A practical guide to Argentina

Now if you plan on visiting Argentina, be happy that we have been there before you and present you this “practical guide to Argentina” which will help you better understand its population and their traditions. :-)

Locks on toilet doors: or better “inexistant locks on toilet doors”. It seems that in Argentina, having a lock on a toilet door is a luxury, only for the richest to be enjoyed. Therefore, as we are dangling on the lower end of the food-chain, we systematically experienced toilet-doors without lock. But, although disconcerting at first, it actually isn’t as much of a problem as it seems: people here developed the habit of “testing” first – a small knock on the door before walking in, júst leaving you enough time to block the door with some hand/arm/foot available… After a while you even get quite good at doing some acrobatics and peeing at the same time. ;-)

Dulce de Leche: THE national addiction. This overly sweet caramel-like candy or sauce is added into or on top of anything you can possibly think of: croissants, pastries, on top of flan, in hot drinks, as a sauce over ice-cream… You name it! The Argentinians believe to tell a legend according to which Dulce de Leche got created in Argentina (of course! :-) ) by a maid making some lechada – a drink made with milk and sugar boiled until it starts to caramelize – until she got distracted and left the lechada on the fire. When she got back, the lechada was burnt and had turned into a brown kind of jam – dulce de leche. In supermarkets whole sections are dedicated to Dulce de Leche only and it turns out Argentinians themselves are still not sure which brand is best. For foreigners, it’s a bit hard to get used to – when eating it the first time, you wonder how long your teeth are going to put up with the bitter sweetness of it – but that’s all part of the real Argentina experience! :-)

Quadras: In Argentina (and for that case, Chile too) every city is built up of quadras making it a very simple place to wander around as everything is virtually a matter of counting squares. However, the thing a bit complicated at first, is the house numbering that goes with it: houses are not just numbered following a sequence (like 2, 4, 6, etc) but according to the exact metric point where they find themselves. Example: a house with the number 537 is exactly at 537 meters from the point 0 in town. Quite easy once you understand the system, but until that time, it seems the house numbers are just some random lottery drawings… ;-)

Argentinian Spanish: Ok, forget all about your Spanish lessons in school! In Argentina, if you speak the Castillan Spanish, they will ask you if you are actually speaking Spanish at all… We don’t know why it is so different from the Castillano, one theory (provided by somebody from Spain) is that they speak like peasants. Another one (advocated by the Argentinians) is that they have a lot of Italian ancestors (it is said Argentinians are “Italians who speak Spanish”) which influenced their language. But as a foreigner, you don’t need to care about any theory, as all you want is for them to understand you, which, once you respect some simple rules, is quite easy: just replace every “ll” by a “sch”, say ciao instead of adios, computador instead of ordenador and you will not only sound like a Russian, but also get pretty close to how the Argentinians speak. :-)

Good luck on your travel to Argentina! :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe