Leaving Buenos Aires, Leaving Argentina

Heading out from Buenos Aires today, I guess I’m supposed to have some profound shit to say about the city and country. I said I liked to travel, I never said I could relate what I feel.

When you don’t speak the language the level at which you can experience a place is definitely limited but a few weeks here did give me what feels like a pretty good toehold to understanding.

If I was to imagine a scorecard for a city, a measure of safety and cost and food and culture and transit and climate and stability it’s entirely possible Buenos Aires moves to the top of my list of anywhere I’ve ever been*.

*If the financial situation was stable.

This is the second largest Spanish speaking city in the world (after Mexico City), totalling 15,000,000 people (that’s a plus to me) and its own culture, doing its own thing, large chunks of the city are very safe, it has four seasons and lovely weather, it has good transit and architecture and it feels cool and calm and alive.

People here have a refreshing confidence about themselves and their culture, the number of people you see walking around wearing the national colours of white and baby blue is notable. There is a saying here that:

“God is everywhere, but his office is in Buenos Aires”

which kept coming into my head over and over. I would be 100% happy to relocate to Buenos Aires for six months or a year*.

*If the financial situation was stable.

Six months here, where maybe I move to a new part of the city every month or so, is extremely tempting. More of a pull than I’ve felt probably anywhere else I’ve been.

The city Buenos Aires reminds me most of is easily New York, they feel like cousins. They have similar sized populations, are of a similar age, similar transit systems, both are far from any larger population centre (Mexico City for New York and Sao Paulo for Buenos Aires), both have significant train systems despite both being on continents severely underdeveloped train wise. Both were influenced by large groups of Spanish, Italian and German backgrounded peoples. The scale of both cities is similarly massive, Buenos Aires may even feel like it’s a grander scale than New York in some ways. Both cities have a reputation for rudeness and in both cases I disagree, in both places what I experience is a refreshingly honest brusque confidence. People are very happy to help, just don’t waste their time.

The negatives? I think finding the negatives after only a few weeks visit is tougher than finding the positives, because the positives are likely real and the negatives you experience may just be things you haven’t figured out yet.

Nothing show-stoppingly bad occurred to me in any experience I had here. People’s dogs tended to be a bit out of control, compared to what I’m used to. The food/coffee/cocktail/bakery scene is maybe not quite as high quality as people here seem to think. And almost all Argentinian restaurants I went to share 80% of their menu with all the others, right down to the exact same two pasta dishes filled with the exact same two fillings.

The country is meat crazy, mostly beef, but again, to me there is a significant gap between the preparation quality and that in say a Texas steakhouse or any BBQ place in the Southern US. I had tons of good food and good everything but I was also served a couple of dishes so shockingly bad they were basically not edible.

I could go on, a lot more, about the city, but I’ve got a boat to catch.

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