10 Surprising Things you Discover When Moving to Buenos Aires

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1. Argentinian soccer fans are one-of-a-kind crazy.

On big game days, piles of jumping, cuss-chanting fans fill public buses on the way to the stadium or local bar to watch their favourite players take the field.  If you make it to a particularly intense game or catch the game on the big screen, you’ll probably watch the sky exploding in fireworks, flares being thrown and erupting smoke, and party paper littering the field. It’s all typical Argentinian game day etiquette. 

2. People cradle around small gourds and giant thermoses.

The national drink of Argentina, Mate, is based of naturally-caffeinated yerba mate leaves and hot water, and is drunk from a bombilla in a gourd. I had to clarify to my father that this was in fact like tea, not anything illegal.  You’ll notice people drinking it just about anywhere, from the beach to the supermarket, a thermos with hot water in one arm, and mate straw glued to their lips.

3. Public transportation is ridiculously cheap.

Buenos Aires is big, and the public transportation fast, frequent, and really cheap.  With a SUBE card, a train ride from Retiro to the outskirts of the city costs 3 pesos, the equivalent of 25 cents USD.  Just be sure to avoid hora pico (rush hour) whenever you can or you’ll be crammed between 100 other perspiring bodies for the long ride.  

Bonus:  People will walk the aisles advertising in their loud, auction voices a plethora of cheap goods they are selling  —from food, socks, sewing kits, to toe nail clippers— sometimes, it  just so happens that you need them.

4. Che…Porteños speak Castellano, not Spanish.

Porteños speak in so much slang that it’s considered a dialect of Spanish mixed with a form of expression called Lunfardo, brought over by past Italian immigrants to the city of Buenos Aires. People will understand you perfectly if you speak in the Spanish 101 you learned in school, but you may have a harder time grasping their intense hand gestures and creatively phrased expressions or if their speech is so rapid and every third word is "boludo".

5. Free, public outdoor gyms are all over the city.

Why pay for a gym membership when you can sweat a good work out outside for free?  Scattered around the city, these estacion saludables machines work with body weight, and can be used 24/7 for anyone looking to tone up.

6. Stop signs are practically inexistent.

Instead, four-way intersections are basically first-come-first-serve.  
Zebra stripes are simply a decorative art piece for the street, and rules of the road are considered guidelines. Please don’t risk J-walking across any avenue because already-dented cars will hit you or honk you out of the country if you misread the timing of the traffic light.

 7. A lot of small businesses don’t have store names.

Instead, the abundance of local, family-run businesses are named after what they sell; a generic title that ends in “ia”. You want some cheese? Check out your local Quesería. Craving vegetables to accompany that asado? You can find it at your Verdulería. Once you notice the name trend, you’ll be wondering what they all mean. Like the Yesería, which I found out is not actually a place where everyone cries out ‘YES!!’ but in fact, a shop that specifically sells plaster for walls.

8. Dulce de leche is the Nutella of Buenos Aires.

This caramel-like concoction of sweetened milk is the Holy Grail for sweet-lovers.  From oozing its way out crisp medialunas, being the heart of any good alfajore, liquidized in lattes and frozen in ice cream, you won’t have any trouble tasting this pot of gold.

9. Yogurt is sold in milk bags.

The aisle for dairy products is vast, filled with different flavours of milk (pineapple flavour, anyone?) and yogurt in bags.  You’ll probably see the giant face of Boca soccer star Tevez plastered on his endorsed yogurt, smiling back at you. Make sure you read the label carefully though, otherwise you’ll be pouring strawberry yogurt into your coffee like someone I know did. (Okay, it was me.)

10. You’ll never get bored.

There is always something new to do, see, or eat in the city that doesn’t sleep (but occasionally takes a siesta).  Whether it’s rollerblading in the Bosques de Palermo, or watching an Opera at Theatre Colon, it’ll feel like you never have enough time to conquer everything you want to do because you keep adding to the list of Things to try. The summer days may be shortening, but the colorful events and vibrant nightlife in Buenos Aires will never stop!

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Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.


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