International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987

Culture Corner

Argentine Culture

Buenos Aires, Argentina's vibrant and lively capital, is located on the banks of the Río de la Plata and is home to over one-third of the Argentine population. Built by European immigrants primarily from Italy and Spain, Buenos Aires often surprises first-time visitors with its resemblance to parts of Paris, Rome and Barcelona. This is due to the city's grandeur architecture, world-renowned theatres, extensive shops and cafes, and some of the best entertainment and nightlife in the world. However, the tango dancers found in every niche of the city, book readers having a lengthy and relaxed meal at one of the city's many fine restaurants, Argentines engaged in passionate debates about the country's favorite obsession fútbol, shared gourds of yerba mate tea, and the city's countless outdoor handicraft markets all come together to contribute to the unique essence of Buenos Aires.

Porteños, as the diverse people of Buenos Aires are known, possess a complex and rich cultural identity. Argentina is a land of immigrants. In addition to the strong European influence, there are still a few indigenous communities. These diverse cultures have come together to contribute to the country's unique language, cuisine, music, dance, religion, and architecture.

Likely due to the fact that many Argentines are primarily of European descent, they are culturally and emotionally more comparable to Europeans than Latin Americans. Argentines take extreme pride in their country, in themselves, and in their culture. They are direct, refined, and open as a people, and are likely to be unreserved in sharing with you the things that they are passionate about. Argentines are versatile and expressive and have a passion for discussing politics in particular.

In addition, Argentines are very physical communicators; they will often touch each other when speaking, use grand gestures to emphasize their point, and maintain little physical distance between speakers. Politeness and respect are closely linked with informal treatment. The normal greeting of men and women is a kiss on the cheek. Smiles, hugs, closeness when speaking and gestures are the most common and friendly way of communication.

Monuments & Must-Sees

Visit the Obelisk, a Buenos Aires famed monument, on Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest streets in the world.

Wander around the famed Sunday antique market in the main square of the historic San Telmo neighborhood.

Catch a performance at the world-renowned and magnificently extravagant Teatro Colon, the second largest performing arts theater in the southern hemisphere and the pride of the portenos.

Explore the Plaza de Mayo, the most important plaza in the city which faces the Casa Rosada, the Cathedral, the Cabildo and other major civic buildings.

Don't miss the Feria de Mataderos, which takes place on Sundays and is a popular celebration of the country's rural traditions and includes artesanias, regional food specialties, folk music, local dances, and everyone's favorite traditional gaucho riders.

Check out the latest collection at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), a private museum with an ever-growing collection of Latin American art.

Wind through the lively, colorful Caminato in La Boca, where it is said that tango originated in the brothels, and don't forget to stop by the Museum of Bellas Artes along the way.

Visit about the Argentine training ship and naval museum, the Fragata Escuela Presidente Sarmiento, in Puerto Madero, a renovated old port in the business district.

Pay your tribute to the Recoleta Cemetery, where you will find numerous huge monuments made of white marble, dark granite, and lustrous bronze along with the several notable Argentines including Evita Peron, a number of past presidents, sports stars, writers, and more.

Have a coffee at the Café Tortoni, perhaps the most famous café in all of Argentina due to its countless famous patrons and its appearance in many movies.

Spend a day in Palermo visiting the Botanical Garden, the Buenos Aires Zoo, the Rose Gardens, the Hippodrome, and the Planetarium.

Cultural Activity Suggestions

Buenos Aires has endless activities for international visitors to enjoy. Listed below are some different cultural activities to do while in Buenos Aires. You can do many of these activities on your own, with friends, or they may be sponsored by ISA. Upon arrival to Argentina, different sponsored cultural activities will be announced throughout your program abroad.

During your time in Buenos Aires it is highly recommended to head down to the River Plate Stadium in the Belgrano district of Buenos Aires, considered to be the National Stadium of Argentina, to experience one of Argentina's greatest passions: Soccer. Fans get most excited when River Plate is playing the Boca Juniors, also from Buenos Aires. Matches between the two teams are known as "Superclásico" and are amongst the most heated rivalries in the sport due to the world-wide and local popularity of both teams.

