1. Argentinians are the most hospitable people I have ever met.
An Argentinian family that I had never met face to face invited me to stay in their home for as long as I wanted, even offering to let me bring a friend. They fed me, brought me to their vacation home, took me out on their boat, and invited me to family birthday parties/barbecues. I obviously tried to help out and contribute wherever I could, but getting them to allow me to help with chores was like pulling teeth. Despite my insisting, they continually refused to let me do the dishes, pay for meals, help with yard work, etc. Argentina takes the word invitado seriously and Argentinians will bend over backwards to take care of you and show you their beautiful country. There are nice people everywhere, but this was really incredible. Thanks again to the de Armas family and their friends!
2. Buenos Aires is unbelievably cheap to visit right now.
Amidst Argentina’s currency concerns, there is a huge opportunity for American and European tourists to enjoy this famous South American city. Sometimes referred to as “Paris of South America,” it has been known as one of the more expensive cities in Latin America. However, with the current Blue Market currency exchange, Buenos Aires is incredibly cheap for what you get–a world class city. Even outside the capital city, accommodation rates and food prices pale in comparison to neighboring Brazil. While it may not be as cheap as Bolivia or Ecuador, it is an incredible bargain by most western standards. Even at the official currency exchange rate, Buenos Aires is cheaper than the majority of famous European cities. Now is the time to visit.
3. Tango is for tourists.
I expected dancing in the streets. I expected everyone to know how to Tango. I was mistaken.
I was quickly informed that while the tango is a cultural and historical pastime, nobody really does it anymore except for old people. Nobody in the family that I stayed with ever had any interest in it, nor did any young Argentinians I met know how to do it. I thought that I would at least see some Tango in “La Boca,” a Buenos Aires neighborhood filled with culture, but I only saw one instance (which I am told wasn’t even traditional Tango) in two visits. Maybe I was just unlucky, but the Tango seems to be a romanticized vision of Argentina that doesn’t really exist beyond travel brochures and maybe occasionally in tourist zones like La Boca.
4. Argentina may have the best pizza in the world
Obviously this is subjective, but Argentina takes pizza very seriously. In Buenos Aires, the preferred style seemed to be deep dish. Their pies are incredibly thick and greasy. Common topping choices include ham and onion variations. They actually put in whole slices of thin-cut ham (versus the chunks we get in the states) and bake it into the pizza below the top layer of cheese. Speaking of cheese, the types that they use are phenomenal.
5. Argentine roads are wild
I arrived in Buenos Aires during “hora pico” (rush hour) and saw flashing green lights of the Argentinian equivalent to highway patrol every couple hundred feet on the gridlocked highway. I figured that their roads were well patrolled and police would be strict. In addition, there were signs everywhere for radar cameras. For whatever reason, the police either disappear after rush hour, or just don’t care about road rules. Lane lines are more of a suggestion. Cars routinely fly down the highway at 20-30mph over the speed limit. On smaller roads, the speed limit seems to be “whatever your car can handle.” While I am told that police can nab you for even minor speeding infractions, I never saw one person getting a ticket. We even passed a parked police officer going…well in excess of the speed limit…down a major Buenos Aires avenue swerving between lanes with not so much as a wagging finger.
Roads in more rural areas can be a completely different type of adventure. A surprisingly busy back road near the port city of Tigre, one hour north of Buenos Aires, went from pavement to dirt to small lake within a few hundred feet. Potholes the size of VW Beetles litter the road with no warning. You can be traveling at 45 mph on a nice stretch of road only to see a cloud of dust and a landscape reminiscent of Mars around the next corner.
6. Argentinian Spanish is a completely different language
For the first two weeks I was in Argentina, I could barely understand a word that anyone was saying. Beyond just the vocabulary differences from Spain or Mexico’s Spanish (gasolina=nafta, conducir=manejar, aqui=aca, alli=alla, etc.), there are a few very distinct “Argentianisms.” They use “vos” instead of “tu” and pronounce “y” and “ll” as “shh” instead of the traditional “yuh.” Every time I heard these sounds I would have to translate it to the sound of the Spanish I knew, then translate that to English. It seems to me that a lot of these differences are very similar to Portuguese For example, in Portuguese, keys=chaves which is how Argentinians pronounce llaves. Also “vos” sounds remarkably similar to “voce” which is the roughly the equivalent of “tu” in Brazilian Portuguese. However, every time I suggested this, no Argentinians seemed to want to agree. Maybe there are other reasons for these differences, but sharing a border with Brazil would seem to make a lot of sense.
7. Argentinians are obsessed with Dulce de Leche
This caramel-like spread might as well be the official food of Argentina. You better like it because they put it in/on everything. Churros, toast, cakes, ice cream etc. They even sing songs about it. Seriously, you better like it.