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13 Reasons You’ll Never Truly be an Argentine…

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Soy Argentino (photo: Katya, via flickr)

Soy Argentino (photo: Katya, via flickr)

(N.B. Si sos argentino, tranquilo: ¡Ya estás, querido! Pero si te da fiaca leer esto en inglés, leelo en castallano acá, como Dios manda.)


So you’ve lived in Buenos Aires for three years. You’ve roasted beef over hot coals, you’ve overpaid for tango shoes and even used them occasionally, and your accent is so convincing, you could make a viral youtube video out of it. Argentine friends tell you “sos más porteño que el Obelisco” and “estás más acriollado que el dulce de leche”, just because you drink Fernet and end your every sentence with “boludo”.

But as you watch them link arms and jump up and down to some dreadful Argentine ska-punk band from the early 1990s, you begin to doubt that you will ever really be one of them. Cultivate that doubt. You will never truly be an Argentine. Here’s why….


1. You think people catch colds from coming into contact with what we doctors call the “rhinovirus”. In fact, colds are caused by going out with wet hair and an exposed neck when the season changes. Also, it’s not a cold, it’s flu. Probably swine flu.

2. You’re puzzled by the excitement such ordinary foods inspire in the locals: You think alfajores are all right, but you’d rather have a Twix. You don’t have an irrational emotional urge to eat pasta every Sunday. Cremón cheese adverts anger you. “That’s not cheese!” you mutter at the TV. “That’s not cheese!”

3. You feel a twinge of anxiety when your taxi doesn’t have seatbelts.

4. Your clothes are all wrong. You think “elegante sport” is the Spanish for “show jumping”. You don’t know when to wear a tie or not (answer: never wear a tie). The only time you ever wore alpargatas was for a fancy dress party, to which you went as the world’s least-convincing gaucho. It’s even worse if you’re a foreign woman in Buenos Aires, enduring the third year of a gruelling buffing-waxing-shopping-dieting regime in constant fear that the slightest slip will result in being cast out from polite society.

5. You’re scared of the plug sockets.

6. You don’t know the first thing about piropos. You think it’s quite rude to shout out compliments and/or oral sex requests/offers at passing women. The most daring thing you ever said to a strange woman in public was when you asked a pretty girl at the bus stop the time. You’ve never had sex with a prostitute either. Maricón.

Alpargatas (photo: Bernardo Lopez via Flickr)

Alpargatas (photo: Bernardo Lopez via Flickr)

7. You’re too polite. You say “hola” when you walk into a supermarket. You say “por favor” to the bus driver. You think the Spanish for “thank you” is “gracias”, when it is in fact “listo”, and you think the Spanish for “goodbye” is “chau”, when it is it fact a stony silence.

8. Paradoxically, you’re too rude. You take your shoes off indoors. You eat lunch without using a napkin. Sometimes, you just can’t be bothered to kiss people goodbye. Ortiba.

9. That’s not cheese!

10. You can’t make a drink in a bar last longer than 30 minutes without ordering another, and you never cease to be amazed at how these people can jabber on until 6am with just a 7-Up for sustenance.

11. Your poverty/crisis/quilombo threshold is too low. Don’t get me wrong, you enjoy a good old cacerolazo as much as the next Recoleta housewife, and a severe devaluation of the peso would bring you and your foreign bank account nothing but joy. But your patience will prove short if the government keeps depriving you of i-Phones and Sriracha sauce, and at the first sign of things really kicking off 2001-style you’ll be on the first plane to Barcelona (feeling no patriotic duty to fly Aerolíneas). Also, don’t all these poor people get awfully depressing after a while?

12. Your Spanish will never be good enough. You could immerse yourself in a small village in Entre Ríos for thirty years, cut yourself off from all contact with the English language, and the locals will still think of you as a foreigner and comment that you’ve still got a bit of a “tonito inglés”. The bastards.

13. Finally, there is one watertight indicator of your inherent un-Argentineness: no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get that enthusiastic about Erasure.

Andy Bell from Erasure (photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Andy Bell from Erasure (photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia).

Daniel Tunnard’s long-awaited book about taking all the buses in Buenos Aires, Colectivaizeishon, el ingles que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires, will be in all good bookstores and El Gran Splendid at the end of August. Finally!

Can’t get enough of Tunnard? Weirdo. Go to Café Rivas in San Telmo at 9pm on any given Tuesday and get your Gringo on. If you print out this article, you can bring a friend for free.

This post was written by:

- who has written 787 posts on The Argentina Independent.


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19 Responses to “13 Reasons You’ll Never Truly be an Argentine…”

  1. Ryan says:

    Or do everyone a favor and be yourself.

