Buenos Aires And Its Quirks

Some Things Notable About Buenos Aires From My 'Yanqui' Perspective

I've been studying abroad in Buenos Aires for almost three months now. Here are some things that really rock my North American boat.


I read a lot about "the Paris of South America" before actually arriving this past February, and that went a long ways towards preparing me. There is, however, no teacher like experience, and the following are some things that really stick out to me.

1. They do not use palm branches on Palm Sunday. Instead, they use olive branches.

Honest-to-goodness Buenos Aires olive branches.

Yours truly

I can finally see why the Spanish name for Palm Sunday--"Domingo de Ramos" (basically, "Branches Sunday")--does not mention palms. Still, it's a pretty big shock to have been celebrating Palm Sunday all your life and suddenly realize that not everyone in the world does it the same way. (Sounds like a wakeup call for cultural egocentrism.)

In that sense, it's pretty analogous to realizing that, in Latin America, "America" is the entire Western Hemisphere, not just the United States. May Simón Bolívar have mercy on your soul, President Trump. And may the Easter Bunny have mercy on my cognitive dissonance the next time Palm Sunday rolls around.

2. All of the exit signs here are green.

It's another big shock to go from red exit signs to green ones. Once you think about it, though, not only do green ones look nice, but they also make a good deal of sense. After all, green is a soothing color, and red is anything but--and who wants people to panic during an evacuation?

3. In the less formal restaurants, stores, and cafes, you'll never want for American pop music.

If you want to here Argentine music (and tango really is highly respected as a national treasure), be prepared to be treated to Demi Lovato instead of Carlos Gardel unless you know where to go. I blame Yankee imperialism. (And so, I'm sure, does the ghost of Evita. Out with the "vendepatrias"--well, actually, let's let the next elections decide about that.)

4. If you're a Bible buff, be prepared to have your psalm intake turned on its head.


The Catholic churches here, unlike in the U.S., use the Vulgate/Septuagint psalm numbering, instead of the Hebrew one. This means, for example, that "The Lord is my shepherd" is not Psalm 23, but, rather, Psalm 22.

5. If you join a choir here, be prepared to forget about "FACE", "EGBDF", "ACEG", and "GBDFA".

I've been in the Metropolitan Cathedral's choir for about a month now, and it's a good opportunity to brush up on solfege. What we know in the U.S. as C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C is do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-SI-do down here. That's right--"si", not "ti". This, I learned in high school, is the norm outside of the U.S.A. (Someone really ought to have reminded "The Sound of Music" of that.

6. People greet each other with kisses.

No, it's not that kind of kiss. Everyone greets everyone else, not with a handshake, but with a cheek kiss. It's really a very nice custom. I guess that in the U.S. we're not so comfortable showing our affection for our friends. (That might be in the running for the understatement of the year.)

7. People like their traditional food.

Sushi is a fad right now, and you can easily satisfy a craving for Burger King, but if you came to Buenos Aires to revel in empanadas and wine, you won't be disappointed. You'll find milanesa, medialunas, and dulce de leche everywhere. Seriously. The McDonalds near my apartment has dulce de leche ice cream.

8. The U.S. is not unique in being a "nation of immigrants."

Buenos Aires, in addition to its heavy Italian presence, has a Korean neighborhood, mosques, a street named Armenia, and the largest Jewish population in Latin America. It even has a kosher McDonald's.

Again, the U.S. is unique--but that doesn't mean that exceptionalism gets a free pass.

9. The city might be notable for its French and Italian architexture, but it's still fundamentally a Spanish colonial capital.

.A room in el Teatro Colón

Yours truly

Buenos Aires spent a good amount of time looking towards French and Italian models for its architecture, and it shows. The Casa Rosada, for example, has a clearly Italian-inspired interior. If you go into the many well-preserved colonial churches, however, you might just think you're in Madrid, and the Plaza de Mayo is, when it comes to city planning, just like any plaza in the Spanish-speaking world.

10. You don't give a party at 10 p.m.--it's at "22 hs."

Military time is, like Celsius temperatures, and the metric system, very useful. I guess that in the U.S. we don't like things to be simple. (Perhaps it's a national virtue.)

11. And, last, but (definitely) not least, books are everywhere.

El Ateneo--called the most beautiful bookstore in the world by National Geographic.

Yours truly

Buenos Aires is one of the most literate cities in the world, and it shows: there are bookstores everywhere. There could be nothing more fitting for the birthplace of Jorge Luis Borges. By the way, there's a set-up of book stands a short walk a away from my apartment that's just got to be one of the best places on planet Earth.

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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11 Things You NEVER Say To A College Girl Trying To Get Into Shape

Just never talk about a person's weight.


When my family and friends joked that I was going to gain 15 pounds in my freshman year of college as a result of the "Freshman 15," I thought it was what it was supposed to be: a joke. However, as the year has come to an end, I realized that I actually did put on a couple of pounds, albeit it wasn't the predicted 15.

As I told those that I wanted to get into an ideal shape for my body, I was met with some insensitive and ignorant remarks. Everyone thought that I mean just losing the weight I had put on.

1. "You walk to all of your classes, why aren't you losing weight that way?"

My legs are more toned than they ever have been before. However, most of the weight I have been gaining has gone directly to my gut (annoying!) and walking does not remedy that. Unfortunately, I have to stick to ab workouts.

2. "But you look fine to me!"

I don't feel healthy to myself. I'm not trying to stay in shape for anyone else, just myself, thanks. I appreciate you trying to make me feel better about my body image but I know something has to be done.

3. "I didn't gain any weight in college."

Good for you. I did. I'm trying to do something about it.

4. "Just stop drinking."

I don't drink. Really, the only liquid I consume is water or iced tea. I don't like soda and alcohol makes me nauseous way too easily.

5. "Isn't the gym free on campus for students?"

Yes, but some people don't like working out in front of others. I am one of those people. My friend lives in an apartment complex that has their own gym and almost no one is ever there but not everyone has that luxury. Also, some are busy and do not have time for a quick jog or to stretch.

6. "You should try this diet/pills/exercise routine."

I am thankful that you are trying to help but my diet is just eating healthy and having a few cheat days in between. I know what exercises work best for me and I am just not taking pills. Bodies adjust differently.

7. "Don't starve/force yourself to throw up."

Trust me, I know. I'm trying to lose the weight healthily. If you do find yourself practicing unhealthy eating habits or realizing your body image is deteriorating, the NEDA Hotline is (800) 931-2237. Please reach out if you are going through hardships.

8. "Won't you have to buy a whole new wardrobe?"

If I drop (or even add) a size or two. We grow out and grow tired of clothes on the regular, what's the difference if you have to buy some because of a weight change? Plus, who doesn't love buying new clothes?

9. "Just eat healthier."

Didn't think of it! Options are limited at college where the dining halls don't offer all that much that is actually good for your body. Now that I'm at home, it's easier. But I'm already trying to eat healthy.

10. "You've evened out since the last time I saw you!"

This is code for you've put on some weight. I hear it mostly from older relatives because my friends will flat out tell me if I've gotten a little chunky.

11. "You're just stressed."

Personally, this one gets me livid. I do admit that when I am stressed or anxious, I do turn to food for comfort but when I am delighted and genuinely happy, will my body magically revert into a fit state?

Sadly, no.

Honestly, I am just trying to get my body back into shape. For me, that means cutting back on greasy foods and kicking a bad habit of sitting on my butt all day. For others, it could mean more or less. As long as your body is in good physical condition and you are content, the number on the scale and others' thoughts shouldn't matter. Take care of yourself.

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