Like any city in the world, Buenos Aires comes with its own set of quirks and peculiarities. We’d be lying if we said it didn’t take a little getting used to, but being a first-timer is no excuse for the blunders below. Read on for some of the most common rookie mistakes tourists make when visiting Buenos Aires (and, more importantly, learn how to avoid them). You can thank us later.
1. Referring to Yourself as “American”
This one only applies to tourists visiting from the United States, but it’s worth mentioning. We know that old habits die hard, but try to refrain from replying, “I’m American” when a Porteño asks where you’re from. To their point, “America” technically encompasses all of the Americas; Argentina and every other South American country included. Stick to claiming your state, or practice your pronunciation of “Soy de los Estados Unidos” to avoid quarrels.
2. Speaking English Exclusively
While we’re on the topic of gringos butchering Spanish, remember that it’s better to attempt and fail than not try at all. Maybe you studied some Spanish in high school, maybe you’re a fan of “Despacito,” but chances are you know something. Try to memorize key vocabulary and phrases, practice with friends, or download a language app like Drops. Nobody likes a lazy, ignorant tourist.
3. Complaining and Comparing
Why do we travel? To discover new things: cultures, cuisines, destinations, people, and more. So yes – things are bound to be a bit different here than they are “back home,” but while you’re exploring Buenos Aires, steer away from complaining or drawing constant comparisons. Instead, try to appreciate this weird, wonderful, enchanting city for exactly what it is and you’ll be way better off.
4. “C” Doesn’t Mean “Cold” and “M” Doesn’t Mean “Men”
I’ll admit this one took some time to get used to. When guys see an “M” plastered on a bathroom door, we assume it means “men.” And it typically would, unless you find yourself in a Spanish-speaking city (aka here) where it actually stands for “mujeres” or women (aka not men). The same goes for faucets. Don’t let that “C” fool you…it indicates “caliente” or hot. For cold water, reach for the “F” meaning “frio.”
5. Texting on Sidewalks
On a more serious note, you do have to stay alert when using your smartphone around town. They’re a hot commodity, and someone would be happy to take it off your hands for you. Obviously you can use it, but be smart – don’t flaunt it and step in from sidewalks when checking Google Maps or posting that Palermo graffiti art on your Instagram Story. Be especially vigilant of motochorros, thieves on motorbikes who will snatch your phone before you even realize it’s gone.
6. Not Minding Your Step
Oftentimes, navigating the city’s sidewalks can feel more like dodging landmines than enjoying a leisurely stroll. While some neighborhoods are in better condition than others, in general, they’re pretty precarious. Just remember to watch your step – it’s easy to roll an ankle on uneven pavement or sink your foot into a fresh heap of dog mess.
7. Showing Up on Time
We’re all guilty of sending the “I’m on my way now!” text when in reality we’re not even close to leaving home. Luckily for us, it seems every Argentine shares this mentality. If you show up 15-30 minutes late, you’re actually early. So keep that in mind when making plans and don’t stress if you’re running late. That sense of promptness you’re probably used to won’t be found here.
8. Carrying Big Bills
Sure, you can rely on your major credit or debit card in many stores, restaurants, and hotels, but Argentina is big on cold, hard cash. Make sure you’re always carrying pesos (just in case), and avoid large denominations if possible. In many stores, exact change is appreciated, so coins will be your friends. And don’t be surprised if a kiosko can’t break a bill (or offers you candy in exchange for change owed).
9. Being Kiss-Shy
A friendly hug or sterile handshake may be the type of greeting you’re most familiar with back home, but here in Argentina, it’s all about the besos. Argentines are extremely warm and friendly people, and they’re not afraid to show it. Be prepared to kiss everyone hello with a quick peck on the cheek. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but just go with it. Trust us, it’s way less awkward than a cringe worthy handshake-kiss fumble. And yes, men do it to, but only close friends.
10. Avoiding Local Flavors
One of the best ways to discover a new location is through their food, and Buenos Aires is home to an incredibly diverse culinary scene, teeming with unique ingredients and flavor combinations. Step out of your comfort zone and try the local delicacies or you’ll be selling yourself short. Don’t skip out on trying mate, mollejas, milanesas, choripánes, dulce de leche, locro, or a good ol’ fashioned Fernet and Coke.
Bonus: #11. What not to do in Buenos Aires