It’s cold in Buenos Aires, which is an unpleasant surprise for which I hadn’t prepared when leaving the perpetual grey of Great Britain for the “tropical shores” of Latin America. I certainly hadn’t envisioned wearing a scarf, or anything other than linen shorts for that matter, but here it is: an Argentine winter.
Okay, the approaching winter doesn’t seem like it’s going to be too bad. And let’s face it, it’s only going to last about a week, rather than the nine and a half months of winter that northern Europe has to trudge through every year. But winter is now kicking into gear, which is an unfortunate blemish on a country tailored to summer, well, except for those curious sadists who claim, “I actually prefer the winter.” Yeah, I’m not buying that one. This city’s asados go way too well with summer heat.
So here is my quick guide to withstanding a first winter in Buenos Aires.
So, About that PH You Rented…
Remember that time you found your new house in January? When you saw those wide open indoor patios, those skylight windows that can’t shut, and those breeze block walls, and you were like: “This is perfect, I’m going to wake up every day with beautiful light shining through those windows and bask in the sun as I drink my mate and write my daily journal entry. I feel like I’m really going to find myself here.” Well, those places aren’t so great during the winter. They’re a fucking menace.
In general, I’m a fan of the architecture in Buenos Aires, especially those turn-of-the-century PH’s with almost open, patio-style living rooms. But so many of them have been built for summer, which I suppose is what makes them so appealing for most of the year and also makes them rubbish when it’s cold.
So this is my advice: plan for this sort of thing. Think about the house for the whole year and not just the summer. I know, I know. If you’re like me, after a lifetime of suffocating inside redbrick terraced houses, the idea of a balcony and patio might send you into excitement-induced convulsions, and all reasoning goes out the window.
Winter: At Least It’s Something To Complain About
It’s not hot, and you’re not happy about it. Add it to the long list of insignificant things that make our lives slightly irritating, all of which we particularly enjoy complaining about here in Buenos Aires. The art of complaining is a rich tradition in porteño culture, and winter gives us one more way to perfect that art.
However, to obtain any degree of legitimacy in our grievance, we’re going to need to exaggerate a bit. Let’s face it, a sunny, 14-degree afternoon is hardly 1943 Stalingrad, it’s not even a real winter in most of the world. I mean, you think this is cold? Try getting out of bed on a January morning in Scotland.
Thankfully, exaggerating is also a cultural tradition here, so to make the first point of conversation between friends, or anyone on the street for that matter, you can definitely whine about the cold.
But don’t worry, once the cold is gone, we’ve got the heat to complain about.
Of course, if you’re going to become a complainer, you have to look the part as well. To fully legitimize our agitations, it’s going
to take a thorough campaign involving excessive clothing, scurried movements, and somber facial expressions. No, it’s not really that cold, and yes, a strong drink will be enough to keep you from feeling even the lowest of Buenos Aires temperatures, but just go with it.
On a brisk winter afternoon flirting around the 14-degree mark, don’t be surprised to see hats, gloves, and scarfs, all wrapped around a selection of bomber jackets from 1992, which, together, would typically indicate that some sort of the Siberian storm is taking siege of the city. Chuck in a few scurried walks, and some disapproving faces, and the ruse is complete. You’re almost a certified porteño.
What, No More Asados?
During the summer, every night of the week I seemed to find myself knee-deep in glutinous, gout-inducing yet sensational asados, surrounded by fanciful cuts of meat as far as the eye could see. A kilo of lomo here, a couple of morcillas there, and even the occasional tripa to keep me on my toes. But since the temperature started dropping, so have the number of sacrificial carne orgies of which I had become so fond.
This had been one of the greatest challenges of moving to Argentina: I adopted an unyielding and shameless commitment to the overconsumption of meat. Now the asados have gone, so have the three-kilo lumps of fillet steak. And my blood pressure levels seem to be going back to normal, which I don’t remember agreeing to.
Going to a friend’s for dinner just isn’t the same when an asado’s not on the menu. Argentines are just different when in the presence of copious amounts of meat and wine. They have a permanent smile on their face. They unconsciously open their groups of friends to new people, a foreigner even, and may even be patient enough to put up with that foreigner’s broken Spanish. Pizza and empanadas just don’t have the same effect, and it’s tragic.
Of course, there are other ways to enjoy Argentina’s famously tasty slabs of meat. One audacious suggestion I feel obliged to make is a good old fashioned Sunday Roast. It’s not got the exoticism of a chimichurri-laden parilla-grilled steak, and I warn you, vegetables are normally involved, but this traditional dish is given a whole new lease of life when it incorporates Argentina’s cuts of meat.
Power Cuts: Not Exclusive to Summer
We all know about the extensive, and tediously repetitive, power cuts during the summer. Yup, you remember, the ones that were happening because “too many people were using their aircon units.” Yeah, funny that, because I could have sworn people have stopped using their aircon machines. There is actually an old expression we have in England that could be applied to the government’s party line here. It goes something like this: “you’re lying, fuck off and give us our electricity back.”
Alright, they are not as frequent in the winter, but power cuts are still rearing their ugly, energy-sapping heads, right when you least expect them. A power cut in the summer was annoying, really annoying. But during the winter they are soul-destroying, especially after four days without hot water, and using a kettle to wash your balls.
