By Holly Stanley, currently studying at
Vamos Spanish Academy
Life as a Londoner vs life as a Porteño
As a Londoner who has fallen hard for Buenos Aires (I’m on my fourth visit already), I have definitely experienced the best (and worst) of each city. Each certainly has its own quirks and edge. However, what does each city really do best and what is it really like arriving from a super fast paced European city to a more laidback Latin city?
One key difference that any visitor is going to quickly notice is the truly nocturnal culture that forms a part of everyday Porteño culture. The person who said that New York is the city that never sleeps clearly hadn’t yet visited Buenos Aires. In fact, London can seem positively sedate compared to the thriving nightlife scene here. In London whilst you can expect to go out well before midnight and be at home for 2 am, don’t even bother turning up before 2 am in Buenos Aires, the clubs will be nearly empty on a weekend night. When you do get there, expect full on dancing and pulsing reggaton music. Porteños love a fiesta and will dance long into the morning hours. Night owls and party animals you will be in your element in this all hours city. Don’t miss Hype Tuesdays at Kika club, Honduras 5339.
One aspect I appreciate about London is the vast variety of World cuisines, however, as a Brit I will be the first to agree that British cuisine sometimes leaves a whole lot to be desired. If you come to Buenos Aires fear not, the local Argentine cuisine won’t disappoint. An enticing mixture of Italian and Spanish cuisine stirred with a few original Argentine flavours awaits you. From pizza loaded with melted mozzarella to incredible Italian ice cream this city is a carb lover’s heaven. For incredible pizza, don’t miss the restaurant Kentucky. Selling just a few flavours they stick to classics but do them well. For the best Ice Cream in Buenos Aires head directly to Freddo and ask for the dulce de leche ice cream. Both Kentucky and Freddo have several locations across the city meaning there is bound to be one or two near where you are staying.
You must also try the truly Argentine delicacies that cannot be found easily anywhere else. Dulce de Leche stuffed alfajores and as well as facturas are all recommended for those with a sweet tooth. Havanna is an unmissable stop for the best alfajores in Buenos Aires, highly recommended are the 70% cacao alfajores. What’s not to love about chocolate and dulce de leche?
I have also never known anywhere that does a barbecue so spectacularly, in England you may expect a soggy burger and perhaps a hotdog. But seriously you haven’t actually had a true barbecue until you try an asado Argentine style . For your first asado you will simply be in awe at all the different cuts of meat imaginable. If it is your first time trying asado, definitely give Don Julio Parrilla a try. With top quality meat and superb wine, it is the perfect introduction to Buenos Aires’ asado culture.
London time vs Porteño time
There tends to be somewhat of a stereotype that European time is fast paced and Latin American time is a little more, shall we say relaxed. This difference between cultures couldn’t be seen more acutely between London and Buenos Aires. Back home we have a tendency to power walk everywhere, running for the bus and complaining if the wait for the metro is more than four minutes. In Buenos Aires things are somewhat more relaxed. Porteños take their time a little more, you will notice this anywhere from withdrawing money from the bank to waiting in a restaurant to simply doing your grocery shopping after work. Things just take a little longer. You need a little more patience to be a Porteño, but once you’ve mastered this, the Porteño way really does become more appealing. Who really does want to run for the bus? Knowing that you can spend a little more time wandering through the leafy streets of Palermo and that if you are a little late everything will be tranquilo makes for a much more relaxed existence.
One simple fact about living in the UK is that we do love to queue. Particularly in London with so many people around, nothing beats a good old-fashioned orderly queue. It’s simply so much more efficient and convenient, no? Be prepared to let this completely fly out of the window when you arrive here. I found this out pretty early on and learnt the hard way. When in a packed ice cream shop, don’t stand around the counter looking wishfully at the ice cream. This will not get you anywhere closer to your dream ice cream. You will be pushed to the back and probably ignored. Make sure to waive your ticket and be vocal about what you want. Lesson learnt.
Anyone who has lived in or visited London will groan in agreement that the cost of transport is astronomical. In fact, rumour has it, they charge you to breathe on the metro. But to any Londoners hoping to become Portenos, you are in for a pleasant surprise. For just a few pesos (1 peso = 4 pence) you can get across to the other side of town. So the metro may not be as extensive as in London but once you master the collectivos (buses) these are both an inexpensive and efficient way of travel. Upon arrival, definitely invest in a sube card (around 30 pesos) these are indispensable, once bought it can be topped up at any kiosk displaying the sube sign or larger metro stations.
Adjusting to life as a Porteño in Buenos Aires may at first seem like a daunting prospect when comparing it to life in your hometown. However these changes make for an exciting contrast and a chance to live completely differently. If my experience is anything to go by you’ll soon get the hang of it and grow to love the quirks that are completely unique to Buenos Aires. If you are looking to fully immerse yourself into your new Argentine life, give volunteering in Buenos Aires a go.