Life as a Gringo in Buenos Aires

When you first make your way to Argentina, the first thing that catches your attention is that the people here are beautiful. They completely shy away from their South American counterparts in Peru or Bolivia and offer you somewhat of a feeling that you’ve hit Europe again. Foreigners refer to Buenos Aires as the “Paris of South America” and they’re not all that wrong. Apart from the obvious differences between “La Ville de L’amour” and “La Ciudad para Hacer el Amor”, Buenos Aires is a bustling, on-the-go city that takes more than a week to visit and more than a lifetime to understand.

After completing my undergraduate with a BComm in International Business, I moved to Buenos Aires with the intention of improving my Spanish through complete immersion in the culture. I figured above all that taking a year off to “find myself” might be a nice break from the typical Toronto study-work-life pattern and what better excuse than “pursuing something that aligned with my international business education.” The general idea was that if I could become fluent in Spanish, I could have something to take out of the year abroad and I could use it later on in life.

So I picked up my stuff, moved abroad, and 5 months later, with 1 week left on my stay in Buenos Aires, I am writing this article for GoneForWords to reflect on my time here. The way BA progressed for me really couldn’t have been more different than I imagined.

For starters, I struggled to find an apartment, even more so to find a job but never really had my doubts. I moved into an amazing guesthouse and somehow became immersed into the social lives of a massive group of Argentinian friends. They assisted me in getting to know the city and understanding more what I could expect out of my time here. Working as a foreigner in Buenos Aires means that you most likely don’t have a visa and that you will be getting paid under the counter, in pesos, and in extremely minimal amounts. I worked in coffee shops, bars, construction, TV shows, or basically anything that offered me the opportunity to make a little bit of shekel to support myself.

For as long as I can remember, I have always hated being treated like a foreigner. You arrive to a new country/culture/environment and very often you are treated differently because of the way you look, the things you say, or the stereotypes pegged against you. Buenos Aires taught me to get over that. With long blonde hair and green eyes, I was never going to be mistaken for Argentinian. That being said, in Buenos Aires, it was obvious I was a foreigner but they didn’t really care much. To my surprise, the people here were more intrigued as to why I chose to leave a first-world country like Canada and move here. They respected that I was embracing their culture, language, and work environment and were always willing to offer me the chance to understand it better.

In the 5 months I spent here, my Spanish improved more than I could have ever imagined and apart from developing a group of friends that will last me a lifetime, Buenos Aires left me with a yearning to learn more; to come back here in the future, either to work, to live, to find love, etc… With March creeping on slowly and the heat in Buenos Aires not dying down at all, I choose to say goodbye to the city and start a backpacking journey through South America. In one week I start backpacking alone, heading northwards into Brazil, crossing over into Columbia, and starting a long journey southwards, eventually finishing in Buenos Aires again to round out a 6-month adventure.

I know that the stuff I experienced here in Argentina will drastically affect the way I choose to travel, the things I choose to do, and the journeys I choose to take but I couldn’t be more excited to do it. Hopefully, with a little luck, I will get the chance to meet up with Gill and Leah on the road and go crazy together one more time.

Hasta la proxima,
Dave Rosin