Living in Argentina: Social Hints

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In Argentina, when you greet someone or say goodbye to them, you give each other a kiss on the (right) cheek. In formal situation people shake hands. Argentineans are great conversationalists and are interested and knowledgeable about world events, politics and sporting. Meetings usually begin with small talk.


Personal body space is close. It is common for participants in a conversation to politely touch each other on the arm or back, and a light kiss on the cheek is customary, even after the first meeting. Take your cue from your acquaintance.


Cafes are a part of everyday Argentine life both for the residents of Buenos Aires as well as those from other regions. It is like a second home where people meet over a steaming cup of coffee with friends, acquaintances, clients or themselves...

Mate is THE traditional beverage of Argentina. For Argentineans, “los mates” are a fundamental part of life. Mate is a strong, caffeinated tea drank from a cup about the size of an apple. The cup is filled with an herb (yerba) and hot water and then drank through a metal straw called “bombilla” that has a filter on its end. When somebody offers you a mate it means that they care about you, that they want to share something with you. That’s why we suggest you not to reject mate when offered…it might not be your intention but it can hurt their feelings!

Argentines typically eat a very small breakfast of coffee or tea and toast or pastries, if they eat breakfast at all. Lunch is typically around 1:00-3:00pm, and they do not have a “siesta” in the afternoon like in Spain.

Dinnertime can be anywhere from 9:00pm to 12:30am.

Bars do not start up until 12:00-2:00am and clubs never fill up until 3:00-4:00am. It is very normal to stay out until 7:00am on the weekends. This being said, if you plan to party/drink please do so slowly. Bars and clubs in North America and most places in Europe close around the same time Argentines start going out, so please keep this in mind.

Tipping in restaurants is approximately 10%, and tipping after taxi rides is not expected.


Small talk is important. Bringing up Football is a great way to start conversation with people—definitely avoid bringing up the Dirty War or the Falklands issue with people until you know them well.

Porteños are very proud of their city and culture (some would say to the point of arrogance), so avoid direct criticism of Buenos Aires when possible.

The speech of Buenos Aires in particular abounds with words and phrases from the colorful slang known as “lunfardo” (see appendix). Although you shouldn’t use lunfardo words unless you are supremely confident that you know their every implication (especially in formal situations), it’s good to be aware of some of the more common everyday usages.


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Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.


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Email: jfranco@voluntarioglobal.org

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