Top 3 ways to meet locals in Buenos Aires
comment 4 Written by on October 20, 2009 – 8:37 am

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It’s not hard to strike up a conversation with a porteño. From kiosco queues to bar rooms, as soon as your accent’s overheard, you’ll find yourself enveloped in their holy trinity of small-talk questions: ‘where you come from?’, ‘what you’re doing here?’, and, that all-time favourite, ‘what do you think of Argentina?’. But ten minutes of friendly chitchat aside, it can be hard for a visitor to get a real foothold into the Argentinian way of life. If you stay in a hostel, your contact is predominantly with other travellers; if you’re in hotel, the receptionist may do a sterling job professing interest in your daily sightseeing, but this rarely goes beyond ten minutes. So how do you break the cycle? Here are my top-three tips.

Spanglish

Imagine a speed-dating event but participants are using their ten-minute window to practice languages rather than trying to score a date. This is Spanglish, an event held in various bars across BA. I love the idea and so, it seems, do many others, as the event has created a solid name for itself during its first year. (The anniversary party is this Friday.) Here’s how they explain the concept:

Spanglish is a language exchange that brings together native English speakers, native Spanish speakers, and just enough beer to make it less intimidating to practice a foreign language.  Our format of one-on-one “mini-conversations” that last for 10 minutes (5 in Spanish, 5 in English), give you the chance to practice your conversation skills with multiple native speakers.

Attending Spanglish is a great way to mix with locals. It costs AR$20 (including a drink) and you can go as often, or as sporadically, as you like. See the website for venue details.

Alternatively – wherever you are – you could arrange your own language exchange: try posting on Craigslist or Gumtree. Or you can even do it the good, old-fashioned way. Not long ago I saw a note pinned to the wall in a Bolivian cafe advertising for a language exchange partner. 

Couchsurfing.com

The most active forum on Couchsurfing.com  is the Buenos Aires city group with nearly 8,000 members. You’d be forgiven for presuming that members primarily post to make pleas for a spare sofa or to arrange expat get-togethers, but the real key to its success is its thriving local contingency. The majority of the action is organised by Argentinians or longterm residents, who have formed an ultra-social – and totally non-exclusive – pack. Everyone is invited to step into their non-stop social life. A quick browse around the message board is all you need to discover almost daily (and nightly) activities, from picnics and gigs to house parties and camping trips. And if there isn’t anything you fancy, you can start something yourself. Want someone to tango dance with? Want to arrange lunch with someone who shares your interests? Post up a note and you may be in luck.

Puerta Cerrada dinners

Is Buenos Aires the world capital of in-house restaurants? It can seem like it at times. Attending a night behind a puerta cerrada (closed door) is a great way to meet people. Essentially it’s like choosing a dinner party invite, which is much more social than cocooning yourself away anonymously in a corner of regular restaurant. You’re likely to meet some fellow tourists, but there is usually a smattering of locals too. Christina Wiseman of Cocina Sunae told me the other day that she has one regular who comes every week. See also Casa SaltShaker, Casa Felix and Cocina Discreta.

A version of this article first appeared in Time Out Buenos Aires for Visitors. Photo: the tourist trap of La Boca. Copyright: Vicky Baker.

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4 Responses to “Top 3 ways to meet locals in Buenos Aires”

  1. Another great post! Planning to do something similar for Grantourismo – have a few extra tips to share – and I’ll link back to this! x

  2. Oo, please do. Would love to read that. Send me a link when it’s up.

    By Vicky Baker on Mar 11, 2010 | Reply
  3. This post contains little golden nuggets of information. So useful! I’m planning a month in Buenos Aires in Oct/Nov and I’ll be writing about the local life. These are great tips – thank you!

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