Argentina’s culture is reminiscent in many areas of a modern Spanish culture, with many elements from what we would call typical Western culture. A trip to Argentina , therefore, will be more of a cultural experience than it will be a cultural shock. If you are into wine and meat and at the same time have an interest in football or tango, then Argentina is an obvious destination for you.
History of Argentina
The Argentine culture and the Argentina we know today are marked by the Spanish colonization, which took place from 1492 until 1816, when Argentina declared independence from Spain.
Until 1492, the community was largely a hunter-gatherer community, where women gathered berries and roots and men went hunting to obtain food.
With the Spanish colonization, the culture changed and especially Argentina’s agriculture developed strongly. Today, it has made Argentina one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural products.
Argentinian food and specialties
If you love meat and wine, you will also love Argentine cuisine. If, on the other hand, you are a vegetarian or vegan, the Argentine food culture will not be your home ground. Argentinian cuisine offers in great style empandas, chorizo, puchero, tostados and mate. If you get the opportunity to taste “the mexican truffle” / Huitlacoche / black gold (dear child many names), we can also highly recommend this. The Mexican truffle is a South American mushroom-infected corn, which is used in several dishes, and which is probably said to be a specialty in the same category as blue cheese and “Called caviar”.
Wine is also part of Argentina’s culture. Argentina offers a sea of wines from different districts and from different grapes, of which the Mendoza district, located west of Bueno Aries, close to the border with Chile, is one of the most important. If you are into the Malbec grape, a trip past this area is recommended as this is the primary grape used in Mendoza.
The meals in Argentina are different, compared to what we are used to in Denmark. You should expect less from the breakfast meal, but in return more from the lunch than you do in Denmark. In addition, the evening meal is served later than in Denmark – typically at 22. If you eat at a restaurant, it is also customary to put approx. 10% in gratuity and preferably in cash, as not all places receive gratuity by card payment.
Religion and philosophy
Like much else in Argentine culture, the Argentine religion is also influenced by Spanish colonization and therefore ⅔ of the population is Catholic. Family and respect for the family are high priority in Argentina’s culture. The most prosperous families often also take care of vulnerable groups outside the family, which is reflected in society’s respect for the family lineage.
Catholic culture generally offers more ceremonies, church services and shrines than we use in Protestant culture. If you travel to Argentina over Christmas, you will experience a warm Christmas in the middle of the Argentine summer, with fireworks symbolizing the star over Bethlehem and a population lighting a globos (the paper lanterns) and sending it towards the sky around midnight.
Argentines are a warm and polite people with a hospitable culture and great arm movements. When you talk to an Argentine, gestures are used to a greater extent. The atmosphere can feel more intense and the physical distance is often less than the one we know from Danish culture. Likewise, you can expect kind kisses on both cheeks and hugs from people you talk to – regardless of gender and age.
There are a few cultural differences that we as Danes can feel provoked by, but which you should not take personally, as it is just part of Argentine culture. If you are a woman, Argentine men may stare at you very indiscriminately. If you have a look, regardless of gender, that somehow stands out from the crowd, which most of us have to some extent, it will be only natural that there will be jokes with this. In the same way, people are also often referred to or addressed on the basis of these characteristics, and it would therefore not be unnatural to be called “whiteman”, “blond guy” or “white chocolate”, as Scandinavians. However, it must be emphasized that this is Argentine culture and is not meant to be rude, but just for fun.
If you should be lucky enough to be invited home to an Argentine family during your stay, you can immediately expect the same unwritten cultural rules that apply at home in relation to hostess gifts, attire, table manners, etc. One significant difference is in temporary that it is normal custom to arrive 15-45 minutes later than you are invited to. Remember that you must never give a knife or scissors as a gift, as Argentine culture considers this a symbol that you want to “cut the ribbon” for the recipient.
The mother tongue of Argentina is Spanish, which is spoken by more than 90% of the Argentine population. Only a small part, approx. 15%, speak English, and if you can speak Italian, you also have the opportunity to speak with approx. 10% of the population in this language.
The largest dialect in Argentina is called Rioplatense, which is primarily spoken in the area around Rio de la Planta. If you are in Buenos Aires and have an ear for the Spanish language, you may still find that there are words you have never heard before.
Lunfardo / Lunfa is a French-Italian-inspired slang that was previously used by criminals. Today it is part of Argentine culture. Lunfardo is characterized by changing the syllables in many words, so that a word such as tango becomes gotan.