The seven thoughts and questions below came to my mind, during my first weeks as a student taking Spanish courses in Buenos Aires. I am curious to know: what were your first impressing of this big, stunning metropole in Argentina? How did you feel during the first days?
I can’t understand anyone. I thought they spoke Spanish in Argentina?!
Argentine Spanish or castellano is unlike any other Spanish dialects in South America. It has a very heavy Italian influence, because of the many Italians immigrants that arrived to Buenos Aires in the 19th and 20th centuries. For instance, the double l is pronounced differently. While in other countries they pronounce double l as “Y”, in Buenos Aires they pronounce that as “SJ”. Furthermore there are a number of slang words. Argentina slang is called Lunfardo. They don’t say autobus, but collective or ‘bondi. They don’t say vale, but dale. They don’t say aqui, but acá. And Argentina people don’t talk about the ‘piscina’, but about the ’pileata’. And there are many, many more examples like this. Here you can find more examples of typical Argentine words or Lunfardo.
Does beer come in litres in Buenos Aires?
Yes, beer comes in litres in Buenos Aires . It is also very cheap. A litre of beer can come for as low as 20 pesos a bottle. You are able to buy smaller bottles too (which they call porron), but big bottles are more cost effective. The idea behind the big bottles is that you can share them with your friends, rather than everyone drinking from their own bottle.
Why is everyone here walking so slowly?
Life in South America is very relaxed and Argentina is no exception. Nobody is in a hurry to get anywhere and this might be a big culture shock for Americans or Europeans, who are used to hurry from one place to another. Other than in other cultures, in South America the focus is more about enjoying the moment.
Do I really need to stay in a club until the sun rises?
No, you don’t. But if you don’t want to be considered a loser, you better get used to this new Argentina lifestyle and nightlife etiquette. Most bars and boliches (clubs) will not open before 12 or 1am and nobody will show up until 2 or 3am. Most Argentines organise a previa (a pre-drink) starting around 11pm right after dinner (that takes place between 9 and 11 pm). Around 2 or 3am, they will go to bar or club to spend the rest of the night. The party goes on all night, often till 7 or 8am. After, you will take a colectivo (a bus) home, sitting next to a businessman who is on his way to work.
How big is this city? I thought I saw all of it!
No, you did not and you probably never will. Buenos Aires has 13 million inhabitants, and although you might be able to visit all the famous neighbourhoods, you will never see the entire city.
What is the Washington monument doing on the middle of that 14-lane road?
That 14-lane road is called Avenida 9 de Julio and it actually is the Widest Avenue of the World. And that is not that Washington monument, that is the Obelisco, an icon of the modernity of the city of Buenos Aires. It was built to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of the city of Buenos Aires.
Malvinas? Are they talking about the Falkland Islands?
When in Buenos Aires, never talk about the Falklands Islands. The Argentine people are still a bit salty about their war with the British in 1980. The Malvinas (or Falkland Islands) were a British colony, when Argentina decided to invade it in the 1980s. The British minister at that time, Margaret Thatcher, immediately sent warships to stop this invasion. An alarming number of people were killed on both sides. Each year on 2 April, Día de Malvinas, the Argentines commemorate the soldiers involved and the social and political problems that still remain from this event.