Living in Buenos Aires: need-to-knows & nice-to-knows

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

So, you decided to take the big step and move to the vibrant city housing the presidential Pink House, famous barbeques, and a subway line with tango. You have decided to give it try with living in Buenos Aires!

But while living in Buenos Aires clearly has its ups (and downs), it can also seem quite confusing when you have just moved here. But, don’t worry! I’m here to help you out make a bit of sense of life in the Argentine Capital. After almost 4 years in Buenos Aires, I believe that I have learned a thing or two about life here. Therefore, I have collected some of my best need-to-knows and nice-to-knows of fun and useful facts about living in Buenos Aires.

There is, of course, a lot more to say about living in Buenos Aires, and if you have any tips or insides that you don’t find here, please feel free to add it in the comments below. If you have any questions about living in Buenos Aires, you are also more than welcome to share them below.

You can check out my other need-to-knows and nice-to-know post here.

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All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NEED TO KNOW

When living in Buenos Aires, you will soon learn that the reference General Paz is a way of saying that something is either located in the Buenos Aires Capital area or in the Province of Buenos Aires.

General Paz is the highway that surrounds the Capital area of Buenos Aires, also known as CABA or Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, and separating it from the Province of Buenos Aires.

NICE TO KNOW

As a foreigner (especially, European or North American) get used to being asked a dozen times: “¿y vos, que haces acá?” (e.g. and you, what are you doing here?) indicating that you must be some kind of lunatic because you chose to stay more or less voluntary in Buenos Aires.

Insider note: When I’m not up for a huge explanation, I usually answer people this way: “Soy media loca” (e.g. I’m a bit crazy). Read more about phrases with will make you sound like a local in Buenos Aires here.

If you want to brush your Spanish off before or while living in Buenos Aires, consider finding a native Argentine Spanish-speaker on italki.com.

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NEED TO KNOW

WhatsApp! If you are not already using this messaging app, download it right away! You will definitely need WhatsApp when living in Buenos Aires. 

Porteños (e.g. citizens of Buenos Aires) usually communicate through WhatsApp by either texting, calling or sending voice messages. When living in Buenos Aires, you will most likely very soon be part of multiple WhatsApp groups too for whatever social group you become part of; school, work, housing, etc.

NICE TO KNOW

When living in Buenos Aires, it will become completely common to small talk with strangers not only about the weather but also the current development in the Argentine peso’s exchange rate to the US dollar or the increase of prices in the local stores (also commonly known as inflation).

If you run into an awkward silence with people you don’t know, these topics are always a winner to kickstart the conversation. 

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NEED TO KNOW

If you ever need something on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday, the best place to turn to is the small chino supermarkets (e.g. supermarkets run by Chinese). They are opened most days from 9 am or 10 am until around 10 pm.

You will have the chinos almost every second block throughout the capital – literally! Read more about things that nobody tells you about Buenos Aires.

NICE TO KNOW

If you are living on a tight budget, remember that there are plenty of free activities to do in Buenos Aires and many green areas like parks and small squares around the neighborhoods.

You can also easily do day trips to nearby locations such as the Tigre Delta or La Plata, which is the capital of the province of Buenos Aires.

Reasons why November is the best time to visit Buenos Aires

NEED TO KNOW

Cash, cash, cash – get used to bringing cash with you!

Bigger stores and restaurants will accept different types of debit and credit cards, but smaller places and most of the popular chino-supermarkets will only accept cash.

NICE TO KNOW

Patience… You will need a good portion of patience to live in Buenos Aires. Things might for some unexplained reason stop working, being out of order, or people being late of meet-ups.

Basically, you’ll have to learn to just live with it. The good news is that after a while, you’ll become super tolerant toward any unforeseen things coming up.

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NEED TO KNOW

When living in Buenos Aires, you will have to get used to a lot of paperwork (and you will need a lot of the patience from above).

Paperwork in the Argentine bureaucracy generally means bringing one paper from one person, office, counter (you name it) to another person, office, counter… Yeah, I think you got my point! Bureaucracy is not just in state institutions but also for simple procedures such as, for example, picking up a parcel.

Argentines even have a specific word for it: tramites! “Tengo que hacer unos tramites” simply means that you have to do some kind of bureaucratic paperwork.

NICE TO KNOW

You will be signing a lot! For opening a bank account, for paying with your debit card, when getting your paycheck… I could go on and on (but I will spare you!). Life in Buenos Aires includes a lot of signing papers! 

Over time, maybe the same will happen to you as has happened to me; my signature just gets uglier and uglier!

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NEED TO KNOW

Propina! Always remember to tip.

It is not only expected that you tip the waiter in restaurants or bars, but it is also custom to tip the delivery guy who brings your take away. And no, having paid delivery doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have paid him his tips that way.

NICE TO KNOW

If you are a woman, don’t try to convince a man offering you to enter a subway or bus before him, to enter first – you will always loose (or worse, the bus driver will try to drive from both of you). 

