Culture Shock in Argentina

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Argentine tango - Culture shock in Argentina
Expats will experience a range of culture shock in Argentina. The country is in Latin America and, despite its reputation as the most ‘European’ of South American countries, it is still very much Latin by nature - lively, emotional and family-oriented.
Argentina is huge and the degree of culture shock expats will experience varies considerably from province to province. That said, if expats keep the words ‘manana’, ‘siesta’, and ‘gringoed’ firmly in the back of their mind, they should be fine.

Culture shock in Buenos Aires

In Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city, the severity of culture shock expats may feel is considerably mild. In fact, expats would be forgiven for thinking they’re in Paris, London or Rome. Like every big city, Buenos Aires is a melting pot of nationalities, and its European heritage is prominent. There are no “typical” looking Argentines − expats will find themselves surrounded by blondes, red-heads and everything in between.

The city has a large café culture and there are shopping galleries, tango clubs and schools on every street corner. The city has a vibrant nightlife and locals love to dance.

Culture shock in rural Argentina

Expats interested in living outside of the big cities will find their culture shock in Argentina considerably more pronounced.
One thing a foreigner never really gets used to is the siesta, which involves a four-to-five hour shutdown in the middle of the day − after a big family midday meal − when everyone sleeps. Towns become empty and ghost-like. The shops start shutting at 12pm and rarely reopen before 4.30pm. Nothing seems to be able to interrupt the siesta.
In the evening, people eat late. Restaurants do not open for dinner until 9pm at the earliest; most people go out to eat at around 10.30pm. Clubs only start filling up after 1am.
Shopping in rural Argentina is a trial and often a test of patience for those who are used to one-stop shopping malls. People never help themselves in a store, as there is a numbered ticket and queuing system (Argentines seem to enjoy queuing). The person that serves customers doesn’t wrap goods or take money; those tasks are done by two other people.
After several lifetimes of socialist government, employees are not trained to think laterally. If a request cannot be ticked in a box, it cannot be provided.
Expats should understand the process of being ‘gringoed’, a term used to refer to all non-Spanish speaking foreigners. This term translates into a mentality that the locals use to shape their interactions with foreigners.
This means that the car an expat may want to buy will miraculously cost double what an Argentine may have been quoted. This applies to a variety of products and services throughout Argentina.
Argentinians have a constant struggle to deal with the ups and downs of their erratic economy, and any foreigner is deemed a millionaire in comparison. Short-term financial gain will always win out over long-term after-sales service.

Language barrier in Argentina

Expats should not expect to find the English language spoken anywhere in Argentina outside of its big cities. New arrivals will need to speak and understand some Spanish; anything more complicated than asking for a coffee and a sandwich will require a translator.
Assimilating into Argentina can often result in a considerably larger shock than expected upon arrival.
That said, there are many up-sides that come with the country’s culture, such as long, languid barbecues, plenty of very good wine and superlative steak, not to mention that foreign currency can go incredibly far.

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