Here are 15 American habits I kicked to the curb when I moved to Argentina.
1. Being offended if someone calls you overweight.
They are genuinely concerned about your health and will tell you if you’re on the verge of becoming an unhealthy weight.
2. Thinking therapy was something to be embarrassed about.
Argentina has the highest number of therapists per capita. Everyone is going to or has gone to therapy at some point in their life and no one is afraid to talk about it, literally.
3. Taking part in fast fashion.
Clothes are very expensive in Argentina mainly due to importation laws, so buying all the new trends no matter how long you plan on keeping them throughout the seasons is just not something they have the luxury of doing whether they want to or not. They make conscious decisions with every item of clothing they purchase.
4. Calling myself “American.”
“I’m American, too,” they’ll reply with a scoff. In Spanish it’s best to say soy estadounidense and although there is no real English equivalent of this (I’m United Statian?). It’s easiest to say that and avoid the argument entirely.
5. Showing up on time.
If I have dinner plans at 9pm, I’d show up at 9:30 and am not surprised if some people still trickle in around 10pm. Running late to work or to an interview? Not a big deal.
6. Being offended by personal question during an interview.
Anything goes in an interview in Argentina from “how old are you?” to “who do you live with?” to “are you planning to get pregnant?” I’ve even heard of some employers visiting a candidate’s home to see how they live.
7. Thinking “meeting the family” was something serious.
In America, you may just wait until you’re engaged to ever meet the parents. Meanwhile, in Argentina, most people live with their family until well into their late 20s. Plus, family functions are very common. So whether you are actually dating someone or have just made some new friends, chances are you will be invited over to a family barbecue any given Sunday.
8. Being stressed about work.
I embraced the no pasa nada attitude (a rough translation: it’s going to be okay). A tough workload? No pasa nada, we’ll finish tomorrow. A new problem arises? No pasa nada, the answer will come. With this attitude, problems definitely took longer to solve which can mean loss of money for business but at the end of the day, I learned not to stress so much about work and take things day by day.
9. Waiting to cross the street.
Cars don’t stop for you and crosswalks mean nothing so it’s best to cross when you can and pray for the best. It becomes a skill, really.
10. Eating dinner by 7pm.
Try entering a restaurant for the last meal of the day at 6pm and they’ll know you’re a foreigner. A family dinner starts around 8 to 9pm although seeing a family with young children dining out at 12am is not uncommon either. Dinner with friends in the city starts at 9 to 10pm.
11. Thinking a car lane was just for one car.
Swerving in and out of lanes is second nature to them but almost gave me a heart attack the first time I was in a car in the big city of Buenos Aires. They share lanes like slices of pizza.
12. Expecting dinner to be over after you’ve finished your food.
Sobre mesa is the term used to describe the 30 minutes to two hours Argentines spend chatting, drinking wine, and finishing up after a meal. It’s uncommon to quickly eat dinner and leave the table, even if it’s just you and someone close. You can expect friend and family events to last all evening.
13. Drinking Starbucks every day.
No one frequents Starbucks like Americans. Argentines prefer an espresso shot after dinner para bajar la comida (help the food go down) or a small cafe con leche (coffee with milk) in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll see them drinking mate, a local tea-like drink drunk from a gourd and straw.
14. Buying everything I need in one store.
You have your favorite butcher for meats, verduleria for fruits and vegetables, pharmacy for medication and skin care products, bakery for mid-day tea and cake, ice cream parlor for weekends (see habit #15). Then you have your local print shop, stationery store, even down to a health food shop for nuts and seeds. Be sure to always plan ahead to save yourself an entire day of running around grabbing everything.
15. Thinking all ice cream is created equal.
I remember the first time I asked to buy store bought ice cream. It was heresy! There is a hierarchy of the best ice cream in town. Some may say it’s Freddo; others may have their own neighborhood favorite. But no matter what, it always involves calling the ice cream parlor for delivery and choosing a handful of different flavors to suit everyone’s sweet tooth.