Argentina

Traditions & Customs

Traditions & Customs

Successive peso crises have left many Argentines bitter towards some authorities and institutions. While many shops will appreciate payment in US dollars or euros and even offer you a better exchange rate than the banks, try to blend in elsewhere. Keep a supply of pesos on hand for those businesses that do not accept dollars.


Conversation

Argentines are very engaging people who may ask very personal questions within minutes after first meeting someone. They will expect you to do the same. Failing to do so would signify lack of interest in the other person.

Don't be offended if someone calls you a "boludo". Even though it's a swear word, to Argentines it means "pal", or "mate" (depending on the tone it is said). Argentinian people are infamous for the amount of cursing they do, so if they are talking to you don't pay attention to the cursing. If Argentinians are mad, teasing you or making fun of you, you will tell by the expression of their face or the tone of their voice as well as even more cursing than usual.

Also, don't be offended if an Argentinian says things to you in a very direct manner: this is very usual among locals and sometimes offends foreigners. Argentinians are very emotional and extremists, both when telling good things or bad things to anyone. You'll also see that they have an acid humour, make fun of themselves in every aspect, and sometimes they will make fun of you. Just reply back with another joke if this is the case; locals won't take it as an offence.

Taxi drivers (especially old people) are very friendly and usually very well informed about everything. Feel free to talk about whatever you want. Some of them even know lot of history and politics of the city.

Try not to compare "dulce de leche", pretty women, soccer, birome (bic pen), and public bus, unfavourably with anything else in the world, likewise for Argentinian meat; doing it will be considered insulting.


Greeting

Cheek kissing is very common in Argentina, especially in bigger cities, among and between women and men. People make contact with right cheeks, and make a light "kiss sound" but not touch the cheek with their lips (only once, two kisses -right and then left- is very rare). When two women, or opposite sexes first meet, it is not uncommon to kiss. Two men will first shake hands if they do not know each other, but will probably kiss when departing, especially if they have spoken for a while. Male friends cheek kiss every time when greeting, it is like a sign of trust. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude especially if you are an obvious foreigner. Remember when visiting another country its always interesting to try new customs.

In the rest of the country, regular handshaking applies. Also women will greet by kissing as described above, but it's reserved to other women and to men they are acquainted with. All the aforementioned applies elsewhere in Latin America and in the Iberian Peninsula (except the man to man cheek kissing, which is not common elsewhere).


Football

Since some Argentinians are extremely die-hard football fans, try to avoid wearing rival soccer jerseys, as one bad turn on the wrong street, or walking into a bar wearing the wrong colours, could be dangerous in low-class areas. You can wear European football club jerseys with an Argentinian player's name on the back (for example: a Manchester City jersey with Tevez's name, a Barcelona jersey with Mascherano's name, etc.). If you really want to wear a jersey, the safest plan is to wear an Argentina World Cup jersey.

Argentine "barrabravas" (An equivalent of the term "hooligans") cause various degrees of vandalism, assault, and deadly shootings in a few occasions due to football debates. It is recommended not to wear local football clothing too often, and you will be better off if you avoid using football clothing altogether.

The Perú national football colours (and jersey design) are almost identical to those of local team River Plate, so be cautious as to avoid misunderstandings.


Punctuality and perceptions of time

Argentinians generally take a relaxed attitude towards time. This can be unsettling to visitors from North America and non-Latin parts of Europe where punctuality is highly valued. You should expect that your Argentine contacts will be at least 10 to 15 minutes late for any appointment. This is considered normal in Argentina and does not signify any lack of respect for the relationship. Of course, this does not apply to business meetings.

If you are invited to a dinner or party at, say 21:00, it does not mean that you should be present at 21:00, but instead that you should not arrive before 21:00. You'll be welcomed any time afterwards. Arriving to a party one hour late is normally OK and sometimes expected.

This attitude extends to any scheduled activity in Argentina. Plays, concerts usually get going around half an hour after their scheduled times. Long distance buses leave on time though. Short-distance public transportation like city buses and the subway do not even bother with time estimates; they arrive when they arrive! Factor these elements into your calculations of how long things will take.

Delayed bus or train departures are not uncommon, especially in big cities. This is normally not a problem, as in general no one will expect you to be on time anyway. However, long-distance bus departures almost always leave on time (even if they arrive late), so do not count on lack of punctuality to save you when arriving late at bus terminals.


Things to avoid

Avoid talking about the "Falkland Islands" (Las Islas Malvinas) including the Falkland War and dispute, with their English name. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines and can cause a strong reaction and an unpleasant situation for you.

Avoid wearing any English and British symbols due to the above mentioned reasons. English and British flags as well as English national football (soccer) tops are definitely to be avoided. Although no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, some people might be very upset about them and you might receive very icy looks and treatment from the population.

Also avoid talking about the Perón and Kirchner years and also about politics, the military junta and religion in general. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines and can cause a strong reaction as well.

Avoid comparing Argentina with its neighbours Brazil and Chile, because they are considered rivals - especially in the economic sphere.

Avoid comparing regional foods. This too can be a sensitive subject, as recipes and key ingredients vary from province to province.

Avoid asking for ketchup for anything other than a hot dog. There's fantastic beef in Argentina, and asking for ketchup, or barbecue sauce, then pouring it on a steak is not very welcomed. You should ask for Salsa Criolla or Chimichurri for beef and Chorizo

Same sex marriage has been legal since 2010, but in small towns, or the more conservative north of the country, some people (especially older generations) might be shocked by public displays of homosexual affection.

Drug use, while legal in Argentina, is frowned upon by most inhabitants. Alcohol is generally the vice of choice here. Paco, a crack-like mix of by products from the cocaine manufacturing process, is a serious problem, and its users should be avoided at all costs. These people are undeniably violent and unpredictable.

'Villas' or ghettos, usually composed of wooden or steel plate shacks, should also be avoided due to the high crime rate in these areas.

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