Photo by author.

Wanting “every single day to be different and new and only possible in Buenos Aires,” Cynthia Ord explores the city through the men she meets on an online dating site.

I WAS LIVING ALONE IN BUENOS AIRES for a couple months, working online from a tiny studio apartment in the city center. I wanted every single day to be different and new and only possible in Buenos Aires. Rather than tap into ready-made expat communities, I decided to get to know people and explore the city through online dating.

I took my prized collection of perspective trick travel photos and started filling out a profile on an online dating site. Six things I could never do without? Internet, passport, pen/paper, camera, coffee, access to fun. Location? Argentina. City? Buenos Aires. Clicked Save.

A month later, spring had rolled into summer in the southern hemisphere, and I had gone on 25 dates with 12 different people. Here are some highlights:

1. The virtual vagabond
    From: Palm Beach, Florida.
    Age: 25.
    Profile sample: “Diet: strictly anything.”
    The pitch: “I’m homeless…A few months ago I sold almost everything I accumulated during a year long stay (got ‘stuck’ here for a while) and was hanging out in Europe and the States for the last couple months. I run a business from my laptop so I’ve got that kind of flexibility.”
    The first encounter: Bar Seis in Palermo Viejo for my first Coke and Fernet, the signature herbal liquor of Argentina.

The first awkward moment on this date was when I showed up at the chic, trendy bar wearing alpaca wool from Bolivia, and hiking shoes. I learned my fashion lesson the hard way as he gave me the expat briefing on the hip Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Its sub-neighborhoods have names like “Palermo Hollywood” and “Palermo Soho,” and their own variations of ‘cool’. The second awkward moment: running into him again while on an e-date with the computer scientist.

2. The computer scientist
    From: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Age: 26.
    Profile sample: “I am kind of smart, funny, and a geek :)”
    The pitch: “I’m writing you because I want to practice my english, I use it a little at work with clients (I work in computing) but I’m afraid it is getting a little ‘rusty.’”
    The first encounter: Plaza Armenia, on the bench in front of the swings, Palermo.

From Plaza Armenia we took a stroll to Plaza Serrano for some pizza, beer, and high-quality hipster-watching: they were serenading the plaza using a melodica, the hipster instrument of choice here, along with a toy accordion. We peered into his iPhone where he showed me his pet project, a curated and mapped listing of businesses in Buenos Aires. When not armed with his iPhone, he had a nervous habit of reducing styrofoam cups into a pile of equal pieces on the table.

3. The long-term tourist
    From: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
    Age: 28.
    Profile sample: “You should message me if: sos buena onda [you've got a good vibe].”
    The pitch: “I totally want to explore Buenos Aires with you, seriously. Cuando empezamos? [When should we start?]”
    The first encounter: El Obelisco, directly in front of, at 11am.

As seen on the cover of my Time Out Buenos Aires guide book, the obelisk is one of city’s most iconic sites. I brought the guide book with me because both of us had relocated to Buenos Aires (he was a freelance graphic designer who had chosen Buenos Aires as his current headquarters), but the city was still very new to both of us. We were still 100% in tourist mode. We went on an all-day site-seeing marathon by foot, bus, and subway. My favorite part was a perspective photo session at the giant flower landmark in Buenos Aires’ Parque de Naciones Unidas in Recoleta, which is another popular tourist spot in the city.

4. The couchsurfer
    From: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Age: 28.
    Profile sample: “I’m working and studying tourism. I like reading, walking, dancing, music in general, travelling and know about others cultures and lands. I’m a quiet person, simple.”
    The pitch: “hola! tambien estoy en couch!” [Hi! I'm also a couchsurfer!] The first encounter: Barbaro Bar, on Calle Reconquista, El Retiro.

The Retiro district is where professionals stop for drinks on their way from home from offices downtown. Like colleagues, we started talking about travel, our degrees in tourism, and our strangely parallel careers. He was researching the impact of cruise ships on the Patagonian coast. It was almost like he had read my entire blog and was making things up based on what I had written.

Our second date was to FIT, an annual travel industry trade show in Buenos Aires. Then, at dinner in Chinatown, the deal breaker was revealed–he still lived at home with his parents. Así es, I thought, “So it goes.” Cosmopolitan as it may be, Buenos Aires is still Latin America.

