Living in a different country than the one you grew up in means you are constantly learning differences from what you are accustomed to. I find that some things are really small, almost insignificant changes and other things are much bigger. Attitude has everything to do with how we adjust. It is important to remember that the customs we are learning are not “weird”, just different. The subject of todays post is something that is much bigger as “culture shock” is concerned. I grew up eating dinner around 7:30 PM or so. As Leslie and I were married and had children, we would normally have dinner around 6:30 PM (with small children it was easier that way). We arrived to Argentina 7 months ago. One of the larger differences is how late Argentines have dinner. Many of my friends normally eat dinner around 10:00 PM. This is normal. If you eat out, restaurants do not normally open until at least 8:00 PM and people don’t really start dining until 9:00 PM or later. Our neighbors can be out on their patios eating dinner at 10:30 PM or later. This is certainly something we are not accustomed to! It is not weird, but it is different. it is humorous to talk with people here about dinner. They will ask about our lives and when they find out that we used to eat dinner so early, they are shocked! “How can you eat so early?!?!” (all said in Spanish). The same reaction I had when I find out they eat dinner so late is the same reaction they have when they find out we ate dinner so early.
I think the first question I had is how in the world could they eat lunch at noon-1:00 PM, how can they wait until 10:00 PM to eat again? The answer is how the day works here. We have a normal breakfast time, lunch around 12:30 PM-1:30 PM, and at around 5:00 PM we have something called a “merienda”. This is a “snack” time that consists of coffee, mate (click here to learn about mate), a pastry, cookies, etc.
So, how do we adjust? We eat at home most of the time. Because of this we can eat at an earlier time. When we have people over for dinner we usually have the dinner later. If we do go out to eat it makes for a late night, but that is okay. We make it fun. It is all a part of life in Argentina!