Buenos Aires is a beautiful and busy busy place. Sometimes it’s maddening, with the traffic & Non-Stop car alarms, exhaust fumes and dog shit; but at other times — when sitting in a historic café, biking through the quiet streets, and sipping a cup of wine, for example — I am so happy I decided to move here to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
There’s a lot that’s endearing about Buenos Aires, and other things that irk me a lot. But can be an amazing city if you stop thinking it is a tango mecca, and it can be a horrible city when you breath in too deep or listen to your surroundings.
The city of Dogs, and Dog Poo.
It appears that every single person in Buenos Aires owns a dog. It is a wonderful land of dog-lover heaven. But with Millions of dogs come similar amounts of dog poo. It’s everywhere, like little satanic piles attacking my pretty new shoes. It smells horrible, it gets over your shoes, and everybody is perfectly fine with this reality of the dog-shit city. The residents who are too busy or simply too lazy, fork over 120$ Pesos a month to dog walkers, who walk 5-15 dogs at a time around the city. Although the city has a by-law requiring residents to pick up dog poo, this is not obeyed and their dogs poo everywhere – I am a dog lover til death due me part – but Is it REALLY that hard to pick up the poo and put it in the garbage cans that are on every street corner? VERDICT: STINKY FAIL
Yerba Mate: A Way of Life
Mate (pronounced mah-tay) is a type of loose green tea that is extremely energizing (aka high in caffeine) and brewed like tea. Some foreigners think it has some cocaine extract in it, but that is not true – it is simply an energizer. It’s charming to see people walking around with their thermos, mate cup and metal straw: in the park, on the subway, waiting for the bus. Mate is almost always shared with someone else because it is a social activity and offering mate to a stranger is not uncommon. Mate is a great pick-me-up, helps with hang-overs and there are hot water vending machines around the city to fill your thermos up. Mate has an incredibly strong flavor and is an acquired taste, but the more water you add, the weaker it gets, and can be appreciated more. VERDICT: WIN
The Kiss on the Cheek Greeting: Both Genders Welcome.
From my Canadian cultural perspective, where affection between men is expressed as a punch in the arm, it’s a civilized and intimate salutation. Please take note, uptight western cultures. Everybody is friendly, close, and warm. You greet everybody with a kiss on the check. This includes men. Men kiss each other of the cheek here as they would a female- it is a friendly gesture. For me – each day as I leave work, the security guard at the front gives me a hug and kiss, we converse in extremely broken Spanish (on my part) and it cheers me up daily to feel that connection to people you don’t feel daily in the Canadian culture of 12 inches distance at all times. VERDICT: WIN
Graffiti and Street art are Prevalent and Widespread.
There is a permissiveness and a type of celebration for street art here in Buenos Aires. The sides of buildings are urban canvases for all types of graffiti artists, providing colorful graphics to the eyes of locals and travelers. The only negative is that every building is not turned into art – some buildings are simply covered in hundreds of spray paint signatures which ruins the natural beauty of marble buildings. But when it is art – it is stunning. VERDICT: WIN
Argentinean Food: Hale to Italian heritage
Breakfast: cafe con leche (Coffee with Milk) and a couple of medialunas (croissants). The fresh deliciousness of baking – the awakening smell, the delicious taste, the soft warm fresh-out-of-the-oven – ness – Makes Buenos Aires feel a bit calmer and a bit more homely, as I exchange pleasantries with my pastry lady each morning.
Lunch: Various types of meat sandwiches, choripan, ceviche, and parrilla (more meat).
Dinner: steak, pizza, pasta, wine. Accordingly to sources – the Steak is amazing- as a vegetarian I do not partake in this foodie delight. But Pizza and Pasta galour is heaven for my taste buds but hell to my waist line! But the cheap wine, makes all those thoughts disappear. VERDICT: WIN
City of Tango? I think Not.
The folks of Buenos Aires are a bit tangoed out. This is entirely understandable but somewhat of a letdown after the city is continuous touted as the city of Tango on every street corner. I have only seen one street tango show – and it is on the tourist street – and they don’t let you watch for 1 minute without showing money in your hand to pay, before shooing you away. If you wish to learn Tango, you will pay for it – especially if you are at the disadvantage of not speaking fluent Spanish. There are a few free tango locations around the city, late in the evenings, but most are for, minimal, intermediate level dancers. Two-Left feet such as myself are not welcome. VERDICT: FAIL
Cheap Wine Heaven
For around $10, you can get a decent bottle of Malbec at most restaurants across the city. Or grab some empanadas and a bottle of vino (pronounced bino) from the grocery store ($4), and you’ve got a cheap meal in the park. Wines from all around the region – from Mendoza, to Chile, to Uruguay – the wins are diverse and delicious. Every grocery store sells an entire aisle of wine – and for a lover of wine and all things budget, Buenos Aires is the place to be. VERDICT: WIN
The Mullet Reigns Supreme.
I’ve never seen such a saturation of hipster haircuts in all my travels. Unfortunately, I don’t have official government statistics, but the mullet per capita here in Argentina is most likely dominating the international mullet scene. The look is horrid – and sometimes there are braided rat-tails in back – for somebody who views clean cut haircuts as respectable – this messy-dirty mullet rat-tail only illicits images in my head of shoving their head in the nearest fountain and giving them a nice presentable hairstyle! VERDICT: FAIL
Traffic Jams and Questionable Driving Skills
Although you almost never spot a vehicle with a dent, scratch, or bumper missing in Buenos Aires, their driving skills are to be questioned. Not their skill of parallel parking which is a wonder, or their ability to drive 3 cars across on a 1 car wide road. I am speaking of their inability to realize they are creating traffic jams. With all the constant honking that occurs here because the traffic becomes jammed so easily, why is it that no single driver realizes they are part of the problem. When a light turns yellow – do not race across the intersection only to be stuck in the middle of it since the road is jammed up ahead. Please wait for the next green light and the road to clear up ahead. Bus are infamous for doing this – and at 8AM on a weekday, crossing 9 de Julio (the widest avenue in the world), and be in a gridlock, you look up and see all intersections crossing the road are filled with buses. Stop, and wait for the green. VERDICT: FAIL