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Thursday, April 26, 2007

88. (Cheap) housing in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

I've stayed in a lot of places since I've been here, from pensiones to hotel rooms to apartments, but always at the low end of the market. In this post I'm going to post my observations on the accommodation I've encountered here.

In Buenos Aires, the city is mostly apartments or duplexes. Houses with lawns aren't common - but they do exist in other towns and outside the capital. Many apartments are only 1 bedroom or even no bedroom (monoambiente).

Kitchen
Kitchens here are always with gas stoves and ovens - never electric. Microwaves are rare. So are electric toasters and kettles - they'll use the gas stove for toasting and boiling water too. I've never seen a dishwasher here. For a country where big family cooked meals on Sundays are part of the culture, it's surprising that even in large houses the kitchens are usually small and poky.

Bedrooms
What I call the sausage pillowcase is common on double beds here. It's a long double pillowcase in which both pillows go. Mattresses are either of the inner-sprung, old and musty type, or foam and worn out in the middle. 90% of the beds I've slept in have been sunken in the middle, so one's feet and head are higher than the hips, much like sleeping in a hammock.

Laundry
I've never had the luxury of a washing machine or a dryer. Which means it's either hand washing in the kitchen sink, or sending the clothes off to the laundromat. Some nicer houses have a laundry.

Bathroom
Here is where you'll see the most differences. Next to the toilet there's often a small basket for throwing used toilet paper, as in many houses the plumbing is prone to blocking if toilet paper is thrown down the toilet. Also alongside the toilet there's often a bidet, for washing one's privates. For those that don't know, the drill is you wipe with paper as usual, throw the used paper in the bin, then soap up a hand and use that to wash yourself down below, and then dry off with a towel. For this reason if you visit someone's house you wouldn't use their bidet since you wouldn't want to use their ass-towel.
I've yet to see a standalone shower in Argentina. The shower head is usually just on a wall of the (very small) bathroom, so when you shower the toilet, basin, floor, everything gets wet. So after you shower you have to mop the floor - usually with a squeegee. Some nicer houses have a bathtub with the shower head above that.
Girls here usually wash their underwear in the shower, and then leave them hanging in the bathroom to dry. They wouldn't usually send their panties off to the laundromat. Don't ask me why.

What else?
Carpet is practically non-existent, so floors are wooden floorboards or tiles. Vacuum cleaners are thus unneeded, since a broom will do. Stringy mops aren't used, instead a squeegee with a rag is used for cleaning the floor.

The good
Many houses have a parilla somewhere. This is a huge, good old traditional wood burning BBQ. They kick the ass of gas burning BBQs which now dominate the rest of the world. Unfortunately, none of the houses I lived in had a parilla...

That's about all I can think of for now. I know this post may sound negative, but it's not intended that way. I'm just trying to state the way things are here. Post a comment if you have anything to add...

5 Comments:

  • My (Argentine) friend just bought an apartment and did a little rehabbing work on it. She was delirious with joy that her boyfriend agreed to buy a dishwasher. So I have seen *one* here. (For all I know, they exist in many apartments, just not in the crowd I run with).

    I agree with you on the sad overall state of kitchens here, though. I had to look for MONTHS to find an apartment to rent where the kitchen was not literally located in a closet.

    In general, my apartment is modest, I would say, but it does have a conventional bathtub/shower of the sort I'm used to seeing in the States. Saves me a few minutes of squeegeeing time every morning.

    By Blogger Dan, at 12:40 AM  

  • One of my ex-roommates would wash his undies in the shower. It isn´t just a chick thing.

    By Blogger miss tango in her eyes, at 10:44 AM  

  • Gosh. I feel like I lived in the anti-epitomy of your experience... One of the bathrooms in my residencia had a stand-alone shower (the other two had bathtubs with shower heads added), there was a dishwasher in the *large* kitchen, and 2+ years ago there was a clothes washer (it went by the wayside when they didn't want people hanging their clothes out on the upper patio any longer). My residencia wasn't the nicest one I saw, but it was clean and comfortable.

    As to the washing the underwear by hand, all it takes is sending a nice pair of panties to the laundry, and having them put them in the dryer. Instant destruction. While the laundries I used claimed to use cold water for washing, I had panties that had definitely seen hot water and were somewhat destroyed. I told the laundries to not dry my clothes (except for jeans), and they *usually* remembered to honor that.

    By Blogger Shana, at 2:51 PM  

  • Hola! Se que quizas es tarde para dejar un comentario mas de un año despues del post.. Pero me parecio super interesante lo que escribis... Es gracioso ver como nos ven de afuera! No nos culpen por dejar las bombachas colgando! Es una tradicion!! :D Saludos a mi compatriota en NZ!! (si es que siguen alli!)

    By Anonymous Mariana, at 2:19 PM  

  • Hi there! I've had another experience in Buenos Aires when i stay last month, I've rented an apartment and it was great! Clean of course, and it has great rooms. I think the things you mention depends the people you live with and not the apartment you stay. I stayed in Palermo (great neighborhood). I suggest the service I used called ForRent Argentina: Buenos Aires apartments For Rent

    Cheers
    Billy

    By Blogger Billy, at 11:02 AM  

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