Whether she’s living in Egypt, China, Japan, or New York, peripatetic author and dancer Patrizia Chen knows how to tap into a new culture. T+L talks with the Italian-born writer—whose recent novel, It Takes Two (Scribner, $25), explores the passionate tango subculture of Buenos Aires—about feeling at home anywhere.
Q: Your book really captures the essence of Buenos Aires. How did you become so familiar with the city?
A: Whenever I’m there to dance, I seek out authentic experiences—opting to tango at the neighborhood milonga (dance hall), El Viejo Correo, over touristy spots, for example, or joining porteños on trips to the Tigre Delta.
Q: How have you connected with other places?
A: Similarly, by finding a community. In Japan, I got involved in ikebana—floral arrangement—through the Sogetsu Foundation (sogetsu.or.jp). As a girl in Cairo, I became friendly with a fabric merchant in the Al-Mouski Bazaar. Soon I was helping Egyptian women choose material for their party dresses.
Q: Any other tips for living like a local?
A: Walk everywhere; you’ll get to know the city inside and out. And consider renting an apartment so you can cook with market-fresh ingredients. A great agency for finding a place in Buenos Aires is Buenos Aires Housing (buenosaireshousing.com.ar).