The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Living In Buenos Aires

kika bar in buenos airea

“You want to talk in English behind my back… okay! Get out of the car now! Now, get out! Who do you think you are?” the taxi driver repeated in Rioplatense Castellano, the Spanish dialect spoken here in Buenos Aires, Argentina, “I’m a person. I have rights. What gives you the right to speak English in my car,” he continued to profess as I took my sweet time to gather my belongings and leave his dilapidated taxi. My friend was already halfway down the block, nearly sprinting with fear.

Well, that’s just one of those common events you can expect to experience while living here in Buenos Aires, especially as an expat from an English speaking country. I’m from New York, and have been here—on and off—three times over the past two-and-a-half-years.

The Spicy Moments of Buenos Aires

It’s a spicy country! Not in the food sense. No, one drop of common ground black pepper would send any Argentine home crying to mommy. “Caliente! Caliente! Ah..dios..miooo!!” It’s spicy in that it’s an eventful city where passions overflow freely.

callao avenue buenos airesThat taxi driver was obviously having a bad day and needed someone—or some persons—to unload on…and for something as little as speaking English in his presence, he went to town on us! I mean, really, he LET LOOSE!!

Yeah, he was an asshole. But, I got it; he was dealing with something that day… He had a man-period and needed a shouting board. So without any response, I left his car and went about my day. Now my friend, she was in shock for the better part of that day!

I’ve seen all types of crazy shit like that go down here in Buenos Aires. Just two weeks ago, I witnessed one of those scenes you only see in movies where some angry girl goes up to the bar and smashes every glass while screaming from the top of her lungs at the bartender, then storming out in fashion. Well, that happened three-feet from me as I drank a pint around 5am in the hustling and bustling barrio (town) of Microcentro. It was quite entertaining, actually….

Then there was that time when a man nearly ripped off and ate this lady’s head for dinner as they fought over something in one of my favorite restaurants here. I’ve never witnessed a man scream at a women as such in public. And as it was happening, almost as if it was a “normal thing,” the restaurant carried on as usual without skipping a beat.

In this States, I have no doubt that they would have been thrown out after the first sequence of retorts.

I don’t write about these events to tarnish Buenos Aires, but to show the nitty-grittyness of the city. I like this sort of unhindered passion in the people. It’s wild! It’s electric. It’s perhaps why Buenos Aires is ranked very high as one of the most sexual cities in the world. It’s also has the most psychiatric patients per capita in the world! It’s in their blood. In the air. And it’s a story that should be told over and over again.

You don’t see too much of this side of Buenos Aires chronicled on the Internet. And with the Argentine pride being as monstrous as it is, don’t expect to find any locals ever writing about it.

There’s a joke that goes like this: “What’s the easiest way for an Argentine to commit suicide? To jump off of his ego!”

Are Argentinians Really Racist?

Have you heard that Argentines are the “most racist people of South America?” I touched upon this in my last article about Buenos Aires, but let’s peep under to hood once again, a year later.

Being a person with comparatively dark skin (to the typical middle class Argentine…even with their olive hue), I’m personally not prepared to say that Buenos Aires is a very racist country. More classist than racist. However, I am, for all intents and purposes, basically a tourist. I’m not poor. I’m relatively “rich” compared to the lower-middle class here if we forget economics of scale for a second. And I go to “fancy” bars and restaurants quite frequently.

Surely, this has A LOT to do with me not, outwardly or explicitly, experiencing any racism here. Now, if I were to throw on an Adidas hat, wear some Adiads pants and sneakers, and perhaps some silver chains…as the “lower class” commonly do here, then I’d be willing to put money on it that I wouldn’t be able to navigate and freely as I have been here.

Racism exists here, but it’s a sort of racism that’s 90% classism and 10% dependent on the color of your skin and the clothing you’re wearing. And, of course, how you speak and conduct yourself. It’s not fair, but this is how their culture operates here in the city, not the entire country.

But being a “foreigner” and having the proper amount of money, persona, and social circles, a wrench is quickly thrown in the traditional socioeconomic outlook of what’s considered racism and classism here in Buenos Aires.

From my personal experiences here, most people treat me with kindness and warmth. And for the ones that treat you like shit, for the most part, it’s just who they are and has little to nothing to do with racism or classism…those people also treat other whites like shit…— But probably not if you’re and elderly white with blonde hair; she is the lioness of Buenos Aires culture and can, probably, get away with murder — unless, perhaps, you’re a part of the poor class here which is, sadly, almost unilaterally treated poorly and referred to as “Negros” and “Villa Kids.”

But, mind you, “Negros” isn’t quite like saying “Niggers.” It’s a whole ‘nother concept here. The word is more closely related to “poor class” than to “skin color.”

So as you can see, the issue of race and classism in Buenos Aires is a very complex topic to discuss, with multiple underlying concepts and variants. It’s not as simple as saying “everyone in Argentina is racist,” which is, as far as I can tell, a statement readily accepted from most South American cultures.

