Argentina – cultural do’s and don’ts!

June 26, 2016

argentina culture

Travelling is an amazing thing! I believe that it becomes even more amazing once you immerse yourself within the culture of your destination. For most people (myself included) this can be daunting, especially when you don’t fully understand the culture or history behind it. To help you with your travels to Argentina, I’ve compiled a list of accepted cultural norms (the do’s) and prohibited actions (the don’ts).

The Do’s – 

Eating like a carnivore – 

Argentineans are big on meat – and so they should be! Some of the best beef in the world is exported out of Argentina globally. Beef innards, such as chinchulines and morcilla are local delicacies in Argentina that should be attempted, even if it’s just once.

Whilst in Argentina, you should definitely try a steak – they are cooked to perfection and can be washed down with a great local red wine (such as a Malbec). You’ll be pressed to find a better gastronomic combination!

Argentina meat

Wash down your food with mate –

Mate, or Yerba mate is an essential aspect of the culture in Argentina. Mate is a plant species from the holly family, which is then brewed in boiling water to make tea. Mate is traditionally served in a ‘term’ that is gourd shaped and usually made from the shell of pomegranate. Locals are regularly seen walking the streets with their termo or sitting at a local cafe enjoying mate after their meal. Termos are sold as souvenirs and can be found in most stores or street markets. I highly advising trying the tea more than once. It’ll taste like soil at first, however like wine, mate is an acquired taste and the more you drink the better it will eventually taste.

Argentina mate

Learn some basic Spanish – 

I know it might sound a tad obvious, but when travelling to a different country you should really learn the basics of their language – phrases like ‘hello’, ‘how much’ or ‘where to’ will help you enormously in navigating where you want to go. This guideline definitely applies in Argentina, as Spanish is the dominant language and finding people who speak fluent English will be difficult! To learn some basic Spanish phrases, check out my post on Spanish Essentials – Language Guide. If you have trouble pronouncing the language, try to gesticulate (or speak with your hands) when you talk. Using your body language will help you fit in culturally and express yourself.

Get swept up in Boca football – 

Like many countries with Spanish influence, Argentina lives and breathes football. Boca Juniors is one of the most followed premier league clubs in Argentina, with approximately 40% of the population barracking for the team. Boca Juniors originate from La Boca, a barrio (neighbourhood) made up of largely working class Argentineans. A popular past time of most Argentinean people include watching live football games featuring the Boca Juniors team. The audience usually get rowdy and emotionally involved with the club – watching a match in La Bombonera stadium is a must-do whilst in Argentina!

Argentina football

Stay safe –

Taking care on Argentina’s roads is an essential, whether you are a pedestrian or a driver. Argentineans are proud people and this extends to their driving skills as well. For this reason, most people in Argentina do not wear seat belts, so where possible try to find a taxi with seat belts and whatever you do – never insult the driving skills of an Argentinean (I managed to get thrown out of a cab when asking for a seat belt). It’s also important to be polite – you’re probably used to different cultural norms, so try not to get frustrated with the locals (you are in their country after all, so adapting to their norms is imperative!)

The Don’ts – 

Be careless with your cash – 

You should not flaunt your cash around whilst in Argentina or any developing country for that matter. The last thing you want is to attract unwanted attention from a potential pick-pocket. When travelling to Argentina, it’s a good idea to take both US dollars and Argentinean peso, as some vendors may prefer payments in dollars. Always make sure that you have a plentiful supply of smaller US dollar and Argentinean peso denominations. 100 peso notes can be extremely difficult to exchange and there is a large risk that you’ll receive counterfeit notes in return. Stay tuned for my post on ‘differentiating between real and counterfeit money’ soon!

Go to dinner and nightclubs (or anywhere) early – 

Argentineans are night owls and notorious for arriving late. Most restaurants open their doors at 9pm, so ensure that you arrive at the usual seating time for dinner, which is 10 -11 pm. The rule for arriving late also applies to nightclubs, with most club-goers arriving around 2-3am and partying until the sun comes up!

Argentina restaurant

Following these cultural do’s and don’ts will place you in good stead for fitting in during your travels around Argentina. I’d love to hear your cultural tips, so please comment below!