Top 10 Things to Adapt to in Buenos Aires

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Moving to Buenos Aires: There are a few cultural changes to get used to after having lived in North America all my life.  Here is my top 10 list of things I had to adapt to:

  1. Cash is the main mode of payment everywhere: stores, restaurants, health clubs, rent, school you name it.  What makes it difficult is that ATM’s are scarce. The maximum amount you can withdraw is $235 dollars per transaction with up to two or three transactions a day. Lots of logistic planning!
  2. They hardly speak any English in Buenos Aires. This was a major adaptation for me since I do not speak Spanish. I have been used to people speaking English when I travel. Speaking Italian has gotten me by so far. I learned that in Argentina (especially Buenos Aires), the accent has been heavily influenced by Italians who immigrated there in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Italian influence was so strong that it lead to a development of a language called Lunfardo which blends spanish and italian. Not enough for me to carry on a conversation.
  3. Moving back in a small apartment after being a home owner for so long. I went from having four floors to 2 1/2 rooms with a kitchen / living room. I had to start going to the laundry mat. Having neighbors is nothing new. Neighbors in the same building is something else, especially when your neighbor is in his twenties from Guatemala and likes throwing parties every night!
  4. Grocery shopping. To get every thing I need, I have to go to between three and five different stores walking: the butcher, fruit and vegetable market, panaderia (bakery) and supermercado (small grocery store).
  5. Breakfast at a restaurant is between 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM. They serve la promocion del desayuno (breakfast special); cafe con leche with three medialunas (croissants) or tostado (toast with jam). No eggs and bacon, fruits, omelets…The kitchen opens at 11:00 AM and there are no coffees to go. Argentinians take the time to sit, enjoy their coffee and read the newspaper.
  6. Inflation! Prices go up monthly in Buenos Aires. For 2011 it is reported that inflation will be around 15% to 20%. If you were in BsAs five years ago, expect to pay double for everything!
  7. After driving for so many years, I no longer have a car in Buenos Aires. I use public transportation: busses (collectivo) and subway (subte). Buenos Aires has an amazing public transportation system. Monday morning going to school, the first car was so jammed packed, people had their faces against the window. I waited for the next one, same thing. I learned you have to push your way in, so, I did. Once inside I had to hold myself against the door frame so the door would close (I saw people doing it). People lean against each other to hold on. Beware of pick pockets!
  8. Becoming a member at a health club. It requires a doctor’s certificate stating that you are in condition to train. It is the law! It took me 4 hours to find out that this type of examination is done between 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM in a very specific place. I found a way around it though. Time will tell if my trick will work…
  9. Crossing the street! Seems simple enough. Well, in Buenos Aires, there is no priority for pedestrians, they are part of the street traffic. People will cross at any given time, they are used to judging the distance and speed of car. In trying to develop this talent, I decided to follow the people. Bad mistake, good thing that Argentinians are cautious drivers. I will respect the traffic lights until I have this skill mastered. At least, I have become accustomed to the traffic light system.
  10. Going to a restaurant.  Who doesn’t like eating out? Don’t show up at a restaurant in Buenos Aires at 6:00 or 7:00 PM.  Why? Kitchens are closed. They open between 8:00 PM and 9:00PM. In some restaurants, the main dish and side dish are ordered separately on the menu (each with their own price). Same goes for ordering pasta, the sauce you choose is ordered separately.

 Just one more as a bonus..

Bonus: Cooking something in the oven is easy.  Not so much when it’s your first time using a gas oven! It’s a good thing that I made friends with people in the building who showed me how to use it!

At first, it seemed overwhelming. There was so much to adapt to. Facing each one, has been a great, fun experience! I got to know the owners of the corner markets, panaderia and butcher personally. They recognized me on my next visit and were happy to see me. I get to practice the Spanish I am learning at school on a daily basis. I am able to capture every given moment as I discover new places and learn new ways of doing things. I am no longer in my comfort zone. I take the time to sit, enjoy my coffee and meet people. It is a very humbling experience that leaves me feeling good about myself. It is incredible how a smile from a stranger will lift up your spirit all day.

Have you ever felt discouraged when confronted with a new, unfamiliar situation and realized that it was an opportunity to be in touch with yourself? Maybe a project or position you have dreamed about opened. It meant you had put effort in learning new techniques. Maybe a sport or play guitar. Discovering and developing talents you never imagined about yourself will give you meaning from within. We all have unique strengths, if we listen, really listen to our conscience, we will become aware of the contributions we can make. It is our responsibility to implement them. Luxury is not always a good thing. I remember reading that luxury is a way to stay ignorant comfortably… Looking forward to your insights!

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This entry was posted in Cleansing Your Beliefs, Curiosity For Knowledge and tagged , , , .

12 Responses to Top 10 Things to Adapt to in Buenos Aires

  1. Enza says:

    That sounds so overwhelming but at the same time so new and exciting. You were never one to be overwhelmed or to worry. Remeber when we decided to travel to Europe in our early twenties (actually it was your idea) we didn’t make any plans. We arrived on the island of Corfu in Greece with no place to stay, every hotel we would go to was completely booked. I started to panic so you told me to stay put while you went around to find us a room. you came back an hour later, and you found us a room in a beeautiful hotel facing the ocean at only 30 dollars a night. There was just one downfall, the room would be available only the next morning. W e had no place for that night and again you did not panic but I did. Remember how you found us a place to stay that night and some new friends. You always remained cool and calm , its like you know for sure eveything is going to be okay in the end. That was one of my best vacations.
    I love you and miss you very much…
    God bless you

    • antonia says:

      Hi Enza, It is one of my best vacations also! We never knew what would happen next, that made it exciting..the best part was being there with you, although you worried at first, you were all for moving on to another adventure…The not knowing is what made that trip so memorable. Like you said, we put ourselves in situations that led to meeting so many people, had a great with them. The things we got ourselves into, I am sure that some of the people we met still talk about us:) Things always have a way of working themselves out, we were able to enjoy every moment together.

