Correspondents' Corner is a place for The Pendulum's team of international reporters to reflect on their time abroad and share stories about the new cultures they are experiencing.
The study abroad opportunities at Elon University are fantastic, so early this past spring semester, I became part of the study abroad crowd. My decision was then deciding where to go. I figured most people go to Europe. But, as much as I love it there, I have already been.
I wanted to do something completely different, so I chose Argentina. In many of my Spanish high school classes, we investigated Argentina’s turbulent history and rich culture. I knew I would never have another chance to live in South America. Throughout this summer I told people I was going to be studying abroad in Argentina and living there for five months. My words seemed so empty from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Even as I packed up my two huge suitcases, one debatable sized carry on, and purse, it still didn’t feel like I was embarking on this five month journey. It didn’t feel real until I finally got here.
We have been in Buenos Aires for almost three weeks now and I am already in love with this city. There are so many cultural differences to learn about and pick up on, but people here overall seem passionate, friendly and happy. There was a lot to soak in on the first cab ride from the airport, right outside the city, into the center of Buenos. The architecture, fountains and plazas almost make me feel like I may have landed in France or Spain. But then I notice the graffiti and people and I’m reminded that I am in South America.
For the most part, the people here are warm-hearted and outgoing much more than any other big city I’ve ever been to. For example, picture yourself as a foreigner walking down the streets of New York City clutching a map and looking lost. The chances of anyone coming up to you and asking if you are lost are slim to none. It seems that down here as soon as you pull out a map, people notice and come up and ask where you are going and where you are from. They seem to have a real interest in helping other people.
Another sign of their warm-hearted personality is simply the way that Argentineans greet each other. Instead of the standard handshake, people here greet everyone (even people they are just meeting for the first time) with a kiss on the cheek. As great as it is that their culture is so open and welcoming, it also means there is no concept of personal space, whether it is squished up next to someone on the Subte (metro) or in a club. Although it was strange for the first few days, it was easy to get over. Maybe it just means that, as Americans, we are too distant.
Another big cultural difference is that Argentinians speak their mind openly. It may be about politics or what they think of someone, but they certainly do not beat around the bush. Since they communicate with each other with such openness, they avoid many awkward situations. In fact, there isn’t even a Spanish translation for awkward because that concept does not exist here!
It is exciting and bustling living in a new city, but I am sure I will still be adjusting to city life and culture for the next few weeks. However, understanding the cultural differences is a big part of why this new city is beginning to feel like home.
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