Ready for Some Culture Shock? (AR08)

by Naomi Yu

Inevitably, anytime you travel to a different part of the world or get exposed to a different culture, there are adjustments that need to be made, because things are just done differently than what we’re used to. Included below is what I found to be the Top 10 cultural differences or “shocks” that the team and I noticed and experienced during our time in Argentina. Because I am a teacher, the information is laid out into what’s called a ‘T-chart’ or ‘Compare/Contrast diagram.’ On the left is what we typically are used to in America, and on the right, I’ve included how these very same things are done in Argentina. Hopefully it will make you want to go and experience it for yourself one day.

American Greetings
We greet one another with a ‘Hello!’ You give people a wave and a verbal “hello,” and maybe just maybe if they are a closer friend or relative, you give them a hug. But bottom line, whatever you do, its one quick movement because everyone needs their personal space.

Argentinian Greetings
They greet one another with ‘Hola!’ AND…There is no such thing as personal space in Argentina. Everyone gives and receives hugs and kisses to everyone, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy, girl, young, old, or a child! Standard procedure is when you see someone, touch your left cheek to their left cheek and make a kissing noise.

Our Bathroom Etiquette
In America, the golden rule is, always throw the tissue paper you used into the toilet and make sure to flush after taking care of business.

Their Bathroom Etiquette
In Argentina, never throw the tissue paper you used into the toilet, but instead deposit it in the little waste basket to the side. And don’t flush, because it doesn’t really work anyways.

Our Standard Meal Times
The average American eats breakfast from approximately 7-9 AM. It’s supposed to be your biggest meal of the day, but who really follows that rule anyways. Lunch is usually taken from
around 11-1 PM, and Dinner from 5-8 PM.

Their Un-Standard Meal Times
In Argentina, you better get ready to eat late and eat heavy. Breakfast is served every morning from 7-9 AM. Lunch is usually taken from around 1-3 PM. But dinner was served usually from 9:30-11 PM, and it was usually the heaviest meal of the day!

Table Manners
Common eating rules go like this. You first eat the main dish, then dessert and fruit afterwards if they are available. You should eat the food clean off the plates and upon finishing, you put the dishes used into the sink and throw away any loose trash into the trash can.

Table Madness
In Tucuman, you are served the main dish, then either dessert or fruit afterwards. If oranges are served, be sure not to throw the peels away. Instead, guard them with your life because you can be sure an orange peel fight will break out, and you will need to stock up on as much ammo as possible!

Everyone in San Diego pretty much owns a car and drives themselves to get from place to place. We rarely utilize the carpool idea because its just more convenient to drive ourselves and do things on our own time/schedule (although things might change now that gas prices have gone up!).

They Call It TRAFIK
Pretty much no one in Argentina owns their own car and they do a lot of walking to get from place to place.

Vehicle Regulations
In the states, we have strict rules to follow about not permitting more than 5 people into a standard sized car. Cars that are bigger than the standard follow the “depends-on-how-manyseatbelts-there-are” rule.

What Regulations?
In Argentina, there is no such thing as a person limit. In fact, they probably have strict rules about not driving and wasting gas if the car isn’t packed. Their golden rule to transportation is, pack as many people as possible that would fit into the vehicle. Doesn’t matter if people are standing, sitting on top of each other, squeezed tightly…keep packing and pushing until everyone is in!

Owning Pets
In the states, people who own dogs usually keep them safe inside the house or in their backyards. When it comes time to take the dogs out for a walk, they are hooked to a leash for containment purposes.

Or Not?
In Argentina, no one knows who owns what dog, or if the dogs even have owners! There’s a ton of dogs around and they are always out taking a walk or run. In stark contrast to the states, it’s very rare to see them sitting inside a house or backyard. Another random thing is that you see horses walking around the streets as well at times.

Our Choice of Beverage is…
Most people here drink water with soda, juices, and milk as occasional drinks, due to high levels of sugar content.

Their Choice of Beverage is…
Over there, every meal is accompanied with soda. Your options are Cola, Sprite, Manzana, or Orange Fanta. Also, on a side note, I saw kids as young as 4 years old drinking café con leche or, in other words, coffee!

Drinking Tea
When drinking tea in the states, everyone gets their own separate tea cup with their own individualized flavor and such.

Drinking Mate (pronounced Mah-tae)
When drinking mate (their tea) in Argentina, everyone drinks out of the same cup using the same straw. So even if you’re a germa- phobe, you have to get over it!

“We’re Not Home…”
Over here in the states, the idea of anyone going door-to-door is just not welcomed by many. Whether its for sales purposes, home services, or sharing religion, most do not want to be bothered and will do everything and anything to avoid opening the door to such people.

“Anyone Is Welcome!”
In Argentina, people just seem to be available and hospitable for the most part. They don’t mind you stopping by and ringing the doorbell. They don’t mind taking time to chat and listen to you share the gospel, and if your lucky, they might even invite you inside for some delicious mate tea!



The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.



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