Tuesday, April 26, 2011

what you need to know

My best buddies are coming to BA very soon and I wanted to prepare them for the trip by jotting down every little detail I could think of that might help them. This may not be everything, but some things ought to be a surprise. :)

MISCELLANEOUS
- Whenever you meet someone new, you "kiss them" or put your right cheek on their right cheek and make a kiss noise with your mouth. Even men do this with other men, but not always at the first meeting. I can't wait to see how uncomfortable this will make Dusty.
- People don't typically shake hands here, or hug.
- People like to know your opinion about Obama. I can't tell if they're skeptical about him or not, but they like to know what Americans think.
- They are hungry for change (centavos) here, so when you pay without change, sometimes they'll ask you for it. i.e. Veinticinco centavos tenes? - Do you have 25 cents? If you don't have it, don't worry about it. Say - Perdon, no.
- They use military time a lot and it totally throws me off.
- Everything is dirty here, don't be surprised to come home with dirt under your fingernails every day.
- You will walk a TON. Bring good strong shoes.
- Here they pronounce "LL" and "y" like "ssshhh" - Me shamo Meagan. They may not understand or pronounce your name correctly. Therefore you will receive a new name. This is okay, I've been Janet since I got here.
- There are stray dogs everywhere! Also the dogs that belong to people are trained as shit. They walk around the city without a leash. Could you imagine trying to corral Belle with no leash in the middle of the city? Or Maggie or Abby?

FOOD
- Whenever you go to a "kiosko" or little convenient store and buy a soda or water they always give you a straw. Just take it andpretend like it's normal. Eventually you get used to drinking this way. It's a good thing they do this because I look weird drinking straight from a bottle anyway.
- Water is not free in restaurants but sometimes when you go somewhere for coffee/breakfast, they give you a little cup of seltzer water, or as I call it, a tiny cup of yuck. - The tap water is okay to drink, I haven't had any issues and my stomach is the worst ever with everything.
- Food is bland here. They don't usually bring out ketchup or pepper or anything, you have to ask for it..
- Medialunas are freaking delicious, they are also called facturas. They are deliciously made from lard and/or butter depending on which one you choose. I suggest them all because any one you pick is incredible.
- Alfajores are delicious chocolate cake things.
- Dulce de leche is a very popular caramel-like topping used on everything.
- McDonald's tastes different here, it's probably real food.
- If you order carne de res/meat here, I suggest you get it cooked well done - bien cocido.
- Napkins in restaurants are like slips of scrap paper, you'll need at least 5 to clean your hand, that's if you're not trying to be wasteful.
-- They eat dinner around 10pm. Around 5:30/6 they eat "merienda" or like a 2nd little breakfast - coffee, toast, etc. The cheapest beer is usually Quilmes. It's like the official beer of Argentina, their answer to Miller Lite. Dusty will hate it.
- Waiters do not come frequently, you normally have to call them over at the end of the meal for "la cuenta" (the bill)
- Only tip 10% because that's the rule and they're normally not nice enough for more anyway.


PEOPLE-
- People stare A LOT because this place is not very diverse. They notice when people are different, it's like a 6th sense. Don't let it bother you, they are curious and don't realize it's rude to stare in our culture. Just be glad you're not black.
- Old people like to walk in chains that span the width of the sidewalk. They walk slower than turtles on Xanax and it makes me want to break through them like the ribbon at the end of a marathon.
- Walking on the sidewalk can be frustrating because people stop at random to stare in stores. They don't seem to notice that there are tons of other people trying to walk behind them.
- People constantly try to hand you flyers here. I haven't come up with a successful way to refuse them yet, like scream-shouting NOOOOOOOOOO in their face or diving in the other direction, or smacking the stack of cards out of their hand.
- Men standing outside of their buildings/shops/etc. they just stand and shoot the shit. It's a hobby here or pastime - like fishing, reading, standing outside of residence.
- Men sometimes have weird mullety hair cuts that are short in the front with nasty dreds in the back. I've been doing my part to push this trend out of existence by looking at them funny. You may want to try that too.
- Adorable men will stare at you occasionally, this is nice. However you're more likely to get looks from weird old men.
- Women are snotty, NOT ALL of course, but many. The old women are among the most passive-aggressively evil.
- The U.S. has Mexicans they blame for lots of things and Argentina has Bolivians.
- Because many Argentines live with their parents until they get married (in their mid/late 20s), they have "telohs" here which are hourly hotels where young people go pretty much exclusively for sex. You can tell which ones are telohs because they're all locked up and you can't see out of the windows. Like a sex prison.
- There are TONS of Chinese-owned grocery stores here, the woman from my old grocery store might not know you, but I guarantee she doesn't like you.

