America

American + Candaian = Amerinadian (ə-ˈmer-ə-nā-dē-ən)

When out at the boliches (night clubs) in Palmero people constantly want to know my nationality. Once I tell them am American, this then leads to an interrogation and criticism of American politics and culture. Argentinians villianize America and as a result my nationality is synonymous to this bad perception. Because this is their perception of America, Argentinians assume that am rich or that am promiscuous, this doesn’t help fight off the unwanted male attention. In addition, most Argentinians like to criticize American politics and culture this definitely brings down the mood.

I once spoke with a man who said that America’s reputation has gotten worse in Latin America, and that President Obama should look to Argentina as a model nation. Even at work there are people who think am rich. They to look at me with resentment and jealously or admiration. 

To avoid the looks and misperceptions one student shared that she introduces herself as a Canadian. Most Argentinians are not interested in Canadian culture and are generally less judgmental.

I wanted to see if this would work so I tried it, below is my conversation (spoken in Spangilsh) with a guy at one of the boliches last Friday, the parentheses represent my thoughts:

Guy: Where are you from-Montreal?

Me: Yeah! (I was about to say Toronto but I went with Montreal)

Guy: What university do you go to?

Me: University of Montreal. (I hope that’s a real school)

Guy: Do you speak French?

Me: No, only half of Canada speaks French. (Is this even a real statistic?)

Guy: Do you like hockey?

Me: No, not really a sports person. (I am not sports person regardless of my fake nationality)

Guy: How do you like Buenos Aires?

After he asked me this question our conversation move passed Canada — we actually talked about culture and my country wasn’t insulted. I guess my fake nationality social experiment worked. But don’t get it twisted I am proud to be an American. I understand the blessing it is to live in the United States and that is something I will never hide again.

-Ang

Mis Observaciónes

I’ve completed my second week in Buenos Aires and I’ve already noticed a lot of cultural differences. Here’s a list of a few major ones (in no particular order)…

1. Argentinians love jamón: It’s on everything, pizza, burgers, pasta, salad, empanadas etc.

2. They also love mozzeralla and bleu cheese: I can’t find Cheddar cheese any where

3. Reckless driving is the norm: Taxi drivers drive without using their hands or with their eyes on the road.

4. Cockroaches rule the night: Saw my first mutant cockroach on the second night walking home, it was bigger than a water bug. I almost died. I’ve seen several more outside at night, still can’t get used to it.

5. You bag your own groceries: Why hire a bagger when you can do it yourself? Argentinian grocery stores charge for plastic bags, offer free delivery yet requires self bagging service.

6. Paradoxical Politics: I’ve had a few small conversations with Argentinians and they bring up politics. They usually find a way to insult America and their country but also mention how much better Argentina is as compared to the States.

7. Water is NEVER FREE: Most restaurants will not give you a free glass of water by default. One must order water sin gas for 20 pesos.

8. Hamburgers: Sometimes hamburgers are literally just the burger patty. The patties are cooked to perfection and delicious just different than the loaded options we have in the States.

9. Bils: When eating in a group, separate checks are unheard of. Waiters/Waitress bring one check and a 10 percent tip is expected always.

10. Most Argentinians don’t carry compactable umbrellas: It has been raining for the last few days and I’ve noticed people using large umbrellas (random observation).

11. ADA accessibility: There are a lot of stairs in Buneos Aires, I have not seen many ramps for those in wheelchairs.

12. PDA: No shy couples here. On the way home from dinner in the Palmero barrio we stumbled on a couple who was on third base. Scarred for life.

13. No Structure is the Structure: As a planner, this part of the culture causes frustration but I have to deal with it.

14. Kissing is OK: In classic Italian flare, Argentinians say hello and good bye with a side face kiss gesture. Man on man, woman on woman, or vice versa. That’s how it goes. I still forget sometimes but I am getting better.

15. Measurements: Argentina is in line with the rest of the world. They measure the temperature with Celsius, time with the 24-hour clock and use the metric system.

16. Buffets: You pay after you eat. There might be some like this in America but I’ve always paid for a buffet before eating.

-Ang

Una Noche en Palermo Soho

There’s no one word to sum up my first night out in Buenos Aires. I can try… and words like exciting, laughter, hot and frustrating come to mind. But none truly summarize my mixed emotions.

In true Argentinean fashion, we started our night at 1am. All eight of us girls went to Kika, a popular night club in the Palermo Soho barrio. Palermo Soho is known for its night scene and it was crawling with people when we arrived in our taxi.

Most clubs require a RSVP list in order to enter, we didn’t quite understand this when making our reservations so we used our individual names. This caused some confusion at the door but the manager let us in for free. Score! Unlike in the United States I was never carded. Another score!

Once inside, the air smelled of cigarette smoke, alcohol and sweat. The colorful strobe lights matched with intensely loud music encouraged everyone to let loose and dance.  We waited in line to order drinks and this was particularly challenging due to a lot of shoving and several attempts from others to cut in front of us. We finally forged our way to the bar to find that they were out of all the drinks I wanted.  I settled for a mixed drink but eventually ditched it because it was not made well.

On the dance floor, we attracted a lot of attention. Our “foreignness” seemed to shine like a disco-ball that night. Every five minutes a different man or group of men would approach us.

¿De donde eres?” or “Where are you from?” they would ask.

Los Estados Unidos” or the “United States” we chimed back.

After learning we were American, a whole slew of questions poured from their mouths. Where are you from in the states? How old are you?  Are you a student? Where are you studying? Can I have a kiss? All that order…and I am not joking, they would literally ask to kiss us.

The aggressive and bold flirting of Latino men is one the biggest cultural differences I have yet to adjust to. Most men love the fact that I am Black and love my braids even more. Throughout the night men constantly touched my hair as if I were some type of exhibit. Being Black in Buenos Aires makes me exotic and this brings a lot of unwanted attention and stares. One of the other girls even mentioned how all the men were staring. I’m used to being a minority, this is part of my identity. However my experiences in Buenos Aires has only heightened my racial and self awareness.

-Ang