“Choque cultural” in Buenos Aires

Guest Post by: Lindy Wandel, a Junior studying Marketing and participating in the CISB program at the Foster School of Business. Lindy is currently participating in the Foster Exchange Program at the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now that I’ve been in Buenos Aires for about two months, I’ve had a bit of time to experience some deeper elements of the culture than my initial impressions. I remember on the first day that all of us exchange students arrived on the Universidad de San Andrés campus for orientation, we were shown a graph that represented the different phases of “choque cultural”–culture shock. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, that’s nice, but that definitely won’t happen to me in such a textbook way.” Two months later, I realized that it did happen to me, and exactly by the book!

The culture shock graph says that after the first phase of “fantasia” (the feeling that everything is new and wonderful), you have to face a dip of surface-level cultural differences that finally ends in superficial cultural adaptation. After that, you start to confront some more deep-rooted cultural issues that lead to a more profound level of adaptation. Because those deeper things are a bit more heavy, here I will mention some of the more fun, lighthearted cultural differences that I have come across here in Argentina.

Rioplatense Spanish dialect: In the area of Rio de la Plata (that encompasses parts of Argentina, like Buenos Aires, and parts of Uruguay), people speak a dialect of Spanish that is incredibly unique. It incorporates an entire vocabulary of slang called “lunfardo”, which has its roots in tango culture. And due to the influence of Italian immigration, the Spanish language here sounds like a song, and is very passionate and energetic. 

Concept of time: It has been a huge adjustment coming from the US (where punctuality is super important), to Argentina (where there is a more fluid concept of time). When people say they will meet at 3:00 pm, it really means 3:15, 3:30… 

Mate: All of my classmates bring their mate to school, along with their giant thermos of hot water for constant refills. In lectures the mate is passed from person to person (not a drink for germaphobes!) and often the professor will stop their lecture to ask for mate from a student. It’s funny how the simplest things can bring people together. 

Of course there are millions of other things I could mention, but these are some that I find most important. I have learned so much both inside and outside of the classroom, and I am excited to see what the next two months bring.