“I think we might have made a mistake,” I told Mike as we walked by the river hand in hand. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky and several small dogs were frolicking at our feet. All around us happy people jogged, cycled and roller bladed (along with mullets, roller blading never went out of style in Argentina). Mike nodded grimly.
We hadn’t been out of Buenos Aries for 24 hours and already I was falling in love with somewhere else. I had complicated feelings for BA, it’s beautiful, but it’s messy, stressful and polluted. Rosario on the other hand, is excellent. It’s just a three hour bus ride away but it’s a polar opposite. It’s not as glamorous as Buenos Aires but it’s cleaner, the people are a thousand times friendlier and everything is less expensive.
It’s probably the most livable city I have seen in South America. It’s full of tall leafy trees and sprawling park land. People bike and jog and sip mate on the sparkling grass by the riverfront. The place is crawling with dogs, more dogs per person than I’ve seen anywhere and I am a total sucker for dogs. Even the ice cream is cheaper and tastes better than Buenos Aires ice cream. It meets every requirement I want in a city (mainly: cute dogs and tasty ice cream).
So, why didn’t I even consider setting up shop anywhere but Buenos Aires? There are a couple reasons, some more practical than others.
- Mike’s family lives in the BA suburbs, and we obviously wanted to spend time with them.
- When in doubt my default is usually to head for the biggest city around. In my entire life, I’ve never lived in a metropolitan area of less than a million people, usually many more.
- Everybody just says such amazing things about BA, so without even having visited I was sure I’d love it.
The error I made, that so many people make, is that what makes a city nice to visit isn’t the same as what makes it nice to live in. Visitors love Buenos Aires because of it’s faded old world elegance, it’s hectic pace and it’s big city urgency. When you live there though things are not so simple, and the BAExpats forum is full of the head aches that actually living in Buenos Aires entails.
Rosario on the other hand may not hold much for tourists, but the locals look super happy. There’s lots of public spaces, beautiful apartment buildings great, Southern California style weather. I could see myself happily installed in one of the apartments that line the avenue, typing away, taking a break for a sunset walk along the river…
Of course it’s easy to idealize a city you don’t live in (for example, there were some truly horrific slums we passed on the way into town- this seems to be a pan-Argentina issue). Nonetheless, the past couple days have been pretty eye-opening. Maybe in the future I need to think outside the box when choosing where to spend my time. I’m glad we had the time we did in Buenos Aires of course, but I will be more careful and less impulsive the next time we decide to live somewhere.