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Advice for expats living in Buenos Aires
November 23, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to move to Buenos Aires for about a year. What should I know before moving there?

I'm the guy that asked this question. Basically, I'm a software engineer who would like to move to another country for a year or so, where I can live economically off my savings, improve my programming skills, and start a number of web/software projects that will hopefully be the Next Big Thing. I've been told that Buenos Aires is awesome, and would be interested in any information about what my life would be like there.

Some of the things I'm curious about :

1) General lifestyle. What will my life be like there? What should I know about BA before deciding to live there?
2) Working/Living. How would I find a rental apartment there? Is there a BA-equivalent of Craigslist? I'd also need a place to do my work. Technically, all I'd need is a reliable internet connection and a place to park a laptop, so I could probably do this wherever I'm crashing. But I know that in some larger US cities, there are places where you can temporarily rent office/cube space. Anyplace like this in BA?
3) Visa. I know there's a 90-day tourist visa, but I'm thinking I'd like to stay for 6 months to a year. How hard is it to do the "leave-and-come-back" visa extension? What are the chances they'd deny me return entry, separating me from whatever belongings I left at my rental? What about a student visa? How difficult would it be to obtain one if I'm only interested in taking a couple classes per semester?
4) Expat community. Any good places to meet fellow English-speaking expats? Particularly tech entrepreneurs?
5) Jewish community. I'm a (non-practicing, Ashkenazi) Jew. I've heard that BA has the largest Jewish community in South America. Would they be open/accepting towards me? Or would they shun me because I'm Ashkenazi and non-practicing? I would be open to going to synagogue and becoming more observant. Even though I'm Atheist, I love the Jewish culture and wouldn't mind rediscovering my roots.
6) Tech/startup scene. Is there one? Would they accept an ambitious American software engineer into their social circles? Would mostly be interested in networking/idea exchange, but would also be open to collaborating on projects.
7) Crime/Personal safety. I'm not really concerned about mugging/scams. I've lived in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the US, and have the requisite set of street-smarts. Am mostly concerned about "Express Kidnappings" and things of that nature, where they abduct you, force you to empty your bank account, force you to beg your loved ones for money, beat the crap out of you, and sometimes kill you. If they find that I only have a few hundred in the bank (because most of my money is in a different account) and don't really have any loved ones to call, will they kill me? Are they savy enough to try and make me log into my internet banking accounts? How prevalent is this type of crime, really? Any statistics? How best to mitigate this risk? I know of some countermeasures -- don't look like you're wealthy, only carry your ATM card when you're making a withdrawal, only use ATMs in safe places, don't take a cab after withdrawing money, only use "radio cabs", don't keep all your money in one account, etc -- any other advice for avoiding this horrible fate?
8) Social life. What are some good ways for a recent American expat to meet people and socialize in BA? I'll be taking Spanish lessons before moving there, and will be interested in continuing lessons once I get there. Likewise, I'm also taking some Tango lessons now, because Tango is awesome!
9) Dating/relationships. This isn't the main focus for my trip, but I'm not closed off to the idea of meeting someone there. What's the dating/courtship scene like there? Is it a very religious city? Do people date/hook up like they do in big US cities? Do they use online dating sites?
10) In general, reasons why I ABSOLUTELY MUST MOVE TO BA. Feel free to be enthusiastic!
11) In general, reasons why I SHOULD NEVER MOVE TO BA, FOR ANY REASON, EVER. Don't be afraid to be a buzzkill. I want the raw, unvarnished truth.
12) What are the best books, websites, blogs, and forums for finding out more about what it's like to live in BA?

These are just some questions that popped into my head. Please don't feel like you need to stick to these closely. I appreciate any advice, information, resources, or stories that you have to offer.
posted by coelacanth! to Travel & Transportation around Buenos Aires, Argentina (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
CL in BA

English language paper in BA

Blogger who might be useful/amusing.

Do you speak Spanish?
posted by Ideefixe at 12:36 PM on November 23, 2010


Duuuuuude lets hang out when you get here. I am going to address these questions in a scattershot manner:

There is a buenosaires.craigslist.org, but it kind of blows. The deal with apartments, if you are going to be here for a year, is kind of funny:
- You can't a get a 'real' normal apartment, and you probably wouldn't want to anyway. First of all, normal leases are two years, you need a 'garantia' if you don't have a DNI (think SSN) which you won't be able to get in a reasonable time frame, and do you really want to buy a bunch of furniture just to get rid of it?
- That leaves short-term, furnished rentals. These fall into a couple diff categories:
- Ones you can sort of reserve online, etc. for anywhere from a couple days to six months.
- Ones you have to rent for a longer period, say six months, minimum, and you know, the ad will say "Available Dec 14" or what have you.

