For the first 18 years of my life I lived with my parents. After that I left for college and for the next 8 years I mostly with friends and, every odd summer or so, with my parents. When I came to Buenos Aires I lived with my friends Lysa and Juan for the first few months. Then I decided to move out into an apartment by myself.
I had never lived alone before and it was incredibly intimidating on a few fronts. However, as both of those facts made it more attractive, I decided that it was now or never. For a multitude of reasons ranging from economic solvency to fear of themselves many people never get the oppurtunity to live alone and I took it with gusto. I’m interested to hear what other solitary expats feel about living alone in Buenos Aires but this is my experience.
I was faced with two options. I could rent a fully furnished place for the prices you see on craigslist. That wasn’t going to happen. Or I could find a nonfurnished place that didn’t need a garantia because I didn’t have one. (I write about garantias over here.) Well, a coworker of mine was luckily vacating his apartment and I moved right in. It was one bedroom, one dining room, one kitchen and a den. Unfortunately they were all combined into the same room. There was also a bathroom. I should explain about the kitchen. It wasn’t really a kitchen. It was a “kitchenette” which is the what the foldaway bed is to a real bed.
My first problem was that I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have plates or silverware to eat the food that which I could not cook without pots and pans. I couldn’t even buy food in the meantime because I had no fridge. I ate a lot of empanadas for the first few weeks. I should also mention tha, while I had no sheets, bed, or lamp, I did have a futon which my friend Alexis had given me on her departure back to the States.
The lack of these items exposed other, more glaring issues like 1) I did not know how or where to get them and 2) I did not know how to ask. I was still at that stage where people think that because you speak like a 4 year old you must have the same needs and desires as a 4 year old. While this was actually true I had the additional “adult” responsibilities of being a consumer and buying my own toilet paper.
Starting from scratch and getting all the items to live in an apartment was very difficult for me. I don’t really know why it was so difficult but I think that I was so overwhelmed by other things that it was always impossible to get the bigger picture of what was going on, what I needed to do what I wanted to do. This was made much more difficult by the insane, nagging eternal question: “When are you going home?” I didn’t have any idea and my life was a constant weighing of things that would never have seemed like a big deal: should I buy chairs and a table if I’ll be here for a year? How many chairs? How big of a table? and so on. Even after a year and a half, with no immediate plans to return and an apartment full of everything I need, I still play this game: Should I buy a washing machine if I’ll only be here one more year?
So living alone not only brought up these very existential questions, it also isolated me from my friends and from an immediate social support network. Now if I were feeling down, or even just wanted to hang out, there wasn’t anyone automatically there. I would actually have to pick up the phone and call folks. This would have been great in a world where I already had a social network but, in retrospect, I was asking for trouble by doing it. This isolation was compounded by the fact that this was the first time I was living in a city anywhere close to as big and bustling as Buenos Aires.
Looking back a bit over a year later I’ve moved to a bigger and nicer place, am much better adjusted, and love not having to worry about other people’s dishes. I also love that I have my own furniture and can do whatever I want. It makes me feel more solid, less transient. Living alone helped me in the long term, perhaps, but taking the plunge so soon, without having fully acclimatized set me back overall and made the integration process more difficult than it had to be. If you are moving to Buenos Aires and you are deciding between the two and have never lived alone before, approach it with care. It’s not for the faint of heart.