People and Culture in Argentina

It’s apparent why Argentina has long held travelers in awe: tango, beef, gauchos, fútbol, Patagonia, the Andes. The classics alone make a formidable wanderlust cocktail.

Argentina AndesArgentina futbol  Argentina Steak

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Remember how your parents used to tell you to keep your elbows off the table during meals? Or that it’s rude to slurp your soup? Well there’s good news guys, these American cultures and customs don’t always translate to other countries! While the local people you meet won’t expect you to be fluent in their language, culture and customs, it is important to familiarize yourself with them.

Do you know how kissing, snoring and other things sound in other languages? That’s right, even sound effects can be translated!

The most important thing to remember while you’re abroad is that things will be different. But, different doesn’t mean wrong. Be open, be curious, and read more about the culture you will be stepping into. Get excited about LIVING the life you’ve only dreamt and read about until now!

People and Culture in Argentina

Official name: República ArgentinaArgentina Tango

Population: 41 million

Capital City: Buenos Aires

National Sport: Pato (similar to cricket)

National Dance: Tango

Demographics: Argentina consists largely of people of white, European descent. Argentina was colonized by the Spanish beginning in the 1500s, which either removed or replaced much of the pre-Colonial indigenous population, leaving behind a largely Spanish population. Immigration followed colonization, adding to the Spanish population and also bringing many Italians. A minority of the population is considered “mestizo,” or mixed race between European and indigenous South American ancestry.

Geography: Argentina sits between the Andes mountains, which run along its western border with Chile, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.

Famous People: Diego Maradona (soccer player), Eva Perón

Check out the CIA Factbook and the Culture Crossing Newsletter for lots of detailed and helpful information about all things Argentina!

Non-verbal communication:

Argentines use a lot of hand gestures to express themselves. This blog gives some great examples of what you can expect!


Argentina is known for its distinct accent, pronunciation style, and verb tenses, called Rioplatense due to the Río de la Plata. Compared to the Italian of Spanish speaking countries, it has a rhythmic pace and seemingly romantic pronunciation. From beginners to advanced Spanish speakers, knowing what tenses and words to use is important as you navigate around Buenos Aires.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Argentineans use vos instead of tú, and do not use the Spain vosotros and instead use ustedes. Words with double ll are pronounced as if they were ys (for example, ¿Cómo se llama?, amarillo, or lluvia), which emphasize the Italian influence on the Spanish language in Argentina. At first you may be thinking you’re learning a completely different language, but knowing the basics of the dialect will help as you adjust to the accent and words.

To get you started, here’s a basic chart of the some distinct verb tenses, helpful words, and useful phrases:


Textbook Spanish

Rioplatense Spanish

You are

Tú eres

Vos sos

You have

Tú tienes

Vos tenés

You run

Tú corres

Vos corrés

You love

Tú amas

Vos amás

You lose

Tú pierdes

Vos perdés

You leave

Tú partes

Vos partís

You sing

Tú cantas

Vos cantás

You say

Tú dices

Vos decís

Whatever you want.

Lo que tú quieras.

Lo que vos querás.










How are you?

¿Cómo estás?

¿Cómo andas?

What a mess!

¡Qué desorden!

¡Qué quilombo!




With this list to begin, you’ll catch on quickly to other nuances in Rioplatense Spanish (there are many!). Adding che + cómo andas (roughly hey man, how are ya?) together will make you look like an old pro at Rioplatense Spanish. If you’re unsure about a word or a tense, ask your host family, language partner, or Spanish professors! It’s a great way to break the ice and build relationships.

Other customs to be familiar with:

The common way to greet someone in an informal situation is with a “kiss” on the cheek. Notice how this is done, and copy and do the same when greeting someone. It is also standard to greet each person in the room and also say good bye individually when leaving.

Argentines tend to eat dinner much later than North Americans, usually between 9-11pm on a typical night, and even later on the weekends. Most restaurants do not open for dinner until at least 9pm. Breakfast is typically very light, consisting of toast or pastries and coffee and orange juice. Lunch is served mid-day, and is usually a larger meal than breakfast. A merienda (afternoon snack or light meal) is typically taken in the late afternoon/early evening and traditionally consists of the following:

Cafe con leche and medialunas: Coffee with milk and croissants

Mate and facturas: Sugar and a caffeine like booster (mateine) come together in this combination of bitter mate and sweet pastries filled with dulce de leche, custard and quince jam

Licuado de Banana and Tostado de jamón y queso: A favorite for Spring and Summer, this combination of banana and milk smoothie and grilled ham and cheese sandwich on special crustless bread, is a great afternoon energy booster.

Tea with milk and toast: The simplest version of the snacking combinations, and the one most commonly found in households. Toppings for toast are of course dulce de leche, maybe jam and for the light version cream cheese.

If invited to someone’s home for dinner, it is customary to arrive later than the scheduled time. It is also considered polite to bring a small gift for the host.


While not mandatory, is desirable. Locals will tell you 10% (or less) is standard and tourists will normally tip more.

15-20% of the service is standard at most spas.

Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped unless they perform some extra service such as carrying your bags or luggage to your hotel entrance, etc. But almost everybody leaves them some. Usually the coins change.

Ushers in movie theaters

One peso for showing you to your assigned seat. At he actual inflation rates, 50 cents is nothing compared to the ticket price.


A minimum of one peso per baggage for taking luggage to your room. But with that minimum you are not gaining any further service. Better make the minimum a 2 pesos bill.


If you take a long distance bus and you have luggage to put in the hold, remember to tip the baggage handler a peso per bag when your bags are put in or taken out of the hold.