5. Dulce de leche
    From: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Age: 28.
    Profile sample: “I’m crazy about walking, if you know my city, I’ve walked from Belgrano to San Telmo and that’s just fine for me, so, now you know one of my skills.”
    The pitch: “I’m a local from Buenos Aires, a Porteño. I’d love to meet you and share a little of my culture, I also enjoy improving my English and why not teach you some Porteño useful phrases.”
    The first encounter: Kilkenny Irish Pub, El Retiro.

Strike one on this date was the place–overpriced drinks served by foreigners to tourists shouting above the overbearing classic rock. Strike two was the language–he kept reverting to English. Strike three was a borderline creepy move–he gifted me a small candy bar of pure dulce de leche, Argentina’s favorite super-sweet caramel dessert item.

6. The student dreamer
    From: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Age: 24.
    Profile sample: “I love playing with the fire, hearing the thunders, walking down the rain, staring at the clouds and playing with autumm tree leaves, im kind of enthusiast of lost causes, “but im not the only one” .. I really enjoy altering the environment I live into a better place for everyone/everything and so for me.. I’m passionate about drawing, music and I asure you I could live on tea, hugs and smiles.”
    The pitch: “Hola!! Me gusto lo de viajar, y mucho mas que te guste el sur Hace mucho que estas en buenos aires?” [Hi!! I like your travels, and that you like the south How long have you been in Buenos Aires?] The first encounter: Plaza de Mayo, stairs of the cathedral, under the eternal flame that marks the resting point of Argentina’s liberator, General José de San Martín.

The best part about this date was all the Buenos Aires minutia. A PhD student in robotics, this guy could explain anything. Some of the things I learned:

  • Why you never say “No” to the ruffians who ask you for your pizza while you’re eating–they might follow up by demanding your wallet (with a little more force).
  • Why professional dog walkers make good money here–they scale their operations, up to eight or nine dogs at a time.
  • How to read the totally counter-intuitive grids of the Guia”T” city bus guide–squint and keep turning the page.
7. Tall and quiet
    From: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Age: 29.
    Profile sample: “I spend a lot of time thinking about: La vida… la gente, lo que quiero saber y sobre todo viajar” [Life, people, what I want to know, and most of all, travel].
    The pitch: “Hola, como estas? Tu de donde sos? Soy psicologo y trabajo en RRHH” [Hi, how are you you? Where are you from? I'm a psychologist and I work in human resources] The first encounter: Paseo La Plaza, a stand-up comedy theater and café complex next door to my apartment building, which was close enough for me to hear the audience laughing through my wall during the shows.

We started walking along Tribunales, Buenos Aires’ ‘Broadway’ district on Avenida Corrientes. In the six blocks of Corrientes between my doorstep and the obelisk, I counted over a dozen theaters shuffled between just as many bookstores and a handful of music shops. From there, we meandered over to embassy row in ritzy Recoleta, residential neighborhood of Buenos Aires’ old money.

We stopped for ice cream. “Buenos Aires has the best ice cream in the world,” he claimed. “Even better than Italy.” By the second flavor of my towering cone, I was starting to believe him. Over the course of our three-hour walk, I did most of the talking, and he did most of the watching out. Number of times he extricated me from the city’s relentless oncoming traffic: five.

8. The Transplant
    From: Rosario, Argentina.
    Age: 32.
    Profile sample: “I like to travel, trekking, hiking, nature. In my life I’ve been in these countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, England, Ireland (both), Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Poland.”
    The pitch: “Let me know if you want to go around Buenos Aires.”
    The first encounter: Recoleta Cemetery.

Born and raised in the city of Rosario a few hours away, this guy was a chemical engineer who had only been living in Buenos Aires for less than a year. He had spent five years working in Madrid before that. Our meet-up was his second online date and his third visit to Recoleta Cemetery. Atmospheric and serene, the cemetery was a mix of mausoleum architecture in whites and grays.

A small flock of tourists took photos of the tomb of Eva Perón, First Lady of Argentina in the 1940s and early 1950s. We talked about posters we’d seen announcing a new graphic novel-style film about her, Eva de la Argentina. I went to make a note, to remind me to look the film up later. But he was one step ahead: “We should go see it some time.”

We made it a date.