4. Rules Blurers

Rules are rules. Well… we are not that Aristotelian in that matter. And that’s the second most mentioned issue when it comes to cultural shock. To us rules are more like clouds: we can see different forms in them, they come and go with the wind, they might look perfect sometimes but they still get between us and sunshine, and they are far away up there moving much slower than reality down here. Our relationship with rules can go from a small, decent, pragmatic and necessary flexibility to a 100% mafia approach. I’m talking about both behavioral not written rules, and the Law. We might be more attached to the former. I think it has a historical explanation, and a mix of factors as education, real and perceived impunity, a pretty unpredictable reality with not much linear outcomes. The thing is we might be creating more unpredictability this way. In some areas, and for some visitors it might seem edgy, adventurous, free, much fun, or sometimes tiring, crazy or dangerous, depending on their age and background, how structured is their own mindset and culture, and their concrete experiences here. And it is, again, all about balance: while a too structured life may feel lifeless and too predictable, too much unpredictability is stressful and some structure is needed at least as the basis from which to take off.

So, here comes the beauty of intercultural experiences: you are invited to join us, and enjoy your unpredictability rush, and feel a little wild, and also to bring and share your own mindset towards rules. It is ok if you are taking a walk with your Argentine friend and suddenly Argie is across the street staring at you with a clear “What’s wrong with you?” expression, ’cause Argie automatically crossed when realizing cars weren’t coming that fast and you automatically stopped when seeing the “don’t walk” sign. You can keep respecting traffic signs and other rules. In order to learn from each other, we need to still be each other at some point. And it might be not just automatic for you but reasonably safer. Sometimes. Because you need to remember that some Argie drivers will not stop at red lights. So it is not all about just sticking to the rules, but to handle this double standard of respecting basic rules yourself / not expecting anybody else to necessarily do it. That’s how daily unpredictability feels. It’s like a dance where a dancer is following a choreography and the other one might improvise at any moment. It can be tiring sometimes, even a mess, but it can also be lively and challenging, bring up unexpected beautiful moves, develop creativity and adaptive skills, and enrich the dance and both dancers.

Of course unpredictability is not just made of a no-rules mindset. It has to do with politics and economics, climate change,  human limitations, life. Too much of it is unlivable. Too little is unrealistic and not even desirable. The thing is that our attachment to, and detachment from, rules and structures can contribute to one extreme or the other.

I guess the difference is that we here tend to see rules only as restrictive instead as a basic common platform that can free as from some worries. We could make some space in our minds and spirits if we could walk more relaxed instead of extremely attentive to a totally unpredictable traffic. But I don’t want our improvisation muscle to weaken due to unchallenging circumstances. Am I asking for too much? Noooooo. I’m just inviting you and everybody to share inter-cultural experiences, with open minds and hearts, so we can all be who we are but enriched, refreshed and awakened.

Share your questions and thoughts miguialoreta@gmail.com

3. Personal Space

In my 12 years working with international students, volunteers and interns, I found 4 major kind of “shocking” topics when visiting Argentina in this order of importance, beginning with the most shocking and mentioned:
  1. Personal space. Both physical and emotional
  2. Rules
  3. Ways of saying things. Speech and body language, timing, loudness and nicknames.
  4. Schedules

Lets start with number 1, Personal space. 
We are pretty physical and we tend to get closer, in many ways, than people from most cultures would: we kiss almost everybody for saying hi and goodbye, we get close to talk and when waiting in lines, some people even grab your arm while telling you something that doesn’t require that much attention, we stare at others on the street a lot, we share mate (local infusion) sipping from the same bombilla (kind of metallic straw), we ask personal questions to people we’ve just met, we tell anybody if we think they’ve lost or gained weight as if it was our business, some couples kiss in extremely noisy and enthusiastic ways as if “Get a room!” hasn’t ever been said on earth. But of course we avoid conversation and even eye contact on (in? at?) elevators, that’s global, isn’t it?

