Learning, Adopting the Concept of Buena Onda in Buenos Aires

May 1, 2012 11:19 am

 I drafted this out quickly during one of my first couple months in Buenos Aires. It recently popped into my mind again, so I decided to post it here.

Buena onda: the Buenos Aires skyline (overlooking Parque Las Heras)

One of my first and most intriguing impressions of Buenos Aires was how strongly I could feel people’s overall energy for life here. The love for living runs like a current, and I immediately wanted to be in it.

I might not have known the colloquial expression to describe what I was feeling those first couple of days, but I soon learned I had been picking up on the “buena onda” of the city. “Onda” is something locals frequently employ in their speech, most commonly with the “buena” (good) or “mala” (bad) descriptors in front. The word onda in Spanish directly translates to “wave,” though the closest English equivalent my native English-speaking friends here and I have found is “vibes.” For example, someone who is buena onda can be said to give off good vibes, while someone you get a bad feeling about or sense as a negative presence can be considered mala onda. Still, onda extends beyond people. An idea, event, happening, characteristic — one can describe any of it as buena onda or mala onda. For example, the phrase “que buena onda” is a more potent, charged substitute for how great/cool/interesting/insert-positive-adjective-here something can be. Invert it all with mala and you have the opposite.

The key is that onda is all about sensing how things affect us. It is something we all influence and are influenced by, regardless of whether a phrase for it exists in our native language. We always pick up on other people’s energy, for better or worse, and then interpret our personal reaction to that onda and how it makes us feel. Why do we love spending time with certain people? They bring something to our lives. We have fun, we are comfortable, we like who we are with them. They make us laugh, think, dream, learn. One could describe why he or she enjoys a certain person’s company a million ways, or simply say that person is buena onda and encapsulate it all. The same, of course, goes for the opposite with mala onda.

My friends from the U.S. and I jumped on the concept of onda so quickly that by the end of our first week in Buenos Aires we had stuck at the top of our mental list of Highest Compliments Someone Can Pay You the attribution of buena onda. (Take notes, street whistlers/grunters/catcallers of Buenos Aires.) On the flip side, the ultimate insult we took as being called mala onda, because it would mean not only were you sucking, but you were negatively affecting others, too. I realized just how thoroughly we had latched onto the concept of onda when we were walking toward El Caminato in La Boca during our second week sightseeing. We politely declined to enter a leather goods store despite the insistence of the teenage salesperson, and he yelled, “Que mala onda!” after us. “HEY!” We all whipped around as though on cue with the same offended reaction.

I have established my overarching goal for my time in Buenos Aires thanks to the concept, and it is all about buena onda. I want to generate buena onda, be buena onda, surround myself with buena onda and have experiences I can best describe only as, “Que buena onda!”


Related posts:



Powered by Facebook Comments

This article was written by on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:19 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed. Tags:

Leave a Reply

The Best Travel Instagrammers

March 15, 2013 0 comments

Here it is… We’ve been Instagramming since April 2011, and we’ve developed pretty strong feelings about our favorite traveling Instagrammers. We like to call this the “starter pack”—follow away!

Continue Reading →

Carnival in Trinidad Party Report

February 22, 2013 2 comments
Carnival in Trinidad Party Report

As promised, my coverage of Carnival in Trinidad continues. Below is my “Just Back From” post I penned for Fodor’s Travel that details the Carnival highlights, from whining, liming and feting to everything in between. Also, you can learn what exactly those Trinidadian English terms mean in the Fodor’s post linked here: Just Back From: Carnival in Trinidad I talked a bit about high-energy, have-to-move-your-body, soca music in the post. In the video below you can hear more of the […]

Continue Reading →

Food Tours and Experiences in Buenos Aires

November 13, 2013 0 comments
Food Tours and Experiences in Buenos Aires

There’s a long-awaited and much-welcomed gastronomic revolution happening in Buenos Aires at present, and locals and visitors alike are winning with dinner, lunch and every other bite. My post for Forbes details some of the best ways to get in on it with tours, a chef’s table event and if you’re in town at the right time, fairs and restaurant weeks. Buenos Aires For Foodies   Once regarded as a land for great steak and not much else when it […]

Continue Reading →

Art Classes for Beginners in NYC

January 6, 2014 2 comments
Art Classes for Beginners in NYC

Drawing and painting is a great wintertime hobby outside the typical hibernation routine, and NYC has a plethora of options. These three are my favorites for their attitude, and their relationship to the city and the art world.

Continue Reading →