To wrap up this racial bend we’ve taken, you also have to consider crime and protection and fear. Those that do the most petty crime here, are, in fact, dark skinned and from the poor class. However, that’s a direct result of the larger and more pernicious crimes committed by the super elite, rich, white folks at the head of the country. So the white class has been trained to stay away and, yes, even speak badly against those of color here. This training seems to derive from their fears of being robbed and to, really, protect themselves. And tradition could also be tied to racist ideals here. Many people are just set in their ways in Argentina, like many people of Southern America who wouldn’t mind setting up a lynch mob on Friday nights. But I exaggerate, I couldn’t imagine any typical Argentina, even the “racist” ones, having visions of lynch mobs anytime soon.

South American and North American racism have the same roots, but are quite differently stemmed apart.
It’s a vicious and complex cycle. But enough of the racism issue. That’s a wheel that could go on spinning forever. Let’s get into parrr-TAY mode!

Party Life in Buenos Aires

The parties…the parties…the parties…. I must admit that I’ve had my fair share of head-throbbing mornings waking up saying “WHAT-THE-FUCK-HAPPENED-LAST-NIGHT!!!???” while here in Buenos Aires. Yup, such mornings pop up every now and then. More nows than thens.

Partying here is a very easy affair. That’s one of the things I like the most about this city—people want to have a good time. From the grandmas, to the adults, down to the kids…everyone is partying any chance they get. Granted, BA is no Brazil, but it’s up there!

With sufficient friends and enough gusto to get out of your apartment every weekend, you could literally party three to five times per week if you really wanted to and had the disposable cash. There’s always something happening at some bar or at some friend’s apartment. From San Telmo to Palermo Hollywood, the city is alive and in constant movement. Vino (wine), beer, spirits flow freely. Kissing, fucking, and everything in between also is on tap.

Argentinian Women

The Argentine woman is an interesting animal. Moody, temperamental, anxious, sweet, lovely — occasionally physically violent! — overly-direct, capricious, and demanding. But it’s those qualities that make them so interesting, if you can get past the sometimes-never-ending-PMS-ing attitude that accounts for their infamous difficulty. Let’s just say that I’ve had an Argentine girlfriend and I’m not jumping to the ceiling to have another one anytime soon. But they’re loving, caring, and warm. Something that, as someone with several past South American girlfriends has come very accustomed to, everyone should experience at least one time around. Anything more, and you’re on your own!

Food in Buenos Aires

yerba mate in buenos aires

I hear the steak is amazing here. Wouldn’t know: I’m mostly vegan and fully vegetarian. Overall, I’d say the food is pretty decent here but nothing like what I’m used to back home in New York. Much, much, much less variety and options. For a vegetarian — or even anyone from the States — you’re definitely limited when it comes to choice, but that’s never stopped me from ordering some great pasta or salads or picking up some amazing fruits and vegetables.

The occasional pizza ain’t that bad either. But for the most part, I stick to my trusted restaurants here, such as Sarkis which offers a wide variety of Middle Eastern foods like falafels, hummus, tabbouleh, olives, fresh pita bread, roasted red peppers, rice with onions, and good wines. It’s definitely my favorite spot here.

I do miss my Whole Foods, but, hey!, I’m in another country and try to experience the local dishes as often as I can. From mate (traditional tea pronounced MAH-tay) and medialunas (sweet croissants) in the morning, to freshly rolled traditional raviolis and sauce in the night, I’ve sampled most of the staple dishes of Argentina, except, of course, the meats. Which IS ARGENTINA!

It’s a LOVE / HATE Thing

I love Buenos Aires. I also hate it. Just like any other city I’ve lived in and all future cities I may live in, there’s things that you’ll love and things that’ll forever rub you the wrong way. That’s everywhere. That’s life. For the good and the bad, I’m here in Argentina and I’m happy to be here. Happy to face new challenges and learn more about myself, outside of my comfort zone, culture, and food range. I’ve learned so much these past two, coming on three, years traveling. Sad moments and brilliant ones.

Let’s see how my story unfolds here in Argentina. I’ll try to keep you all in the loop. Now back to my mate.

Read some related articles:

  1. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in South America It was a year-and-a-half ago when I first stepped off the plane in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The day was hot as hell and I hadn’t...
  2. My Last Night in Buenos Aires ...

About David Askaripour

I've been thinking about life, existence, and truth for as long as I could remember. When I was about 7 I remember getting a headache trying to figure out who created God...and if someone created him, then who create him? I love investigating and testing, taking nothing for truth that outside my direct experience. At the age of 12, I started my own candy selling business; it grew so large that the principal ended up closing me down (but that was just the beginning...) Through my videos and articles, I share my journey with the world.

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One Response to The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Living In Buenos Aires

  1. bill October 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I agree. I lived in BA for two years recently and left it feeling like I had the best time AND the worst time in my life, sometimes in the same day.

    You can get away with so much in the city; it’s a real breath of fresh air. Compare it with any city in the US–doesn’t compare.

    I’m glad to be away from it because everyone is fairly hysterical and obsessive about things, and you pick up those vibes. Finally it feels like you’ve never left a hyper-active city in America.

    Quito, Ecuador? That’s a relaxing, vacation-type city with Great Depression Two price relief.


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