Things I Didn’t know about Buenos Aires
By Stina Persen – Buenos Aires May 5 – 2016
Despite the Argentine diet being full of meat, cheese and pastries people here are so skinny…and tanned…and gorgeous. I’ve heard a lot of foreigners lament this, how unfair they eat and drink all they want but don’t suffer the repercussions like the rest of us. It must be the genes, right? By getting to know more and more locals I can see this is only half the story. The lifestyle here is active, people go to the gym and play sports regularly. They ride their bici (bike) all over to meet friends or to work. They go out more, dancing through the night. The lifestyle is so different from home. So just keep in mind if you are going to eat like an Argentine you might also want to get amongst it with the full Argentine experience. And it is hard to find an excuse not to when even the local park has built in gym machines you can use for free.
The public transport is the bee’s knees. Between buses, subways and trains you can literally get anywhere in the city and it is dirt cheap. It is hard to do price comparisons of course because there are so many factors involved to really get an idea (average working wage, standard of living etc) But what I can say is taking the bus in Buenos Aires is 10 times cheaper than it is back home in New Zealand. For only a few pesos you can get across town and then some. When I first arrived I would choose the subway (Subte) over a bus because it felt easier. You need to tell the bus driver where you are going or at least how much they need to charge you which I found intimidating. After a couple of trips my nerves disappeared, thankfully as it’s super important to get a handle on the bus system as the subway does not run through the night.
If you happen to be near a school during school hours you might end up thinking Argentina is full of adorable miniature scientists. The first time I saw a group of children all dressed in their white lab coats I really wasn’t sure what was going on. I see these little scientists every morning on my way to Vamos Spanish Academy, holding a parents hand, making their way to school. The white lab coat is a symbol of learning in Argentina. Public school children do not have to wear a uniform to school but they wear their white smocks to keep their own clothes neat and tidy. Argentina is not alone in this school wear style. And if being adorable isn’t incentive enough if you have on your white coat you also get a discount on the bus (only for students).
There is such a thing as Argentine Time. This manifests itself in many subtle ways, perhaps a restaurant opens late, or the wait at the supermarket was an endurance challenge. My first month in Argentina I found myself getting so frustrated. Often things took longer than I thought they should. I developed footpath rage. Yes, footpath rage. People walk so slowly it is like they have nowhere to be until Christmas. But the longer you are here the more you understand this phenomenon. Argentinians make time for people. They make time to greet and farewell people warmly with a kiss, even if that is 20 people and it takes 10 minutes to do so. They make time for their customers in their store, no one is ever rushed out so they can serve the next person in line. They stop to chat with acquaintances in the street even when they have somewhere to be. It is a change in priorities and putting more emphasis on people and personal happiness. I have now taken a leaf out of the Argentine book and stepped off the rat race and it is completely refreshing.