10 Tips for Living in Argentina
By Betsy Burlingame
Summary: Expats in Argentina share tips for living in Argentina - from advice about inflation, employment contracts, finding a home and more.
Learn the Language
"I had very basic Spanish skills before moving here, but learning a language in a classroom doesn't mean a lot once you're immersed in the culture. Being in the tough spot of having no choice but to figure out how to communicate with someone is the only way to really learn a language - you have to live it, speak it and hear it every single day constantly. Once the headaches go away things start to clear up and click," explained one expat in Cordoba, Argentina.
Another expat suggested, "Learn Spanish before you come. Lack of Spanish won't stop you from achieving anything, but you'll miss out on some fantastic social situations. Other than that, be ready to eat some fantastic steaks and drink some incredible wine."
Where to Live in Argentina
"Buenos Aires is a BIG city. But to me, it has a small town feel. I live in the chic Palermo which is much more calm than the center of the city. I think there is somethig for everyone in BA, but if you do not like a big city, lots of noise or pollution, you might want to head for somewhere with a slower pace like Mendoza or Bariloche (both beautiful!)," advised one expat in Buenos Aires.
"If you want to keep out of the city centre and the ex-pat ghettoes of Recoleta, Palermo and San Telmo then Villa del Parque and thereabouts within CABA is worth a look. If you want to get outside CABA San Isidro and Olivos and the area generally known as Barrio Norte are worth consideration. If you want to get even further away, Pilar and Tigre are moderately popular as commuting locations but you are looking at an hour or more at least by road into the centre - depending on traffic conditions - and longer by train," suggested another expat.
Diversity in Argentina
"People in Argetina come from all walks of life. Very diverse in regards to religion, and open to understanding," said one expat in Buenos Aires. Another expat in San Rafael said, "Not in the least diverse! Well over 90% catholic and well over 95% of European descent. The main employment in the area at the moment is in agriculture, but tourism is rapidly gaining a hold. People here are pretty relaxed about everything. Their reaction to people pretty much depends on your own attitude."
Social Life in Argentina
"There's a small but very friendly group expats - so there's always someone to take you for a game of squash at the squash club or tennis at the tennis club. Weekends are usually spent having an asado with friends in either Valle Grande or Los Reyunos where you can also go rafting, hiking, camping, paragliding or just swim in the lakes and rivers. Then there's always Scottish dancing at Mike Stewarts! There are plenty of gyms and martial arts establishments to join, it's a very outdoors, fit lifestyle," explained one expat in San Rafael.
"My wife and I had mostly Argentina friends, and a few from Uruguay and Brazil. We liked to go to restaurants, classical music concerts, opera, tango music and dance activities. My wife also helped me to learn to ride horses," said another expat in Buenos Aires.
Inflation in Argentina
"Virtually every time I bought something they tried to short change me. The inflation rate is about 30%, it has been for years and there is no sign of getting better. If you buy a product and go back 2 weeks later most likely it will be more. Alot times the raise is 25% not gradually," said one expat in Argentina.
Employment Contracts in Argentina
"First things first. When going anywhere you need to keep your currency in something stable. As you see now there is a huge inflation rate going on there. Look at the job contract and see if it pays local or otherwise. If otherwise you can control it and thus avoid the in country issues. This is usual if they are a smart employer," advised one expat.
Having a Baby in Argentina
"We had our baby in a Sanatorio in Buenos Aires. It was a wonderfull experience. I chose a healthcare team that really made me feel cared for. I felt I was in good hands since the moment we interviewed the obstetrician. When we arrived to the sanatorio the anesthesiologist was waiting for me. I got the epidural right away. The parteras where really nice and tried to comfort me," said one expat who had a baby in Buenos Aires.
"Make sure you get your private insurance as soon as possible. I would recommend purchasing the best coverage you can afford so that you have full coverage, as well as no deductibles or copays. Medicus and OSDE are two excellent choices," advised another expat.
Finding a Home in Argentina
"I forgot to mention that the normal rental period, which is settled by law to be 2 years is extendable by a year (or more) at a time if both parties agree. The rent is always increased in the second and following years, for the time being by some 20-25 per cent, because of the inflation. When you come to stay for some time, rent a tourist apartment instead of staying in a hotel. It is not only cheaper (expect - off season - some AR$ 2,500-3,000 = US$ 600-750 a month for a livingroom + 1 bedroom + bath + kitchen + mucama (cleaning lady) twice a week in microcentro = midtown, downtown). Much more expensive in December, January and February - zillions of tourist here. The kitchen enables you to not only save quite a bit on food, but also give you a good idea of food prices."
"A good friend of mine living in his own house in the most attractive part of Mendoza (la Quinta Sección), living/dining room + 1 large and 4 small bedrooms + kitchen etc. + a small garden, house priced app. AR$ 600,000 = U$S 150,000, the family has 2 cars, and they live comfortably on AR$ 8,000 = U$S 2,000 a month. My own apartment in la Quinta Sección is the 2 upper stories of a 3 storey house, 124 sq.meter = 1,330 sq.ft. living/dining room + 1 large + 1 small bedroom + kitchen, 1 bathroom + patio + a roof terrace of 72 sq.meter = 780 sq.ft., the rent per month in the next year is AR$ 2,000 (but should be 2,900, rented through a friend of a friend) + water, gas, electricity, community, internet, which totals AR$ 300, i.e. normally a total of AR$ 3,200 = U$S 800. In a nice, but less attractive section of town or in the suburbs we can find you a home for 4 persons at a total cost of app. AR$ 2,400 = U$S 600. Search here to get an indication of current housing prices, buy or rent: http://www.cocucci.com.ar. Note that it's impossible to rent a home without a 'guarante' (which may be bought as a kind of insurance) or payment in advance and that the normal rental period is settled by law to be 2 years - temporary rental exists but are more expensive," said another expat.
"Argentina does not have a mortgage industry, and everyone owns his/her home free and clear," advised one expat.
Cars are Very Expensive in Argentina - New and Used
"We finally bought a new car and the experience was the same as when we looked for a Tractor for our vineyards. At first we pursued buying “Used” only to find out that used tractors and cars are outrageously priced. A 15 years old junker car here can fetch US$5,000. Our ex-pat friends paid US$33,000 for a brand new Nissan Sentra. We paid US$18,000 for a brand new Chevrolet 5 door mid size," explained one expat in Mendoza.
Healthcare in Argentina
"Health care in Argentina is "for free", i.e. financed through the taxes. It is middling good, almost all doctors are as competent as elsewhere, but equipment is somewhat behind what you find in the northern socalled "Western World", thus not excellent, except if you have a health insurance - but they'll never let you die in the street as it sometimes happens in the US. Additional private health care is bought as an insurance and has a price scale, which - not surprisingly - is pretty steep when you are older than 65, it can almost as expensive as in the US, depending on e.g. pre-existing conditions, level of coverage, deductibles, etc," explained one expat.
About the Author
Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.
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First Published: Nov 17, 2012