Cultural Notes II: Ojo, Buenos Aires!

Hi y’all! Just as we promised, here is Part II of our cultural notes– this time all the way from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I must admit these are less cultural notes and more “hey here are some quirky things I’ve observed, and by quirky i mean… you probably can’t find this in America :)”

1. Walk down the street and you will find… pigeons. and poop (there is a serious dog-walking culture in BA.) Oh, ok, and choripan (a type of food) vendors. Oh and you’ll probably hear some bells ringing around you at some point– if you do, MOVEEE… you’re in front of a garage and a car is about to come right at you! (Unfortunately, I must report that I’ve learned this the hard way!) Gotta love the city!

2. So you (think you) speak Spanish? Just remember that there is no tú (you) here, it’s ‘vos’. As my supervisor says, sometimes you just have to ‘argentizar’ things. Also don’t be surprised if just about every email you receive or phone call you finish ends with “Un beso! Un besito! Chau!” Yes, kisses for everyone :) Likewise, don’t be surprised if you get kissed (on the cheeks, of course!) when you greet just about anyone. No handshakes here!

3. Sometimes I feel like… Justin Beiber is just so much MORE popular here. But how can that be? (Granted, I am living with two hormonal adolescent teens, so judge as you will :) Still, it’s striking just how much the movie/music scene here is very much American. Hello there, Hollywood!

4. GAP sweatshirts are a thing here. Argentina might single-handedly be saving the once not so economically-healthy store!

5. Buy a bottle of ‘gaseosa’ (soda– good name right?) and you get a STRAW– why oh why does this not happen in the US of A?

6. Old-style elevators. And by this I mean you open a door and push back a venetian-like fold divider and wahlah– an elevator! There’s something just a little old-school about them :) Of course I wouldn’t know… the first day I got here my family told me their last host stay student got  stuck in the elevator. Helloooo staircase.

7. But the stairs just can’t save you from the food. Argentines like their meat– steak specifically. And have ice cream to die for (I’m sorry, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before ;) Dulce de leche is the equivalent of butter here and meriendas (snack time is the worst translation but the only one I can think of at the moment…) happen everyday in the afternoon. Of course it’s pretty much a necessity seeing as Argentines don’t eat dinner till 9 pm or after…

8. On Sunday, you sleep. Ok so this a no-brainer, but it’s important to know that if you wander into BA on Sunday morning (let’s say before 10 am because you’re an early bird like me), you will see… that’s right… NO ONE.

9. BA is pretty well known for it’s night life– and what I really should say is morning life since you go to a bar (to drink, if you prefer) at midnight and THEN go to the boliche [club] to dance… and get home at around, well, 6/7/8 in the morning. Hence why the city is dead Sunday morning!

10. Eating fruits with knives (by that I mean cutting your apple, orange, etc. with a knife and eating it like a civilized human being) is a thing here. My homestay sister actually got mad at her younger sister for eating her apple by hand. So, my dear americans, resist the urge to eat that darn apple like a savage.

*Note this may be a family-specific observation, still this definitely is more common here…

11. TOMS were inspired by Argentina. Who would’ve thunk it? The story goes that the founder– Blake Mycoski–came here in 2006 and was touched by the sight of so many children growing up barefoot. So he created this shoe– inspired by the Argentine gaucho shoes– and started his one-for-one movement. Of course, you can get a pair of the ‘real’ TOMS here for about 40 pesos, right around $10… go figure.

12. There are A LOT of different cultures here in BA. Chinese, Japanase, Armenian. But brown people? Not so much. And yes, I was greeted on the street with a very well-intended ‘NAMASTE.’ Sorry, I’m not from India. A brown face in a very white place? What can I say?

13. GUARD YOUR MONEDAS [COINS]!! Never will you ever appreciate the sound of all those worthless coins clunking around in your wallet. Here, you need them to use the buses. Problem, there’s currently a shortage of them. Yeah, guard those babies with your lyffeeee!

14. PEOPLE. People are sooooo nice here. And boy are Argentines passionate and expressive. Talk to them, you won’t regret it!

That’s all that I can remember for now– I’ll probably be back with some more soon! Something about all the little things here that are different always fascinates me and I hope you might be a little intrigued yourself. I mean to Argentines, we Americans are probably pretty weird, right? Ok, maybe I’m just speaking for myself :)

Till next time, UN BESO GRANDE! – Inesha

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