1. Having dulce de leche for breakfast and drinking Coke at every meal
Argentinians have a sweet tooth and love their Coca Cola, dulce de leche, ice cream, dulce de membrillo, and medialunas. In Buenos Aires I learned that biting into a tostado with a thick spread of buttery, fudgey dulce de leche the first thing in the morning is completely normal and you’re only judged if you don’t start your morning with a massive sugar intake. It’s also completely fine to drink Coca Cola with every meal and use it as your staple drink mixer (I might add that it never ends with just one Fernet with Coke). I once tried to introduce the Fernet Orange to at least add some Vitamin C to my alcohol intake, but as horrified locals stared me down, I decided to stick with the national drink.
2. Not giving a f%ck about rules and laws
The sign says I’m not allowed to feed the stray dogs? I point at my leftover food and tell the mozo “para llevar, por favor” and later put the doggy bag on the floor outside the restaurant in Unquillo to feed the scrawny dog. Cata Internacional kindly informs me on the square plasma TV that I’m not allowed to take my shoes off, as I look at my black socks and curl up on my semi-cama seat. Closed-door restaurant without permission to serve alcohol, let alone food? I call and make a reservation without thinking twice. A people completely accustomed to corruption and distrusting their own elected government, Argentinians are creative and take any imposed restrictions with a pinch of salt – rules are made to be broken or at least not paid any attention.
3. Carrying a ridiculous amount of cash on me
Debit and credit cards are for tourists and Westerners with a functioning banking system. After the economic crisis in 2001, when the country’s economy collapsed, the value of the peso dropped, inflation hit 40% and people were not allowed to access most of their savings. Since then, cash is king in Argentina. Most people either save their money under their mattress or, for those rich enough, in Miami bank accounts. The cash points are moody – giving you money on an irregular basis – so I learned pretty quickly to stock up on cash and never leave the house without it.
I stood alone after a day’s asado on Ruta 63, wanting to head back from San Martín de Los Andes to Bariloche, and was without a car. It was a Sunday and I couldn’t be bothered to wait for the bus (I actually hadn’t even checked the timetable, so I’d probably missed it). Kind Argentinians pulled over and offered me a ride, worried that I would be picked up by some dodgy person with bad intentions, and since then have made me think it’s a perfectly good idea to hacer dedo.
5. Completely disregarding safety
During my time in Argentina I learned that the Argentinians don’t obsess on thinking what can go wrong and then do everything they can to minimize the risk of getting hurt. They don’t necessarily wear a helmet when riding their motorbike, and hard hats (except in polo) are far from standard procedure in riding. Jumping up on a criollo I’d never ridden before, riding out on a dried out lake a 40 minute drive from El Calafate, my guide looked bewildered at my hard hat and asked: “You do know that you don’t need one, right?
Later, three months working as a guide at an estancia left me with images of gauchos and horse breakers with not much more than a boina on their head. That and a romantic image in my head of letting the wind freely blow through my hair helped me let go of safety regulations. I jumped up and cantered on way too many horses without anything on my head.
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