5 ‘American’ Habits You’ll Lose When You Travel Abroad

Before I lived in Argentina, I didn’t think I had any “American” habits. I spoke Spanish, I was cultured, I was well-read. But there were certain things I was used to living in Atlanta, certain ways of doing things, certain tastes and habits. Argentina broke me of these American habits and two years later, I still haven’t recovered them.

1. Caring about “germs”

“Wow, this is strong!” I said, squinching up my face and pushing the rum and coke away from me on the table. And before I could protest, before I could explain to her that, no, we don’t share drinks back home, she was reaching for it. Her slobbery lips left a visible trace of lipstick on the straw. I was almost too shocked to be disgusted. Almost.

I’m not a germaphobe by a long shot, but the way that people passed drinks around in Argentina was definitely something I had to get used to. I noticed that my friend’s entire basketball team shared one bottle of water. (This could have been because most of them were so hungover that they simply forgot to bring their own, but still.) Each time someone offered me a swig of their backwash, I grimaced a little less. Slowly, I grew accustomed to it, and was soon sipping out of friend’s drinks like they were my own.

When American friends would come to visit and would try to sneakily clean off the bombilla for the mate with their shirt, hoping to rub off some of the germs collected, I scoffed. Americans! I thought. Such germaphobes! When I came back home a year later, it was a little awkward. I would reach towards my friend’s drink expectantly, not thinking twice. “Oh, um. Yeah, sure. Go ahead,” they would say uncomfortably. Sorry man, that’s just how we do it in Argentina!

2. Calling myself an “American”

Technically speaking, North America, Central America, and South America are all part of one America… right?

It’s just so big, they needed to tack on some kind of adjective. So if you really think about it, it’s pretty presumptuous to say (at least in Spanish, when there are plenty of other words to use) “I am an American.” People would just look at me, probably thinking to themselves, do you want a pat on the back or something? I’m American, too! Instead of saying “soy americana”, there are two other options in Spanish: “soy norteamericana”, which is a little more specific, or, “soy estadounidense”–literally, I am a United Statesian. Because we don’t have that word in English, we are used to saying, “I’m an American.”

I learned the hard way that some people in South America don’t take too kindly to us hogging the word “American”. Most of the time people didn’t mind, but every once in awhile I was accosted by an angry Argentine. “I’m American, too! You people always think you are the only Americans!” Yikes. So I learned to avoid saying that; a habit that has stuck. To this day, when someone asks me where I’m from, I just say “I’m from the States”. Boom. Problem solved.

3. Aversion to P.D.A.

When I first arrived to Argentina, it was all I could do to avoid staring at the many couples, sprawled out in the park, or pushed up against buildings making out. Walking down the street, you’d see a young guy with his arm around a girl. Awww, I’d think to myself. But then he would reach down, cup his hand around her butt and squeeze. Too much, dude, too much.

You don’t see much P.D.A. here, it’s just not something we do in Georgia. You might see two people holding hands or give each other a quick smooch, but a full-on makeout session? I was shocked. I was disgusted. And then I met my Argentine, and it seemed like the only logical thing to do. Soon I was PDA-ing with the best of them. Since I’ve been back from Buenos Aires, I actually find myself questioning a couple’s commitment and happiness if I don’t see a little PDA. That’s what Argentina will do to you.

4. Eating spicy food

I used to love spicy food. I used to crave it. Breaking out in a spicy sweat always made me feel good, like I had gotten out any toxins dwelling within. But after almost a year of never eating anything spicier than black pepper, it was out of the question. I had lost all of my spicy-antibodies! Hot wings? Out of the question. Hot cheetos? Pass. Jalapeños in my cheese dip? Sadly, no. To this day, I still struggle with eating super spicy stuff, and I blame you, Argentina!

5. Going to bed while it’s still dark

Partying in Argentina is different than here. Here we might go out to a bar around 9 PM, then head over to a club, but we are always in bed by 3. So when I was in Argentina, my sleep schedule got completely messed up. We didn’t even start getting ready to go out until around 12 or 1. We might get to the bar at 2, and stay till 5. THEN, we would go somewhere else! There were a handful of times that I didn’t stumble back into bed until 9 AM. Read that again with me. 9 in the morning! We got home so late that the bakeries were opening up for the day. Now, I highly suggest eating facturas at 9 in the morning after a night of partying. They are somehow even more delicious than usual. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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