So far, I’ve been in Córdoba for about a week and I am already loving it!
Indeed, when arriving to a foreign county, one feels a unique mélange of elation, amazement, surprise and a dash of confusion for good measure. I was most certainly expecting this medley of emotion, which I did feel to a certain extent, but I feel like it was buffered down a little due to a few underlying factors:
- Previous study abroad experience: Traveling to Spain helped me grow accustomed to certain terminology, social norms and being surrounded by Spanish speakers.
- Anticipation of what was to come: Over the past year, I’ve been collaborating with my Argentinian friends and doing some of my own individual research on the country in order to fully understand its eccentricities. Seriously, I’ve been reading up A LOT on Argentina’s culture and history in order to better prepare me for my time abroad.
- Connections abroad: Not only do I have friends from the U.S. with me for support, but I also have friends here to help me with anything I need, whether it be a question, advice or directions. This makes such a huge difference!
Thanks to these dynamics, I think I was better equipped to brace myself for the imminent culture shock that was to come. Only this time, it wasn’t much of a shock as it was a gentle zap, if you will.
Of course, I can’t anticipate everything! There were a few things I wasn’t expecting, and I can guarantee you they won’t be the last!
New vocabulary: Every Spanish-speaking country is unique in regards to their vocabulary, slang and tenses. Argentina is no exception. I’ve learned new words that they use which I must adopt into my own word schema while I am here, like “colectivo” for bus instead of “autobús”, or “acá” and “allá” instead of “aquí” and “allí”. Or “hacer materias” instead of “tomar clases”. There’s even another word for pen, which is “lapicera”. When I bought a peach the other day, I hoped I used the right word, “durazno”, instead of “melocotón”, as they do in Spain.
Sometimes instead of “muy” for “very”, they say “re” (ray).
Not only does Argentina use different words to express ideas, they have a different dialect and a new tense, the “voseo”. I’ve discussed both of these in a previous post, so I won’t go on about them now. However, one thing I never consciously noticed about the Argentinian accent (other than the sheísmo!), is the aspiration of the “s”. So “España” (Spain) would be pronounced more like “eh-pañ-a”, with a very light pronunciation of the “s”. All other words with “s” follow suit.
This sudden change has opened my eyes even more to the stark diversities within the Spanish-speaking community.
Walking down the street with my one Argentinian friend, she asked me if I felt like people were staring. I’m not crazy, I DID notice it!! Being blond-haired, blue-eyed with very light skin, you’re bound to be noticed in a sea of mostly tan or darker skinned, dark-haired and brown-eyed people. Multiply that by three if your friends also look that way and you’d might as well have signs on your back that say, “I’M NOT FROM HERE!” So yeah, there’s that. I don’t plan on coloring my hair any time soon (hopefully ever again), so let the stares continue.
How I feel walking down the street.
Music here is a mix of both Latin American and American influence. On the radio station I listen to here, I find that they play about 75% stuff I’m used to and 25% music in Spanish.
Here’s the link to the radio station I’ve been listening to!
ATM’s are the worst. There is a $100 (USD) limit to withdrawals at one time, and once you add a $5.00 fee, that really adds up if you want to take out large sums of money. I’ve been trying to see what ATMs will allow me to take out more at one time in order to avoid such outlandish fees, but to no avail thus far. High-limit ones are far and few between.
Outlets are a little different here, so you basically take the American ones and tilt the prongs inward and there you have an Argentinian-enabled plug!
Ordering water at restaurants is akin to my experience in Europe. You have to buy bottled, and you don’t really get to order free tap water. This was one of my biggest qualms abroad last time because that adds up very quickly and I don’t like wasting plastic bottles. So I usually just bring a water bottle with me wherever I go.
One little thing I did notice though was that when you order a coffee, they’ll bring you out a glass of seltzer water to accompany it. After a good ol’ fashioned Google search, I discovered pairing sparkling water with an espresso beverage is quite common, even in some bars in New York City.
Apparently, it purpose is to “cleanse your palate before, after a first sip, and then after if it’s a bad shot”, according to this web site. They even made a handy dandy video.
Moving into my apartment also gave me some new lessons, the most prominent being how to work a gas stove. I’m not just talking about turning the burner on to the left and waiting for the sound before it automatically ignites. I mean the kind where you light it yourself! Those are quite common here, as my local friend informed me. You turn the burner on, and you hear a stream of gas. You then light a match and place it near the burner until it catches the entire thing. There you have it! You can then adjust the amount you want from there, from high to low and everywhere in between. Because I’m afraid of putting my fingers so close to the flame with such a short match, I use the match to light this long candle-looking device shielded by metal, which I then use on the burner.
We’ll get there.
And of course, there is a bidet in the bathroom, another common item found in European and South American households. I probably won’t use it to be honest, but it didn’t surprise me in the least to see it there, like it did when I was in Spain.
Here’s my bidet I won’t ever use.
I also learned that if you purchase a small glass bottle of soda, you have to drink it at the place you bought it so that you can give it back to the owner for recycling. I was chased down by the owner and informed of this! Of course, he was super friendly and understanding that we didn’t know any better. Oops!
I’ve also noticed that in general, the people here are extremely amicable. Every time we’ve been lost and sought help from locals, they’ve been more than accommodating and friendly. Two girls even walked with us and chatted for a bit, introduced themselves and gave us the customary cheek kiss when they went their separate ways. Honestly, I haven’t come across one mean or cross Argentinian at all.
Back to the whole “cheek kiss” thing, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll reiterate. It’s not a kiss as much as it is a brush on the cheeks and a smooch sound. In Argentina, it’s only one cheek that gets it, versus the two in Spain. I have to keep stopping myself from doing two! Despite my introvert tendencies and hesitance to do this while abroad last time, for some reason I’ve had no problem participating in this custom this time around. Curious…
Very soon, I’ll be posting on what my first week here entailed, including everything I’ve done thus far. Stay tuned!