Buenos Aires is known internationally for being the city where tango music and dance originated in the brothels of Buenos Aires. Each year the World Tango Championships converge onto Buenos Aires, beckoning hundreds of couples from around the globe to compete in two categories: Salon and Stage Tango. However, tango is not limited to the professionals -- locals and tourists alike take lessons in parks or dance studios around the city, and tango performers can be seen in nearly every plaza or in one of Buenos Aires' countless and unforgettable tango shows.

It is hard not to shop in Buenos Aires, with its excellent bargains, impeccable style, and countless unique places to shop! Buenos Aires offers anything from up-scale boutiques to chains to small thrift stores to outdoor bohemian chic flea markets. You'll find that, along with restaurants, cafés and museums, the streets are lined with all sorts of different stores and vendors.

See a Performance at the Teatro Colón
Both cinema and theatre represent two very important activities for the porteños. Currently, there are about 175 theatres and 200 cinemas, including the Teatro Colón, which is the main opera house in Buenos Aires. It hosts the most famous artists of national and international opera and ballet, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world.

Handicrafts Markets
The handicraft markets are one of the most picturesque pastimes of the city. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, artisans offer their crafts in different parks and squares. The Street-Museum Caminito, where 62 plastic artists exhibit their work in the open air, is one of the most important markets of its type in the world. The San Pedro Telmo fair is one of the most important attractions in the city. On Sundays, Dorrego square fills with more than 270 stands attempting to sell various items "antiques and old things." The surrounding bars put their tables on the street and all the area is crowded by musicians, singers, tango dancers and mimes, among others.

Mate, the characteristic porteño herbal tea infusion, mixes yerba mate with warm water, with or without sugar. This beverage is taken at any time of the day. Mate is a popular custom that has been a part of the culture of the Río de la Plata since the middle of the XVI century. Be sure to spend a saturday in one of the various parks or plazas practicing Spanish with friends and taking part in sharing this cultural tea.

Bring some friends and your mate to one of the countless breathtaking gardens in Buenos Aires. Some of the most popular spots include the Zoological Gardens, the Japanese Gardens, the Rose Garden, the Garden of Poets, and the Botanical Gardens. You will often see Argentines sitting in a circle, sharing a gourd of mate and enjoying the elegant serenity of the gardens.

Cultural Immersion

While there is no structured volunteer program offered, any student truly interested in volunteering while in Buenos Aires can work with our on-site staff to find different opportunities. Students simply present different organizations or areas that interest them and our on-site staff can help you figure out how to get involved.

ISA Student Blog
Stay connected while you're abroad and share your experience with your peers back home on the ISA Student Blog, one of WordPress' top 23 recommended travel blogs! Each summer and semester the ISA Student Blog features current ISA students as bloggers, photo bloggers, and video bloggers who document their time abroad to share with their friends, family, prospective students, advisers, and more. If sharing your study abroad experience through writing, photos, videos and other media while receiving professional guidance and feedback appeals to you, consider applying to be an ISA Featured Blogger, Photo Blogger, or Video Blogger. The Site Specialist for your program will email all accepted students to notify you when ISA is accepting applications for all ISA Featured Blogger programs. Please contact the ISA Blog Team at if you have any questions.

Cultural Blogs:

We also suggest you check out the plethora of other cultural blogs available on the web to learn more about others' experiences in Buenos Aires, cultural happenings, and expat lives.

Language Resources

Helpful Phrases
andar / "¿cómo andás?": How are you doing?
boliche: disco
boludo: dummy or stupid, but you can say it to friends in a joking manner.
castellano: the language they speak in Argentina (it's not Spanish)
ché: friend or dude (common use, it's like "hey!" or "hey, dude!")
copado: cool, a good thing, a nice thing or person. Especially applied to people, places and
occasions like parties.
"Ll": the double L makes a "zhhh" sound, and not a "Y" sound like everywhere else. Similar to "Shh". For example, the name Yamila sounds like "Shamila".
pibe: a person, a guy, a kid.
vos: They don't use "tú" in Argentina, they use the voseo.
yerba mate: herb tea

Online Dictionary

Verb Conjugation: We suggest you look up some helpful websites dedicated to verb conjugations in Spanish. The book 501 Spanish Verbs is also a great resource to bring with you to Argentina.

Listening and Speaking: Check out some different Spanish podcasts available to practice your verbal and listening skills.

Beware of translation websites... much can be lost in translation.