Argentina is a large country in South America whose citizens largely come from European descent. Argentina has contributed many aspects of its culture to the rest of the world, like the tango, famous films and delicious foods. That being said, some aspects of Argentine culture are very distinct, and travelers visiting this incredible country should learn the basics of greeting others before arriving.
The first thing to remember when visiting Argentina is that Argentines are very "touchy" people, for lack of a better word. The kind of personal space that Americans might be used to giving others in the States isn't really seen here. It's normal for Argentines to stand much closer to each other when having a conversation. Travelers should be prepared to let their guard down quickly; otherwise, they might feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable in social settings in Argentina.
Determine the Relationship
When greeting someone in Argentina, travelers first need to think about the relationship they have with the person they are encountering. Are you greeting this person for the first time? Is it right before a business meeting? Is this person a friend of a friend? If the person is anything more than an acquaintance, you will likely greet that person differently, especially when in Buenos Aires.
Handshakes for Business
Handshakes are generally not commonplace in Argentina unless it's prior to a business meeting. Handshakes should be firm, yet kind, and be partnered with a nod of the head. Make sure to look the other person in the eyes, and expect a personal conversation before making any business deals.
Kiss on the Cheek
Argentines always kiss each other on the cheek when greeting, even if the person is a stranger. Unlike in European countries, however, Argentines give a kiss on only one cheek, and they don't actually make a kissing sound, but simply graze cheeks, to get the job done.
When kissing on the cheek, it's a good idea to move toward your right to avoid accidentally kissing the other person on the lips! Keep in mind that the kissing rule is much more common in large cities like Buenos Aires, and people traveling to other cities should gauge the other person before going ahead with a kiss, especially one man to another.
Locals appreciate when travelers make an effort to speak in their language. Common greetings in Spanish are easy to learn:
- Hello: "Hola"
- How are you?: "Como estas?"
- How's it going?: "Como va?"
- Good morning: "Buenos dias" or "Buen dia"
- Good afternoon: "Buenas tardes"
- Good evening: "Buenas noches"
- Goodbye: "Chau"
Expect Personal Questions
Argentines like to get to know others quickly, and therefore they might ask personal questions immediately after meeting you. These questions could be about your family, your relationship and what you do for work, for example. Questions that are considered rude to ask in the United States are quite the opposite here. Argentines can also be quite straightforward and direct, so don't mistake their pointed humor as being impolite; it's just their culture.
People in Argentina are certainly not as punctual as Americans, as the lifestyle is laid back and relaxed here. If someone you're expecting to see is a bit late to a meeting, don't get nervous. They will likely be at least 10 minutes late. Travelers to Argentina should also be aware that people tend to start their evenings going out very late, so don't be surprised if a friend doesn't invite you over until midnight. That being said, as a foreigner, you should still do your best to be on time.