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Fortunately And Unfortunately–Buenos Aires, Warts And All

“Buenos Aires,” writes Correspondent Siri Lise Doub, “reminds me of that children’s story ‘Fortunately and Unfortunately…’

“Fortunately, Buenos Aires is in a great location, making it a good place for a regional office and blessing it with a mild, warm climate year-round.

“Unfortunately, the city, like this entire country, suffers from an openly corrupt government.

“Fortunately, even with its government, Argentina’s growth rate is relatively high at about 6%. People somewhere in the country are making money somehow.

“Unfortunately, its inflation rate is through the roof. Prices are rising daily.

“Fortunately, it is still very inexpensive. Even with rising costs, prices are still much lower than they are in many countries.

“The prices in Argentina were artificially low following the 2001 financial crisis and were going to have to rise. That’s what’s happening now. Even so, averages are substantially less than those in neighboring Chile and Uruguay. The government’s bizarre economic policies and price controls have actually served to support many of the low prices. A dinner out for two with wine and several courses is still only about US$40. A gardener charges US$63 a month at the current rate of exchange. Entrance for some museums is less than US$1.

“Unfortunately, you can’t find many foreign products–like Tabasco or Pringles–because of import controls imposed by the aforementioned corrupt government.

“Fortunately, the city is so fashion-forward that you can arrange a manicure and pedicure even in the maternity ward of a hospital.

“Unfortunately, a size larger than a 4 is hard to come by in women’s clothing stores. Thin is definitely in.

“Fortunately, Argentina is a bread basket with a huge wheat export and just about the best meat in the world.

“Unfortunately, there is a ban on meat export because of price controls…so don’t plan on starting a business on the country’s most-valued product.

“See what I mean?

“It’s a question of what you want out of life. You’ll need to take an honest look in the mirror before you decide whether this could be the place for you. The people who choose Buenos Aires do so with their eyes wide open. And most never look back.

“One friend took a vacation here to fly fish. He returned to live for two years in 2004, and he’s still there today.

“Another friend didn’t even make it home in-between. He went down for a month and is still in BA three years later. Another lived there for four years in the 90’s and never forgot the experience. He finally has been able to return to make BA his home today.

“They all say frankly: ‘I’ll take inconvenient Argentina over most any other more convenient place any day.’

“There’s something about this city that captures peoples’ hearts.

“Bottom line, Buenos Aires offers a terrific quality of life: In spite of the fact that BA is a big city (largest in Argentina, second-largest in South America) there is a laid-back quality of life here which many find refreshing.

“I spoke to one expat who describes Buenos Aires as ‘removed,’ with a ‘small town feel.’ The expat community is not overwhelming–you can do with it what you’d like–and the cultural barriers are not immense. People are friendly and pleasant–even in the service industry. Waiters, cashiers…even airport staff is less surly than you’ll find in many other major cities. Domestic help is also wonderful. My friend Amanda pronounced her nanny and housekeeper the ‘best I’ve ever had in my life.’

“Another expat said that, although she was initially unsure about returning to Argentina, ‘once I arrived, I was actually glad to have left America–a feeling I have never experienced before, in all the places I’ve lived…'”

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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