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10 little quirks about Buenos Aires

Photo credit: LWYang  on Flickr.

For something a little different, here are some unusual things you might encounter on your visit to Buenos Aires. Are there any other eccentricities from this city that stood out for you?

Argentine futbol fans are passionate beyond belief.  

In Buenos Aires, the rival teams are Boca Juniors and River Plate. You can not like both. It is simply impossible. Even small children can become upset when finding out their new school friends are supporters of the other team. Game day includes busloads of estactic fans, leaning out of windows chanting and waving their shirts around. Boca Juniors has their own world famous band at all their games banging their drums and chanting a variety of songs which even the youngest fans sing along with. Some people even leave work early or arrive late just because they wanted to stay home to watch the game.

Mate (pronounced MAH-teh) is shared at many social gatherings.

The ´don´t share your drink bottle´ rule does not apply at many Argentine social gatherings as the famous mate (tea leaves in a gourd) is passed around the group and shared amongst all those who want to participate. There are a set of ´rules´ about how to make mate and participate in the round, which are generally followed but the most important for beginners to remember is not to move the bombilla (drinking straw). The tea is not to be stirred!

Drinkable yoghurt comes in sachets remarkably similar to normal milk.

While drinkable yoghurt in sachets is perhaps not a terribly different thing in the world, the surprise it can bring to those who do not understand spanish and pay little attention when trying to distinguish which ¨milk¨ they are buying from the fridge, makes it worth noting. Consider yourself warned so you don´t need to find out first hand what happens when you accidently pour strawberry yoghurt into your coffee. Handy hint: make sure it says Leche.

Most road markings are simply suggestions.

When it comes to intersections, the official rule is ´give way to the right´.  In real life, it is usually first come first served, or whomever is going the fastest or whichever car/bus/truck is biggest.  You will find some stop signs placed at some intersections, but these are merely to suggest that this intersection is more dangerous than others so it might pay to slow down a little.  Painted lines on the road seem rather decorative than to serve any purpose and some larger streets (ie capable of fitting 5 cars wide) do not even have lanes painted on them. And as for indicators on the car, it appears that many porteños are unaware what that lever on the steering wheel is for. Hazard lights, in contrast, are used frequently to communicate many things including, ´trouble uphead!´ and ´I am looking for a parking spot´ and even ´I am just double parking while I run in to buy some bread at the bakery´.  

Icecream can be delivered by the kilo

Porteños love their icecream. Summertime means late and super hot nights where shops are open til the wee hours and full of rambunctious children of all ages. If you are with friends and have a craving for icecream in the middle of the night, you can get it delivered right to your door without having to leave the air-conditioned comfort of your living room.

Don´t touch the fruit.

When you run out of fruit, you do not have to look far to find a local fruit and veggie place - conveniently obvious by the large crates of fruit stacked precariously out the front of a little doorway. Most places prefer that you don´t select your own fruit, but stand there listing one by one, the variety of things you need. It seems most people shop in small amounts (foreign ´locals´ can stand out by their long lists of weekly shopping) so as not to hold up the line.

Dulce de leche runs in the veins of almost everything.

You probably expected to see a lot of dulce de leche (caramelised condensed milk). It is no secret that it is what fuels most Argentines throughout the day. But perhaps you were not quite prepared to the extent that dulce de leche rules the baking section of this country. It is smeared over and between layers of cakes (it is considered an acceptable way to ice a cake), it oozes out of alfajores, it is piped into medialunas and facturas (pastries) and is one of the most popular icecream flavours. You can even buy an ice cream cone piped full with just, you guessed it, dulce de leche. Warning: consuming that amount of dulce de leche in one go is not for the faint hearted.

Entrepreneurial sellers in most forms of public transport.

Not only buskers, Buenos Aires also has public transport sellers. You name it, they sell it. Announcing themselves to the passengers (each trying to make themselves distinct), they make their way through crowded carriages selling their goods. One single train/subway/bus trip will expose you to a variety of opportunities to purchase batteries, socks, teatowels, chocolates, baking, nail scissors, battery packs, pens, note books, sewing kits, children's books, lollies, card holders, earphones … the list seems endless. But you never know when you might need an emergency toenail clipper or have a sudden need for a bar of chocolate to keep you company on your commute.  

Not everyone dances tango.

It´s true. There are not sensual strangers dancing under a street light on every corner in San Telmo. Some porteños are even known to start learning how to dance tango while travelling  in another country. Whilst tango beats strongly beneath this monstrosity of a city, it is only a select population of locals who involve themselves in dance. Tango music is a little more accessible to the entire population and you will definitely be hearing it at some point during your stay whether at a cafe, a neighbour´s apartment or someone singing in the street

The tradition of dog walking.

One of the most impressive things of the city, is turning to the corner and being confronted with a happy pack of 12 dogs walking orderly around one figure.  While the laws of the city state that dog walkers can not walk more than 8 dogs at a time, one walk through the parks and streets of Palermo or Recoleta shows that some dog walkers are flaunting this - some with up to 15 dogs. The dogs seem to love it, happily panting their way together towards the local park where sometimes, several walkers meet up and the dogs spend their energy playing with each other.


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