Living and Working in the Buenos Aires
It’s Possible to Work Part Time and Still Enjoy a Good Life
By Hannah Shanks
Buenos Aires is called the “Paris of South America,” an apt nickname when you consider its charming mix of tree-lined streets, high-fashion, history, and international business. A bustling metropolis of nearly 15 million, Buenos Aires is a high-energy city on the brink of becoming a world destination for business and tourism. Already, since the economic collapse and subsequent devaluation of the pesos in 2001, foreigners have streamed into the city for short visits or longer stays with the intent of finding work.
For those interested in calling Buenos Aires home for several months while living life as an Argentine, a job is useful at the least for extra spending money to sample the myriad excellent restaurants. But there are some tricks and peculiar traditions inherent in the Argentine job search that if known ahead of time will help the wannabe expatriate find work, and fast. For more specialized professionals, jobs will obviously be found within specific industries. But for recent college graduates or random travelers who have taken a fancy to the porteño lifestyle, there are a variety of ways for English-speakers to find work.
Before beginning the job hunt it’s important to understand the resume submission process. Job listings often specify an age and sex requirement for the open position, a custom that at first shocks foreigners, and seems somehow illicit and illegal. Don’t worry—the job is legitimate. Even though the job posting requests girls between the ages of 20 to 25, that tourism agency secretarial position is not a cleverly disguised front for a sleazy pornography operation. Forget your home country rules about taboo topics in job interviews. In Buenos Aires, photographs and birth dates are required information. Incidentally, most job advertisements request a CV, not a resume, so feel free to exceed the 1-page resume limit. In fact, the only differences between, say, a standard American resume, and a Buenos Aires CV (aside from the length), are the following: include a 1-paragraph career objective that also explains why you’re in Buenos Aires; add a flattering headshot at the top of the page; and don’t forget personal information with your birth date, nationality, and any languages spoken, read, or written.
Don’t panic if you don’t have a work visa. Unofficially, most jobs you’ll find as a foreigner (teaching English, for example) don’t require work visas. In fact, forget about work visas completely unless a potential employer asks about your status. If having a visa becomes absolutely necessary for a dream job, hopefully the employer will sponsor you as either a freelance contributor or will help you obtain a full-time visa.
The English Teacher
Once you’ve navigated the CV and blocked work visas from your mind, it’s time to start applying for jobs. The first, and most obvious, job for English-speakers is working as an English-as-a-Second Language teacher. ESL institutes are desperate for native speakers, particularly with the high teacher turnover rate caused by expatriates returning home. At the very least, English institutes will always need new teachers to fill in for the foreign teacher taking a week off to visit Machu Picchu.
Being an English teacher is not particularly difficult—the most frustrating part will be organizing your schedule so you’re not traveling an hour or more throughout the day to different class locations. Most English institutes work with companies or private citizens to give small group lessons or one-on-one classes that last for an hour and a half. English-as-a-Second Language qualifications are not required and classes pay between 15 to 25 pesos ($5 to $6) per hour. Institutes usually provide class materials—grammar exercises or articles to discuss—and excessive preparation time outside class hours is not necessary. Often, students just want to talk in English about foreign culture, politics, education, and economics. Most classes occur early in the morning (before work), in the afternoon (during lunch), or in the evening (after work). Feel free to pick and choose which times are most convenient for you because assuredly the institute will provide plenty of options. If you’re interested in learning Spanish on the side, don’t forget to ask your institution if they offer discounted staff Spanish lessons.
The Tourism Industry
Teaching English is not for everyone, and it can be tiring. The tourism industry often needs native English speakers to work with foreign visitors or international branches of the company. Englishlanguage versions of Teatro Colon tours, bicycle tours, and various other tours are available throughout the city; drop off a resume with the various tourism agencies. Who knows when a job guiding tourists on bicycles through La Boca, San Telmo, and Puerto Madero will open up? Spanish immersion programs are another aspect of the tourism industry that needs English-speakers. A friend works with Expanish, a Spanish immersion program, as the publicity coordinator and liaison with American universities.
The Foreign Writer
And, of course, there are occasionally jobs writing for travel guides or websites. Search out all the magazines, newspapers, and internet-based publications in or about Buenos Aires. Also apply to American travel guides, magazines, and newspapers (a salary in dollars will go a long way in Buenos Aires) and include the tantalizing fact that you will be living in Buenos Aires and have the inside scoop on all the hot spots to dance, drink, eat, and shop. Buenos Aires is the perfect city to live out your expatriate dreams, or just your dreams of becoming a porteño for a few months. No work visas necessary (well, unofficially), and there are plenty of standard and offbeat jobs for the enterprising expatriate. Plus, the city is just exotic enough to make home seem far, far away and just cheap enough to make working only part time completely doable. See you in Argentina!
Job Resources for Buenos Aires
Check buenosaires.en.craigslist.org for a wider variety of job opportunities.
Don’t forget to talk to locals and fellow expatriates to find that unpublicized dream job; if money becomes tight, apply at a restaurant and use your foreign charm to practice Spanish with the Argentine customers.
If you are interested in public service, check out our section on volunteering in Argentina or some jobs as interns in Buenos Aires for generally unpaid jobs in Buenos Aires.
the Transitions Abroad section on expatriate
websites, resources, and articles for more inside