We have developed a 6th sense when it comes to thieves... and obviously you can understand why.
On Monday, we went and completed a little Christmas shopping (for ourselves). A new pair of Tango shoes for K (pair number 5) and two Tango suits and a pair of pants for Jorge (think mobster look). As we were returning home in the subway, we were ambushed by two, short, young thieves. They made a beeline for Jorge - one on his left side and one on his right. It was so ridiculously obvious!? We both started staring at them and noticed they both had the jacket-over-the-arm thing going on. They started feeling Jorge's pockets right away!? So at the same time, the both of us swiped away the one guy's arm and he played stupid!?!?!? K then looked at the other guy and gave him the South American "watch out" look (see below... hehehehe).
Photo from: http://www.engr.uiuc.edu/international-StudentExperience/SouthAmericaExperience/ArgentinaExperience/Wilson_Argentina_SU03/images/Ojo.jpg
Still they gave us looks of confusion and innocence! We couldn't help but laugh and say, "Do we look stupid?!". They got off at the next stop - which was our stop - and we saw them look around, spot a female tourist and get right back on the same car.
THEN, after dinner with the parents, we were walking home and since we walk so fast, we got ahead of the parents. All of a sudden, K noticed there was a sketchy dude closing in behind us. So K said to Jorge, "sketchy behind" and at that moment, dad yelled, "KRISSY!" from about 10 metres behind us. K responded, "I KNOW!" The parents totally saw it about to happen too. At that point, sketchy dude immediately pretended to go chat with the security guy at the parking garage.
We cannot even begin to understand how people love living in this city. Especially if they are coming from North America or Europe (cleaner, safer, friendlier). What is rather interesting is that every time someone says, "I love this city" and we respond, "We hate it", that person generally changes the tone of their story immediately. For example, they then say, "Oh yeah, I hate the pollution, the food is all the same, the city is quite ugly...." Say what!? Yet the same people we hear saying those comments are also the same ones who say they are considering moving here.
It is our observation that people love to sugar-coat things. After spending a lot of money on a trip to Buenos Aires, they find it next to impossible to say, "I really don't like this city." We've also noticed that many of the people who say they love this city and are here for more than a short vacation (and are not here solely for Tango) are going through some major issues (recent divorces, feeling lost about what to do with their lives, looking for a boy/girlfriend, low self-esteem, or they simply love drama and this city has plenty of it to offer).
If you are not perfectly bilingual in this city, you will be screwed over constantly. We even recently read a blog of a foreigner who has been living here for a couple of years. She went shopping and asked the price of a product. She was quoted double the price simply because she wasn't Argentinean. She had to tell the store clerk that she lives in pesos like them in order to be quoted a normal price (or shown a product of a lower price). Prices are rarely on display here, therefore it is almost impossible to avoid this kind of behaviour.
This behaviour is what leads us to laugh at the whole idea that Argentineans are such a proud people. Where is the pride when you are lying and cheating? Where is the pride when you have no problem throwing your garbage all over the street and leaving your dog poo on the ground? Where is the pride when you spray graffiti all over your buildings? We definitely don't believe in this concept of pride or the idea that Argentinean people accept their hard lives. What they excel at is keeping their feelings bottled up. We have yet to witness any kind of outburst (besides the traditional protest at the Congress). We have yet to witness someone giving a person the finger. The people here stay cool as a cucumber at all times. However, all this means is that they have been brought up to believe that confrontation and sharing frustrated feelings of any kind is bad and taboo behaviour.
There are two references made all the time when speaking about this city. One deals with the pride we just mentioned. "Buenos Aires' proud and stylish locals, known as porteños, are South America's chicest citizens, boasting a flair..." We have read it over and over again that the Argentinean people take great pride in their appearance. Unless they work downtown in the business district, this is not the case. They barely style their hair, they wear no makeup (not that ANY women has to wear makeup), they wear old and very low-quality clothes, and they wear the same clothes day after day (obviously money plays the biggest role in this and our point is only that these travel books are writing a load of crap).
The second reference often made: "Eating out in Buenos Aires is one of the city's great pleasures, with a huge variety of restaurants from the chic to the cheap.... excellent steak... expertly cooked... head to Puerto Madero..." We hear the same complaint about the food that we have. Variety does not exist here and neither do spices. During a one-week holiday here, you can experience all the food the city has to offer. In ONE week!? Now that the parents are here and treating us to the more upscale restaurants, we can now safely say that the food does not get any better. It only gets more expensive and oftentimes, worse. Puerto Madero (an area near downtown) is only for tourists and the rich locals, and is the place we experienced one of the worst meals we've had in the city. However the worst steak we've had is at one of the "chic" restaurants found in the Palermo area.
"Buenos Aires is chock full of excellent food, and you'll dine very well whether you eat meat or not." That quote from one of our travel books is a joke and a half. Vegetarians can experience what Buenos Aires has to offer in HALF a week and they'll have to pay ridiculous prices for it in a vegetarian restaurant.
Anyone who knows us knows that we are "foodies". We are not food snobs and we are known to favour the local dives found in Toronto's China Town. We are simply people who know our food and appreciate quality, flavour, and variety. At this point, Burrito Boyz in Toronto outranks most of the places we've eaten at here in all three categories.
For a wonderfully written article on Buenos Aires, we recommend http://www.travelintelligence.com/travel-writing/1001555/Mexico-Central-and-South-America/Argentina/Buenos-Aires-and-the-Pampas/Buenos-Aires/Buenos-Aires.html. The author speaks humourously about the "pride" people have in ripping you off :o)