Meat, Pay, Love: 5 Reasons Buenos Aires Culture Shock is ‘Complicated’

kirchner ba

Rease Kirchner

This guest post is by Rease Kirchner, a US Expat living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She considers herself an odd mix of a logical, responsible over-thinker and a complete child who finds joy in the smallest of things, such as her ice cream obsession.

She adores working on her site Travelated, which is for travelers who want to share stories and tips–and look into the minds of the snarky staff writers like herself.

When you’re traveling, it can be a bit like love or infatuation. Everything seems magical. The differences are charming, the change in routine is new and exciting, and it feels a bit intoxicating.

What happens when you decide to make the transition from traveler to expat? When you make the commitment to longer term?

Well, you get into the reality of daily life and what it’s really like. You begin to notice more of the real place and hence, you have to get real. Often, what seemed charming initially can be challenging when you commit to more time there.

That’s been the case with me and Buenos Aires. I love it here, but…my relationship with the culture is, um, a bit like that certain Facebook status that people sometimes use. “It’s complicated.”

Coming for a short visit? Hanging around for a while? Maybe considering a longer-term commitment?

Culture Shock in Buenos Aires: 5 Reasons ‘It’s Complicated’

I’ve lived in Buenos Aires for 7 months now and would like to share what I’ve discovered about the Argentine capital, which could help you if you decide to visit or make the big move.

Also, as you’ll see, some aspects of my personality simply do not match up with the lifestyle here.

1. Everyone Is Late.

In Argentina, anything within 30 minutes is still considered “on time”. People are late, all the time. If you make an appointment, you’ll have to take it lightly.

And don’t expect any sort of warning or apology for tardiness. You won’t get one.

My Problem? I am incredibly punctual

I love being on time. I’m the person who researches every possible route and setback to every destination. If after my research I determine I will need a maximum of 15 minutes to arrive on time, I will leave 30 minutes early. I hate being late and I hate people who are habitually late. This turned out to be a big problem here.

When I first moved here, I was constantly annoyed by this. I just could not handle it. However, I realized it is not so bad. In a city that depends so heavily on public transportation, arriving late is pretty unavoidable. Of course, this led me to leave 2 hours early for 45 minute trips, but I am working on it.

2. People Take Relaxation Pretty Seriously

Buenos Aires is a busy city, but these people know how to relax. They are not in a rush to pay the bill, get out of the grocery store, or even walk. This is a city of 2 hour lunch breaks, hourly Maté chats, and lazy Sundays.

My problem? I don’t know how to relax

This issue kind of explains #1, right? I suck at relaxing. I love to be busy and if I am not busy, I feel useless. I want to be working and moving, all day every day. I have always been in love with my agenda and my strict schedules, but I have realized that living here has made me calmer. I accept blank space in my agenda, I have days when I just wander around, read and do nothing. It’s a fight against my natural instincts, but I like it.

3. Men Are the Money Makers and Pay for Women

In Argentina, it seems like many guys believe money is the way to girls’ hearts and I have to admit, with some girls it is. When I first started making guy friends here, I was constantly arguing with them over who was paying for a meal out or even bus fare.
Tango cabelleros San Telmo in Buenos Airesphoto © 2007 jacquelinekothbauer | more info (via: Wylio

My problem? I hate being paid for

In case you haven’t figured this out already – I am an independent girl. I earn my own money and I don’t like to be doted on. Can I let a boyfriend pay for me? Of course, but I have every intention for paying for him occasionally too.

This goes for friends as well, I like treating and being treated as part of an equal friendship where no one is keeping tabs. I have had to get used to guys occasionally paying for me and absolutely never letting me pay for them.

4. The Flirting is Out of Control

Guys here tend to be pushy. A girl cannot walk 4 blocks without some guy saying something to her. Even off the streets, guys seem to be  complimenting and flirting with women at all times.

My problem? I’m feisty

I’m not the kind of girl who allows guys to yell at me on the streets, dance up on me in clubs, or even eye me in a way I don’t like. However, I just described life in Argentina.

My instincts tell me to immediately spit out some scathing remark, sending the guy running with his tail between his legs. I really had to learn that things work differently here. I cannot go out into the streets with my fight face on and yell at every guy who compliments my tattoos. These guys are almost always harmless anyway.