The trick is, even the shorty-shortterm rental websites that look like hotel websites are not really as high-tech as they are leading you to believe. It may take *days* to here back from them, when you think you are filling in an instant form. Sites you might want to check include bytargentina.com, stayinbuenosaires.com, zonaprop.com.ar, and buenosaireshabitat.com. I know people who have used and recommend all these sites. Personally, I think they all kind of blow, but maybe I am just a whiner. Whatever the sites say is available when has very little if any correlation with reality. You need way more leadtime to book a place off one of these sites than you would expect. Like, it COULD take as little as 48 hours, but you need to budget much more time. Anyway, this brings me to my next point:

The Main Thing about BA, vs. say NYC, is that its ok to do less stuff. This is a blessing and a curse, depending on which side you find yourself. You can seriously sit in restaurant and linger over the end of your wine for an hour and nobody bats an eye or tries to turn the table. Sitting in a cafe and reading a book, for hours, is completely reasonable behavior. You see people taking a stroll after a late dinner, with their kids, getting ice cream, or a nightcap from a cafe, all the time, every day of the week. Lunches are leisurely. That's the Good Side. The Bad Side is like, in NYC, if you emailed an apartment broker and they didn't email you back in like four hours, you'd be annoyed. In a whole business day, you'd probably assume they were dead. In BA, you might reserve an apartment on a website and get an email _four days later_ that the apartment wasn't actually available when you reserved it, sorry.

The funny part is when you talk to people about this. I talked to a woman at a rental agency and she's like, "what are we supposed to do? Contact the owners of each place daily???" Uhhh...YES??! Or any of a zillion other options: have them call you when they rent it, keep track of which ones you rented when, tie your website to whatever books the places, I mean, there's a million things you could do to keep the rental availability calendars of the dozen or so apartments on your website from being four days out of date. Practically every hotel in the world manages this. But talking to this woman on email I could tell she really thought I was kind of nuts, as if I had been like "STAND NEXT TO THE POT AND WHEN YOU SEE BUBBLES CALL ME THATS HOW I WILL KNOW IT IS BOILING!!!" I was honestly just trying to find out if there was anyway I could tell which apartments were available with less than a three-day turnaround, like could we shortcut it somehow, she could just tell me the ones they had definitely booked already and so weren't available. I felt like an alien.

So you go out to lunch with some people, that could easily take three hours. In fact, if you get a sitdown lunch in a restaurant, that will be hard to do in less than two hours. The time in BA between when you ask for the check and when you get it can easily exceed the duration of an entire meal in NYC. Not an exaggerating.

Two sides of the same coin, double-edged sword, blah blah blah.

BA is also a lot less cheap (for Americans) than people are used to thinking of it being because the fall in the dollar value of the peso has not quite kept up with (extreme) inflation, which is also uneven. Some things (e.g. wine) are still inexpensive, but others are not. Like, I had a ribeye for dinner last night. It was like USD19. Sure, I have eaten ribeyes in NYC that cost like USD50 or so, but you know, maybe a crummy place in the USA it would be the around the same price. The price of beef has gone up over 90% in the last year. The price of cabs has recently gone up a ton. You can buy a remarkably decent bottle of wine for five bucks at a grocery store, but a six pack of macrobrew costs about what it would in the USA.

Currently you can still do the 'leave and come back' visa, legally, if you are not working here, but...the authorities are not digging that idea apparently. Uruguay is the location of choice for this move.

Reliable statistics on anything in BA are hard to come by, because no one believes the statistics-sprouting agencies, because there are too many cases of blindingly obvious mendacity (e.g. inflation rate). The crime thing is like...everyone believes the crime rate is way up, of petty crimes anyway, but then a lot of people are like "bleh its still pretty safe". But you've seen the Wire, right? Everyone feels like the stats are juked.

Tech/Startups: in the cafe I'm in, there's another guy from New York who's a web designer. There's a guy who runs Ruby meetups, there's a lot of people around of that general persuasion _from the States_, but idk about locally-focused yet. Also, there's a co-working space where you can rent a desk and they have Wifi and a coffee machine and so on, at least one that I know of. I can't remember the name of it now though.

baexpats.org is a pretty active forum that has a lot of useful information on it, plus the forum has a drinks get together early friday evenings that is pretty well-attended.

Tango: I don't really know much about tango but I went to La Catedral once and it was really cool.

You know how people go to like, Spain or whatever, and they are always like "the partying there is sooo late, its like it doesn't even get going till $LATE_HOUR." In BA, this has been taken to straight-up cartoonish levels. I left a pub on saturday that had been near empty at midnight, and there was a line forming to get in, at 3. There are clubs that don't get going till its fully the next day, and club-types stay out till like lunch. Its ridiculous. For some people, "do you want to go out tonight?" means "would you like to go out early tomorrow?"

One thing that will blow your mind is how many Yous are down here (e.g. me), especially because a lot of the expats tend to move in pretty small circles. The second day I was here I ran into my next-door neighbor from home at brunch.
posted by jeb at 12:40 PM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


(also you might be interested in the responses to this question I posted a couple months back.)
posted by jeb at 12:46 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been in Argentina for a bit more than three years, most of it in BA...

