2019-02-17

What to Expect in your First Week in Buenos Aires

Written by Laura Blackmore & Jeanne Dulac
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Laura is from Australia and Jeanne is French. They both arrived this week in Buenos Aires to help Voluntario Global with their community NGO projects. Here are a few insights of what it’s like to be Portenos for a couple of weeks:

Expectations

J: I have travelled to Brazil for seven months back in 2014 where I first came across the difference of culture between France and South America. I learned to leave all my preconceived ideas at the departure gate at the airport. I’ve heard that BA was the European’s capital of South America, in that way my expectations were met as I found some of Paris in La Recoleta’s architecture, Italy in the Porteno’s accent as well as hand gestures and an extensive cultural scene. 

L: Before I came to Argentina I was working in a 9 to 5 communications and marketing role. I was used to structure (which is not necessarily a good thing) and planning projects out months in advance. I semi-expected the internship to be similar. Although, after our first team meeting at VG, I realised that our work would be a lot more flexible. Every day would be different and we could create our own schedules depending on what was happening at the various projects around Buenos Aires. At first, this scared me because I was so used to knowing what I had to do every day and knew it would be a challenge for me to change my work habits. However, I was open minded to this new approach and am now adapting to this style of work, which has also been a great learning experience. 

Culture Shock

L: No matter how much you travel, you will always experience some degree of culture shock when living abroad. It’s a sensory overload of constant change and adapting to a new way of life. The first few days can be exhausting as you are trying to process a lot of information (combined with getting over jet lag!). From my experiences, I like to research a few things to do and visit them within the first couple of days. This will keep me busy and allows me to get to know the local area. Free walking tours around Buenos Aires are also a great way to see some of the city’s monuments and get those legs moving after being in a plane for countless hours!  

Friendliness

J: Working with VG allowed us to encounter locals and share important moments of their lives with them. We went to several projects this week from the CPE (a young kids center) to the El Pacheco community where youngsters of the neighborhood graduated; every time, we were welcomed as one of them, people were curious about where we were from and what we were doing. The sense of hospitality is strong here. The same thing applies if you ask for directions in the streets, the Portenos are warm people and you are always encouraged to join the party! 

Language

J: I was used to the Spanish from Spain, studied in high school and also to the Brazilian Portuguese but when I arrived here I was totally lost! The Argentine people don’t really speak Spanish, they use Castillan; their own version of the Hispanic language mixed with the “ch” and slang spoken at a very high pace. It takes some time to catch onto it but if you say despacio por fa, everyone will make the effort to slow down and help you with the language barrier.

L: I believe you will have a completely different experience if you can travel to a country and speak the local language. You have the opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about all of the cultural nuances. In saying that, I was quite taken back by the Argentine accent as I had learnt most of my Spanish in Mexico and Spain. Portenos have a distinct accent and pronounce words differently, especially the ‘ll’ in Spanish. My suggestion before coming to Buenos Aires is to learn some of the lingo used in Argentina. For example in Mexico they would say autobusfor the bus, but in Argentina it’s the colectivo. Also watch a few Argentine movies to familiarise yourself with the accent (i.e: Evita).

An Abundance of Culture

J: After spending only a few days here we noticed that no matter when or where you are, there is always something to do and see. From the astonishing El Ateneo library to one of the best acoustic sounds in the world at Teatro Colon, the myriad of bookstores and regular exhibition just to name a few, one shall never get bored in this city! Argentines take their culture seriously and make an effort for everyone who lives or visits the city to learn and experience a special moment.

L: Yesterday I joined in on one of the Free Walking Tours to explore more Buenos Aires. It was 4 hours long and we walked around from suburb to suburb, learning about some of their compelling historical and cultural aspects of the country. However, I felt like we only scraped the surface about all there is to learn about this city that never sleeps! I’m looking forward to spending more time in B.A and discovering other areas of this fascinating place.

A few words to help you during your BA experience:

  • Porfa is perfectly acceptable to use in most places
  • If you don’t know someone’s name you can say Che
  • Medialuna is a croissant
  • Always vos, never tu
  • Lindo (which can mean pretty, nice, handsome) is used for everything: People, animals, flowers, situations, food. Use it as often as you’d like!
  • Porteños use aca instead of aqui, which is considered more formal.

 

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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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