The porteño culture has a rich and complex history. Its myriad culture lends itself to in depth study and understanding… unfortunately this is a top five and we haven’t got time for that. So here’s our guide to faking it as a native in Buenos Aires in under a thousand words.
Arriving in a new country can be tricky, and adapting to a new culture can be even harder. Luckily we’ve got a cure in the form of our top five porteño actions and attitudes–It’s the list of stereotypes and generalisations you always wanted! Not to mention the best route to making long-term porteño friends…
En serio, this top five is the editorial equivalent of kicking off your socks and sandals and smearing yourself in dulce de leche. A pleasant experience all round in other words! So put down the guidebook and get started.
Embrace the People. Literally.
Porteños are famous for their good looks, which might explain their propensity for public displays of affection. To really embrace porteño life, you need to get into heavy petting in a public place. This can be a difficult adjustment for foreigners, particularly as other cultures frown upon such demonstrations in couples over the age of 15. However, as a population, Argentines are beautiful, passionate people; it’s visible in the architecture of its cities, in its famous literature, and in the couple groping each other next to you on the bus.
In Buenos Aires, couples of all ages can be found entwined in the most unlikely locations at all times of day, however the top place for public trysts is the subte. The close physical proximity of the rush hour journey does lend itself to intimacy and even with full phone reception there’s little else to do on the ride to work. We hear subte trips really fly by when you spend them attached to someone else’s face, so hop on and get off. Make sure you know the person you’re mauling though – uninhibited is one thing, sexual harassment is another.
Hire a Therapist
How are you feeling today? Like you might have some serious childhood issues you need to work through, for at least an hour a week if not more? Join the back of the queue. To really embody the porteño stereotype you need to develop a serious desire for self analysis, and subsequently hire someone to listen to it. Porteños are typically keen on therapy and even have their own TV show dedicated to the topic – ‘En Terapia’.
However this isn’t to say Buenos Aires is a riddled mess of psychological issues. Your average porteño is much less likely to spend a night out talking about themselves, their boyfriends, or their childhood bed-wetting issues than you are – they already covered it in their 2.30 appointment.
Therapy is something probably more of us should consider. Think of it as outsourcing your whingeing. Adjusting to a new city can be tough and snivelling all over your new friends won’t help you fit in. Why not do everyone a favour and get on the Argentina therapy wagon? Bring your wallet though, it turns out emotional intelligence isn’t cheap.
Get with the Argen-times
Buenos Aires is a city for night owls. If you like getting up early, you might as well not go to bed, or at least dose yourself up on enough mate and cortados to keep you sustainably jittery. Everything in this city happens late, which can be tricky to get used to, especially if you like sleeping and eating…
Most new arrivals suffer a short period of food jet lag – finding themselves staggering through the city craving lunch at 3pm while most porteños are sipping their first coffee. Meeting friends for an evening meal won’t help either – you won’t be eating before 11pm, and if you arrive on time, you’ll be the only one. Late means on time in Buenos Aires, so on time means early – let your starving brain mull that one over while you gaze at someone else’s steak.
The major benefit to this arrangement is the amount of extra hours in every day. When you eat at 11pm, leave the house at 2am and go out at 4am, the night seems never-ending. The next day at work also seems pretty eternal, but that’s a top five for another day…
Walk the Walk
If you want to step out, not stick out, it’s time to buy a pair of platforms. This isn’t some kind of tango slang but an homage to the platform shoe. It may be a passing trend, but it’s certainly a successful one –from flip flops to brogues, every porteño foot seems to have paid a visit to Nicolas Sarkozy’s dressing up box.
In England these shoes are known as ‘brothel creepers’ and they have a history dating back to World War II. The Argentine version looks less like a war shoe than one of Elvis’ blue suede numbers, but if the heritage remains unclear, the rules do not. All normal shoes apply for this make-over but the best pairs feature leopard print and brightly coloured suede as well as a brick-like bottom.
The biggest bonus of the porteño platform trend is accessibility. It applies to any and every kind of footwear, and by the time you’ve perfected the art of walking on what feels like two planks of wood, you’ll really feel like one of the crowd, even if you won’t be able to see above it.
Develop a Sweet Tooth
Porteño menus are a heady mix of meat, cheese, and more meat, but in between the choripan and panchos you’ll need to find space for the enormous range of sugary treats on offer – factor in the facturas, if you like.
If you haven’t already immersed yourself in dulce de leche (hopefully metaphorically) you’ll probably have developed an addiction to medialunas. These sticky, fluffy little delicacies are lethally good and can be eaten at any time of day. In fact if you’ve been up all night following tip number 3 (and maybe 1…) the sugar hit is justifiable on medicinal grounds.
Even foods you once thought of as savoury can take on whole new identities in Buenos Aires. Pasta sauces sometimes seem more like fruit juices and cake and bread perform pretty much the same function. Never underestimate the porteño appreciation for the white stuff – yes we’re still talking about sugar – and start to embrace a new range of flavours. Ease in with ‘muy picante’, food with a hint of salt and pepper, and head towards ‘muy dulce’, the place where cholesterol goes to die.