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Asado, Lunfardo & Fernet: How to Become a Real Argentine in 10 Steps

Argentina has an incredibly rich immigrant history, resulting in an eclectic background of people and customs that have molded the country’s culture. This is especially true in Buenos Aires, where the cosmopolitan nature of the city makes it very easy to blend in as a foreigner.

Until, that is, you open your mouth and try to fit in with your new Argentine friends.

To help you get to grips with local customs, here are some tips to help you act like a real Argentine in 10 easy steps:

Photo by Julián Rodriguez Orihuela/Flickr


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1. Appreciate the Asado


Meat reigns supreme in Argentina, and the only way to cook it is on the parrilla (grill). No weekend is complete without an asado – or barbecue – with friends. If you want to really be accepted into the fold, don’t just express your enthusiasm for this beloved concoction of carne, master the art of the asado and learn how to cook your meat the Argentine way on an open flame. And don’t stick to just steak – a proper asado is a meat fest including everything from ribs, intestines and morcilla (blood sausage).


2. Share a Mate


While common in other Latin American countries, yerba mate, a herbal tea, is a big part of life in Argentina. More than just a drink, it is a social ritual that comes with its own set of rules. While its bitterness might be an acquired taste, its high caffeine content will do the trick of waking you up after yet another late night.


3. Adjust Your Ideas of Normal Eating Times


Don’t even try making a dinner reservation before 9 pm. Argentines eat late. Typically around 5pm, they have a merienda, or tea. This includes some snacks, usually a variety of facturas (pastries) or cake. Dinner only comes much later. It’s common to see people still eating dinner in restaurants at 1 am.


4. Hit Up the Previa Before the Party


In the same way that Argentines eat late, they party late as well. Locals only show up at clubs around 3 am, and then party until the sun is up, with after-parties lasting well into the morning. So what do they do before 3? The previa, or pre-party, usually at a friend’s house. This is a good place to pre-drink for free and these parties are often the highlight of the night.


5. Feel the Fernet


Wine may be Argentina’s national drink, but fernet is the drink of choice for the partying crowd. It’s bitter and strong and used as a digestif, but trust the locals when they say the more you drink it, the better it tastes! Argentine’s also claim this one comes with no hangover, but we’ll leave that for you to decide…


6. Learn to speak Castellano


If you needed a clue that Argentine Spanish is its own brand entirely, the fact that it is called castellano is a tell-tale sign. Not only will you find an array of different words, but the local Spanish also has an Italian lilt to, and a few borrowed phrases, thanks to the Italian immigrant influence. Key differences you’ll notice are the “y” and “ll” sounds which are pronounced as “sh” and the informal use of “vos” instead of “tu”.


7. Add Some Slang


Understanding Spanish won’t be enough if you’re in Buenos Aires. You need to get down with the slang, nicknamed Lunfardo. Originating from the lower classes, this arsenal of more than 5000 words is now common across all classes and ages. Start calling your friends boludos, use che every few words, complain about the quilombo that is the train network, and then head to the boliche to drink some more fernet. You’ll fit in in no time!


8. It’s All in the Hands


Learning the correct Castellano pronunciation is only half the battle when it comes to communicating in Argentina. The Italian influence extends to the expressive use of hands whilst talking as well. Porteños (Argentines born and raised in the city of Buenos Aires) especially communicate by way of their hand expressions. Be sure to learn a few basic hand gestures to understand what is being said non-verbally.


9. Get Comfortable with Besos


Argentines are very warm people and have no problem getting close to each other. The standard greeting is a single cheek-to-cheek kiss, even amongst guys. While you’re not required to give the cashier at the local supermarket a beso, if you’re going to a party prepare to spend some time greeting everyone in the room with a kiss on both arrival and departure.


10. Get Fanatical about Football


Football, or soccer, is a religion in Argentina. Join in the passion, whether it is cheering for Messi and the albiceleste (the national team), or lending your support to one of the local teams. Just be warned, the rivalry between fans can be intense, especially that of Boca and River fanatics.

Photo by Pablo Dodda/Flickr

Photo by Pablo Dodda/Flickr

Luckily Argentines are extremely welcoming people and will happily invite you into their fold and teach you their Argentine ways. Just be sure to brush up on your Spanish to make communication a little bit easier. Contact us for courses in your area, and make the transition that much easier.

Explore our Spanish courses with qualified native speakers in your city and online!