Argentina by Isabel Del Mastro

My name is Isabel Del Mastro, I am a sophomore at the College of Charleston studying Spanish and Latin American Caribbean Studies and I am staying with the Buenos Aires Housing institution with a host mother and her son. I chose my program here in Buenos Aires because I wanted to improve my fluency in the Spanish language and live in a Latin American country to go along with my studies. In addition, I have always been especially interested in Argentina’s history and culture for some time now, so studying abroad here has always been more or less a dream. Thus, when I realized that CofC had a program to go to Buenos Aires, I was very excited. In my program I have set goals to make relationships with people in Argentina, to improve my fluency, to broaden my horizons, and to step out of my comfort zone. I haven’t done any research dedicated to a project, but I have done my own research by going to museums, visiting new restaurants, walking through parks and exploring the city.
From the minute I walked out of the airport in Argentina, I experienced culture shock for the next two weeks. Doing simple things, from walking around, to visiting new restaurants, ordering food, talking to people, and simply just saying hello we’re all very different experiences from the United States. There are simple little cultural differences that I noticed from day one: They greet each other with one kiss on the cheek, it’s fashionable for women to wear platform sandals, and people are more than welcome to help when you ask for directions. Furthermore, I have discovered a lot of cultural differences surrounding Argentina’s cuisine. Every day around 5 in the afternoon all of the cafe’s open up and people go in for some coffee or a pastry. One of the most popular merienda treats to order in a cafe is a medialuna, or a sweet croissant. In addition, the types of coffee that you can order are very different from the United States. “Black coffee” doesn’t really exist like it does in the US, and their most common coffee drink instead is cafe con leche (Cafe with milk). Restaurant culture in general is also very different here in Argentina. In the United States, fast service is expected and the waiter is supposed to stop by the table and ask if you need anything. However, in Argentina if you need anything you have to get the waiter’s attention. You are supposed to enjoy your meal and enjoy the people you are eating with, without feeling pressure from a waitstaff. Traditional foods in Argentina show the European and Native influence in Argentine cuisine. A popular dish is Milanesa: a thinly sliced piece of fried meat that can be topped with cheese, egg, redsauce, etc. They also eat a lot of Asado, or Argentine bbq, where every sunday families get together and prepare a feast of BBQ to eat together. The Argentine diet is very heavy on meat and bread, and finding a vegetarian restaurant is almost impossible. But with that being said, so far Argentina has been a very rewarding experience. Despite the culture shock and fumbling over my own words, every moment has been rewarding and a new learning experience for me. I hope to learn more about Argentina culture while I’m here, especially when it comes to their food.

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