Taking a Sabbatical in Buenos Aires

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written by Ellen Freudenheim, MPH

Pundits are forecasting a sloooow economic recovery. So, how to make lemonade when your carefully-nurtured savings have turned sour?

The idea of a sabbatical is tailor-made for today’s boomster, someone who’s still developing interests and passions. Borrowing a page from academics, a sabbatical for the average person is an opportunity to grow, learn, explore – and have an adventure.
Buenos Aires

One top pick for a sabbatical is Buenos Aires. It’s easily accessible to the US, with a time zone difference of only two hours from US Eastern Standard Time.

And, Buenos Aires has a famously appealing lifestyle. Americans who live there appreciate its elegance, the international cuisine, low prices, handsome people, good weather much of the year, and most of all, the warm hospitality and openness of Argentines.

The profile of Argentina is taking an upward turn. In the June 2009 edition of Smithsonian Magazine article entitled, Buenos Dias, Buenos Aires, Brighter Days in the Paris of South America carries a caption, “Buenos Aires seems to be a place where people come to figure their lives out.”
Dollars and Cents

How much can you save by living in Buenos Aires? A lot depends on your expectations.

At the cheap end, you can spend as little as $1000 to 1500 a month to live, including rent in a modestly sized and furnished apartment. The Argentine economy itself is volatile. If you consider going, check out the current cost of basic items such as food and electricity, both subject to rapid inflation.
What to Do on Sabbatical

The good news is, Argentina can be a great place to learn certain new skills. You can hire a tennis instructor or learn to play the piano and pay local (read, cheap) rates.

You can hang with other foreigners, having meals and outings with Expat Connections, a local organization dedicated to networking, fun, and fostering connections between Argentines and expats. Expat Americans living in Buenos Aires report volunteering for a range of good causes, from LIFE, which helps poor children, to animal shelters to Habitat for Humanity. Be aware that some such programs, however, charge volunteers a fee.

And, you can always spend your time perfecting your tango!
Finding Accommodations in Buenos Aires

Upscale Recoleta and Palermo are attractive areas if you want to be near to museums, cafes and street life. Many Americans rent short-term accommodations through a broker specializing in expat rentals, such as ApartmentsBA www.apartmentsba.com or MySpaceBa http://myspaceba.com.

The local real estate market is idiosyncratic, so it’s not easy for a foreigner to buy, or even sometimes rent, without a local connection or sponsor. House or apartment swapping may also be an option.
Working in Argentina

If you have a business interests that you can pursue from anywhere, say an Internet-based business, working while living in Buenos Aires is viable.

However, being a native English speaker is not an automatic ticket to a high-paying job. In fact, local multilingual job applicants are plentiful. And, as an immigrant, you won’t necessarily have a family network or big file of past business, college and other connections to help land a job.

Your degree of language fluency in Spanish is an important factor to consider if you’re hoping to get along in the business world.
Visa and Legal Concerns

Before planning a sabbatical here or anywhere, first check the visa and work requirements; many nations restrict the length of legal stay to just several months.