      Miss you, Love you too ( best sister and friend anyone could ask for!!!!!)

  2. Alba says:

    Antonia Sounds like all these challenges are right up your ally. There is no better person to overcome all these hurdles and surely with a smile on your face. Funny how you haven’t mentioned shopping for anything other than food…xoxoxox

    • antonia says:

      Hi Alba, Thanks for your support! haha…I have not yet been to the malls…might not be for while…will definitely share that experience with you:)

  3. Nikki says:

    I can relate to what you are experiencing sooo well. Getting use to a different way of life, although sometimes challenging, can be fun! In my many trips to Dominican Republic to visit my husband’s family I can safely say that I confronted a very different way of living. If you want to get to know the REAL Dominican, you must go live amongst them… hotel/resort life is NOT the real Dominican.

    For a Dominican the most exciting events of the day are:
    The lights came back on: They lose power everyday for minimum 4 hours.. Yes even when it is 40 degrees outside, no fan to blow hot air on you! .. let me tell you when the power comes back on it’s a party.. neighbors start yelling “Llego la luz!” (The lights are back).

    Llego agua (The water is here): There is not constant running water in Dominican and so it’s another street celebration when the city sends water and then a scramble to fill up as many buckets as you can as they may not get water for another 2-3 days.

    Roosters and Chickens are standard house pets.. makes for VERY early mornings… if it’s not a rooster crowing that wakes you up, you can always count on a lovely man on a bullhorn yelling “aguacate y platanos” (selling avocado and plantain). No need for an alarm clock!

    What did I learn from these experiences? Don’t sweat the small stuff, be open minded and try new things. Even if that means having to wash yourself by pouring a bucket of water over your head, go to the bathroom with a curtain as a door, and be offered the rooster thats running around in the yard for dinner!!

    Enjoy your adventures and your journey and have LOTS of fun along the way!!

    Miss ya!

    • antonia says:

      Hi Nikki!

      WOW! You truly are inspiring…after reading your comment, I laughed so hard!!! Not because of the conditions you experienced, but, because you were able to see the humor in this situation and presented your story in a humorous way…you faced these challenges and had fun with them…it is not easy to do, most people would complaining if they had to go through those conditions. Reading about your experience was very refreshing! Thanks for sharing:)

  4. Nancy says:

    I know a little bit how it feels when there’s a language barrier and everything is new around you – it can be hard but it’s also very stimulating. I only spoke french when I started kindergarten….in a english only school! Being children, we all played with eachother even if we didn’t understand eachother but it wasn’t easy to fit in. I worked really hard at learning english and it was so rewarding when I realized that I finally understood what a classmate or my teacher was telling me – without using sign language! 🙂 Having had this experience at a very young age has made me very adaptable to any situation…because I KNOW that I have what it takes to learn what I need to.

    • antonia says:

      Hi Nancy, Thank you so much for sharing this story! It is amazing! Isn’t it great how much you can accomplish by facing a difficult situation without giving up? Any other challenges that will follow will seem so much easier to face…you are more confident in yourself. You mentioned something very important, you really had to work hard…I admire you!

  5. Claudel says:

    Seems you have been quite busy and all over the place Antonia. Hope all these different experiences you are facing and going through do continue to enrich your life and end objectives. You do seem to take everything so lightly, which is very important, so keep that positive note. Remember to continue to take it all 1 day at a time and enjoy every moment there.


    • antonia says:

      Hi Claudel, It has been busy (lol). As you said, 1 day at a time, it is the only way to really enjoy each moment and see each experience as enriching! As you get away from your comfort zone, everything seems more than it is. The adaptation process can be a lot of fun, it all depends on how our reaction to the situation. Thanks for the support:)

  6. Sylvain says:

    Ah! yes, the daily life… that’s the way you really immerse in another location. When I travel, I always plan a visit to a grocery location. That’s very interesting to see what people eat and how they do things. At first, when you look at long aisles of cans and bottles it doesn’t seem different… but when you look a bit closer… you can easily spot differences. It’s amazing to see how you can learn from such a venture in their day-to-day business.

    The language barrier is also very interesting. Sometimes even if they speak English/French… it could be with such a different accent you’re used to that it’s like a different language.

    The discovery mode you’re in right now is very exciting, and opens your eyes to a whole different level of perception.

    Soak up all you can, but do take time to enjoy the current moment like sitting to sip a coffee… and just look at people. Just like hearing a new language is important to speak it, looking at the way people behave is the key to eventually blend in.

    Still have your trip to SF soon, don’t you? I bet you will experience it as a head out of the water… to breath air before plunging back in into your new environment.



    • antonia says:

      Hi Sylvain, I definitely agree! It is incredible how subconsciously we can be influenced by our surroundings and other people’s behaviour.

      I was in SF back in August. It was great!

      Speak to you soon