Argentine quirks

Obviously each country in Spanish South America is different to the next, but none is as different as Argentina and its people. Whether in language, personality, reputation, there are a many quirks to Argentina that you’ll experience when you visit. Here are a few:

Language- It’s a little confusing, but the people of South America effectively speak Castilian Spanish (castellano) rather than regular Spanish (some people will ask if you hablas castallano so watch out with that one). This is Spanish from central and northern Spain, but bastardized a little. The people of Rosario, Buenos Aires and Montevideo speak Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect from the Rio de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay. Each area has its own dialect within the dialect, but they’re all similar. This developed primarily from more recent immigration from Italy and Spain so if you meet a few Argentinians from this region you’ll see a lot of Italian surnames. Indeed the Italian National Football Team actually has a well known history of calling up Argentine players, linked through parents or grandparents. The most famous of these was World Cup Winner Mauro Camoronesi, who claimed “I feel Argentine but I have defended the colors of Italy, which is in my blood, with dignity. That is something nobody can take away.

Anyway, the Spanish of these region is as immediately recognizable as a Scottish or Irish accent is to an English speaker, and just as difficult to understand for foreigners.

– Voseo- (informal you singular) is replaced with vos, and usted (formal you singular) isn’t used. A few verb forms also change, but the most important is ser (one of the to be verbs), where the you singular form becomes sos, making you are, vos sos.

– Rehilamiento or sheísmo- This one is just pronunciation, and is the one most characteristic of this dialect. Effectively the ‘y’ and ‘ll’ in words becomes a sh sound (like in mission or measure). So Pollo (Chicken) is pronounced po-sh-o and playa (beach) becomes pla-sh-a. This one is a little confusing at first, but you quickly get used to listening out for it, and saying it. Bear in mind that if you ever go to Colombia, the Paisas, or people from Medellin, call their city Mede-sh-een, using this same principle.

– Speed- This is something that is immediately obvious when coming from somewhere like Bolivia. Argentinians all over the country speak fast, but working class people in this area, such as taxi drivers, are the worst at it, merging words they speak so fast. It’s really hard to get used to.

– There are a few others, and I found this site to be helpful. The ones above are the one’s I noticed most, but with a greater grip on the language I’m sure someone could notice even more intricate differences, and incur my jealousy. Something I didn’t actually notice that I thought I would was the use of ‘che‘, the nickname of Ernesto Guevara, that is used as ‘man’, ‘hey’, or ‘dude’.

Prices– The three most expensive countries in South America (outside of a World Cup) are Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. In Argentina I was paying twice as much for accommodation, food, and drink than in Bolivia. Obviously those two countries have vastly different HDI rankings, but still, expect to pay from a bit to a lot more -especially in eating out- in Argentina.

Development- Having just mentioned the HDI, it’s worth adding that Argentina is the second highest ranked South American country on the index at 45 in the world (Chile is at 40), and this is immediately evident entering the country. While it obviously still has many problems in dealing with it’s poor (all the big cities have their own Villa miseria, or shanty town, nearby), the infrastructure, transport, and feel of Buenos Aires impressed me (I can’t talk for much of the rest of the country). It feels very like a large European capitol, and has a subway, good buses, and is safer and a less chaotic than other South American cities- I’m looking at you La Paz. 

Reputation– Argentinians do carry a certain reputation among other South Americans. “Arrogant” and “Rude” were both words I heard before I came, especially directed at
Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) and to be honest I think both carry a bit of truth. Because it’s a big city, taxi drivers a little more curt, people are a little less friendly, and there’s less of a community feel, but this is true of my hometown London too. I also experienced real moments of kindess of people, so I think it really depends on the person and what kind of day they’re having, as living in a big city can be stressful. Saying that, there is a bit of a swagger, maybe arrogance, that people carry. They know they have a recent European history, and they flaunt it. Fashion is really big, as is looking good, and those that do know it. They’re also very very passionate about certain things. They like to talk, and talk at length. I once made the mistake of bringing up the Falklands to a Porteña friend who then gave me the riot act on why I was wrong (last time I’ll be doing that). I also witnessed an altercation in the street between a bus driver and motorcylist, which led to the bus driver stopping, getting out, pulling the guy off his bike and kicking him in the chest before calmly getting back on his bus and driving off.


So these are some things I picked up while I was there. After saying all this, I still maintain that Buenos Aires was my favorite city (partly due to the people I met there, some Argentine), and a place I will always have a soft spot for.


Something I can’t fit into another post: stupid stuff I did there…

– Spraying aftershave at pharmacies. Pharmacity, a big chain there, has stores large enough that you can wonder in, pretend to be checking out the aftershave section, and spray a bit on for a night out and leave. I find carrying aftershave around while travelling a bit of a hassle so this helped!

– Call Taxi drivers muchaho. They love it, will give you discounts and offer to pick you up when you need to go to the airport.*

– When you have to give your name at a restaurant, choose something stupid but easy for the waitress to understand. Maybe the name of the local football hero (Messi, Ronaldo, Radamel etc) or famous figures (Ernesto, Evita, Fransisco). Get creative, it’s fun seeing people in the restaurant look around when they hear the waitress call out “Messi!”


Random pics from BA:

Lovers in Recoleta

Long Exposure shot

Runners in Bosques de Palermo

Long exposure of a Tango show.

Area of Palermo near MALBA art gallery.

*This is a joke, do not do this.


