A Series of Trial and Error: How to Fit in Argentina

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Relocating to a foreign country can be challenging; whether you plan on spending just a few weeks or several months, you want to make your transition and stay as comfortable as possible. Even more, you’ll likely be trying to fit in as best you can with the locals. No one wants to look or act like a tourist, but how can you prepare to best blend in before you leave home? The volunteers at Voluntario Global have created a list of dos and don’ts for assimilating in Buenos Aires!

DON’T: Wear bright colored clothing.
DO: Pack neutrals, blacks, and dark colored clothing.








Much like the fashion of other large cities, dark colors are always in vogue. You’ll be sure to stand out if you’re wearing something bright! Additionally, for women, be sure to leave the heavy makeup at home. Most Argentine girls wear little to none during the day, but a little bit more when going out at night.

DON’T: Eat empanadas with cutlery. Eat pizza with your hands.
DO: Let the delicious empanada juice and cheese cover your face. Pick up the fork for a slice of mozzarella.


Empanadas come in a variety of flavors, from pollo, carne, jamon y queso, caprese, to so much more, they are a definite must-eat in Argentina. But, be sure to eat these juicy treats as a finger food! Conversely, although you may be used to picking up a slice of pizza, be sure to use a knife and fork to eat it when you’re in Argentina. Even more, don’t expect dinner until 9PM or later!

DON’T: Forget to close both doors to the elevator.
DO: Take the elevator to whatever floor, even the second.


You’ll be hard pressed to find an automatic elevator in Buenos Aires. Rather, they are old-fashioned, featuring the dual sliding door. You’ll need to pull both doors tightly closed to ensure you’ll be able to move. Be sure to close both once you’re done, too! And, although Argentines are exercise aficionados, everyone avoids the stairs and takes the lift.

DON’T: Take a cup of coffee to go…especially from Starbucks.
DO: Sit, relax, and enjoy a cafe con leche in one of the many corner cafes.


Starbucks has become a recognised coffee chain all over the world which many people like to frequent to get their caffeine fix on the run. Argentines, however, are more likely to sit down and enjoy every sip rather than take on “para llevar”.

DON’T: Drink directly from a water bottle.
DO: Use the straw you are given during the purchase.


Going to a kiosco guarantees you anything you need. They can be found on almost every corner, so you’ll never have to search too far for somewhere to charge your sube card, grab an alfajor or quench your thirst. Portenos don’t tend to drink straight from the bottle, however. So if you’re picking up a drink, expect the friendly vendor to give you a straw as well as a smile with your new purchase!

DON’T: Cut the line when you’re waiting for the bus.
DO: Queue up patiently with the rest of the portenos.


The bus system, or los colectivos, is the one of the most popular and cheapest ways of getting around this bustling city. It’s extremely expensive with many companies and many lines, so it’s important to stay organised. Locals help by organising themselves in perfect queues that often stretch along the sidewalk. If you’re waiting for a bus, be sure to head to the end of the line instead of cutting in and a bus should be along every five minutes. This rule completely changes once you descend underground; it is more of a free-for-all when you want to hop aboard the underground train.

DON’T: Try to greet someone with a handshake.
DO: Kiss the right cheek of anyone you meet and anyone else in the room both at your arrival and departure. This goes for men, too!


Kissing the right cheek is the accepted greeting in Argentina. You may not know their name, but be sure to give everyone a peck! Leave sticking out your hand behind and enjoy the warmness of an Argentine embrace. Additionally, be sure to adapt to the unique accent and styles of Argentine Spanish; the double L and Y converts to a “shh” sound and the “tu” form is replaced by “vos.” These changes can be somewhat confusing at first but you’ll be sure to catch on quickly enough!

DON’T: Take one sip of mate and pass it on.
DO: Finish it all so the next person can fill it up with hot water.

Mate is a traditional drink of herbs and hot water which Argentines go crazy for! You won’t be able to walk down the street without seeing someone strolling along with their flask, gourd and bombilla. It’s very popular to share a cup amongst a group of friends, but be sure to drink all of the water before passing it on to the next person as it is considered rude to just take one sip.

Every country in the world has its own unique quirks; you can’t be expected to learn them all from travel books and guides. The only real way to drop the tourist persona is by adopting a ‘trial and error’ attitude. As daunting as this might seem at first, just dive right into Argentine culture with these handy tips and you should be off to a great start!

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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.


Location: General Pacheco. Buenos Aires. Argentina
Email: jfranco@voluntarioglobal.org

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