A small etiquette guide to Argentina
Please, don't yawn at the dining table! Argentines consider this very rude, even if you are their guest. In general, it is always a challenge to adjust to a different culture and to fit in with the locals. Nobody wants to look like a tourist. In Argentina, it is quite a challenge too, to learn all the do's and dont's during the first few days. There are just too many new and exciting things. Therefore, we have collected the following 17 things to know about etiquette in Argentina.
MATE (YERBA MATE)
Mate is a traditional, caffeine-containing herbal drink. According to the Argentine law, Mate is even considered Argentina's national drink. You will meet one or the other Argentinian strolling around with a thermos bottle in his hand. Friends will meet in the park to have a cup of mate together. Make sure to say "gracias" only if you really had enough Mate!
Siestas are usually held in the afternoon - after lunch. You'll find that the bustle on the streets abates and some shops even close. In smaller towns everyone will stop their business operations for 1 to 2 hours. The Argentines won't let anyone disturb their well deserved nap in the afternoon, as none of them will go to bed before midnight.
Dinner is actually the wrong term in Argentina. Since dinner is usually happening after 10 pm you should better call it a midnight meal. Enjoying the last meal of the day earlier is unthinkable for Argentines; on the weekends they eat even later. Are the Argentinians from another galaxy where they can get their energy from air and love (and tango)? How in heaven's name should one wait for the last meal of the day without starving? Clever as they are, the Argentines make a "La Leche" break around 4 pm and 5 pm, which is comparable to a coffee break. Here they comfort the stomach with milk coffee, biscuits, bread dipped in sweet milk, sandwiches or other "lighter" snacks. Okay, so they're just human too.
ARE YOU VEGETARIAN? SO YOU EAT CHICKEN? NO, I DON'T EAT MEAT. OH, SO YOU EAT HAM?
"Vegetarians" are unknown to the Argentines - giving up eating meat is unthinkable. Everyone eats meat. If you should ever end up in a "Parillada", a traditional grill restaurant, you can eat grilled vegetables or if you like cheese, you can order a Proveleta.
Table manners are particularly strict in Argentina. Elbows are not supposed to be on the table, empanadas are eaten with fingers and the pizza with knife and fork. As if that weren't funny enough: once the piece of pizza has been cut and picked up with the fork, the knife must be dropped and the fork picked up with your right hand until you can finally eat it.
Bars in Argentina are a bit different than the bars you know from back home. In addition to coffee, beer and wine, bars serve solid meals such as pizza, empanadas, sandwiches and even meat dishes.
FOOD OR COFFEE TO GO
To-Go is an absolute no-go! Coffee breaks are exactly what the name implies: a break. You will sit down with your friends and take your time to enjoy your well-deserves cup of coffee. Also, you should avoid to take a small snack while walking around. Take your time and enjoy sour meal while sitting down!
... are incredibly tasty in Argentina. In almost every corner you will find a "Panaderia", a bakery shop. The number 1 biscuits are the "Facturas" and belong to every Argentine breakfast table.
Well, when it comes to punctuality the Argentinians, like all other South Americans, have their own definition. Do not expect them to show up any earlier than 30 minutes after the agreed time. You should also never appear on time e.g. when you are invited to a party. It is impolite. It is even expected that you will arrive 1 to 2 hours later; even after 3 hours nobody would ask why you are so late.
THE NIGHT LIFE
Don't expect the nightlife to start before 11.30 pm. Even if clubs or bars are already open at this time, nobody will be there.
You should definitely remember this word. It means "change" (The 'change' you usually get when paying something). Everyone will mention it, but no one has it. Nobody has change in Argentina - neither in the taxi, in the supermarket or in the kiosk. So you should make sure to always bring a lot of coins with you to be able to pay the exact amount.
If someone calls you "gordo / a", do not try to be offended. In Argentina, it is a loving nickname among couples and can be equated with "sweetheart" or "darling". Argentines are generally a bit awkward in the choice of words, for example, if they ask for the "fat guy from yesterday". It just comes with their direct personality. They don't like beating around the bush.
Castellano is the Spanish dialect spoken by the Argentines, whose roots are in Castilian, Spain. Striking is the very body-accented accent, which strongly reminds of the Italians.
... when you want to enter the bus. You'll see that the others also politely line up. Do not panic, it does not mean that the bus doesn't provide enough space.
Be as fashion conscious as the Argentines. They attach great importance to their appearance. Put some more effort than usual into the choice of your clothes. However, do not exaggerate with the colors, because they rather want to stay neutral with black, gray or white.