The New Home Office

15 Mar

We haven’t shared with you yet that we moved again in January (#5 since August 2011). There’s more on that to come, I promise. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek.

This is my new home office/table. Maggie painted the chairs and table.

The New Home Office

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Cut Your Own Slice

13 Mar

We ordered pizza tonight and once again forgot to ask them to cut it. I’m not sure why someone wouldn’t want their pizza delivered already sliced. Cracks me up.

Cut Your Own Pizza

Dollars to Argentine Pesos through Xoom

16 Dec

We arrived to Buenos Aires somewhat clueless of the rapid inflation and high prices. I had always thought people were exaggerating about how quickly the prices of everyday products increase, but now, the reality of 20-30% inflation is real to us too.

I’m no expert on parallel currency markets, but because of the economic situation here in Argentina, there are two dollar-to-peso exchange markets: official and blue/informal. The difference between the official and blue rates is significant. At the time of this writing, the official rate is US $1.00 to AR $4.88 and the blue rate is US $1.00 to AR $6.53. Check out today’s rate here.

Thankfully, we found out about Xoom.com, an online money transfer services that allows you send money from your U.S. bank account to yourself (or someone else) in Buenos Aires for cash pick-up or bank deposit.

The advantage of Xoom to cash withdrawals from an ATM is that Xoom offers close to the informal exchange rate, while banks operate with the official rate.

So far the process has been fairly smooth. We follow some basic guidelines we’ve learned from others’ experiences posted at BAexpats.org. Namely:

  • Send money from a checking account NOT credit card, as credit cards will most likely categorize the expense as a cash advance.
  • Make sure to use recipient’s full legal name on ID, no nicknames, etc. (If you are sending to someone else, verify this information.)
  • Don’t send more than $2999.99 (we never reach that!) for a transaction or it could really slow down the process.
  • Send money at least one day in advance so there’s time for it to process through XOOM and MMT.
  • Take your Passport (no DNI needed) and just the transaction number (no need to print the full email).

Last time I went in to pick-up cash, the local business here in Buenos Aires that handles the transaction, called MORE Money Transfers (MMT), handed out some information that I found very helpful. So, I’m posting that here:

NOTICE

Dear Customer:

Under present Argentine Authority’s regulations — A.F.I.P., Anit-Money-Laundering Law Nr. 25.246 and Financial Information Unit (UIF) Resolution 66/2012 — in accordance with F.A.T.F (Financial Action Task Force) rules, MORE MONEY TRANSFERS SERVICE is compelled to request from all its clients (those ordering or receiving money remittances) the following data:

  • Full name
  • Passport or MERCOSUR ID
  • Marital Status
  • Address in Argentina
  • Telephone number (in Argentina)
  • E-mail
  • What links you to the sender?
  • Activity or purpose of your stay in Argentina
  • Purpose or destination of the money of this transaction
  • CUIT, CUIL or CDI (if applicable)
  • Source of funds involved in this transaction
  • If remittances amount is larger than AR $5,000, a sender’s identification number must be provided. Passport, ID Cards, Driver’s License and SSN are equally valid.
  • If remittance amount accumulates with previous transfers (on annual basis) a sum larger than AR $40,000, you must provide information about the origin of monies involved, such as: a sender’s bank statement, senders source of income (salary receipt, employment contract).

As much as I hate waiting in line to pick-up the cash now that Xoom has become more widely used, it’s always worth it. So whether you’re about to travel to BA, have family here, or are living in BA, checkout Xoom and save some cash.

Xoom stories on BAexpats.org:

*Oh, I am in no way affiliated with Xoom or MMT, nor did I get paid to write this. Just trying to spread the word.

One Year Later: 10 Things about Buenos Aires that Now Seem Normal

12 Oct

On May 13, 2011, we announced our plans to pack up from Los Angeles to head to the Midwest via a not-so-direct detour. Our detour through Buenos Aires, Argentina, is now officially at the one year mark with no clear end in sight. We’ve settled in, set up a daily routine, and gotten used to the way things work. We miss our friends, family and dog terribly, but for now, this is where we need to be.

To celebrate the end of first year in Buenos Aires, we’ve compiled a list about our daily life here.

10 Things about BA that Now Seem Normal

  1. Walking carefully. Everyone in this city walks with one eye looking to the ground scanning for “landmines” left by the numerous canines on the city’s sidewalks.
  2. Ordering a la carte. Side dishes are not very common here. Unless it’s a carrot salad, mashed pumpkins, or french fries, forget about it.
  3. Shopping a la carte. Instead of walking down the next aisle at Target, we shop at numerous boutique stores for our various daily needs. We’ve got our pasta shop, our veggie stand, our chicken and eggs supply, our general household goods store, our Mexican food delivery, and our work/office supplies store.
  4. Being uninsured. In the U.S., that’s asking for trouble, but here, with nationalized health care we can get any medical need for free. (We still opt for visiting the private clinics/hospitals, which are still comparatively affordable because they compete with no-cost care.)
  5. Taking public transportation. Buses, commuter trains, the subway, and taxis keep us connected and moving.
  6. Walking 2 miles. Although done carefully, foregoing public transportation is an often welcome change. “You want to walk?” is met with, “Of course.”
  7. Staring blankly. After having an awkward exchange in “Spanish,” sometimes that’s all that can be done. (People stare blankly at us too.)
  8. Cooking from scratch. There’s not as much prepared or semi-prepared food here that we like, so we’ve been forced to expand our cooking repertoire to prevent the next item in this list from becoming much too normal. One example of this is that all black beans come dry. No cans.
  9. Eating meat, pasta, and white bread. While normal to most of you back home, we didn’t eat much of these in the U.S. Here, you’ll starve if you don’t.
  10. Sipping coffee. Drinking children’s sized coffee in a restaurant and enjoying it for hours while not being bothered by the wait staff is something that is sorely missing from U.S. culture.

Thanks for following our adventure!

If you’re an expat in Buenos Aires, what’s on your list of things once felt foreign, but now seem normal?