Buenos Aires Feature

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Who Are These People?

Buenos Aires has some lively inhabitants. Here are a few things you can expect of them:

It's All in the Hands

Like their Italian ancestors, many porteños gesture, rather than speak, half of their conversation. Brushing your chin outward with your hand means "I have no idea." Bunching up your fingers is "What on earth are you talking about?" Pulling down the skin under one eye says "Watch out."

Getting Physical

Porteños greet each other with an effusive kiss on the cheek (always to the left) and look for other opportunities that allow displays of affection. Even men follow this pattern and laugh at foreign males who refuse to do so, saying that they're insecure in their masculinity.

Hey Good-Looking

Locals claim porteño women are the most beautiful in the world, and, in tribute the men have perfected the piropo (catcall). Comments range from corny compliments to highly witty—and mildly offensive—wordplays. Follow local girls' cues and take it in stride.

Sweets for the Sweet

Even the tiniest espresso arrives with four packets of sugar (or sweetener), just one testament to the local sweet tooth. Dulce de leche (a gooey milk-caramel spread) is another. It's practically a food group. Not only does it come in many desserts, but porteños also spread it on toast and—in the privacy of their kitchens—eat spoonfuls straight from the jar.

A Different Language

Porteños speak a very local version of Spanish. Instead of "tú" for "you," the archaic "vos" form is used, and "ll" and "y" are pronounced like "sh." A singsong accent owes a lot to Italian immigrants; indeed, an Italian-influenced slang—called lunfardo—is ever-present.

Doggy Style

Porteños are big dog-lovers. Professional paseaperros (dog walkers) wander with packs of well-dressed hounds anchored to their waists. Most porteños seem to have excellent poop radar, too: though the streets are filled with dog mess, you rarely see anyone step in it.

Driving You Crazy

Crossing the street is an extreme sport: roads are packed, traffic rules are openly flaunted, drinking and driving is practically a norm, and porteños think seat belts are for sissies. Sadly, traffic accidents are the biggest cause of death in the city, but that hasn't caused local habits to change.

Rules are Made to Be Broken

Most porteños see laws, rules, and regulations as quaint concepts invented mainly to give them the satisfaction of finding a way to evade them. Displaying viveza criolla (literally "native cunning" but really "rule-breaking ingenuity") is a matter of national pride.

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