A lot of people like to know about the differences between life in the United States vs. life in Argentina.
Sure there are small things like bags of milk and grown men eating ice creams alone. But after a short while you get used to those things.
In this post I’ll share a few differences that I have yet to grow accustomed to even after years of living as an expat in Argentina.
Christmas in the Summer
I’ve spent 7 Christmas here and I still can’t used to Xmas in the Summer.
Santa wears shorts and we go swimming Christmas night.
All of your life growing up in the northern hemisphere there’s an ingrained feeling that Christmas time is associated with the cold.
I grew up in California so never a white Christmas but definitely a little chilly.
However down in here in Argentina I’ve been swimming several times on a blazing hot Christmas day.
Rejas on the Houses
Rejas is a pretty common word down here in Argentina.
Ask any local, they all have them on their homes.
It translates to bars or maybe a fence. How about fence bars?
When we built our house in Córdoba, our architect wanted to put rejas on the windows and I refused.
Not having grown up with rejas on the windows, they make me uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel like a prisoner in my own house.
It’s definitely a cultural difference because our architect was shocked we didn’t want them. Our neighbors were surprised we don’t have them. Every friend I invite over can’t believe we don’t have rejas on the windows.
A lot of people who have rejas get robbed anyway so the rejas serve really to make the habitants feel safe but they don’t have that effect on me.
We do have a gate that encloses our entire property. Interestingly, this gate/fence/wall is also called una reja.
Even though my USA childhood home never had a fully enclosed property (just the backyard) I actually do like having it here in Córdoba.
With 2 dogs its nice to have large closed off and (somewhat) private area for them to run around.
Rejas discourage burglars but we also have 2 dogs who bark anytime someone touches the rejas.
Anyways, fingers crossed we’ve yet to have any issues despite this blatant security threat in the local’s eyes.
The Late Nights
I used to be a morning person. I still am I suppose.
But its hard to be a morning person living in Argentina.
Everything happens so late.
When my parents came to visit one thing I had to warn them about was the late nights.
We’re going to eat dinner at 10 or 11pm so be prepared.
Some nights I’ll start preparing dinner at 8pm and my wife will say: Already?
I’ve eaten at dinner 12am, 1am, and even 3am once.
That last one was nuts. One of my wife’s friends prepared homemade pastas and I kept joking (but not joking) that we could order delivery and it would be here in 30 minutes.
Not to say the US doesn’t have a power outages, but they are definitely way more common here in Córdoba.
During the summer months when everyone is blasting their air conditioning units you can pretty much expect one thing – power outages.
They typically don’t last long. Less than an hour.
The same thing happens during the winter months when everyone fires up their heaters.
I’m now writing this in June – pleno invierno – the max today is 6 C (42F) with min -1 C (30F).
I’ve got both heating units in my house cranking and apparently so does everyone else in the neighborhood because we’ve had 2 power outages today.
They only lasted a few minutes each time. So it was just enough to get the microwave and oven clocks flashing. And reset my WiFi.
For starters, motorcycles are simply way more common in Latin American countries than they are in the states.
Also way more common then are old motorcycles that have no muffler.
When we lived in Nueva Córdoba, the background noise of life was loud motorcycles accelerating through the streets.
Now that we’re living in more residential part of Córdoba it’s still a daily occurrence to hear a motorcycle ripping down the street. The bad ones you can still hear even when they’re a couple blocks away.
I’ve been on the phone before and the motorcycle engine is so loud I can’t hear the other person.
They certainly hear the motorcycle though.
When I first started talking to my (now) wife in 2010 via Skype I thought her Skype had this sound effect of a motorcycle engine. Turns out they were real noises.
As I type this now, a loud motorcycle just passed my house. Great timing.
Clapping Instead of Knocking
If you arrive to a house that doesn’t have a doorbell, what do you do?
If you’re American you probably said knock on the door.
And if you’re Argentine you probably answered – clap my hands.
That’s right, now that we live in a house instead of an apartment building I’ve got to experience a number of delivery guys clapping their hands to let us know they’re at the front gate.
I guess the hand clap is more effective than the door knock down here.
There you go. Just a handful of things that are culturally distinct when it comes to living life as an expat in Argentina.
- Christmas in the summer
- Rejas on every window
- Late nights
- More power outages
- Loud motorcycles
- Clapping instead of knocking on the door