1) General lifestyle. What will my life be like there? What should I know about BA before deciding to live there?

What will your life be like? That's entirely up to you.

2) Working/Living. How would I find a rental apartment there? Is there a BA-equivalent of Craigslist? I'd also need a place to do my work. Technically, all I'd need is a reliable internet connection and a place to park a laptop, so I could probably do this wherever I'm crashing. But I know that in some larger US cities, there are places where you can temporarily rent office/cube space. Anyplace like this in BA?

See above for Craigslist. You're going to pay a LOT more than a local, there's just no way around it as you don't have a garantia, and many locals imagine that extranjeros have an endless supply of money.
Area Tres is a shared workplace type deal in Palermo, run by Martin Frankel, the same guy that runs BAExpats that Jeb mentioned.

3) Visa. I know there's a 90-day tourist visa, but I'm thinking I'd like to stay for 6 months to a year. How hard is it to do the "leave-and-come-back" visa extension? What are the chances they'd deny me return entry, separating me from whatever belongings I left at my rental? What about a student visa? How difficult would it be to obtain one if I'm only interested in taking a couple classes per semester?

Forget any kind of visa other than a tourist visa. You don't have time to do it in a year. Alternate hopping the ferry to Colonia in Uruguay with getting an extension in immigration
every 90 days and hope that they don't change the rules.

4) Expat community. Any good places to meet fellow English-speaking expats? Particularly tech entrepreneurs?

There's tons of expats, tons of people doing tech stuff. Google Palermo Valley.

5) Jewish community. I'm a (non-practicing, Ashkenazi) Jew. I've heard that BA has the largest Jewish community in South America. Would they be open/accepting towards me? Or would they shun me because I'm Ashkenazi and non-practicing? I would be open to going to synagogue and becoming more observant. Even though I'm Atheist, I love the Jewish culture and wouldn't mind rediscovering my roots.

No idea.

6) Tech/startup scene. Is there one? Would they accept an ambitious American software engineer into their social circles? Would mostly be interested in networking/idea exchange, but would also be open to collaborating on projects.

See above/

7) Crime/Personal safety. I'm not really concerned about mugging/scams. I've lived in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the US, and have the requisite set of street-smarts. Am mostly concerned about "Express Kidnappings" and things of that nature, where they abduct you, force you to empty your bank account, force you to beg your loved ones for money, beat the crap out of you, and sometimes kill you. If they find that I only have a few hundred in the bank (because most of my money is in a different account) and don't really have any loved ones to call, will they kill me? Are they savy enough to try and make me log into my internet banking accounts? How prevalent is this type of crime, really? Any statistics? How best to mitigate this risk? I know of some countermeasures -- don't look like you're wealthy, only carry your ATM card when you're making a withdrawal, only use ATMs in safe places, don't take a cab after withdrawing money, only use "radio cabs", don't keep all your money in one account, etc -- any other advice for avoiding this horrible fate?

I've never been mugged but know many many people with street smarts who have. The other stuff, I've never known anyone personally who was a victim. In the neighbourhoods that you'll probably be moving in, I wouldn't worry about it.

8) Social life. What are some good ways for a recent American expat to meet people and socialize in BA? I'll be taking Spanish lessons before moving there, and will be interested in continuing lessons once I get there. Likewise, I'm also taking some Tango lessons now, because Tango is awesome!

Go to spanish classes. Go to any one of the several expat bars (Sugar, Alamo, Duidui, many in Palermo). Get on the forums and arrange for meetups before you go.

9) Dating/relationships. This isn't the main focus for my trip, but I'm not closed off to the idea of meeting someone there. What's the dating/courtship scene like there? Is it a very religious city? Do people date/hook up like they do in big US cities? Do they use online dating sites?

Argentinian guys are REALLY aggressive. Like, stoopidly so, you won't believe your eyes the first time you go to a bar or club. There's plenty of girls/guys out there who love dating foreigners. It's the same as anywhere, some people are easy/casual and others not.

10) In general, reasons why I ABSOLUTELY MUST MOVE TO BA. Feel free to be enthusiastic!

It's got to be better than the US. Good steaks. Good wine. Hot women. Good friendship/family based priorities, rather than work. Do it for the adventure.

11) In general, reasons why I SHOULD NEVER MOVE TO BA, FOR ANY REASON, EVER. Don't be afraid to be a buzzkill. I want the raw, unvarnished truth.

The argies can be lazy as hell. The sidewalks are covered in dog shit. The traffic and pollution is horrible. Inflation is totally out of control. The whole economy could collapse at any moment. It's not much cheaper than the US or Europe now.

12) What are the best books, websites, blogs, and forums for finding out more about what it's like to live in BA?

I know you know how to use google.
Hope that helps. Mail me if you have other questions.
posted by conifer at 4:15 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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