This is not a Facebook relationship status but trust me, it’s complicated. Embarking on the minefield which is Latin dating can be riddled with uneven paths and furious explosions as well as tears, suffering and angst. Over the top? No way, José – I was married to an Argentine for nine years and could be the person to get you clambering over the initial hurdles with some first dating tips.
My lessons in Argentine love kick off with a psychology degree. If you’re already qualified, then you’re streets ahead of the rest of us. Your journey and my story end here. Three extra years of studies aside, a peek at the national psyche won’t hurt: around two-thirds of Argentines’ roots belong in the birthplace of the pizza (classic date fodder, by the way) and if anyone likes a drama, it’s the Italians. The eruptions, the bubbling passion, the fire – Vesuvius might as well be mixed into the Argentine gene pool.
“You have to work much harder, that’s for sure” – British man
Blowing hot and cold is all part of the game so take an Argentine-size pinch of salt when embarking on a new adventure. One blogger simply calls it a “rollercoaster”. In fact, you’ll have to work even harder since being single is apparently in fashion, even when Tinder and Happn are the most popular dating apps these days (with 20 and 10 million users each other). Or what it’s even worse: “We are the generation who doesn’t want a relationship but the problem is is that, at the end of the day, we actually do” – The Huffington Post.
A media naranja (other half) is kept on their toes from the early stages, needy and anxious like a sick puppy on a drip feed. Will he ring? The answer’s no, not for three days, WhatsApp messages will be key in the beginning. Will she reply to my text to go for a drink? Unlikely and what if your castellano isn’t up to scratch? Knock back two pints of Dutch courage to call, indulging her in an ego massage and putting your own vulnerable pride and linguistic skills on the line. Warning one: texts invariably “don’t” arrive when it’s convenient for them not to. Warning two: many Argentine women give booze a wide berth so perhaps coffee and a cupcake is a better first-date option… they’re sweet of the tooth, you know.
“Argentine men are unfaithful and annoying” – Salvadoran woman
Although it would take a giant-size broom to clean up that sweeping statement, the general consensus is that Argentines are histericos (hysterical) – but even they agree with that. Like a river, every twist and turn brings about a new drama or excuse so brace yourself for a rocky ride, and don‘t be surprised if the object of your obsession already has a media naranja. Always have a plan B to accommodate for forgotten birthday parties and cousins’ graduations when the inevitable last-minute bailout message arrives. Come up with your own “must-go-to” house warming bash mid-date and see how they like the tables being turned. They’ll probably love it – and be back for more.
Conversely, the ones you wouldn’t touch with that giant broom are persistent. An American sommelier met a bus driver in a bar. Over dinner, the guy called her four times, with nothing relevant to say. By the time we paid, even I was over him.
Game of Two Halves
Asking foreigners about dating Argentines offered up a huge amount of feedback but there are principally two lines: dates from hell and those with happy endings. One girl tried to stab a French-Canadian friend with scissors; another story involved a gay Satan worshipper picked up at San Telmo’s Sunday fair, who was later found to have a net hanging above his bed. Who knows how many unsuspecting gringos have been caught up in his web? Conversely, plenty of foreign friends are in a state of marital bliss with Argentines, babies and all, so try not to assume all Argentines carry sharp implements about their person.
On the upside, chivalry has a strong pulse in Argentine’s culture so ladies should expect – and embrace – a return to old-school manners. I went for coffee with a former colleague in London. He marched into the café and bang! I was left with a Starbucks-shaped logo on my forehead. In Buenos Aires I rarely pay for coffee, a cocktail or dinner – unless I’m out with a foreign guy – and my forehead remains logo-free.
Flexibilty is crucial in making dating work in Argentina, according to Annie Ory, a dating and relationship coach from the US, so maybe I should let that debt go. Working in Buenos Aires for three years with “blended” couples, she says: “Be flexible and adaptive when it comes to local dating and relationship etiquette, keep a firm hold on your own values, and don’t judge. Belief systems, standards of behaviour and assumptions will be different. It’s very common to experience extreme disconnects in communication, expectations and behaviours. When this happens it is fair to tell your partner that certain behaviours are unacceptable to you, but avoid saying things that might make your partner feel you are judging them personally. Remember you are in their world and it is likely that your behaviour is unusual or unexpected. This doesn’t mean you should let go of your own standards of behaviour, just that it is helpful to remember theirs are just as valid.”
By taking on board an expert’s pearls of wisdom as well as my emergency love kit comprising a salt cellar, a titanium-encased heart and a life jacket, perhaps your Facebook status might have to change in the near future.
*This post has been re-edited on February, 2017.
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