Buenos Aires is one of the world’s most beguiling places, best known worldwide as the land of the tango, its most famous cultural export. It is a dance of passion, sensuality, longing, and nostalgia that is an apt metaphor for this city where everything is approached, considered and conducted with passion.
Buenos Aires is also friendly, welcoming, open, and accessible in a way that makes it easy, once you’ve experienced it, to say, “I could see myself living here.” This is a city that is both Latin American and European in culture and lifestyle. It’s a place that feels both comfortably familiar and different and exciting. The city boasts both green, sprawling parks and impressive world-class architecture. It’s a place where the New and the Old Worlds blend harmoniously.
Centuries-old grand dame Art Noveau apartment buildings dating back centuries with their original crown molding and iron-railed balconies coexist in this Paris of South America alongside shiny new skyscrapers, and it all works. The city is fast-paced and trendsetting in art, design, and style, but, at the same time, the cobbler on the corner and the neighborhood tailor are working in the same locations where they have been for decades. Argentines themselves are much like their city. They have a deep respect and admiration for the past, yet they are always energetically innovating and looking forward.
Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires, is a destination that has welcomed immigrants and expats since the mid-1800s. Much of the population claims Italian or Spanish heritage or both. The connections are clear when you walk the streets of Buenos Aires. Everywhere are pasta and pizza shops, and Spanish is spoken with a noticeable Italian inflection. These traits are blended with cultures and traditions from all around the world, including afternoon tea time, popular English sports like polo and rugby and the French architecture in the Recoleta neighborhood.
At the same time, Argentina has its own distinct culture. The cow is elevated to almost holy heights in this country, and care and concern are taken as to how it is grown, fed and ultimately prepared. Red meat is a staple of the Argentine diet, and Argentines gather for “asados” with friends and family at least once a week.
One of the most important things for retirees in Buenos Aires to adjust to is this city’s schedule, which favors the nocturnal. The average workday starts at 9 or even 10 a.m. and goes until 6 p.m. Lunch is taken around 1 or 2 p.m., a snack around 5 p.m. and then dinner at 9 p.m. Many restaurants that serve lunch and dinner close at 4 p.m. and then reopen for dinner at 8 p.m., meaning you aren’t going to eat any earlier.
Keep in mind, too, that seasons are swapped here in the Southern Hemisphere, and Buenos Aires enjoys all four of them. Christmas is celebrated in the balmy days of summer, and summer can be hot, with temperatures in the 90s.
Buenos Aires can be an easy place to slide into as a foreign retiree. Much of the local population speaks English and is eager to practice with foreigners, as well as to show off their city. And it’s easy to connect with fellow foreign transplants. Many expat meeting groups are active in the city, and many online resources and forums are dedicated to helping expats and foreign retirees, including, for example, BA Expats.
The main appeal of retirement in Buenos Aires is the city itself. However, retirees here will find that their budget can stretch far. You can have a lavish steak dinner with wine, appetizers and accompaniments for less than US$20, even at some of the nicest steakhouses in town. Still, the city is not the secretly cheap steal it once was. This is a world-class city on par with other cosmopolitan capitals around the world, and prices generally reflect that.
Furnished apartment rentals start at around US$500 a month for a studio or one-bedroom. From there, the sky is the limit, because Buenos Aires is a place where a true luxury-level lifestyle is possible.
Argentina is not one of the world’s current bargain destinations, and establishing legal residency can be a challenge. So, Buenos Aires might best be considered as a part-time retirement choice. You could spend winter here (remember, the seasons are reversed), enjoying one of the world’s most intriguing and exciting lifestyles while the snow is falling up north, and spend the rest of the year somewhere more affordable and closer to home.
Kathleen Peddicord is the publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, offering retirement and overseas living advice in her free daily Overseas Opportunity Letter and the monthly Overseas Retirement Letter. Her preceding essay first appeared on U.S. News & World Report.