Half the fun of moving to a city abroad is learning about all the quirks and idiosyncrasies that comprise a place. Almost every major city has an international reputation that is validated by people who have never been but have heard about it, or people that have been for a short amount of time and saw everything that they needed to see (i.e. all the tourist attractions). This mentality is best summed up by the expression “been there, done that”. I’m not implying that this is an altogether bad mindset since we can’t expect to become familiar and see even a fraction of everything that all the big cities have to offer; however, it can definitely blind us from all the amazing things that a place hides in plain sight. I’m guilty of judging a city by its superficial characteristics; almost every city in Europe intrigued me but I didn’t have the time or resources to really comprehend what made that city unique aside from its attractions. What shocked me about Buenos Aires was that I was immediately convinced of the uniqueness and personality that it possesses.
It is generally difficult to discern what makes a city unique with a first impression since we learn by relating unfamiliar things to familiar things. This occurs when we go to a new place and we try and interpret it by comparing it to places that we already know. For instance, when I go to a new city I try to make sense of it by associating certain characteristics from other places I have already been to my new environment. Buenos Aires is no different and many people refer to it as the Paris of South America. At first some of the streets, cafes, and restaurants were reminiscent of Paris and I agreed with the comparison. But as I slowly became more familiar with the city and how large and diverse it is, I realized that this was an unfair comparison.
Buenos Aires is its own entity. It is not an offshoot of an European city, but the amalgamation of influences from so many cultures and people that it eventually engendered its own character. That is not to say that certain influences don’t still exist within the city – there are many – but all of the foreign aspects have become influenced themselves by the ineffable psyche of Buenos Aires.
It is impossible to define what makes Buenos Aires as a whole so unique and gives it its personality, but many individual characteristics are noticeable. When certain trends develop they seem to propagate rapidly through the culture – like popular fashion movements that periodically sweep through the city and don’t seem to exist anywhere else in the world (right now a common trend among the ladies is to wear these high platform shoes that have elevated the average women by about three to four inches). Similarly, the city breeds idioms that are unique to this region and will add some personality to your Spanish if you learn it here. Tango originated here in the 1980s and continues to flourish, and not just as a tourist attraction. There is the highest concentration of theaters in Buenos Aires than in any other city in the world. Fútbol is definitely not just a game but a passion. Meals are followed up with sobremesas, long discussions about anything that can persist well into the morning. Porteños, the people from Buenos Aires, confident and well dressed, stride around the city. The list goes on, and changes daily. All of these things are amazing within themselves, but the product of their combination is what results in the powerfully enticing appeal of Buenos Aires.