Buenos Aires Basic Etiquette

                  (Photo by buscosocios.net)

Greeting: Most people greet with a kiss on the right cheek in informal situations. This is valid for women greeting women, women greeting men, and men greeting men. In more formal situations a handshake and a smile is customary.

Tipping: Generally in Argentina 10% tipping is expected in restaurants, cafes and beauty saloons/ hairdressers. Taxis don’t expect tipping unless they offer a special service.

Timetables: Locals are not generally very punctual although this varies from person to person. Lunchtime is usually around 1.30pm, and dinner around 10pm and restaurants open late.  Usually between 5pm and 6pm it is customary to  stop for afternoon tea. Parties don’t start until 2 am minimum and when invited to a house, guests are usually expected to be between half an hour to an hour late.

Public transport: In general all queues must be respected. Argies get very irked by people cutting in or pushing through. It is customary to let old people or women with babies get on  to the bus first and also to offer them one’s seat if there are no more available ones. Men usually let women get on first although younger generations do not necessarily abide by this gentleman’s rule.

Clothing: Porteños are reputed to be trendy and casual. Expensive jewelry is avoided on the streets for safety reasons. Also, if you don’t want to be spotted as a tourist, leave your fanny-packs, baseball caps, straw hats, sports sandals and khaki cargo pants in the wardrobe, as these are instant giveaways. Be street-smart and discreet, stay attentive with cameras, iPhones and laptops as well.

Conversation: People in Argentina usually gesticulate a lot and talk close to one another. It is common to strike up random conversations with taxi drivers, kioskeros and neighborhood grocery store vendors, amongst others.  There are many locals who know English although level of comprehension varies.  Argentines are usually upfront people with their opinions and don’t care much for being politically correct, however some sensitive subjects include the Malvinas/Falklands, the military dictatorship and politics in general, specially the current situation which is known to bring about heated arguments.

Mate, a typical bitter beverage that is shared amongst a group, also has its rules and you can find them here.

If you’re into dancing tango you might also want to read these suggestions before heading to a milonga.

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