WORDS to know -
Che! - hey/man
Boludo! - idiot - You will hear this A LOT. It's used between friends and also when they really are annoyed and want to insult someone.
la carta = menu
la cuenta = bill
cafe = coffeeagua con gas = fart water (sike-a-booboo, it's seltzer water)
agua sin gas = regular water
tostada con jamon y queso = toasted ham & cheese sandwich (this may sound delicious, but after you realize this is all they everfucking eat, it's not so fun anymore)
para llevar = to bring home (doggie bag) i.e. - Puedo tener algo para llevar? - Can I have a to-go box?
perdon/permiso = excuse me
que tal = how's it going?

TRANSPORTATION
Subway/Subte
- During rush hour you will be packed into the car like a sardine, protect your bag, this is a place where people are commonly robbed. But if you are mindful, you should be ok, I haven't had any issues.
- When you buy a ticket, if you only want 1 trip say "un viaje" it is $1.10 pesos, 1 trip gets you anywhere on the map you don't pay by destination, only by trip.
- Kids will come up to you and place things in your lap like hair clips, etc. and walk away. If you don't want what they give you, wait and they will be back to pick them up. If you want them, pay the kid a few pesos.
- People come onto the subte/subway all the time and make big loud announcements about something they are selling, like DVDs or flashlights or underwear. Don't be alarmed.

Taxis
- Don't tip taxis.
- Taxi drivers sometimes drive without their headlights at night. I'm hoping it's because they have crazy feline night visibility, otherwise I have no way to explain it.
- Traffic lights go from red to red/yellow to green. Drivers usually don't wait for it to turn green to go.

People to know:
Leonel Messi - very famous soccer player
Christina Fernandez de Kirchner - current president
Carlos Gardel - famous tango personality from the past
Evita Peron - former wife of president Juan Peron - Madonna played her in a movie that sucked many years ago
Maradonna - world famous soccer player who won the World Cup for Argentina in the 80s
Nestor Kirchner - former president & husband of Christina. He died last year and is now idolized by some, you see his name in graffiti a lot.

SAFETY
BE CAREFUL when you cross the street, even when you have the walk signal. Argentines are never in a hurry to do anything except when they're driving. Sometimes you have to be aggressive to walk, but just be cautious.
- Also be careful when walking on the sidewalk, chunks are missing everywhere and if it rained the day before and you step on part of the sidewalk that is not fully attached, water will splash all over your leg.
- There are always tons of protests and demonstrations that happen in "microcentro" /downtown. Try not to get in the middle of them, sometimes they can get violent, but not usually.
- They habitually wash their sidewalks every morning. Why? No fucking idea, but it makes the sidewalk slippery. Maybe they like watching people fall onto a clean sidewalk.
- Also watch out for dog shit, it's always lurking somewhere, ready for you to step in it.
- Pigeons are very brave here and will fly and walk waddle to you.
- Clothing is crazy cheap or super expensive, either price it's bad quality, save the clothes buying for the U.S.
- There are lots of counterfeit 100 peso bills. Sometimes you can even get them from the ATM. Make sure taxis don't try to trick you by taking the 100 peso and then switch it and tell you yours is fake. This happens sometimes.
- Trash is everywhere in rich/poor neighborhoods alike.
- Graffiti is everywhere, even in the nice parts of town. Hell, even on the monuments in their downtown area.
- People normally go out from 12-5am, most places are very safe to walk at night and during the day. Stay away from Constitucion and San Cristobal, there's not reason to go to those neighborhoods anyway.

Anything can happen in this city, I can't wait for you guys to see what it's like.
Chau luego! :)

1 comment:

  1. This is great! I forgot about the loose pieces of sidewalk that squirt the unaware pedestrian with fetid water. Also my first apartment there was uncomfortably close to Constitucion, lol

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