Take it for somebody who has tried awkward situations of men “holding the door” and me not realizing and steadily waiting for them to enter because “they were before me”.

New to the public transportation in Buenos Aires? Here’s your guide to SUBE, Subte, collectivos and trains!

NEED TO KNOW

Inflation will soon begin to be an everyday thing… And the longer you stay, the more you will start to think something along the lines “I remembered when this (inset a thing after your liking) cost $$, now look at THAT price!?”.

NICE TO KNOW

Prices vary quite a lot from one neighborhood to another. Even within the same neighborhood stores might have quite different prices on the same products.

In a country hunted by a monthly inflation rate of approximately 3% (in the moment of writing), you might want to check out where to get the best price.

DoHo Villa Urquiza

NEED TO KNOW

Everything can and will be discussed; prices, politics, people.. Porteños generally love talking, discussing, and arguing, and it is even better if it can be done with a lot of arm movements. 

A common phrase to hear is something like “yeah, after all those years of Peronism see where we are today” (add a negative or positive understanding of this after your preferences).

NICE TO KNOW

If there is a strike (or paro, as they are called in Argentina) in downtown Buenos Aires, try the best you can to say out of those areas.

Public transportation will stop working, most shops will be closed, and manifestations will block the road. 

NEED TO KNOW

When living in Buenos Aires, you can be sure to be invited to share a mate, a warm infusion drink which you drink through a straw, and to try Fernet mixed with coke to a party.

The uncrowned national drinks of Argentina are without any doubt mate and Fernet con cola.

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NICE TO KNOW

Beware of Mondays – many places are closed.

Many smaller cafés and shops that are open on Saturdays, will tend to be closed on Mondays. So, remember to check rather Monday is a closing day or not before you head somewhere.

NEED TO KNOW

Walking around Buenos Aires it feels pretty safe, and generally, it also is. However, pickpocketing and other minor robberies do happen according to the featured in the local media.

Security is of high concern for many porteños. Be aware and watch out for yourself.

NICE TO KNOW

There will always be a line at your bank! No matter what time of the day you go, no matter which day of the week, and no matter what bank you choose! Even if you try to come before the bank opens at 10 o’clock, there will be a line of people outside the bank.

However, Monday, Fridays, and around the 10th or 15th of the month is the worse time to show up. It is normal to wait at least an hour.

The pro tip: Bring a book or a magazine with you to entertain you while waiting. Other than that, try to do as many tramites online in your home banking (by the way, Argentines use the English word home banking).

NEED TO KNOW

Don’t take it personally if somebody shouts at you in the traffic. Porteños are usually very aggressive when they are trying to maneuver through the chaotic traffic of Buenos Aires.

Especially, in the crowded streets of the center, people can get really aggressive. I have heard the explanation that shouting out your frustration should prevent cancer… I don’t know what evidence there is for that?

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!

NICE TO KNOW

Porteños tend to use a lot of swearing! With most of the expressions used in everyday Argentine castellano, it is best not to think of their literal translations!

Remember to also check out these 10 Spanish phrases that you should know before going to Argentina.

NEED TO KNOW

Learning how to use public buses and the subway will be a lifesaver when living in Buenos Aires. The many bus lines will take you all over the city.

The porteños mostly refer to the busses as colectivos but a slang word for bus is bondi. And the subway is called el Subte… Confused? Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!

More on how to use the public transportation system in Buenos Aires here.
New to the public transportation in Buenos Aires? Here’s your guide to SUBE, Subte, collectivos and trains!

NICE TO KNOW

Maybe you have heard about the Superclásico? It is the infamous soccer match between Argentina’s two largest soccer teams, La Boca and River Plate. But, in Argentina, soccer is much more than just a game.

Soccer is a political matter. And to some extent, the teams also represent socioeconomic and political stereotypes of the Argentine society.

And you can get in deep trouble if you express sympathy for one of the two teams while among supporters of the other. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

This quick guide to Spanish in Argentina will get you on track for your trip to Argentina

NEED TO KNOW

The longer you stay in Buenos Aires, the more fund you will become of the app and website Mercado Libre. Here you can find close to anything from new to second-hand merchandise. 

The pro tip: You can sort your search results on Mercado Libre to be based on neighborhoods, and thereby figure out whether you have a cheap option nearby, and save yourself the cost of getting it sent.

NICE TO KNOW

Try not to worry too much about police officers paying more attention to their phones or chatting with a shop owner than keep an eye on the street.

All the best fun and useful need-to-know and nice-to-know facts about living in Buenos Aires!
Have you ever thought about moving to Buenos Aires? Or are you maybe planning to move here? Is there any piece of important information that I have missed about living in Buenos Aires? Or anything else you would like to ask?
Please feel free to share your story, ideas or tips in the comments below!

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2 comments

  1. Victoria

    Great list! A nice intro to the culture.

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Thank you so much, Victoria! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the read and learned something new about the culture in Buenos Aires 🙂

      Reply

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