but that is due to price controls on meat, etc.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely, I wish I had made the decision to move earlier.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Leather goods, expectations of things starting on time or getting done efficiently and type A personality. And definitely leave behind your thin skin & political correctness - men will make comments to you if you are a women.
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor, spices if you like spicy food, your laptop, your open-mindedness and your desire to learn a new language, culture, etc.