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17 Sure Signs You're a Tourist in Buenos Aires

by Cathy Brown May 5, 2014
You fuck up the mate. And you don’t even realize it.

You don’t even know what you don’t know. From curing the mate (that’s the cup, not the yerba — are you lost already?), to filling it, to the water temperature (, to the rotation, the timing…and I bet you had the great idea to say gracias when someone handed it to you, to show your appreciation. Gracias means you’re bailing and you don’t want any — so don’t wonder why they don’t include you after.

Do everyone a favor, and until you know what’s up, just shut your mouth, don’t play with the straw, drink it quickly when handed to you no matter how much it scalds your mouth, and pass it back to the same person who gave it to you.

You think you know a thing or two about barbecuing, so you decide to take over the grill.

Oooh. You didn’t. That’s worse than fucking up the mate. Stepping on the asador’s toes in Argentina is not okay under any circumstances. Would you tell a French chef how to make crepes? Didn’t think so. Don’t tell an Argentine how to grill.

All you need to know when you’re invited to a barbecue is to bring lots of wine, keep your hands off the grill, and never, ever mention how much faster this whole thing could go if you just had some real charcoal or lighter fluid.

You show up on time.

Ha! Silly you. Showing up on time means you’ll sit there by yourself, fiddling with your iPhone, sad and lonely, wondering if the plans had been changed and no one remembered to tell you…until the people you’re supposed to meet show up an hour or two later, acting like nothing happened. You’ll learn.

Speaking of iPhones…you actually use yours out in public.

Locals are laughing at your naiveté as you nonchalantly check your Facebook in the middle of La Boca, I guarantee it. And the ones who aren’t laughing are at that very moment planning on robbing you. Put your iPhone away if you actually want to keep it around.

You try to get dinner at 6pm.

Try around 9pm. You’ll still be the first one there. Also, don’t act shocked when a family with small kids wanders in to eat at 11. On a school night.

You order a rum or vodka drink at the bar.

You have two options here. Fernet and soda or fernet and coke. But definitely fernet. If you want rum, go to the Caribbean.

You use tu or vosotros.

You’re in Buenos Aires. Speak castellano. It’s vos, not tu, ‘ll’ sounds like ‘sh,’ and you don’t coger anything in public. Well, a maybe on that last one. It is Buenos Aires, after all.

You watch people dancing tango in (choose one) Plaza Dorrego, Plaza Francia, or La Boca.

No local person wanting to see tango would be caught dead there. Just sayin’.

You hail taxis and buses with the same arm action.

Keep your arm low for taxis, high for buses, so they don’t get confused on which you’re targeting.

You carry a water bottle. It’s a Nalgene. And it’s probably attached to your expensive backpack with an expensive carabiner.

No. No and no. Buy your bottled water, no matter that it costs more than some bottles of Malbec. Don’t ask for tap water at a restaurant. And pretty much forget about ice.

You go in for the handshake.

You are instantly seen as cold and distant. Whether it’s a guy, a girl, a grandma, a kid, a business meeting, or a birthday party, you go for a kiss on the cheek, sometimes combined with a hug. And when you leave (even if it’s in the next 30 seconds), you do it all over again to say goodbye.

You’re homophobic.

It’s Buenos Aires. Gay marriage has been an accepted thing here for a while. Even if they don’t personally agree with homosexuality, porteños are not likely to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t do in regards to their sexuality. Same-sex couples make out in the parks and walk hand in hand down the streets, and no one will blink an eye. You shouldn’t either.

It’s your shoes.

Keens. Mizunos or Brooks. Merrell. Chaco sandals. Flip flops. You’re a dead giveaway. While it’s easy to underdress in Buenos Aires, you’ll have a hard time overdressing, especially when it comes to shoes. Walking twelve blocks down cobblestone streets avoiding piles of dog shit in five-inch killer heels to get to brunch? Totally normal.

You overuse por favor and permiso.

A true porteño doesn’t throw these words around nearly as much as foreigners might.

You complain about waiting.

“If people had to wait this long in a grocery store in the States, someone would get fired,” you say as you let out a long, exasperated, exaggerated sigh. Meanwhile, everyone else stares at you. You have the problem, not them. Tranquilo.

You never leave Palermo.

Buenos Aires is a big, colorful, wonderfully diverse city. Palermo is a bubble. A safe little bubble where people speak English, drink venti Starbucks lots-of-foam lattes, and spend dollars. Palermo has some good things to offer, such as great restaurants and fashion. But, please, make it out of the bubble. Wander. Explore. Get to know Buenos Aires, not just Palermo.

You say adiós.

It’s chau. Always chau.

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