5. This is the Land of Steak

This country is all about their high-quality beef. They have t-shirts with cows on them that break them up into their juicy cuts. Their all-you-can-eat buffets are 90% bloody piles of meat.

Parrilladaphoto © 2009 Diego Torres Silvestre | more info (via: Wylio)

My problem? I don’t eat red meat

Actually, I don’t eat any mammals. Seeing as this country is all about their beef and their endless ham sandwiches, my dietary preferences are slightly inconvenient.

I’ve learned that you have to check everything before you eat it, because meat comes in almost everything, even if you request that it doesn’t. I may not be able to eat too much street food but there are still plenty of options for me in restaurants as long as I am willing to explain exactly what I want.

Rease Kirchner

Current Relationship Status: It’s Still Complicated, But I’ve Changed

I’ve changed a bit over the past 7 months, thanks to my relationship with Buenos Aires. I am now more relaxed, I accept compliments (slightly) better and I have accepted tardiness as a part of life. People actually describe me as someone with a positive energy, something that is relatively new to me.

I love that Buenos Aires forced me to face some of my neurotic tendencies, question them and in some cases, alter them. My meat eating preferences haven’t changed, however. But hey, you can’t ask for miracles, right?

21 Responses to Meat, Pay, Love: 5 Reasons Buenos Aires Culture Shock is ‘Complicated’
  1. jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World
    March 15, 2011 | 1:24 am

    Really enjoyed this clever post. I can see ourselves having an ‘it’s complicated’ relationship with Buenos Aires as well for similar reasons — the meat thing especially.
    jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Yogyakarta- Things to do when you only have 24 hoursMy Profile

    • Rease
      March 15, 2011 | 7:17 pm

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. The meat thing kills me! I snapped a photo of a restaurant called “Museo del jamon” (Ham Museum). Some restaurants it is really just meat or pasta, but even the pasta has bits of ham or beef sometimes!
      Rease recently posted..A Trip Up “The Bench’s” BackMy Profile

  2. Nicolas De Corte
    March 15, 2011 | 6:42 am

    This is a great post!
    I’ve never been to Buenos Aires, but I’ve read a lot about it. It’s one of those cities I just know I could very well get along with. And you’ve given another evidence.
    Nicolas De Corte recently posted..Why I Love Sleeping in Dorm RoomsMy Profile

  3. Gillian @OneGiantStep
    March 15, 2011 | 9:51 am

    I love BsAs but can see how things would be very different from home…things look familiar but work with just a little quirky twist. Good for you for fitting in as best you can! Cheers!
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..If You’re Young- Why Are You Still HereMy Profile

    • Rease
      March 15, 2011 | 7:21 pm

      Buenos Aires and I totally have a love/hate relationship but I think it’s a healthy fight that keeps life exciting.
      Rease recently posted..Top 5 Hen DestinationsMy Profile

  4. Lisa/C Bus Driver
    March 15, 2011 | 11:56 am

    Thanks for doing this guest post for me…it’s a fun one! It’s also useful for readers, I believe, because it’s important to know that traveling somewhere is different than living there and what to expect should they decide to stick around.

    I’m familiar with ‘luego’ and ‘mañana’ time from when I lived in Ecuador. It was hard to adjust to. But once I did, I sort of liked it. Of course, returning to the US was very difficult. I felt like I always ran late!

    As for anyone who’s not a meat eater, I would imagine it’s challenging there in BA. As for the men paying, etc. I’m also familiar with that. It can be awkward/tricky for independent women.

    Anyway, thanks for doing the post. Nice to have some Argentine action here on my site! :)
    Lisa/C Bus Driver recently posted..Monterrico- Madness- Mischief and a Pissy Pelican video tale & tipsMy Profile

    • Rease
      March 15, 2011 | 7:23 pm

      Any time, Lisa! Thanks for having me.
      To deal with the being late thing, I made a rule that when I am on a bus on the way to my destination, I cannot look at the time. It’s totally useless, I cannot make the bus go faster, so I just need to sit back and accept that I will get there when I get there and no one will care anyway.
      Rease recently posted..A Tourist in My Hawaiian HometownMy Profile

  5. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler
    March 15, 2011 | 12:09 pm

