Culture shock, we have all heard of it. Before arriving in Argentina, Cultural Vistas gave us a presentation covering culture shock and how it was completely normal. Upon arriving in Argentina, my in-country director gave us another similar presentation. I took the information they provided me with a grain of salt. In my mind, culture shock was not going to happen to me. I am Mexicana Americana, my customs must be similar to Porteños. I have lived in Mexico before, Argentina cannot be that different. I am a native Spanish speaker, there will be no language barrier. Man, was I in for a giant surprise!
First, although my Mexican customs are similar to Argentinas they are also super different! I was constantly warned that Argentinos are very touchy with no grasp of personal space but I always brushed it off thinking, “Mexicans are very affectionate people too”. I was wrong. Argentinos are so affectionate and loving in everything they do from the way they automatically give you a nickname to how they intimately embrace you in a tight hug and greet you with a loving kiss on your cheek. This was a surprise but a very welcomed one! I love that virtual strangers treat each other as if they were personal friends.
My second shock is how different Buenos Aires is from anywhere I have ever lived in. It is nothing like the valley I grew up in back in the states nor anything like the little ranch town my parents are from in Mexico. I half-expected Argentina to be like Mexico but its big city with almost every accessibility a city in the States has blew that expectation out of the water. Yet this big city was also unlike any city in the states. To compare it to San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York does not do the city justice. The city and city life here is like a mixture of, what I imagine, life is like in Italy & Germany. On every street corner, there is Italian style pizza or pasta readily available & in every bar, there is German beer.
Lastly, I was shocked at how drastically different Mexican Spanish is from Argentine Spanish. There are complete words that do not exist in their dictionary or sometimes completely new words for something. Sometimes if I don’t focus on what a Porteño is saying I don’t understand anything they are saying. Porteños speak almost sing-song like which is beautiful but can make it hard to keep up. Argentine Spanish is almost like a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish. As my boss loves to say, “A los Porteños les gusta creer que hablan portugués y los Brasileños les gusta creer que hablan español. Entonces fusionamos los dos idiomas y el resto del mundo se pierde en la traducción” (Porteños like to believe that they speak Portuguese and Brazilians like to believe that they speak Spanish. Then we merge the two languages and the rest of the world is lost in translation).
By Kimberly Jessica Ramirez Gonzalez