  2. Yamila says:

    I get all these things, I was born in Argentina but lived most of my life in Australia but now living here in Patagonia. But my poor partner who is Australian relates to all those things more so because you are from England (English gringo) than a US gringo. It is hard for him poor thing having to hear from his mother in law that the kids will catch a cold with wet hair and no “cuellitos” on when going outside! Also How we miss a good cheese and there is no fetta cheese down here! He relates to all your points, he will never be un argentino.

  3. Oscar G. says:

    There’s nothing more irritating (for me at least) than when someone says the most racist thing you’ve heard in a while and when confronted they use the ‘es un chiste’ card rendering any conversation about why or how it’s OK to be such a racist a**hole here useless. And I’m not even talking about the old ‘hey negro como andas’ talk, I’m talking about real stuff like people saying they would never ever date a Peruvian.

  4. anonymaso says:

    Jajaaaa Peruvian is not a race, you jew!

  5. Daniel says:

    Yeah OScar, you racist Paraguayan, you!

  6. dancouver says:

    Great article. One thing I never quite during my 5 years there was the parallel sense of superiority and inferiority many Argentines had. They felt they were the best of South America (culturally, although economically long since surpassed)and yet carried many chips on their collective shoulders.
    The other thing not mentioned was peronism. Surely a reasonable explanation of much of what Argentina is!

  7. Sue Littleton says:

    3 years…5 years…think 18 years, a gap of 30 years with visits between Austin and B.A., and now now 8 years more here, on my way to Forever. Apparently my accent is rather peculiar. My fave game is when the taxistas ask where I’m from and I give them three guesses. They name the most exotic countries (to me) and 1 in 100 gets it right — USofA! –Soy de la gran república de Texas, el unico estado en la unión que fue una república por 3 meses– and then I tell the driver the Texas story. What can they do but listen, push me out on the street? My accent is incurable, my written Spanish has to be corrected by dutiful friends, and I AM A POET! Sure, they read me in English, all three folks, but I need to have my poems in Spanish! My three children are porteños, although one has escaped to Colonia, and I have a happy collection of eight Argentine grandchildren. I give up, a Spanish bridge buddy calls me Texargentina, and I think that about says it!

  8. Katie says:

    Hey Daniel,

    Can you contact me asap at Katie@matadornetwork.com. Trying to get hold of you about writing/republishing opportunities.

    Kind regards

    Katie Scott Aiton

  9. Benita says:

    Maté anyone? Hilarious!!!

  10. Luciana says:

    I hate to be the one to break this to you but nobody says Ortiba anymore.

  11. Gustavo says:

    Luciana,I’m afraid that you couldn’t be more wrong. It´s a very common term in many “barrios” (sadly it’s being replaced by gato), ortiba!

  12. Timea says:

    The article is not about becoming argentinian. The writer talks about a small segment of the population. High-class porteno. High-class porteno and argentinian doesn’t cover each other. Never the less, you as a foreigner will never be any of them. Why would you want it? Are you ashamed of your own culture??

  13. seboz says:

    A classic “out of the skin” british view. I believe most people can become something else except for Brits. Essentially, brits are taught from very early days to remove themselves from their own skins. They are always outsiders,passengers, even inside their own selves. Not in vain you ‘ve chosen the bus(a place that people always gets off) as means to connect. Cheers.

  14. Martín says:

    hey! i have another one:

    don’t ever mix up porteños with anybody else: stepping out of the CABA, it’s like another country. you can even get beaten up if you do that in some cities of “el interior”

    damn those porteños are assholes…

  15. Gran says:

    Believe me, most Args. over 40 feel the same re. dreadful ska-punk bands from the early 1990s – ha ha, the article is great, here’s a quote to you from William Henry Hudson:
    “Jack the Killer was one of those strange Englishmen frequently to be met with in those days, who had taken to the gaucho’s manner of life …He had drifted into that outlandish place when young and, finding the native system of life congenial, had made himself as much of a native as he could, and dressed like them and talked their language…But here there was a difference. Jack could affiliate with the natives, yet could never be just like them. The stamp of the foreigner, of the Englishman, was never wholly eradicated. He retained a certain dignity, a reserve, almost a stiffness, in his manner which made him a marked man among them, and would have made him a butt to the wits and bullies…”
    (used it in one text as an unhappy example of acculturalization (Hudson’s case – who embraced his Anglosaxon side) being the positive one)
    btw: isn’t Cremon a type of cheese?
    https://www.google.com.ar/search?q=queso+blanco&newwindow=1&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=bYoxU4OmEKGR0AHduoHYCQ&sqi=2&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=675

  16. Rocio says:

    Hey, everything is True!! My parents are Asian and they moved to Argentina thinking that it was a good country. Im argentinian, and i just moved like two months ago to America. Here is better, cuz on Argentina they just was sooo rasist. They think that they are the best. Every single person is Fake, Just remember that.
    Im just sooo happy that i moved to America.

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