Steve has been gone for a week now and there’s another four to go so I’ve been finding my feet in Buenos Aires alone. Most of the time I’m quite happy wandering the city and setting up camp in cafes with my iPad and a good smoothie, but sometimes I want some company. Travelling alone is rarely as lonely as it sounds so I thought I’d share my tips on going solo in the city – and not just hanging out with fellow travellers/ex-pats (although sometimes that’s lovely too).
Sharing with a local
I am renting a room in an apartment with Aldana, an Argentinian girl who speaks very little English. This is not only great for my Spanish, but also gives me an insight into how a true Porteña lives. We share mate (an Argentinian drink I’ll write a post about soon) daily and exchange language tips. I’ve been really lucky to find someone I get along with so well – it’s nice to have someone in the city who notices if you’re home late and calls to check if you’re okay. I found my apartment on Compartdepto. It took quite a lot of trawling through loads of student accommodation and houe shares for foreigners, but it was worth it in the end. Craig’s List also lists rooms, but not so many and most are to share with foreigners rather than locals.
Whenever I get to a new place, I always look for couchsurfers in the area, either to stay with or meet up with. I had a bit of a head start in Buenos Aires as I had already met a couchsurfer from the city a few years ago in Spain. Steve and I stayed with Roberto in Boedo when we first arrived, and I spent a lovely day with him and his girlfriend on Sunday. They took me to a small art museum and a park that aren’t listed in the guide books – finding such hidden places is definitely one of the joys of Couchsurfing (CS).
Couchsurfing groups are also an excellent way to meet people. There is one main group for Buenos Aires and then loads of sub-groups such as Buenos Aires culture, yoga or frisbee. Whatever your interests, you’re likely to find some people who share them. Tonight I am going to a weekly CS meeting, which more than 40 people have replied to. It’s at a local bar in Palermo. I’m not sure what it’ll be like yet, but I’m sure it’ll be a good opportunity to meet people. Other events that have caught my eye are a book lovers’ evening with folk music, a weekend picnic in the park and a trip to an estancia outside the city.
On the first night that Steve left for California, I went to Jueves a la Mesa, a vegetarian puerta cerrada restaurant in San Telmo. This concept is really popular in Buenos Aires and it’s where the line between restaurant and dinner party becomes blurred. They are usually held in the chef’s home and, although some have individual tables, I went to one where everyone sat around the same one. It is run by Meghan, a yoga teacher from the states, and the menu is completely vegetarian. She changes it every other week and there is always a theme. Not only was the food delicious, but I met some excellent people including both locals, travellers and ex-pats. Some of us went out for a drink afterwards and I am meeting up with three of them separately in the next week. I’ll definitely be heading back to Jueves a la Mesa and other puerta cerradas, both for the food and the company.
One of my main objectives in South America is to get better at Spanish. I can understand quite a lot but my confidence is terrible when it comes to speaking. Living with Aldana helps, but I wanted to do more so decided to go to a Spanglish event. Spanglish is a similar concept to speed dating – you get paired with a Spanish speaker and talk for ten minutes in Spanish and ten minutes in English, then you swap to someone new. Somehow I got confused and managed to go to the only night that doesn’t follow this format. Instead, I found myself at a bilingual quiz night. This wasn’t so bad as I do love a quiz, but unfortunately it was mostly made up of English speakers. It was also called beerlingual, which was a good hint that it might not be my scene. When I left, there were a lot of young travellers well on their way to oblivion. Nevertheless, I did meet some lovely people and am meeting up with one of them this weekend. I also intend to go to next week’s traditional Spanglish event.
Find a yoga class
You could replace yoga with an pastime you like, but yoga is my practice of choice. I’ve joined the Valle Tierra centre in Palermo Soho and go to classes most days. Again, this is great for my Spanish although sometimes the teacher gives instructions in English too. I’ve made friends with one of the teachers and may go on her retreat next month. I’ve also met some of my fellow classmates and went for a walk with one of them after class yesterday.
I’ve also head that Kitchen Party is a good place to meet people but there aren’t any events coming up in Buenos Aires as of yet. Also, if you’re interested in meeting fellow expats, you can look on BA Expats and Expat Connection.
All the things I’ve tried so far have been great for meeting people. It’s my birthday tomorrow and we’re having a meal in the apartment with Aldana, one of her friends, Roberto and his girlfriend. Afterwards we might go out to a bar with some of the other people I’ve met. It’s only been a week, but already I feel like I have friends. It’s not quite the same as being surrounded by familiar faces, but I think it’s a good start.
Let me know if you have any other tips for how to meet people in Buenos Airea and other cities.