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.
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.
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.