Life in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Listen to La Tango Santeri composed.
We have settled down in Buenos Aires and will stay here as long as it feels good. We have a nice apartment, new friends and an easy-going lifestyle so there is absolutely no need to hurry onwards. Besides, our New Year promise devotes us not to develop ourselves in any way and travelling further might compromise that promise somehow. And there is a lot to see in Argentina itself.
We now live in Colegiales, some 8 km away from BA’s micro centre. BA is great in that sense that services are equally distributed within the city. So wherever you live, you have all possible services including the trendiest restaurants and cafés at arms length. We don’t have to go to the micro centre at all, which is just great. After living there for over one month we were really stressed because of all noise, people running around and endless crowds and queues everywhere. It was obviously a business-only district.
We were lucky to find our apartment after one week’s search. The market is scarce. After the financial crisis most Argentinians are renting apartments and houses instead of buying them since it is close to impossible to get any loan from the banks. We wanted an apartment with sauna, barbecue (parrilla), swimming pool and gym which made it actually very easy to find the right place. There were only three apartments available meeting our criteria. Unfortunately the chosen apartment was rented through a real estate agency called Adriana Streger. Real estate agencies seem to be rip-off everywhere in the world from Brazil to Finland. First of all, we were told that the rent covers everything. But when we were signing the contract, we suddenly realized that we have to pay extra for gas, electricity, cable-TV and telephone. Secondly, we were not told that the commission fee excluded VAT. We really felt cheated but fortunately the really nice owner met us in the halfway and paid some of the costs. The third and the last mistake of the agency was that they did not to remove the "apartment for rent" -sign from our balcony in time. It was really annoyingly banging disturbing us and neighbours. It took over 3 weeks to get the sign off and actually it was not the agency but the guards of our house who removed it. We rented the apartment fully furnished and the only thing we had to buy was a sheet, some towels, and an espresso machine. With our luck, the damn piece of trash (De Longhi) only worked one week and then started to leak. Earlier we thought that Italians know how to make espresso machines. Now that piece of shit is enjoying warranty service and hopefully comes back soon because meanwhile we have to drink Nescafé. We came to the conclusion that we really shouldn’t own or buy anything. Even the coffee machine ended up being a real nuisance. Sauna in our department is Finnish enough: it heats up to 100 degrees Celcius. The only complaint is that the benches are made for fairies. Bench in the men’s sauna crashed after our use and has now been repaired so badly that it will crash again if we go there. We use women’s sauna instead. Editors note: Yes, there really are separate saunas for men and women and usually people have some clothes or at least towel on when they go to sauna. Argentinians are offended by nudity. We had a housewarming party on 17th of April. Some 20 people from the local English Group came and we had a great time. However, one neighbour lost her marbles after seeing two naked men in sauna and in swimming pool, but we sorted that problem out finally. See some pictures of the party’s happy faces in our photo album “La Fiesta Finlandesa”. And thanks to Laura for the pictures. English group gets together every Friday. It consists mainly of Argentinians who want to practice and improve their English, and there are also occasionally tourists and foreigners living in BA. The group is great and we look always forward to going there and enjoying a long dinner together. We have become good friends with one of our neighbours, Marina. She is a make-up artist and Päivi had the honour of being her model in 60’s style make-up with fake eyelashes and all. It was great fun. Marina has helped us a lot in most peculiar problems we have faced here such as how to use parrilla where there is no air coming from underneath. The first time we waited for hours the parrilla to get heated because it didn’t get enough air to light up properly. The trick was to light the coal up first in a special place and then move it to parrilla. Marina also has a dog called Manon who we take out once in a while. An ideal deal: having a dog without long-term commitments. Argentina is a real service society. All services are affordable and we enjoy the fact fully. We take our clothes to the laundry which costs 1.50 Euro/load. We have house cleaning twice a week costing 1.35 Euro/hour. There is no need to have a car since all supermarkets have home delivery for free. Our shopping bill has never exceeded 110 euro even if we have bought food and beverages for big parties. A beef steak, for example, costs 2.15/kilo and decent red wine 1.60/bottle. Going to cafeterias and restaurants is likewise reasonably priced. A café au lait costs 0.70 euros and a dinner with wine usually under 3 Euro/person. Same applies to buffets like pizza and parrilla buffets. To mention some more examples of the local price level, gasoline costs 0.50 euro/litre, renting a one-room flat in city centre 108 euro/month. Text messages are free (but unfortunately they only reach Sonera’s customers in Finland, sorry Elisa users). Well, all in all, Who wants to live in Finland or in Europe any more and pay dirt high prices and taxes for such a bad service? Winter is drawing closer and the temperature varies a lot day by day. Sometimes it is hot like in summer and then the next day you might need a jacket and a scarf and still be freezing. This applies of course only to Päivi. Santeri is wearing a t-shirt despite weather changes and remarks sarcastically that here cold weather means something as low as 10 degrees Celsius. One chilly day we rescued a grasshopper from our balcony and took him home. We baptized him Benedictus. Benedictus is an easy pet and sociable enough to know how to ask for his daily salad. We study Spanish slowly but surely. The problem is that all our friends here speak English so there is no urgent need to learn it fast, and Päivi gets by with her Spanish in daily matters. Santeri prefers to study Spanish on his own but Päivi takes a weekly 2-hour conversation class. Päivi has suddenly got interested in cooking and Santeri is teaching her. Then we have also started to learn Argentinian tango — or should we say BA tango since they don’t dance tango in provinces. Currently we know the basics but have not become addicted to it yet. In that sense we seem to be quite Argentinian: most locals of our age do not know how to dance tango and they are not too interested in it either. Too common and folklore, apparently.
Keywords: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Colegiales, Adriana Streger, Real estate, agency, cheat, rip-off, De Longhi, sauna, La Fiesta Finlandesa, English group, parrilla, café au lait, grasshopper, Benedictus, tango.