Just arrived in Argentina and embarrassed about your pigeon Spanish? Well, don’t be, you’re in the perfect place to practice without being judged. In fact, the simple utterance of a couple of correctly conjugated pleasantries will often earn you praise from a local, who will say “Pero hablas muy bien el castellano!,” even though all you’ve done is order a beer. Whereas people in other nations will often switch to English to avoid confusing translations, Argentines will listen patiently to your dodgy Espanol. It will probably endear you to them even more.
Argentines always make time for their friends. It is often the case that one night of the week is reserved to hang with the boys at a steakhouse or meet the girls for drinks at a bar. These rituals are as carefully observed as Sunday dinner with the family, putting family and friends at the centre of every Argentine’s life.
Argentines want to know all about you – where you’re from, what you’re doing in Argentina, if you like it, how old you are, what you do for a living, if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. To some, this may seem a little like the Spanish inquisition, or at the very least, somewhat invasive, given the guarded nature of some cultures, but Argentines are interested and curious, so don’t be shy, get chatting!
In other countries, it can be years before a friendship is considered deep enough for you to be invited to your friend’s dinner party. Not so in Argentina. Argentines are very comfortable socially, and think nothing of inviting a stranger to share a meal with them, or attend a concert, or go to the theatre. If you get invited to something, don’t get weirded out, say yes!
Argentines are big on formalities when it comes to celebrating their friends, so if it’s your birthday, expect a barrage of messages from all your Argentine pals wishing you well on your special day. The same goes for New Years, where everyone’s phones are endlessly beeping with celebratory messages.
Perhaps one sure sign that friendship is a big deal in Argentina is that they actually have a special day designated to celebrate friendship, the aptly titled “Friend’s Day.” You will see restaurants putting signs in the window wishing people well and encouraging people to reserve tables to toast being friends – as the most common form of friendship is the group kind, you have to celebrate en masse!
Argentines love to do two things – hang out, and help. So what better way to combine these two activities than to assist a friend when they have to move out, which happens more than you might think. Rising rents, house sales and demolitions all mean that people move house regularly, and there is always an Argentine on hand to help you with the nasty process of packing up and transporting your stuff.
If you find yourself without family around Christmas in Argentina, an Argentine friend will always invite you to spend Christmas with them. Mainly due to the fact that Christmas isn’t as big a deal here as it is in the northern hemisphere, and that the night of the 24th really consists of eating and drinking, the attitude of locals is the more the merrier, regardless of whether you are related or not. Also expect a friend’s family to take you in even if the friend is not actually there!
Argentines love to spread their cultural habits among foreigners, and will be delighted to teach you how to make the filling for an empanada and then to do the repulgue, or how to fold the edges of the pastry. They will teach you how to do a barbeque the Argentine way, and will talk you through making traditional dishes such as locro for national holidays.
Argentinian society is one of support, not of competition. Whereas in some countries friends may silently begrudge you your successes or keep the secret to their successes a secret lest you run off with it, in Argentina people are happy to see their friends doing well, and will share their knowledge so that everyone can have a piece of the victory pie.
Once you are friends with an Argentine, they will be your friend for life. The very tragic terrorist act that took place in New York city this week in which five Argentine friends were killed is testament to this. The five men, aged in their late 40s, were on holiday together to celebrate their 30th anniversary of graduating high school, where they first met. One of the men even paid for another’s flight because he didn’t have the money, such was the strength of their bond. Terrible as it is to see anyone killed in this manner, the fact that five of these people were lifelong friends who were on a holiday to celebrate the very fact of their friendship makes this tragedy sadder still.