Things You Get Used to Living in Argentina

After a brief blogging hiatus to focus on my Master’s exam and some job searching, I am back and ready to keep sharing experiences, tips and information about Argentina. Although I have returned to the U.S. for the holidays, I still have a lot of topics up my sleeve to discuss—don’t you worry! (And perhaps another surprise trip planned!)

Fun fact: I also found out that if you delete the pictures in your WordPress media library, they get deleted off your posts as well, so I’ve been laboriously going through and manually re-adding each and every one. So that explains all the missing photos lately.

This week in honor of reverse culture shock, I will highlight the list of things you get used to when you live in Argentina. If you plan on spending an extended period of time there (or already have), I’m sure you’ll be able to relate!

  1. The stares: As a blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned girl, I stuck out like a giant sore thumb. Add onto that my European/North American sense of style and it was obvious that I wasn’t a local. If you are in the same boat as I was, you’ll get used to the double-take glance and the occasional whispers of “belleza” and “hermosa” from men as you walk down the street, minding your own business. I even once had someone say to their friend under their breath, “mira, una alemana!”
  2. Stray dogs: Literally the day we arrived, we met a few of these homeless pups plodding aimlessly among the streets. We were taken aback, wondering where their owner was, when our friend told us that stray dogs were very common.
  3. Arriving late…to everything: I managed to break my North American habits of the 15-5 minutes early rule and reversed it entirely. I expected friends to arrive later than they said and I habitually was late for everything. It’s just how it is there. Actually, don’t count on people showing up for at least an hour after the event has started.
  4. Crazy drivers: Traffics rules in Argentina seem more like suggestions, and the swerving, speeding cars, disregard for painted lines and alarming proximity of moving vehicles are proof of this. As a pedestrian, you always gotta watch where you walk. I wasn’t aware of how used to this I was until a friend came to visit me and she was having a heart attack in the taxi on the way from the airport. “No pasa nada,” I reassured her. We’ll be fine…probably.
  5. Eating the same foods: One thing I take for granted in the U.S. is the overwhelming variety of foods we have on hand at any given moment. Seriously, we have all ethnicities, various chains of each ethnic food, vegan, vegetarian, meat-lovers, gluten-free, and the list goes on and on. In Argentina, it’s not so. Your options mainly will consist of milanesa, empanadas, pizza, pasta or asado (no complaints on that one). It’s great for the first few weeks, but it gets boring after a while.(This plus pizza erryday)
  6. Sad salads: While we’re on the topic of food, I must lament at the sad status of the salad situation down there. A side order is a measly ration of shredded lettuce and carrots and salads as a meal just aren’t a thing. This is just a personal complaint though as a self-proclaimed veggie lover.señores!!! la verdad de la milanesa esta aca!!BRB gonna go cry now
  7. No money at the ATMs: The disappointed, head down look of people walking away from unstocked ATMS becomes your notice that you’re out of luck. Due to the crazy inflation and government-imposed daily withdrawal limitations, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ATM that has the amount of money you need—if any at all. Get used to this.
  8. Long lines: The slower lifestyle, ATM conundrum and poor administration equals one thing for you—waiting everywhere you go. The grocery store, the bank, the ATM, the doctor, at migrations…it seems like it never ends. It doesn’t.
  9. B. Y.O.T.P: (Bring your own toilet paper) Yep, stock up on those pañuelos, because you’ll be needing them at many of the restrooms you go to.
  10. Throwing toilet paper in the garbage: Signs are plastered on doors everywhere warning you no to throw T.P. in the toilet. Suppressing 20 years of conditioning was difficult and I can’t say I always complied. Trust me, it’s difficult to remember.
  11. “Bichos” in your food: Mostly in lettuce is where I found these little guys, it was a rarity if I didn’t find a little insect crawling around in my food. Just wash your produce REALLY well.
  12. Only tiny clothes everywhere: I’m not a heavy person by any means, but being in Argentina made me feel like a monster whale woman. Heck, I wear a size 6 or 8 in the U.S, and in Argentina you’ll be lucky if they carry that size. Many times I’d pick up a pair of short shorts or a crop top and marvel at how anyone could fit into it unless they were a fetus. A quick look around answered that question—the girls here are super small. It also doesn’t help that there are a lot of issues with the media’s portrayal of women there, causing a high rate of anorexia topped only by Japan. (and here). In fact, size discrimination is a very real problem. 
  13. A lack of monetary change: Another lovely side effect of inflation is not ever having change and consistent twinges of guilt each time you pay with a 100 peso bill.
  14. Being extra careful: Virtually every Argentine I spoke to either had firsthand experience with a robbery or assault, or they knew someone who did. Unfortunately it many areas, it’s a way of life, and people live in such a way where they are always watching their backs. You get used to always taking a taxi home at night, going places in groups or pairs, or having your belongings clutched to your side.
  15. The convenience of “kioscos”: Maybe it’s because I’m a country girl, but I really liked the availability of pretty much anything I needed at any moment, thanks to kioscos, little bodega type stalls set up around the city, niched into buildings. You can fill your bus card, buy some candy, gum, cigs, junk food or a drink–even some basic cooking and household supplies at the larger ones.

What are some little things you got used to if you lived in Argentina?

Were you surprised by anything on this list?


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