Porteño Corner: Jonathan Evans
Owner, Buenos Aires Local Tours
Lives: Barrio Norte
• Why did you chose to come to Buenos Aires instead of Asia or say another country in Latin America?
I came here on a two-week holiday in 2007 — 10 days in Buenos Aires and a side trip down to the Peninsula Valdes. It was my first trip to South America and I was hooked. A year later I left my job in Geneva, sold my house and bought a backpack and a one-way ticket back to Buenos Aires without a plan. Since then, I’ve been to most South American countries but Buenos Aires is the only place I have considered living. Visually and culturally you’re in Europe but emotionally and mentally you’re most definitely in South America — it’s an exciting mix.
• What is the number one thing you love about Buenos Aires that no one else would say?
Catching a colectivo (bus). During my travels here I’ve traveled over 25,000km by bus in South America, and I find them pretty fascinating as each country has their own system and differences. Catching a bus here — or rather figuring out which bus to catch from where – and where to get off always seemed like such a challenge. Getting to my destination successfully felt like such an achievement — it still does!
• What is the number one secret attraction in Buenos Aires that you can recommend that no one really knows about?
Only one house has a view of the Obelisco – I know where it is! I also know why it’s called the Guia T! You have to come on the tour to find out.
• Is it true that the British are the happiest expats in the world because they are so elated to be out of England?
Britain is definitely a society in which travel and exploration has always been part of the national identity and that defines us to a certain extent when we leave the country. However, by definition we Brits are a very insular and closed lot and I think it’s that attitude that is so nice to get away from, and for many expats it’s what keeps us moving!
• What is the thing you miss most about home?
My family and good cheese.
• You’ve been here since 2007. How long do you think you will stay? What are your long-term plans in regard to living in Buenos Aires?
I often get asked this on the tour and the only answer I have is that at the moment I’m not planning to leave! That’s about as long-term as I do these days!
• In what ways have you ‘turned Argentine’ – i.e. late dinner, being a Malbec connoisseur, drinking a lot of Mate, making women ‘hysterical,’ etc. ?
In general terms I have a much more elastic attitude to time. I’m still not one of those people who can breeze in two hours late, but half an hour doesn’t hurt anybody. You still have to be prepared for the other person to turn up an hour after you, however!
• What is the craziest thing that has happened to you in Buenos Aires?
When I first got here I lived in a house with eight foreign students, all of them at least 10 years younger than me. We once spent all afternoon collecting up the empty Quilmes bottles next to the parrilla, carrying them down four flights of stairs, loading them into a shopping trolley and pushing them round Palermo looking for a chino(Chinese grocer) that would give us money for the envases(bottles). Took us all afternoon but in the end we got about 200 pesos for more than 300 bottles. We bought more beer.
• How much do you think someone needs per month to live in Buenos Aires?
At the very minimum I would say US$ 1,000, but you’re not going to be sampling much Malbec and steak with that!
• What sets Buenos Aires Local Tours apart from other tour companies?
The tour I run is my attempt to fit my experiences in Buenos Aires into four hours. I’m the only tour in town that travels by colectivo. I cover lots of stuff I find fascinating here, the Guia T, the colectivos, Carlos Gardel, Fileteo, Gaucho Gil, the faded glory of the Congreso area, Palacio Barolo, the wooden subte of Line A, the myth and reality of Evita, Las Madres and the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo — I try to give my take on all of it. I came here as a tourist, so I understand how a tourist sees Buenos Aires when they first arrive, what they find puzzling, what they would never notice. The tour is my attempt at giving tourists a crash course on Buenos Aires!
• How much preparation does it take to lead the Le Cigale Pub Quiz? Do you make any money on it or mostly do it for fun? What is the funnest thing about it for you?
The questions take me about two or three hours to write. There are 50 each time and obviously I can’t repeat any — too many clever clogs with long memories come every time! It’s mainly for fun. I do make a little bit of money, but it usually just pays for the evening’s bar tab! The best bit for me is giving the answers. I love seeing peoples reaction when I reveal the answer to the question they spent five minutes figuring out!
• What is the biggest cultural difference between England and Argentina in your opinion?
Argentina is a much more spontaneous place — there’s much less thought goes into actions. People here tend to do things without thinking too much and deal with the consequences. The English over-think everything and often talk themselves out of doing something because of the ‘What If…?’ It makes England a calmer place, whereas Argentina is a lot more lively.