In 2013 I made the step to follow my dream, my big dream of moving to Argentina. Long I dreamed of dancing tango, eating the finest steaks in the world and even of getting terrified while watching a football match live.
With a backpack full of summer clothes I moved to the warm South. I couldn’t be more wrong; it was cold, freezing cold and with only a leather jacket I would not survive. What I also didn’t bring was my knowledge of the Spanish language. So there I was; freezing & lost in translation.
So are you thinking of moving there too? Well here are some tips about What you need to know before moving to Argentina
Argentines are wonderful people; they are hospitable, show interest in others and enjoy small-talk. However, this small-talk wouldn’t really be part of your life if you don’t know the language.
The first weeks I struggled with the language. Often I came home with groceries that I actually didn’t need due to misunderstandings. “An apple please”… “Apple?” “Yes that thing over there” “Apple?”
I didn’t even dare to ask for minced meat, the only thing I could find were whole chickens, pork heads or livers from whatever animal.
Job rejections are never nice but especially not when you get rejected for the easiest job possible – bartender, front office worker, hotel receptionist–. “I like you… a lot, but I can’t understand you well”. That’s just great, another rejection for being a cleaning lady in a hostel – true story!
Even though “una cerveza por favor” is my most used sentence, it didn’t get me really far when I had a leakage in my house and needed to communicate with the landlord. I bet he also liked a beer after conversing with me in Spanglish.
So before coming to Argentina make sure you know the basics of Spanish, it will make life a lot easier.
Money making, money taking
Be aware that Argentina shuts itself down when it comes to finances. When coming to Argentina it is advised to take a hell load of dollars / euros with you. You can exchange these currencies in the so-called black market. Even though it is illegal everyone does it. Argentinians love dollars; actually they use dollars as their saving account as they do not trust the banks.
In 2001 Argentina experienced a big financial break down where many people ended up on the streets, the government increased debts instead of paying off, the banks took all the money of the people, well you know the story. They still haven’t forgotten it here and do not trust the banks a bit.
Getting money from the ATM is possible however you can only get 1.000 pesos a day (100 Euros) and you pay about 36 pesos (4 Euros) transaction costs. This is called the ‘white market’ or as I call it; the normal market. The black market will give you a lot more pesos for 100 Euros, even though this also changes day by day.
If you start making money in Argentina it would of course be best to get paid in Dollars or Euro’s but that means you have to work for a foreign company. I work at a local Argentinian company and get paid in pesos, which would be fine if everything I pay was in Argentina, but that’s of course not the case – I like it difficult. It is almost impossible to get cash pesos into your foreign bank account – let’s say the government is trying to make it as difficult as possible and they succeed.
Be sure to take as much Dollars or Euros with you as you can and if you find a job at a local company make sure that you don’t need any of that money on your foreign bank account to pay health insurances or school debts in your home-country. Make it easy for yourself.
Meet the Meat
Are you a vegetarian or vegan and you want to live in Argentina? You will have a hard time seeing all those skimmed animals hanging above barbecues or seeing them being killed in a farm. Argentinians just love meat – luckily so do I. However, there are places where you can eat a healthy vegetarian meal but I would advise you to skip the asados.
I’ve heard some foreigners around me saying that they get tired of eating meat. Well, you can of course find anything you want; there are salads and if you go to the supermarket just skip the meat area. I must say that seeing those pork eyes staring at me from the freezer almost makes me a vegetarian but when I smell the wonderful scent of pork meat I almost turn into a wild animal. I know, I haven’t got it figured out yet.
The meat in Argentina is good although you have to know that the great Argentinian steaks, the one you are probably used to in your home country is, therefore, only in your home country. Argentina tends to satisfy foreigners more than their own people and send all the good steaks abroad. Pity!
Dolce far niente
The Argentinian culture is more related to the Italian culture then the Spanish culture. A friend of mine used to say that “Buenos Aires is the biggest Italian city outside of Italy”. They still haven’t really figured out how a real pizza should be like but ok, at least they are trying. Argentinians love sweets and the sweetness of life is baked into their culture.
Breakfast exists of sweet croissants and coffee is always accompanied with a sweet I’ve-definitely-deserved-this huge cake.
Dulce de leche is used on almost everything, from ice cream to cookies!
My friend from Macedonia once said “I don’t need any sweets because I’m sweet enough” I guess Argentinians see it more like “the more sweet things I eat the sweeter I get”.
On Fridays at work we have the weekly sweet-breakfast which is nothing more than a normal Argentine breakfast with croissants and other pastries so sweet that I feel like after half a year all my teeth will fall out of my mouth. I do not know what it is with these sweet things but if you like sweet things you will love it here in Argentina and gain 5 kilos per month.
Luckily Buenos Aires is a perfect city to cycle so I advise all those sweet-lovers out there to buy a bike as soon as they set foot in Argentina – just in case.
The best tip I can give you about living in Argentina ( and it applies to other destinations as well) is – be open-minded, don’t close your eyes, don’t close you ears, don’t close your mouth and especially don’t close your heart. Let the Argentinians overflow you with their love, their friendliness and fall in love with the country, the people, the food and the language, just like I did!
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About the author
Milene van Arendonk is 28, lived in four countries and is the writer and editor of Milgrations where she blogs about her (mis)adventures while integrating in unknown countries and immersing into unknown cultures, other than that she covers the cultural aspects of the country she is residing in, which at the moment is Argentina.