February 28, 2018 by ingridiswriting
Stuff you need to know before moving to Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a great city and most of my immigrant and expat friends here stayed far longer than they planned (I know how that feels!). Moving to another country is no joke, and any immigrant would tell you so. The thing is, many who move to Buenos Aires consider themselves expats, and this denotes a sense of privilege immigrants and migrants don’t have.
Still, navigating Buenos Aires is possible as long as you prepare yourself. So here are some tips based on my experience, and that of people close to me.
For starters, you should at least learn some Spanish before arriving. Even some basic phrases might help you if you’ve never taken classes before. Be mindful that Argentinians have a very different accent that was you might hear in the US, Canada, or Europe.
Ingredients and electronics
It’s hard to find certain ingredients you’re used to. This is especially true if you’re used to certain spices. Barrio Chino is a great place to get spices, coconut oil, cocoa butter, great teas, and some natural creams and deodorants. Many neighborhoods have dieteticas—health food stores—where you can find ingredients you normally wouldn’t get at most grocery stores in Buenos Aires.
Electronics are expensive in Buenos Aires. Make sure your computer and phone are working properly. Replacing Android phones and PCs is pricey, but replacing Mac products is tough here. iPhones, iPads, and other Mac products can be resold for much higher than their resale value would be in the US, but that means that if you can’t travel back to your home country or get someone to bring the item for you, you’ll be paying big bucks.
If you enjoy photography, film, and other hobbies or occupations that require gear, you need to make sure to bring your cameras with you. Take it from me: even replacing a lithium battery can be expensive here, as can a camera charger. Be prepared.
The Mexican food here sucks
I grew up in L.A. and did my study abroad in Mexico City, so I have extremely high standards for my Mexican food. It sucks here. Places that serve decent food, such as La Fábrica del Taco have to adjust their recipes slightly because getting the right ingredients here is very difficult.
Also, I must add that Argentina isn’t like the stereotypical view many Americans have of Latin America in general. Argentina’s racial history is complicated, and although there are indigenous groups and even a community of Afro-Argentines, they’re not as visible as you’d expect. As such, most people here look European and generally don’t eat spicy food.
Now you know!
Social Outings, Restaurants, and Drinks
Most people have the erroneous assumption that going our here will be dirt-cheap. Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are some of the more expensive countries in Latin America. You’ll end up paying close to what you pay for in the US or Europe, and some things may actually be more expensive. However, there are happy hours all over the city. You can legally drink in public here and it’s acceptable to have a beer or wine at a picnic. Like anywhere else, you just have to do your research so you won’t spend more than your budget.
If you earn in USD, CAD, AUD, or Euro this may not be as big of a deal to you, but you should still be aware of this. First of all, it affects locals, and eventually, you will befriend locals. You should know about their struggles. Plus, inflation affects politics and policy here. The economy is tied to the US dollar, and although President Macri removed some of the difficulties of acquiring dollars, the removal of the old dolár blue actually caused the peso’s value to depreciate.
Inflation means it’s tough to budget in pesos because your groceries will cost more in the next week, or weeks, than what you’re used to paying. It means that all rental contracts that last longer than several months have a rate adjustment as a part of their clauses. Speaking of which…
You can find reasonably-priced furnished apartments. At one point I was paying about US$420 for a furnished studio because I had a contact, but I had to leave and lived in a shared furnished apartment. Don’t cry for me though, it had a great view, but it was about US$430-500 per month depending on the value of the peso at the time.
There’s an entire industry of apartment rentals that specialize in renting out to English-speaking foreigners and charge far more than market value rates for fancy furnished places with amenities. Hey, what you can afford and what you want is up to you, but if you want to spend around $400-500 USD on a room, it’s possible as long as you learn how to deal with the peso.
You’ll be Expected to Answer Complex Questions
Argentinians tend to be well-informed about their own country, and they probably know a lot about yours. They certainly know a lot about Europe since many porteños have a passport from somewhere in Europe thanks to their ancestors (a post for another day). Now is a great time to brush up on Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, the gay marriage debate in Australia, and New Zealand’s amazing PM Jacinda Ardern. For you, Canadians, you can always focus on PM Trudeau’s toned butt. The world is aware of it already.
Immigration Laws are Changing
If you come from countries that aren’t a part of Mercosur, you’ll have to deal with a different set of immigration laws and pay (usually) higher fees and fines. When I arrived here, many expats from the US, UK, and other English-speaking countries would simply do visa runs or take extremely long trips somewhere and came back if they couldn’t get a DNI. There are only certain ways you can get it, and I won’t even pretend to know all the answers because I don’t want to steer anyone wrong.
Things are changing now. Thankfully legalizing your status in Argentina isn’t as hard as it is in other countries, but it’s starting to become more compulsory. I’m from the US and can’t speak for the requirements of other countries. My one advice for Americans who even think they might stay is to get their FBI background check while in the US and bring it here, preferably apostilled. This will save you a ton of time while trying to get the DNI in Argentina.
You’re Going to Have a Great Time
Yes, inflation is a hassle but your Argentian friends or long-term expats can help you get through this. People here are less individualistic and understand that you sometimes need a helping hand. In Buenos Aires, there’s no shame in admitting if you’re broke. People here will openly tell you they’re undergoing therapy and will even recommend a psychologist in a heartbeat if you ask.
I was lucky to befriend people in a variety of social classes, and friends who were better off were understanding of those who weren’t so lucky. People were always ok with having a picnic at the park to have some yerba mate, cook dinner together, or just order a few empanadas. Plus, the city sponsors many cultural activities, and there are plenty of free museums, wonderful parks, and casas culturales you can hang out with that will keep you from breaking the bank.
I probably missed a lot of pointers, but I hope this helps!Stuff you need to know before moving to Buenos Aires Click To Tweet