Buenos Aires is a beautiful and complex place. Sometimes it’s maddening, with the traffic and exhaust fumes and dog shit; but at other times — when sitting in a historic café, reading a book and sipping a cup of wine, for example — I wonder why it took me so long to get here.
There’s a lot that’s endearing about Buenos Aires, and other things that grate a little. But it’s an amazing city, and with an open eye there’s a lot to see.
1. There is a newspaper stand on each street corner.
The newspaper stand is not just a place for a journal or a magazine; it’s also a social club. One can buy an Argentinian porno mag called “Young and Dirty,” featuring twenty-something woman posing as teenagers. The print industry is still alive. VERDICT: WIN
2. The service at restaurants is HORRIBLE.
After many years in the service industry, I’m fairly empathetic to the woes of waiters, baristas and other food-slinging suckers. At this morning’s café, my hip, tattooed server took my order in a tone that led me to believe that I had somehow disrupted her from living her life. Oh, and if you want your cuenta (bill) now, you should have asked for it fifteen minutes ago. VERDICT: FAIL
3. One must watch where one is walking.
Or one will land in dog poo. It’s everywhere, like little satanic piles of anti-karma. VERDICT: FAIL
4. The locals drink yerba mate, everywhere.
It’s charming to see people walking around with their thermos, mate cup and metal straw: in the park, on the subway, waiting for the bus. What a bunch of suckers! If North Americans carried their personal coffee mug around with such commitment, Starbucks-related waste would drop through the floor. VERDICT: WIN
5. The men greet each other with a kiss on the cheek.
From my Canadian cultural perspective, where affection between men is expressed as a punch in the arm, it’s a civilized and intimate salutation. Please take note, uptight western cultures. VERDICT: WIN
6. Graffiti and street art are pervasive.
There seems to be a permissiveness (and dare I say “celebration”) of street art here in Buenos Aires, of which I haven’t seen in other cities that I’ve visited. The sides of buildings are simply urban canvases, providing a smorgasbord of colorful graphics to the eyes of locals and travelers. VERDICT: WIN
7. Breakfast consists of café con leche y medialunas.
I’m a big breakfast kinda person; I love my omelets and oatmeal. In the morning, the porteños have bellies still bulging from the immense piece of meat they devoured the night before. This means, to the detriment of my favorite meal, that breakfast is simply a coffee and a couple of croissants. VERDICT: FAIL
8. The wine floweth cheaply.
For around US$10, you can get a decent bottle of Malbec at most restaurants across the city. Or grab some empanadas and a bottle of vino from the grocery store ($US4), and you’ve got a cheap meal in the park. VERDICT: WIN
9. Locals are ambivalent to tango.
Just as a New Yorker might not care about the Statue of Liberty or an Australian might think that kangaroos are simply big bouncy rats, the folks of Buenos Aires are a bit tangoed out. This is entirely understandable. NO VERDICT
10. The mullet reigns supreme.
I’ve never seen such a saturation of hipster haircuts in all my travels. Unfortunately, I don’t have official government statistics, but the mullet per capita here in Argentina is most likely dominating the international mullet scene. Be still, my mullet-loving heart. VERDICT: WIN
I hope that gives you all a better understanding of the wonderful world of Buenos Aires. It’s a city filled with dog poo, cheap vino and fabulous hairdos. It’s somewhere that every traveler must visit.
If you’ve visited Buenos Aires, please share your observations!