Successive peso crises have left many Argentines bitter towards certain authorities and institutions. Although many shops will accept payment in US dollars or euros and even offer you a better exchange rate than banks, try to adapt elsewhere. Keep a supply of pesos on hand for shops that don’t accept dollars.
Argentines are very engaging people who can ask very personal questions within minutes of their first meeting. They expect you to do the same. If you don’t, it is a sign of a lack of interest in the other person.
Do not be offended if someone calls you “boludo”. Even though it is a dirty word, to Argentines it means “buddy” or “comrade” (depending on the tone in which it is said). Argentines are notorious for the amount of swearing they do, so when they talk to you, don’t pay attention to the swearing. When Argentines are angry, teasing or making fun of you, you can tell by the expression on their face or the tone of their voice, and they swear even more than usual.
Also, don’t be offended if an Argentinian says things to you in a very direct way: this is very common among locals and can sometimes offend foreigners. Argentines are very emotional and extreme, whether they say good or bad things about someone. You will also find that they have a bitter sense of humour, they make fun of themselves in all sorts of ways and sometimes they make fun of you. Just respond with another joke if this is the case; the locals will not take it as an insult.
The taxi drivers (especially the older ones) are very friendly and generally very knowledgeable about everything. Feel free to talk about anything you want. Some of them even know a lot about the history and politics of the city.
Don’t try to compare “dulce de leche”, pretty women, football, Birome (Bic pen) and public buses to anything else in the world, the same goes for Argentine meat; to do so is considered an insult.
Cheek kissing is very common in Argentina, especially in big cities, between women and men. You touch your right cheek and make a slight “kissing noise”, but do not touch the cheek with your lips (once, twice -right and then left- is very rare). When two women or other sexes meet for the first time, it is not unusual to kiss. Two men shake hands first if they do not know each other, but are likely to kiss each other goodbye, especially if they have been talking for a while. Male friends kiss on the cheek every time they greet each other, as a sign of trust. Attempting to shake hands when offered a kiss is considered strange, but never rude, especially if you are an obvious stranger. Remember that when you visit another country, it is always interesting to try out new customs.
In the rest of the country, the normal handshake applies. Women also greet each other with a kiss as described above, but this is reserved for other women and men they know. All of the above also apply elsewhere in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula (with the exception of the man-to-man cheek kiss, which is not customary elsewhere).
As some Argentines are keen football fans, avoid wearing rival club shirts, as it can be dangerous in poorer neighbourhoods to take the wrong street or enter a bar with the wrong colours. You can wear European football club shirts with the name of an Argentinian player on the back (for example, a Manchester City shirt with Tevez’s name, a Barcelona shirt with Mascherano’s name, etc.) If you really want to wear a shirt, the safest thing to do is to wear an Argentina World Cup shirt.
Argentine “barrabravas” (an equivalent of the term “hooligans”) are responsible for various acts of vandalism, assaults and fatal shootings, sometimes due to debates about football. It is recommended not to wear the local football uniform too often, and it is best to avoid any football attire.
The colours of Peruvian national football (and the design of the shirts) are almost identical to those of the local team River Plate, so care must be taken to avoid misunderstandings.
Punctuality and perception of time
Argentines generally have a relaxed attitude to time. This may be disconcerting to visitors from North America and parts of Europe other than Latin America, where punctuality is highly valued. You should expect your Argentinean contacts to be at least 10-15 minutes late for any appointment. This is considered normal in Argentina and is not a sign of disrespect for the relationship. Of course, this does not apply to business meetings.
If you are invited to a dinner or party, for example at 9pm, this does not mean that you have to be there at 9pm, but that you should not arrive before 9pm. You are welcome at any time after that. Arriving an hour late to a party is usually normal and sometimes expected.
This parameter extends to any scheduled activity in Argentina. Plays and concerts usually start about half an hour after the scheduled time. Long-distance buses, on the other hand, leave on time. Public transport such as city buses and the metro don’t even care about time estimates; they arrive when they arrive! Take this into account when calculating how long things will take.
Late departures of buses or trains are not uncommon, especially in big cities. This is usually not a problem, as no one expects you to be on time anyway. However, long-distance buses almost always leave on time (even if they arrive late), so don’t expect impecuniosity to save you if you arrive late at the bus terminal.
Things to avoid
Avoid talking about the “Falkland Islands” (Las Islas Malvinas), including the Falklands War and the conflict, by their English name. These topics are very sensitive for many Argentines and may cause a strong reaction and an uncomfortable situation for you.
Avoid wearing any English and British symbols for the reasons given above. English and British flags and English football shirts should be avoided at all costs. Although no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, some people may be very upset and you may receive very cold looks and treatment from the public.
Also avoid talking about the Perón and Kirchner years, as well as politics, the military junta and religion in general. These are very sensitive subjects for many Argentines and can also provoke strong reactions.
Avoid comparing Argentina to its neighbours Brazil and Chile, as they are seen as rivals, especially in the economic sphere.
Avoid comparing regional foods. This can also be a tricky issue, as recipes and key ingredients vary from province to province.
Avoid asking for ketchup for anything other than a hot dog. Argentine beef is fantastic, and asking for ketchup or barbecue sauce to pour over a steak is not popular. You should ask for salsa criolla or chimichurri for beef and chorizo.
Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010, but in small towns or in the more conservative northern part of the country, some people (especially the older generations) may be offended by the public display of same-sex affection.
Drug use is legal in Argentina, but is frowned upon by most residents. Alcohol is generally the vice of choice here. Paco, a crack-like mixture of by-products of cocaine manufacture, is a serious problem and its users should be avoided at all costs. These people are undeniably violent and unpredictable.
Mansions or ghettos, which are usually wooden or steel shacks, should also be avoided because of the high crime rate in these areas.