Growing up in Russia, it was hard to imagine any place with warm winters. For years, I got my virtual fill of South America through films like The Motorcycle Diaries, Evita and El Secreto de sus Ojos, but it wasn’t until last month that I experienced the real thing. I have my best friend to thank; she was marrying an Argentinian so, of course, I had to fly in for the wedding. There was no way I could miss her BIG day.
Getting there, however, posed a serious threat to my bank account 🙂 As a student, money is always an issue for me, and with flights to Buenos Aires costing $1400, it was simply out of my budget. Luckily, Grabr has a huge community of shoppers in Argentina and by accepting bigger grabs and putting higher bids on these larger items, I was able to pay for my entire flight. It kind of felt like a game; the more items I bid on, the more earnings I made.
With spending money now in my pocket, I was off and away. Here are 5 fun-facts you probably never knew about Argentina…or, at least, I didn’t!
1) The language takes its own form.
Sure, I knew that people in Argentina speak Spanish but I had no idea that their “Spanish” is different from any other South American country. The first thing that threw me off was their accents. Not only do Argentinians speak very fast (and with their hands like Italians), but they rarely pronounce the “s” in words.
To a newby Spanish speaker, it felt like I was always trying to catch up. Along with the sing-song rhythm typical of Italian, Argentines make a “sh” sound instead of the “y” sound like I was taught in school and use the “vos” verb form instead of “tu.” Luckily, many lcoals spoke English so I was able to deliver all my grabs pretty seamlessly. Still, there is a definite learning curve here! #BuenosAires
2) People crave “everyday” items.
As my trip to Buenos Aires neared, orders kept rolling in and I accepted as many as my suitcase would carry. Many of the grabs were ones that I’d consider basic “everyday” items. One woman ordered sheets from IKEA that saved her about $20, even with my traveler reward added to the total. Argentina doesn’t have IKEA so, without Grabr, she’d likely be spending $55 on average for a set from a local store.
The “everyday” grabs didn’t end there. I delivered a Uniqlo jacket and sweaters to shoppers, which makes sense since South America’s seasons are opposite of ours in the US. Then there was the Ukrainian woman living in Buenos Aires who ordered a body brush from the Body Shop. Another guy ordered a pretty intense-looking foot care kit. I didn’t even know foot care kits existed! Grab after grab, I saw how much people rely on Grabr to get daily essentials.
3) The culture is multi-layered.
Argentina’s culture is like a mystery novel; it’s layered with clues and just when you think you’ve got it solved, it throws you a curveball. From the men (seriously, they are gorgeous!) to the colorful buildings in La Boca and the historic streets of San Telmo, I felt like I had slipped into one of the foreign flicks I grew up watching. Choosing to deliver my grabs in various neighborhoods was the best decision I could have made. I got to sample the best coffee shops in the city, indulge in sweet treats like dulce de leche and savor glass after glass of Malbec.
In my opinion, Buenos Aires is a mix of my favorite European capitals. You’ve got the architecture of Paris, the late night dinners typical in Spain (seriously, don’t even think about getting dinner before 10pm) and the weather of the Mediterranean.. I’m not the only one who thinks so. In fact, Buenos Aires is sometimes called the “Paris of South America,” thanks to its Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Baroque architectural styles found in the Recoleta neighborhood.
4) Not all food is equal…and that’s a good thing.
After eating my way through Argentina, I can safely say that Buenos Aires is a foodie’s dream destination and there’s a lot more to it than red wine and steak. For example, the empanada, which you can find just about anywhere in Argentina, originated in the northern city of Tucumán. You’ll notice small differences in ingredients and consistency when you order empanadas in Buenos Aires. Then, there was one shopper who gave me a lesson in alfajores tasting. Apparently, Havana and El Cachafaz alfajores have nothing on the ones you’ll find in Cordoba.
Don’t be afraid to splurge here and there on cuisine. Most meals are fairly affordable and there are always street markets you can hit up for local grub. Head to the iconic Guerrin for the best pizza of your life or chow down on Medialunas at Bar Britanico in San Telmo. Don’t skip town before experiencing breakfast at cafe Cortazar. For organic eats in one of the best neighborhoods, do some shopping at Organic Fixtures in Palermo Hollywood.
5) It’s safer (and friendlier!) than you think.
It’s easy to feel intimidated in a new city, especially when there’s a big language barrier and, on top of that, I’m a single female traveling alone. Despite being warned about safety concerns in South America and Buenos Aires in particular, I had the opposite experience. There are so many people around at all hours of the day and night. Even walking from the Microcentro to my hotel in Retiro felt secure.
I also should note that Argentines are some of the nicest, most passionate people around. Every shopper I met was so thrilled to receive their orders that I basically became like a long lost sister to them. Rodrigo gave me a local’s tour of San Telmo after receiving his Uniqlo jacket. Then there was Mel who showed me around her gallery in La Boca.
Written by Megan Eileen McDonough & Lisa Bogadist-Kataeva.
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