Despite many Argentinians vehemently declaring themselves as European, they have a number of quirky customs that at times seem odd to the uninitiated outsider. Learning these little cultural nuances is a great way to impress the locals, make new friends and properly integrate into Argentine society. Here’s a list of seven unique customs to look out for.
As testimony to their strong European roots, Argentinians absolutely love to kiss each other upon greeting and saying goodbye. Regardless of gender, social standing or age, kissing is almost always guaranteed in every situation. However, germaphobes needn’t worry because there is usually no actual lip contact. The right cheeks are just pressed together and both parties make an exaggerated ‘mwah’ kissing sound while puckering up their lips. If this ‘air kiss’ still sounds like a little too much, it is reasonably acceptable in most cases to extend your arm for a handshake instead.
Maté is the country’s national drink and a sacred cultural institution. It’s most prominent in rural regions, where most people wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without their immaculately crafted gourd (cup) and accompanying silver straw. The drink, a kind of hot herbal tea, is usually shared between friends as a cultural ritual that symbolizes friendship. Be sure to always pass the gourd in a clockwise direction if sharing between a group.
Argentines love nothing more than sharing an asado (barbecue) between friends and family. But take note, there are a number of customs that must be followed in this holy social ritual. First off, the fuel should always be coals with maybe a little bit of wood, but definitely not gas as that would be uncouth. Also, the men must always take responsibility for cooking the meat and applying the right amount of salt and chimichurri, which is usually a lot. Meanwhile, the women are expected to chat while preparing the salads and setting up the table.
Terms like gordo (fat), flaco (skinny), or even feo (ugly) are regularly thrown around in social situations. While that does sound awful, it’s actually a form of endearment used only between people who consider themselves to be good friends. So next time someone casually refers to you as ‘fatty,’ be happy in the knowledge they consider you an amigo/a.
There’s an undeniable cultural preference in Argentina, particularly in the capital Buenos Aires, to perform all nighttime activities at least four hours later than everyone else in the world. Dinner starts at 10 pm, the bars don’t get full until midnight, and don’t even think about clubbing until at least two o’clock. Nobody’s really sure why they run on this crazy schedule or when they actually sleep.
He’s actually a delightful little character who is completely and uniquely Argentine. Gauchito Gil was a farmer from the 19th century who had an affair with his wealthy widowed boss. The town policeman was in love with the same woman and flew into a jealous rage, hunting down Guachito Gil in an attempt to kill him. Sensing his life was in peril, Gil fled to join a war with the Paraguayan military (questionable logic). He victoriously returned a war hero, winning the hearts and minds of the entire nation. These days, little shrines can be found everywhere for the tiny hero and there is even a massive feast and party in his honor.
On New Year’s Eve in Buenos Aires, office workers around the city tear up their calendars into tiny little pieces and throw them all out of the window. This tradition isn’t just to create some pretty confetti, the belief is that they are letting go of all the negativity of the passing year to allow positive things to come in the next. It’s quite fun to watch, although it must be a bit of a hassle for the street sweepers the next day.