Customs in Argentina
Customs in Argentina
The 2001 peso crisis has 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.
As of December 2011, it is difficult to obtain US dollars. They can no longer be obtained through the automated teller machines. In order to receive dollars for pesos, the official agencies require a receipt from an Argentinian bank (for the amount of pesos), an official form of identification, and a copy of the individual's ATM/bank card. Damaged bills or those larger than a $20 US are very undesirable and may be declined.
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). Argentinean 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 Argentineans 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 Argentinean says things to you in a very direct manner: this is very usual among locals and sometimes offends foreigners. Argentineans are very emotional and extremists, both when telling good things or bad things to anyone. You'll also see that they have an acid humor, 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 anything. 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" unfavourably with anything else in the world, likewise for Argentinian meat; doing it will be considered insulting.
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).
Since some Argentineans 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 neighborhoods. You can wear European football club jerseys with an Argentinean player's name on the back (for example: a Manchester City jersey with Tevez's name, a Barcelona jersey with Messi's name, etc.). If you really want to wear a jersey, the safest plan is to wear an Argentina world cup jersey.
During mid-late 2009 until the time of writing (March 2012), Argentine "barrabravas" (An equivalent of the term "Hooligans") have spiked in activity, causing 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 Perception 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 9PM, it does not mean that you should be present at 9PM, but instead that you should not arrive before 9PM. You'll be welcomed anytime afterwards. Arriving to a party 1 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. As in any busy city around the world, 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 England or Great Britain and the Falkland Islands (Las Islas Malvinas) including the Falkland War and dispute, as well as referring to the islands with its 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 (who are rivals of the Argentine national football team during the World Cup) are definitely to be avoided. Although no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, people might be very upset about them and you are very likely to receive very icy looks and treatment from the population.
Also avoid talking about the Perón 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 neighbors Brazil and Chile, because they are considered rivals especially in the economic sphere.
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 affection.
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