De los Portenos, Para los Gringos

Translation: “From the Portenos (Argentinians living in Buenos Aires) to the Americans”

As the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Coming from an American background, Portenos– a nickname for the residents of Bs As– have some habits that are quite strange to me. Many times these first few days, I felt like the lost Gringa (American girl) that I was, fuddling through the Argentinian culture. So take these few notes from a Porteño in training and you’ll be ready in no time!

1. Gringa, aqui no me llamo, me shyamo

In Argentina, Porteños don’t pronounce the double “l” as one would a “y” in English. To me it sounds like a combination of the consonant clusters “sh”+”ch”. So words like, “Amarillo,” “llamo” and “calle,” sound more like, “amarishyo,” “shyamo” and “cashye”

2. Gringo, no eres tú, sos vos

In Argentina and some other countries in South America, one does not use , but vos, to refer to someone in the second person. The use of vos is called, voseo and conjugating the verbs is pretty close to conjugating tú. Do as follows:

Tener –  “er” + “és” = Tenés

Andar – “ar” + “ás” = Andás

Vivir – “ir” + “ís” = Vivís

Notice that for “tener” the root of the verb didn’t change when conjugated. This rule keeps for all other conjugations as well.

Ser, Ir, and Haber are the only irregular verbs and they conjugate as sos, vas and has respectively.

To make the verb imperative, you drop the “s” from the present tense above:

Tener –  “er” + “é” = Tené

Andar – “ar” + “á” = Andá

Vivir – “ir” + “í” = Viví

Aside from these two tenses, vos is conjugated the same way tú would be conjugated.

To use vos as a prepositional object, you would say, “con vos,” instead of “contigo” or  “a vos” and not “a ti”

3. A comer

In Buenos Aires, food is a pretty big part of the culture. from mate to asado, food has cultural significance as well as a great taste. A few things to note though, are that here, people eat at different times than at home. lunch and dinner, the prime meals of the day, are served well after noon and nine o’clock at the earliest. It is common in Argentina for Porteños to drink carbonated water and so, when you go to a restaurant and ask for water, the waiter will ask you: “Con gasa o sin gasa?” which is to say: “With gas or without gas?” which really means: “Carbonated or un-carbonated?” A very important thing to note is that there are NO FREE REFILLS!!! Water is not free here, in fact it costs as much as a soda and you must pay for each individual drink that you purchase. It is also common for restaurants to charge you for table service which as I understand goes to the house. It is not a tip, and you are still expected to pay a 10% tip to the waiter.

4. Andamos!….no literally, andamos

Here in Buenos Aires, getting around is a little bit different than back home. Firstly, Porteños walk….a lot! A mile long trip is easily considered walking distance here! Of course if you aren’t up to the walk, there are plenty of other ways to get around while you’re here. I wouldn’t recommend driving here if you’re used to driving state-side though. The lines and markings on the street may as not be there for all the drivers that disregard them. Riding in a taxi, you may be a little bit nervous as your driver “sways” lanes instead of just switching from one to the other. The Taxis start at a base price that increases in the evening. Be sure to have pesos on hand to pay the driver because they can’t take your cash. You can also use the metro to get around town, here they call it Subte. The Subte costs the same regardless of where you go, you just pay to get on and ride freely. Unless it’s rush hour. Then you ride like a sardine as someone pushes you into the person behind you as the avoid being eaten by the carriage doors. You also have the option of taking the bus here. One thing you should know is that just as you flag down the taxi to get in, you flag down the bus even though you’re waiting at the designated bus stop. You use the same Subte card that you used to pay for the metro to get on the bus but instead of a flat rate, you tell the driver which stop you’re travelling to and he charges you the appropriate fare for your ride.

5. Un Beso

In this culture, people are comparatively familiar than that of the U.S. WHENEVER ANYONE enters or exits a room, they go around to EVERY person in the room and greets them individually with a kiss on the cheek. If you enter a room full of people you have seen already, no kisses are necessary, but if it’s the first time you see that person that day, they get a kiss. Secretly, I’m Latina at heart and this is great for me, but if you have a low tolerance for invasion of personal space, this culture will have a steep learning curve for you.

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