Buenos Aires, Argentina

After one month Argentina seems to be the total opposite of Brazil: people are honest and friendly, and there is no cheating.

After one month of experience Argentina seems to be the total opposite of Brazil. People are honest and friendly, and there is no cheating. In restaurants, prices are as told in the menu (and you get the menu), there are no service fees or taxes added and you get the change back correctly. The city is safe and there are very few beggars. We mingle in quite well because people are white-skinned and usually of European descent, so nobody actually pays any attention to us. So, no material for another Tourism guide à la Brazil unless we will get an inspiration to write about the secret sexual back stage of Argentina.

The other side of the coin is that people are very work oriented, maybe even workaholics. The slogan of Argentina is “Un país en serio” — “A land to be taken seriously”. The city is lively during the day but after dawn everybody goes home to sleep. At least something to be missed from Brazil. In addition, Buenos Aires still suffers from last New Year Eve's disco fire where almost 200 young people died. All discos are closed because of government's safety inspections, and night life is therefore very modest if it exists at all. Since we usually wake up late in the afternoon and stay up until morning, we have got a bit bored once in a while. It is a pity since everything else works out fine here. Above all, the price level is pleasant for Europeans, thanks to the financial crisis.

Accommodation is reasonably priced and there are plenty of budget hotels. We chose to rent a flat from the city center to be able to do some cooking. Here cooking is more for fun than for saving money because it is actually cheaper to eat out. Two people can eat well in a buffet restaurant with parrilla (barbecue) meat and a bottle of red wine with just 6 euro. Incredible, and the food is great. You don't even have to order your steak bloody, it comes bloody automatically. Wines are also excellent, especially when compared to Brazilian sugar juices they called wine. It feels luxurious to order a bottle for dinner and not go to bankruptcy.

The finding of the flat was easy since many locals have two or more apartments for rent. The flats are relatively cheap. For example, a small one-room flat costs some 20.000 dollars in the heart of the city. It is also more safe to invest in real estate here than to keep money in the bank account from where they can vanish any day. This kind of confiscation happened in the beginning of 2000 when everyone lost part of their bank savings. People still demonstrate in the streets and the newspapers are full of bitter articles and readers' letters on state's financial politics and gigantic foreign debt.

Buenos Aires city center is not exceptionally big but hard to navigate. For the first two weeks it was more than customary for us to walk in the opposite direction of the targeted place. Every street looks the same and they are long so there are no landmarks to be seen. We still carry map with us, just in case.

The city is relatively clean except that garbage sorting is done manually in the streets like in Brazil. This of course means that rats are abundant. We saw one rat from our window at 11th floor running on an electric cable. Another shocking experience happened when we went to see one apartment in a decent looking building. The 12th floor flat had rat shit all over the floor.

Tango can be seen and heard in the streets so there is no need to go to tourist rip-off tango restaurants. Tango lessons would be nice, though, but something has always come up when we had planned to go. Today Santeri had two bad two aching blisters so it would not have been too enjoyable. Päivi has got interested in playing pool and we have played quite a lot. Santeri has been an excellent teacher.

Päivi has also enjoyed her long awaited opportunity to practice Spanish and get acquainted with peculiarities of Argentinian dialect, Rioplatense. For example 'filet' does no mean beef fillet here but fish. It was quite a disappointment to discover the fact after waiting for a juicy steak for a quarter of an hour. Use the word 'bife de lomo' if you don't want to experience the same.

Here are some funny expressions and words we have learned in Rioplatense.

Manzana (literally apple) block
tenedor libre (free fork) buffet restaurant
buena onda (good wave) successfull
boliche (bowling ball) disco
canilla libre (free tap) drink buffet
minutas (minutes) fast food
ambiente (ambience) room
medialuna (half moon) sweet croissant, typical Argentinian breakfast

And some funny city names from Brazil and Argentina with translations:

Brasil, Natal — Christmas — Joulu
Brasil, Salvador — Saviour — Pelastaja
Brasil, Espirito — Holy spirit — Pyhä henki
Brasil, Rio de Janeiro — The River of January — Tammikuun joki
Brasil, Belo Horizonte — Beautiful horizon — Kaunis horisontti
Brasil, Boa Vista — Nice view — Kiva näköala
Brasil, Porto Alegre — Happy harbour — Iloinen satama
Argentina, Buenos Aires — Good weather — Hyvät säät
Argentina, Mar de plata — Silver sea — Hopeinen meri

In Buenos Aires on 10.3.2004.

Buena onda,

Paivi & Santeri

Keywords: Argentina, Brazil, parrilla, Buenos Aires, tango, Rioplatense, funny names, cities, translations.


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