Argentina is known for its European character, with its capital of Buenos Aires often compared to the quintessentially European cities of Rome and Paris. But Argentina is equally admired for its traditional country lifestyle, and the gaucho, the Argentinian equivalent of the ‘cowboy’, is a still a popular icon.
For expats, Argentina is a destination that offers a relaxed pace of life, and where there are also other benefits such as affordable healthcare, good schools, and a warm, welcoming local community.Nonetheless, moving to a different country can spring some surprises. Here are five things you should know about life in Argentina.
English is not widely spoken everywhere in Argentina. In fact, outside of the major cities such as Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario, English is hardly used at all. Expats will find that some knowledge of Spanish goes a long way. The good thing about Argentina is that the local community greatly appreciates it when foreigners make an effort to communicate in Spanish. This can help foster relationships and help you integrate well into the society. It also allows you to communicate freely without worrying too much about pronunciation and arrangement of words. Avoid waiting until you can speak the language fluently; even the locals don’t speak Spanish the way it is in the books. So, even though a language barrier does exist in Argentina, it is fairly easy to get around.
Expats should know that they can only work legally in Argentina if a company sponsors their visa and commits to a minimum of one year of work. There are many foreigners who omit this step and work as English tutors or in restaurants and cafés, but this does not adhere to the laws of the land. The good news is that qualified expats may not find it too difficult to get jobs, especially in the big cities, like Buenos Aires. Many international companies have their offices there and much of the city’s population consists of educated and trained professionals. There is also a requirement for native English teachers, although most full-time jobs require an advanced or bilingual level of Spanish.
Argentina provides high quality healthcare and the public hospitals provide free services. But be prepared to face long waiting lists at these facilities. If you want to visit a public hospital, you may have to wait with the crowd for hours before a doctor can see you. Some of the public hospitals may also not have modern equipment. Many expats prefer to use private healthcare. Private health insurance is easily available in the cities and the private medical facilities are of excellent quality. The costs are also lower, as compared to countries like the United States. The quality of medical care in a city like Buenos Aires is evident in the number of overseas visitors who come to the country mainly for medical procedures, such as plastic surgery.
Even in the big cities, Argentina does face the problem of thefts and robberies. It is important to exercise caution and protect your valuables. Tourist areas are where most of the pickpocketing takes place, so avoid such places if possible. In Buenos Aires, the La Boca area, a short distance away from the popular street, Caminito, is prone to petty theft. On the other hand, neighborhoods like Recoleta are known to be safe. The local police actively patrol the city streets, and the smaller Argentinian towns are known to be safer than the cities.
Vegetarians and vegans moving to Argentina must come prepared. One of the characteristics of the country is the local population’s love of meat. The country ranks as one of the highest consumers of beef per capita. It is common to see the choicest cuts of meat displayed above barbeques in many restaurants. An asado, or Argentinian-style barbeque, is a popular event where people come together and basically celebrate their love of meat, because the meal mainly consists of different meat cuts grilled to perfection. But it is possible to find vegetarian food, too. There are some delicious Argentinian delicacies that are purely vegetarian, such as humitas, made with fresh corn and cheese. The famous empanada also comes in a variety of vegetarian varieties, as does locro, a local stew consisting of beans, corn and vegetables.
Have you moved to Argentina as an expat? What did you find surprising? Let us know in the comments.