The Subte Is Finally An Option
Finally, the subte has lost its scandalous smell. During the baking summer months, I was the first to advocate doing anything to avoid the subway. The smell, the sweat, the chaffing: the whole thing was beastly. You would enter as a respectable member of society, going about your daily chores, and leave as an excretion-soaked gremlin. However, now that the temperature has dropped, so has the subte’s revulsion.
During the brisk winter mornings, it’s a pleasure to wind down those crooked steps, eager to get a bit of that underground heat. Yet, in a cruel twist of fate, it is now that Linea B is only running a partial service. I confess, the new air conditioning machines that they’re installing do sound like a good idea. Let’s hope they find a fix for the electricity problems in this city as well.
Sit Back And Let The City Shut Down
Buenos Aires isn’t short of things to do – usually. During the warmer months, I regularly found myself sifting through a hearty cultural agenda (sitting in a park near someone playing a guitar is cultural, right?), picking and choosing between a mingled array of elegant milongas and spontaneous outdoor theatricals. But as soon as a few degrees abandon us, we seem to go into a steady state of mourning, leaving behind the artsy-outdoorsy soul of the city, exchanging it instead for quiet nights in, reminiscing over pictures from our summer trip to Mar del Plata.
I suppose it’s natural that things calm down a bit in the desolation of the winter, but this city seems to go into ultra-hibernation. “It’s cold” becomes a perfectly good excuse not to leave the house. We all just want to wait it out, and pretend it’s not actually happening, so that we can get back to our usual routine of roasting ourselves in the sun.
However, there are a few little bits and pieces to keep you busy, and stop you from going idle in a stupor of inactivity.
A Few Things to Get You Through the Cold:
Wallow In The World Cup
It’s already started, and within two days, reminded us English that we’re terrible at football, but it’s here, and it’s going to get many of us through the first few weeks of winter, and offer a totally acceptable and viable excuse to spend entire days in a bar. Not outside, in the cold.
Even if football isn’t your thing, being in Argentina is one of the best countries to get some degree of enjoyment from the World Cup. As not only does the national team actually have a great chance of winning, but the whole country has miraculously forgotten about any economic worries, any inflation rates, or any political problems. But seriously, it is the World Cup, that boring shit can wait. Right?
And, unfortunately, if you are into football, it’s a dangerous reminder that we, as grown men, can easily spend nine consecutive hours poncing around at home, occasionally squawking at the TV, and gnawing on numerous choripan leftovers from the days before.
Sniff Some Farts At Buenos Aires Fashion Week
Not the full February version of Buenos Aires Fashion Week, or to use its more poncey name, BAFWeek, but the winter does host a cheeky, three-day event between the 12th and 15th August, giving every fashion enthusiast and model in the city the opportunity to sniff each others farts for a few days when it’s cold as well.
On show will be the Spring/Summer Collection, for the upcoming season, so as usual, they’ll be exhibiting clothes that we can’t even wear yet, and also, that we absolutely cannot afford. But, then again, would we really want to if we would end up looking anything like the guy on the left?
Smile With Envy At The Buenos Aires Tango Festival
Another fine winter event, to make us all feel distinctly inferior to those taking part, is the annual Buenos Aires Tango Festival, from the 13th to the 26th August. A gargantuan celebration of Argentina’s national dance, the festival takes place in various locations across the city, and in various forms.
To give the festival a comedic twist, there are even some classes and seminars available for us mere mortals to give the disturbingly seductive personification of Argentine emotion a try. Needless to say, with the professionals shamelessly elegant steps gliding across the dance floor, and my moves preordained to a middle-aged woman’s hip-swing, I shall very much be keeping my role to spectating, y nada mas.
Jam Sessions/Live Music
Another uber-cool, hyper-bohemian, post-cosmopolitan, thing to do in Buenos Aires is to get familiar with the live music that springs up all over the city during the winter. It probably does in summer as well, but I was too busy melting on my terrace to bother looking for anything interesting to do in the evenings.
Of course you don’t actually have to play any music, you can simply spectate while you sip on your drink of choice, which, to be honest, is something I would advice, as the musicians here seems to know their way around a metronome and a double clef. Or, in fact, they don’t at all, which makes them infinitely cooler.
You can normally find one springing up every night of the week, in some shady bar somewhere in the city, but here are some regulars for each night:
Monday: Live music @ La Biblioteca Bar – Marcelo T. de Alvear 1155
Tuesday: Jazz @ Jazz Club Cabildo Norte – Av Federico Lacroze 3901
Wednesday: Latin Jam @ Uniclub – Guardia Vieja 3360
Thursday: Live music @ Sanata Bar – Sarmiento 3501
Friday: Live jazz @ Notorious – Av Callao 966
Saturday: Live indie music @ La Ratonera Cultural – Juan Domingo Perón 1422
Sunday: Jazz @ Boris Jazz Club – Gorriti 5568
The hibernation has begun, but hopefully my tips and reflections will keep you warm for the next few months before it’s 30 degrees again , we’re showering twice a day and we forget about how much we hate the cold.