When I first visited Argentina last year, nothing threw me off to the point where I felt “culture shocked.” Perhaps, it’s because as a Spanish major I also studied Latin American culture. The point is: there was nothing crazy about Buenos Aires that blew me away. However, there are quite a few things about this fine country that I found to be surprising in a weird way.
Before I start handing out these interesting facts and observations, let’s get pretty basic. When I told people I was moving to Argentina, I learned A LOT of people don’t actually know where it is. Located in South America, Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world–it basically goes from the middle of the continent to the very Southern tip!
I live in Buenos Aires, the capital. So do a lot of other people–about 3 million. BA is a super colorful city made up of lots of immigrants from all over the place. CABA (Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires) is made up of 48 barrios (neighborhoods). The map below shows some of the most popular barrios. I’ve lived in Recoleta and now live in Palermo Soho!
From a female, North American perspective, the weirdest thing I noticed when I came to Argentina is their obsession with platform shoes. I mean, everyone wears them. They come in a million different styles and they are all ugly. A quick search on Mercado Libre for zapatista plataforma yields over 26,000 results. Here are just a few:
Clapping After Every Movie
After Andrés and I started dating, I experienced my first Argentine movie theatre experience. The movie, much to the dismay of my husband, was A Quiet Place. After a rather soundless movie, the clapping when it ended was doubly surprising. Come to find out–that’s just what they do. Doesn’t matter if the movie has been in theaters for weeks, doesn’t matter if it’s terrible or just okay, everyone claps.
They Hate Spicy Foods
Spicy Argentine foods are pretty hard to come by, though you might be able to find some spicy foods at different ethnic restaurants. Ordering something picante, even super picante, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be hot. It’s going to be Argentine hot–which is like, black pepper. My mom would love it here.
Kombucha is Illegal
Health-crazed Americans may love the popular drink, but here in Argentina té de kombucha cannot be found in stores due to the fact the commercialization or use of products made from or with kombucha is prohibited. Why? Great question. From what I understand, the Ministries of Health and Environment decided the microorganisms in kombucha too harmful to consume.
Weird Supermarket Takeaway Food
In the U.S., one may find convenient food on the go at Whole Foods or Kroger. Here it is way more popular to find supermarkets and restaurants dedicated to buffet-style food you pay for by the peso. When I was studying here, finding one of these restaurants during our 30-minute lunch break was a fast and cheap go-to. But taking part in these odd mashups of dishes (read: recipes from a 1960s housewife cookbook) was always a last resort because let’s face–it was never very appetizing.
Greet Each Other with A Kiss
Growing up I always saw greeting one another with a kiss as a fancy European custom. Here in Argentina, it’s just the way of life. One kiss on the cheek when meeting or greeting someone is a must. Your age, gender, or whatever does not matter. One kiss on the cheek and you’re good to go. If you’re a personal space bubble haver and this makes you cringe, never drink mate (everyone shares one straw) and I really can’t tell you how many liters of water or soda I have drank from directly and then passed around within a large group…which leads me to my next point.
PDA Runs Rampant
Argentines share everything and they love to be close to one another, so really it comes as no surprise that “public displays of affection” are really just displays of affection and aren’t at all stigmatized or seen as disgusting. I’ve walked by couples laying out in the park going full make out like maybe they’re about to take their clothes off and everyone is like, chill. Everyone just keeps on keeping on. Making out in the street, the subway, the bus–totally normal, no problem here.
They Drink Wine from Penguin Vases
“La jarra pingüino” is the lesser known souvenir of Argentina–you have the mate, the Messi jerseys, the Mafalda comics and the tango dancers but the real prize of Argentina is la jarra pingüino, a vase used to pour wine that’s shaped like a penguin. Its origin is often associated with the many Italian immigrants who moved to Argentina in the 1930s and they are still used today! I love them.
And those are all the fun Argentine quirks I’ve noticed so far! Hope you enjoyed!