Study abroad: On host families, buses and boliches in Argentina

So many colors!
So many colors!

Similarly to my routine with my new internship, I would definitely say it took time to adapt to and develop a routine when in a new culture and living with a host family. Since I have lived alone in the states for the past two years, it was difficult at first to adapt to living with others.

My host family and I (5 people) are all busy and we share one bathroom, so we need to time our showers right in the mornings. We use the same kitchen but usually everyone eats at very different times, so that’s not a problem. My host mother Marta (who’s so sweet and patient) usually makes my dinner during the week around 7 or 8 (when we both have time to speak to each other in Spanish); but an average Argentinean won’t actually have dinner until after 9.

And going out, restaurants don’t start filling up until around 10pm, and are really busy around 11pm and midnight; and Portenos (people form Buenos Aires) have late nights in general. Even during the week, they will eat their late dinner, go out to drink and dance at boliches, get home around 4 or 5am, and still go to work at 9. I don’t know how they do it!

On the language front, I have had many frustrating days. Examples range from having difficulties communicating with workers at the laundromat to not understanding a Spanish-speaking stranger when they ask for directions. Nonetheless, I am glad that I have remembered so much because, in general, knowing Spanish in South America is imperative to getting around, and my previous and current studies have really helped me to get by in Buenos Aires.

As soon as I get on the bus to go to work, Spanish is needed (“uno veinte”-price for the bus; “permiso/perdon/lo siento”- to get by someone). And when you’re in a foreign country, even though you may think you fit in, most people can tell that you are a foreigner (from what you wear, how you carry myself, etc), and if you speak English it will confirm their suspicions. I would definitely say people stare at me a lot, which I didn’t anticipate would happen as much in a city where most people have multiple European descendants.

In general though, I didn’t have too many expectations before leaving for Buenos Aires. I did some research about the city, and knew the basics; but being in the city, experiencing the nightlife, and meeting the people is completely different. Even though it’s been a difficult road, I am already falling in love with this night-owl culture.

Catherine Franklin

Central Michigan University

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