    Great post! I think sometimes we put ourselves in situations where we know we can learn something. Maybe this is what happened here and you wanted to learn how to relax and accept cat calls. lol. I can’t wait for Argentina and the ‘all you can eat’ steak! I promise I won’t eat it in front of you! :)
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..7 Reasons to Take a Sabbatical from Work to Travel 21My Profile

    • Rease
      March 15, 2011 | 7:24 pm

      Christy, I cannot WAIT for you and Scott to come! Don’t worry, I don’t mind when people eat steak in front of me. I know some great all you can eat parillas that have unlimited cheeses, salads and most importantly wine and water for me. I’ll take you guys there!
      Rease recently posted..A Trip Up “The Bench’s” BackMy Profile

  6. Iain Mallory
    March 15, 2011 | 7:50 pm

    Very enjoyable read,coming to terms with an easy going way of life can be a bit of a culture shock for many in ‘Western’ society. It will always take time, but you sound like you have adapted to it possibly better than most of us.
    Good for you and your positive energy, thanks for sharing.

    • Rease
      May 20, 2011 | 4:59 pm

      Thanks Iain! It’s definitely a process but I am trying my best!
      Rease recently posted..Jueves a la Mesa- Vegetarian Cuisine in Buenos AiresMy Profile

  7. Charu
    March 15, 2011 | 7:51 pm

    aaand that’s maybe why I wouldn’t venture there? Anything for vegans? :)

    • Rease
      May 20, 2011 | 5:02 pm

      There are some vegan places! Not at all easy to find though. In restaurants you’d mostly be able to have pasta with fileto sauce (basic tomato). There is plenty for you to make for yourself but eating out would be hard. The article I’m attaching in comment love is all about a closed kitchen place that is vegetarian. The girl who runs it, Meghan, is so sweet and accommodating (she’s not even a vegetarian but all the food is) so I am sure she would help you out.
      Rease recently posted..Jueves a la Mesa- Vegetarian Cuisine in Buenos AiresMy Profile

  8. Gray
    March 15, 2011 | 10:02 pm

    I can see where all of those things would be difficult to deal with, no matter how much you like a place. I found myself relating to more than one of them. But if a place can teach you to relax, it’s not all bad. :-)
    Gray recently posted..Want to Travel More Play the Saving GameMy Profile

  9. Andrea
    March 15, 2011 | 10:51 pm

    I’m SO looking forward to checking out Buenos Aires in May! Sounds like I would also have a problem with some of your points (all except 3 and 5). That’s part of the adjustment being an expat; places don’t change for you. Still sounds like a fabulous place to live =)
    Andrea recently posted..Hiking in the Andean Foothills- Parque Nacional HuerquehueMy Profile

  10. Nima
    March 16, 2011 | 3:21 pm

    Hey Rease,

    Just moved here as well and you hit it spot on! Buenos Aires is truly a unique city and you really showed that in your blog post. For any of you that plan on traveling to BsAs and need any advice on tours or activities here, I work for a tour operating company and would be more than happy to help!

    Nims @ BsAs4u

    • Rease
      May 20, 2011 | 5:03 pm

      Nima I’ll follow you, maybe we can meet up some time!
      Rease recently posted..Somos Dos Photography in Buenos Aires and BeyondMy Profile

  11. Kathie CrownHoward
    March 19, 2011 | 2:06 pm

    Hi, Just wanted to say I enjoy reading all the articles on this website. I can see where the running late thing would make you crazy. Keep up the great work.

    • Rease
      May 20, 2011 | 5:03 pm

      Thanks Mama Howard :)
      Rease recently posted..Argentine Medical Exams- Unexplained Coins- Angry Clam Chairs and Shin ViewingsMy Profile

  12. Jeremy Branham
    May 20, 2011 | 3:22 pm

    I am not sure who I learned more about – Buenos Aires or Rease! I love Rease – she has an awesome personality, is unique, and has some awesome qualities! I enjoyed learning about her as much as I did Argentina!
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Slovenia sets the standard for Green Tourism in EuropeMy Profile

    • Rease
      May 20, 2011 | 5:05 pm

      Aw, thanks Jeremy! It’s nice to be appreciated for all my quirks.
      Rease recently posted..You Can Has Vacation With TravelScoutMy Profile

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