They call Buenos Aires the Paris of South America. I don’t like this comparison for two reasons. One, I’ve never been to Paris so I don’t know if it has any validity or not and more importantly, two, I believe Buenos Aires has it’s own “onda” (vibe) unlike anywhere else in the world and therefore does not and should not be compared to other cities. But hey, that is just my opinion.
There are many reasons and ways in which Buenos Aires is distinct from other places around the world. In this post I am including 5 ways in which the city, the people, and the traditions are different and how you might ﬁt in better knowing them.
1. SOS VOS – Learning The Language
If you have ever studied Spanish or traveled to a Spanish speaking country then you probably feel conﬁdent in knowing that you can get yourself around or at least ﬁnd someone that can help you. Knowing the language of the country you are in is a wonderful thing.
I must say that even after studying Spanish in college and traveling to several different Spanish speaking countries, I felt as though I did not know the language here in Buenos Aires. Forget what you learned in school my friends because the “tu” form is out.
I almost panicked when I found that out before coming but luckily the “vos” form is pretty simple to understand and get the hang of. That along with the incredible speed in which Argentinians talk and the unique accent makes it a bit tough at ﬁrst but if I can do it, you can too.
2. ASADO – I Could Do This All Day
You cannot come to Buenos Aires without partaking in an asado. Well, who am I to tell you what to do. Let’s just say you would be missing out on one of the most amazing meals of your life if you didn’t. I came to Buenos Aires as a vegetarian and was warned many times that it would be difﬁcult to ﬁnd things to eat. That is not true.
This is a huge city full of different types of restaurants, many with vegetarian options. In fact, it seems vegetarianism is starting to be somewhat of a trend here. Anyways, I did give up my meatless diet after I attended my ﬁrst Asado.
I don’t know the details of the meat or where to get it or what exactly to buy but I do know that you will enjoy several different types of meat, usually a sausage or chorizo, beef, and/or pork. The meats need no seasoning and have probably only been prepared with salt.
Someone will be grilling the meats while you are hanging out, drinking red wine, and talking to whoever is there – friends and family.
You may also have some salad and bread on the side but the headliner for the day is the meat and it deserves a round of applause and an encore. Argentinians love their asado and I promise once you partake in this wonderful tradition, you will too.
3. SUBTE – Don’t Forget Your Card!
I am from a medium sized city in South Carolina. We have a bus system but no major form of public transportation. This is actually one of the reasons I wanted to come to Buenos Aires because I am a big fan of public transport.
Here, there is a bus system (called collectivos) and a metro (the Subte). To ride the Subte or any of the buses, you have to have a Sube card. It is a prepaid card that you swipe each time you ride. I quite like this system. That is, on the days I don’t forget my card.
On the subway you might be able to manage as you can buy a one way trip (I think) but if you try to get on a bus without your Sube card – good luck. The best scenario; your neighbor is kind enough to swipe their card for you. The worst; you will be walking home. Always a good thing to add “sube card” to your “phone, keys, wallet” list before leaving the house.
4. DIRECTIONS – Getting Lost Can Be an Adventure
Buenos Aires is the 10th largest city in the world – it’s easy to get lost or not know where you are going. My ﬁrst week here I had several people ask me for directions and I almost laughed because I thought it was a joke – like I know where I am going?! Funny. Now I understand.
Even people that have lived here for years don’t know all the streets or names or ways around. They all have something else, though – false conﬁdence. Ask someone on the street for directions and they will tell you as if they know the city like the back of their hand.
Ask a different person for the same directions and they, too, will give you great directions but that are completely different from the ﬁrst. It is best you are prepared with a map or working cell phone to help you get around. Or you can just listen to the directions the people tell you and go on your own little adventure (as long as you are safe!).
5. STAYING UP LATE – You Will Want That Afternoon Siesta
If you are a night owl, Buenos Aires is the city for you. On the weekends and even during the week people are out and about at all hours. If you are going out to a club with your friends, be prepared to not get home until the sun is up. Better yet, have breakfast with them ﬁrst before heading home to sleep.
You won’t be looked at weird or like you should be ashamed of anything. It’s the norm here. Staying up late doesn’t just apply to the party scene, though. If you are in to Tango, many milongas don’t start until 2am. Even dinner doesn’t start until about 10pm or later and that goes for every day of the week.
May sound crazy for those that are not accustomed to that but I have been able to adjust pretty easily. Just make sure to take that afternoon siesta. Buenos Aires is full of things to see, hear, taste, experience, and do. There is always something going on and something to be a part of. As a TEFL teacher I think it is a great place to start as there is ample opportunity to teach while surrounded by an interesting and intriguing culture.
Written by Kellane Kornegay – TEFL Heaven, Buenos Aires Progam, Argentina, September 2016