Districts of Buenos Aires

This is based solely on what I have done in the city, and so I‘m not going to list out every barrio there, as that would defeat the purpose of this.

Of the barrios I have been in, I will talk about Palermo, Recoleta, Retiro, Puerto Madero, San Nicholàs, San Telmo and La Boca.


The biggest barrio of central Buenos Aires, and probably the most upmarket, it is split into plenty of sub-barrios, including Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Queens, Palermo Viejo (old), Palermo Alto and Palermo Soho. Palermo Hollywood was named for its radio and TV stations located in the area, but is also a great district for bars, clubs and restaurants. Palermo Queens, otherwise known as Villa Crespo, isn‘t actually in Palermo, but just outside, I suppose like Queens is to Manhattan in New York, and I believe is an up and coming area in the city. While Hollywood and Soho contain most of the happening places in Palermo, Viejo is quieter, and has more of a Spanish feel. Palermo Alto is in the northeastern area, bordering on Recoleta, and contains a huge shopping mall that I believe is the biggest in the city. Last but not least, Soho is, similar to Hollywood, a trendy, hipster area, containing well dressed, possibly up-themselves people, nice cafes, clothing stores and yoga-yogurt bars. OK screw that they are up-themselves.

I actually stayed most of my first week in the city in various hostels in Palermo, and despite it being the party central, the hostels were more focused on chilling out, so I didn‘t really meet anyone or go out when I was there. I enjoyed being there though, and had this Bife de Chorizo (steak) at one of the restaurants.


Having been back to Palermo Alto, which contains the great MALBA (museo Americano Latino de Buenos Aires) and other attractions, I‘ve rekindled a bit of day time love for Palermo.

Law School in Palermo Alto.


Pretty much the most affluent and arguably best looking area of the city. Parts look incredibly European (so maybe it truly represents the European feeling Buenos Aires), and its main tourist attraction, the Cemetery, is pretty incredible. A huge walled area, it is free to enter and walk around in, and surprisingly isn‘t packed with people most of the time. This means you can achieve complete peace away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like BA, and also enjoy looking at graves! It may seem weird but is actually quite nice, as many of the mausoleums are beautifully designed in Gothic styles. Sometimes a former famous face peers out at you, sometimes it’s an Angel or Greek adonis of some kind, either way it’s very tempting to peer through the glass and see the coffin’s lying inside.

There is as well the grave of Eva Peron, former actress and heroic first lady of Argentina (Madonna made a movie about her), who still is revered in these parts.

It was in Recoleta that I also saw the incredible Fuerza Bruta show, but I‘ll get to that at a later date.


Hmm, I don‘t quite know why I included this area in this, as there’s nothing to do here. Effectively it is where the bus station is, and you get a taxi to here and from here whenever you need to get a bus to somewhere in Argentina. Maybe because it’s next to…

Puerto Madero:

I kind of feel like this place is like the Isle of Dogs in London, where Canary Wharf is. This is where the big high rise offices and apartments are, and juts out into the Rio de La Plata (River Plate- body of water outside BA and between Argentina and Uruguay).

There‘s also an area between the city on the mainland and the island which contains some nice restaurants and old ships to look at.

San Nicholàs:

One of the central barrios of BA (I mean really central, where governmental stuff goes on), it contains some of the bigger avenidas in the city, and therefore is a decently big shopping and eating area, as well as where most of the big hostels are at, shared with Montserrat, the barrio right next to it. One of the streets inside it is Calle Florida, Florida Street, where money changing takes place. A walk down here will take about 25 minutes, and within that time you‘ll hear at least 100 ‘cambio’s, from people offering to change you dollars to the weak Argentinian peso. I have actually done this a couple of times, but it feels kind of dirty and shady, and I prefer using an online system, Azimo, where you just pick up money you send here from a bank. It does kind of get annoying getting shouted at multiple times by the same person, despite the fact you clearly don’t want to change money, but fortunately there’s not much pulling me to Florida Street.

San Telmo:

This barrio feels like it should be really expensive to live in, but I‘ve heard its not. It has a kind of understated Palermo feel, which is nice, and has a really big art museum and huge market on Sundays, as well as loads of cafes and little book stores. So there’s enough to do. Don’t think I have a picture of this on Facebook yet (as this is where I draw my pictures for this) but I’ll be heading there on Sunday for the market, so I’ll get some then.

La Boca:

Well I certainly had an experience here. Recommended by a friend, I decided to take my camera and just walk around. I was immediately struck by the roughness of the area. High council estates and run down shops populate much of La Boca, and judging by the dirty looks I was getting from people, I quickly realized I may have made a mistake coming here. At one point I saw a guy riding his bike with a handgun stuck in the back of his shorts, and by the time I was stopped by a police man telling me to get out, I had got the point. I managed to get into Caminito (little walk), a touristy street where you can eat and watch a tango show, and from there made my way to the Bombadera, the stadium of Boca Juniors, one of the two favourite teams in BA (including River Plate). Everywhere in the east of the city, especially in La Boca, are murals and graffiti depicting people‘s love for Boca, and I hope to catch a match the next time I’m in the city, as while many of the fans are undoubtedly criminals, their reputation for passion for their team precedes them.

The two passions in La Boca: Tango and Football.


Well I hope that was an interesting look at some of the main barrios of Buenos Aires. I don‘t think that I have a favorite, as each has their merits and drawbacks. Saying that, I’d say living in Palermo, maybe in Alto, or maybe in San Telmo, wouldn’t be such a bad life.