I am over half way though my abroad program. In many ways, I feel like I belong, yet in other ways, I am still learning the quirks of Mendocino society. The period of initial culture shock has long past; however, every now and then I need to remind myself to take a breath and remember that I’m not from Mendoza and any frustration that I still have is normal. Nevertheless, there are three Argentine customs worthy of sharing.
It is common practice to kiss everyone (to an extent) hello and goodbye. I’m referring to a cheek kiss, which can seem odd, especially if you don’t know the person. When I am in the United States, I will greet my family and friends with a hug if I haven’t seen them in a while. If I am walking to class, or frequently interact with them, I usually smile, say hello, and exchange a few words. When I meet a new person, the extent of physical contact is a hand shake. That is not the case in Argentina. My host sister threw a party for her boyfriend’s birthday a couple months ago. Every single person I met went in for the kiss. This happened only three weeks after I arrived, so predictably, I was a little taken aback. When I decided to go to bed, I kissed every person goodbye.
Argentines love their meat, so unsurprisingly, the Asado (barbeque) is a very popular tradition. My host family has a large, outdoor, stone stove, which I was informed immediately upon arriving was for Asados. The meat options usually consist of steak, pork, and sausage and are meant to serve 10 or more people. I am not a frequent meat eater, but Argentina does have good meat.
Drinking mate is a cultural phenomenon. It is impossible to not see someone in possession of this popular tea. It has a similar flavor to green tea and is consumed with or without sugar. I like it both ways. What I find most interesting is how people drink mate. One person brings the hot water, tea leaves, and mug (with a metal straw). He/she then fills the mug with the tea leaves and pours in the water. That person will then drink the mate until there is no more water. Once it is finished, he/she will fill the mug with more water and pass the mug to the next person (the same mug and straw). This continues until every person present has drank the mate and there is no more water. My first thought after witnessing this was “that’s unhygienic.” I was even more taken aback when this cultural norm occurred during class, and the professor was included. After my initial misgivings, I now engage in the same activity.
After two and a half months, culture shock is appropriately named, but as I have discovered, every culture is wonderfully unique.
ARGENTINA – IFSA: MENDOZA UNIVERSITIES PROGRAM, 2018 FALL
Zoe Kaldor is an International Studies and Strategic Communication double major. She is studying abroad with IFSA-Butler in Mendoza, Argentina. Originally from New York, DU’s study abroad program was one of the reasons Zoe chose to attend DU. She specifically chose to study abroad in Argentina because she wants to improve her Spanish skills and experience a new culture, for she believes it is so important in an increasingly global society to be able to communicate in languages besides English as well as experience different ways of life. Zoe is an avid traveler and loves to explore new places; she is excited she gets to do both.