One of the questions I frequently get asked in Argentina when I tell them I’m from New York is whether or not the stereotypes of New York City are true and everyone there is “mean.”
“People there are just very driven,” I would say, referring to how people on the streets of Manhattan often walk with a purpose from point A to point B without actively trying to meet people or stopping to have conversations, keeping up with the fast-paced life of the city. New Yorkers are strong and determined in everything they do.
Argentines do bring up a good point when they ask me this: the pace of everyday living is completely different here and I have had to calibrate to “Argentine time”—the slower pace of life—and the flexibility that in a day, only so much can get done.
I wake up in the morning and have a typical Argentine breakfast: two pieces of toast with a coffee. Sometimes I like to put some dulce de leche or caramel on my toast. Dulce de leche is very popular here and I can eat it for days.
I walk to the academic building which is about fifteen minutes away from my house. I usually enjoy this walk as the seasons are changing and it gets warmer outside. Our academic building is located in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires—a beautiful, Hogwarts-like building that used to be the Angolan embassy in Argentina.
I have two hours of Spanish literature class, in which we discuss works with an Argentine emphasis, from local authors such as María Sonia Cristoff to globally known authors such as Jorge Luis Borges.
Then, it is lunchtime. I usually try to find something on the way home from school, but I’ve noticed one thing: stores in Buenos Aires never seem to open on time, so I sometimes go through this frenzy of trying to find a place to get food: the first part of how I am becoming flexible to the environment here. I usually get two to three empanadas for lunch, which are Argentine “sandwiches” stuffed with carne (beef), pollo (chicken), jamón y queso (ham and cheese), etc. I’ve started eating so many empanadas here that my host dad calls me the rey de empanadas (king of empanadas).
In the afternoon, I usually try to do some sort of exploration in Buenos Aires. Today, I am trying to go to El Ateneo, a famous bookstore built inside an old theater, to buy a book I need for my Spanish class that my Spanish teacher had just told me about a few hours ago.
I go to El Ateneo and they don’t have the book I need. Fine. I walk to the bookstore down the block, but am disappointed again that they don’t have the book I need either. I start asking for recommendations of bookstores to get it at and get a list of about ten other bookstores around the area and go to visit all of them. None of them have it. My planned, “hour-long” trip to the bookstore then becomes a four or five hour ordeal and I end up getting nothing done. This is part of the pace of life in Argentina—and why it is so important for me to be flexible. My reading is not going to get done today. (I found a PDF of it later.)
I get home, and in my frenzy of walking around the city, it is already dinner time. I eat with my family every night while having discussions with them about my day. Dinner usually lasts a long time.
By now, it is 11 PM, and the only “real” thing that got accomplished today was going to class. I have accepted the fact that things are just going to get done more slowly here in Argentina and I was going to have to accept it. I take a shower to freshen up before I sit down at my desk and start my homework for the next day, going well into the night as all of my readings are usually in Spanish and each text takes me about 2-3 hours to read. But I have gotten used to staying up late as that is a huge part of Argentine nightlife. I’m accustomed to it now from going out during the weekends.
My daily life in Argentina is characterized by the laid-back vibe here. Life moves at a slower pace and I’m working everyday to adapt to it.