Kurtz: Buenos Aires versus Evanston, tale of the tape

Michael Kurtz

As I mentioned in my bio back in September, I’m studying abroad in Buenos Aires for the year. I came because I thought being fluent in Spanish would be cool (and politically useful) and because the full year – in my case at least- would be the only way to achieve fluency.

Over the last few months I’ve been comparing my old home and my new one. Now that I have a sense of the city, I thought I’d provide a quick primer on some key differences between Evanston and Chicago and the Paris of the Pampas.

Nightlife: Americans have several fixed impressions of Argentina. We associate the country with military dictators, delicious beef and packed soccer stadiums. We also think of totally bangin’ nightclubs. On this last impression, we are absolutely correct. Argentines are the ultimate bon vivants. Boliches are cavernous, sprawling spaces where young Portenos pay roughly $10 to enter and then proceed to gyrate, smoke and drink the night away. The bulk of party goers don’t arrive until after 2 a.m. and don’t leave until after the sun comes up. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of boliches. They screw up your sleep pattern and leave your clothes reeking of smoke. But I respect the commitment to partying. If you’re gonna do it, do it. Go all out. Ruin tomorrow.

Although I hardly lived like David Bowie in our sleepy Methodist town, my experience was that Northwestern parties were generally tamer affairs. Whereas the alcohol off campus was typically stronger than the canned water that prevailed at frat houses, in both instances it seemed like people started scurrying home around 2 a.m. Logically, this is a better decision than raging until early morning. But it feels awfully half-assed. Especially for girls. I think many of them spent more time getting dressed than they actually did at the parties!

ADVANTAGE: Buenos Aires

Food: We have outstanding culinary options in Evanston. There’s moist red velvet cake at Bennison’s, succulent gourmet burgers at Edzo’s and artery-clogging fried chicken at Chickenshack, just to name a few. But Buenos Aires really holds its own. In addition to all manner of delicious ethnic cuisine (does Evanston have any killer Arab food? I rest my case), you can eat very well for very cheap. A couple of months ago, I had a delicious $15 Italian dinner at a restaurant in a converted mansion in the heart of the city. You could never eat so well for so little at, say, Pete Miller’s.

ADVANTAGE: Buenos Aires

Getting around: I have mixed feelings on Chicago’s public transportation. Although the lines that run throughout the Loop function decently, waiting for the Purple line at Howard in the dead of winter is an exercise in existential angst. NU students also have the shuttle, which is reliable and usually quick. Moreover, both Evanston and Chicago are pretty walkable, and that’s a very good thing. Buenos Aires is easily navigable on foot too, but public transportation is similarly uneven. Although it’s shockingly cheap ($0.3o one-way on the bus) … they don’t have schedules. At all. Sometimes two or three buses on the same line come at once, and then you’re out of luck for another 20 minutes.

ADVANTAGE: Evanston/Chicago

Conclusion: I don’t wanna be that guy who comes back from study abroad and spends all his time worshipping the country he came from and ragging on the U.S. As much as I’ve enjoyed Buenos Aires thus far, I can’t believe that people don’t pick up after their dogs, and although I’ve never been the victim, the incidence of petty crimes – from pickpockets to violent, thuggish cabbies – really irks me. That being said, it’s absolutely worth it to visit or study abroad here. It’s a great opportunity to learn Spanish, immerse yourself culturally at reasonable prices and not have to wear long underwear for months at a time.

Michael Kurtz is a Weinberg junior.

He can be reached at [email protected]