General Questions from a Prospective Expat


Feb 1, 2008
Hello all,

After spending a couple of months living in Beijing and getting to know a foreign country's cosmopolitan culture, I'm strongly contemplating spending a few months living in Buenos Aires. I've perused the forums, but I have some fairly important questions (important to me, I mean) that I'd very, very much appreciate if I could have answered. They might seem irrelevant to experiencing the culture that BA has to offer, but they're important to me if I'm going to be living there for a significant period of time:

How old is the bulk of the ex-pat community? I'm only just turning 24. If you had to give a mean age to the ex-pats, specifically the English speaking ex-pats, what do you think it would be? Which leads to. . .

What are the predominant nationalities of the expats?

How do the Argentines mingle with the ex-pats, specifically Americans, even more specifically; Americans who speak fairly poor Spanish. . .even more specifically; young American males who speak fairly poor Spanish?

I mean no offense by any of this, but I've noticed a fair amount of complaining from some people. This is addressed solely to people who are ex-pats (not natives): does anyone kind of regret the trip? Does anyone feel it was the best decision of their lives? How old are you if you do? What advice do you have about it that would benefit my arrival?

Is anyone down there not explicitly to dive head-first into the culture but really just to relax? Is it a city where one could do that? I would love to improve my Spanish, and I'd also love to experience the culture, but my primary goal is to have time to relax, write (I worked as a Features writer for a newspaper before my quarter-life crisis), and meet some other Relaxers.

What's the best bohemian but still nice area to live? What's the flat out best area to live? What's the best area for ex-pats? How much should I expect to pay monthly? Is internet an issue?

These are a ton of questions, but if anyone (or, even better, everyone) could help me out and answer whichever questions you feel merit a response, I'd be forever grateful.
How old is the bulk of the ex-pat community?
I think the ages vary across the range. Difficult to say more, with the amount of angst on this site, if we all got together to find out I am afraid that there would be murder on a scale not previously seen.
What are the predominant nationalities of the expats?
Again there seems to be a full range, though because of economic and geographic influences, I would guess that there are more from the US than anywhere else.
How do the Argentines mingle with the ex-pats, specifically Americans,
I don't know how they react with Americans, I can only state that those I have met have treated me with with friendliness respect and in one case have virtually addopted me as part of the family. My wife speaks virtually no spanish and they seem to relish the chance to practice their english with her. Funny thing though in the heat of the summer I bought a hat, which my wife said made me look like a yank, I stopped wearing it when I found all the prices going up.Whether this proves that Americans are treated differently or not, you will have to decide.
As for the complaining, I still have to return to the UK to earn my bread and butter, so perhaps am not the best to describe how you would feel long term. My own experiences have almost all been positive, but then I sleep all day and Tango all night, I have not seen much else of the culture (gets in the way of the dancing). Inflation is the bigest problem, I have seen massive price increases since I first came here in 2004. I still find it genrally cheap, but then I am not on Argentine wages.
I hope this helps you, at least until someone more qualified can answer your questions.
I lived in Beijing for several years and I totally agree with fishface, BA is heaven compared to Beijing. Beijing sucks.
Well, all beijing bashing aside. . .can anyone actually answer some of these questions besides tangobob? i appreciate the input, tangobob. fishface and danc, i appreciate your disdain towards beijing, but back to buenos aires. . .anyone have any help to offer?
The thing is that there are a lot of foreign exchange students in town (except for january/february), so you won't have to worry about getting into contact with english speaking people. Ofcourse, they 'study', but they've got enough time to go out, hang out in one of Buenos Aires' beautiful parks etc.
I do have to admit that Argentina is not the most "yankee" friendly country. Being a European I have had quite a few conversations about this topic. Some of my Argentine (well-educated) friends told me that they simply don't like Americans because their lack of culture, US foreign policy concerning Latin-America since 1890, their materialistic mentality and their way of butchering the spanish language. Then again, most Dutch people would give you the same answer, so it's not something tipically Argentine. And none of the US exchange students that I've spoken over the past year have really complained about it....
Quoting "ReemsterCARP":
". . . . I do have to admit that Argentina is not the most 'yankee' friendly country. . . ."
I'm an American and have never had even the whisper of a problem. Porteños, as most people the world over, will respond to who you are, rather than to the stereotypes of the groups of which you are a member.
Thanks for the responses. Did America have a favorable foreign policy toward South America before 1890 or did we just not give a shit? I'm not being snide, i really dont know. But back to the topic of BsAs, one big question I have is whether there's a dominant arts scene in Buenos Aires? All I hear about is Tangotangotango, but I assume there are other popular art scenes. My two main interests are film and writing, and if anyone knows of a nifty writer's clique or some fun independent cinemas for cinephiles, I need only know they exist. Is bohemian culture popular among expats? I don't need Paris of the Twenties (though that would be nice), just seeing if there's at least a faction of this type of people. . . p.s. wait, the Dutch speak good Spanish??
Quoting "chrisfromthestates":
". . . . Did America have a favorable foreign policy toward South America before 1890 or did we just not give a *bleep*?"
We (I write as an American who was educated as an historian and actually worked in the field) had little to do with South America governmentally (besides promulgating the Monroe Doctrine -- warning foreign powers not to meddle in the internal affairs of the new republics), though some private companies and citizens engaged in commerce with South Americans and a few actually settled there, until ca. 1903, when we encouraged a Colombian separatist movement that gave birth to the Republic of Panama (and allowed us to complete a canal across the isthmus).
Quoting "chrisfromthestates":
". . . . s . . . there[ ] a dominant arts scene in Buenos Aires?"
Not that I've found.
Quoting "chrisfromthestates":
". . . . a nifty writer's clique . . . ."
I've become acquainted with a number of writers (good writers, I think, but Spanish isn't my lengua materna), chiefly of experimental novels, but also of short stories and poetry. I'm certain there are many more.
"chrisfromthestates" said:
p.s. wait, the Dutch speak good Spanish??
No they don't. It's just that the majority of the Americans that I know that live here cannot seem to pronounce spanish words without a heavy american accent.