BA GUIDE: How to feel more at home in the city

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Getting to a new city can often be overwhelming, especially one as big as Buenos Aires! There were lots of things I did when I first got to the city to settle in, and some things that my friends did that I didn’t. From my own experience, and having spoken to them, I’ve compiled a guide of how to feel comfortable in the wonderful cosmopolitan metropolis that is the city of Buenos Aires.

Walk a lot

‘Before I even started meeting people, I just took the time and I went to the most important neighbourhoods and I sort of started making a map in my head of where everything was’

This can be such a good way to try and make sense of the city. If you already have a rough idea of where things are, it means when you start having to travel around a bit, it’s not as daunting. Knowing more or less in which directions things lie, means that you can use your energy to chat to new people, or to try out a new restaurant, without the additional stress of getting completely lost. Walking is also a very good way to feel a part of the city and its rhythm, and notice places you might want to visit as you’re going at a slower pace than on a bus/in a taxi.

Cafes

‘Having cafes to return to’

One of the things I like the most about Buenos Aires is the cafe culture; there are people in cafes all day long and they stay open quite late (until 8 or 9pm). This means that it’s (almost) always a good time to go to a cafe. Most of them are laptop friendly too, and there’s never a big rush to bring you the bill, as can happen in the UK, so you can really relax and spend quite a long time in one place.

I’d recommend seeing if you have a cafe quite near you that you want to return to more than once. Argentinians are very friendly, and if you’re a regular at a cafe it’ll help you enormously to feel part of the city if you recognise the waiting staff and potentially some clients too. A friend of mine goes to the same cafe nearly every day and at this point they’ll give him a fist bump or shake his hand when they see him - one waiter even knows his order without him having to say it!

Food ‘Finding food places where I could buy food/ingredients to make food that I like to eat at home’

This friend of mine is a sushi fiend and is now well versed in the I’m going to say all of the sushi of Buenos Aires, just don’t get her started on how they put cream cheese in sushi here. This was something I hadn’t thought about at all, but I can see how comforting it can be to make the same food you’re used to and like. Finding ingredients that you’re used to getting pretty easily at home can also take you on a bit of an adventure around the city, as they’re probably not all found where you’d expect to find them!

Activities

Finding activities that you normally do/have done in other places can be a really good way to meet people/find a bit of structure in the city. I dance quite a bit in the UK, so when I came here I found a ballroom and latin dance class which I try to go to every week. It’s so nice to go and recognise the same people week in week out whilst doing something that I love. Having already danced before means that I don’t have to be thinking about lots of different things at once; if I don’t understand some of the dance-specific vocabulary I can watch my teacher and take an educated guess. Going to dancing has also given me a sort of commute and a route to a different part of the city than where I’d normally visit.

Instagram pages to find other foreigners

Sometimes you just need to spend time with foreigners who are also new to Argentina and figuring it all out. For that, Bais is a pretty great shout. Formed in 2013, with the aim of bringing together the international (particularly student) community, they run events all year round. Follow them on Instagram (@bais_argentina) to find out what’s on - from food exchanges to club nights, they’ll have you covered!

Even if you’re not normally someone for organised fun, it can be a good idea to try out some events like these anyway and see if there’s anyone who you’d like to hang out with one or one or in a smaller group. Putting yourself out there can be quite stressful at the time, but it tends to pay off in the long run.

Do a bit of research - recognising things helps!

Reading a guidebook or watching some youtube travel videos sounds like very obvious advice, but if it’s obvious it’s because it can genuinely help! When everything feels unfamiliar, walking past and recognising a building you’ve read about for example can give you a little boost as you go about your day. It’s also very satisfying to understand something about the history of the monuments and buildings that you pass - doing a walking tour when you first come to the city can be a great way of doing that too.

At the end of the day, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to adapt straight away. Culture shock is definitely a very real thing but so too is exploration! Take your time, do what you naturally gravitate to and know that you can’t do it all in the time that you are here in Buenos Aires. It’s an amazing city with a lot to offer, but of course sometimes it is going to feel difficult being here, especially if you come by yourself. I hope these tips help you to feel a bit more at ease if you’re already here, or to give you something to look forward to if you’re planning on coming!

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