On the other hand, we can be pretty friendly, lively, warm and nice, open to talk and share and give info, we can joke and laugh about anything, our bonding is not yet that policed by political correctness, so you can feel mostly relaxed and refresh, when not invaded or harassed. You can always draw the line where it feels reasonable for you. It’s all about balance.
Let me tell you a story. The first time I received a foreign student in my apartment I asked her everything that came to my mind while sharing my proudly and happily homemade dinner. Like: where exactly are you from? do you like it there? why? how old are you? what are you studying and where? how is campus? do you have both parents? are they together? and siblings? how do you get along with them? do you have a special one? do you like animals? what do you think about your country’s foreign policy?
And then she asked me the only question I never thought about: “May I ask you a very personal question?”
LOL! I really laughed out loud when I realized what I’d just been doing and I found her even nicer when I discovered how gracefully she had been navigating these differences and how open she was when answering and how she kept her standards when asking. What a beautiful person she is. We shared one semester. I learned a lot from her: to be way more environmentally aware, to have a richer breakfast and having nuts for snacks, to cook carrot pies and make all kinds of huge salads. She introduced me to her lovely family when they visited, and also to an amazing volunteering opportunity and a nice wine bar in my own town. I started running because of her, out of curiosity after watching her returning home all red, sweaty and happy after her runs, saying “Hey! I have no idea why people here stare at me so much when running… But what beautiful parks you’ve got round here!”
A few years later I visited her and her husband in San Francisco. Then they visited me. And I still hope she will run for president some day.

1. You are here


Do you love traveling? The experience, the people and cultures and habits and quirks, the cities and small towns and nature, local food and wines, arts, sports, architecture? To explore, share, and  enjoy. I mean, not just to consume something, but to be there.

Well, the thing is I want you to be here. Visit my country. And really be here. In the most possible enriching way for you, and for us, locals. That’s the combination in which I’ll put my best: my energy and knowledge, my expertise after more than 12 years working in intercultural experiences, my Why not? ideas, my passion to keep researching and learning and sharing what I love and enjoy and not so much as a local, what you might need to know and what I know we need, and best of all: my listening. Because I don’t know you. But I’m super good at listening, and I know how important it is for building real bonds, empathy and reciprocity, and for creating those amazing expansive beautiful combinations that arise when you are well matched with the experience that is enriching for everybody involved.

So just tell me, so we can start from where you are, and who you are. Contact me miguialoreta@gmail.com

My country? Argentina. Huge, beautiful, diverse. Not perfect. Often struggling. We’ve been worst. And we’ve been much better. We are a work in progress, I guess. But very enjoyable in so many ways. Full of creative people and a wide cultural offer. Beautiful places: our Nature!! I don’t even know if we deserve it, OMG! Patagonia with its woods, lakes and peaks, and the North, both east- with its falls and jungle- and west -with its mountains, cactus and salt flats, the center, the coast, the fields, the colors, the biodiversity, the people, the cultures. Our history and archeological treasures. Our food!! Oh our food!! Our food is sooooo good. We’ve got so good and fresh locally sourced ingredients and a rich variety of culinary influences. Our gastronomic offer is exiting. And I’ll tell you how to make friends so you can try home-made meals. Our wines are famous. And we’ve been recently developing many crafts beers. I’ll invite an expert to tell you a couple of things about that. Not a drunk friend. A local Biochemist specialized in brewery. And since our currency is going down, the exchange rate is very convenient for most visitors. Besides all of our wonders, we’ve got our issues, you know? But we also have amazing groups of people working to solve things, in clever and generous and not much advertised ways, in all kinds of organizations, which I love, with many I have volunteered myself since I was 13 and with which I’ve been matching international volunteers since 2005. I’ve got so much to tell you! And you have so much to enjoy! Lucky us we met.

Me? I’m a pretty much content human being, for no particular reason, or for a mix of them, I tend to be content. I’m a woman. I run both street and adventure races (lots of tips about that as well!). I speak Spanish. English is my second language and I’ll be thankful if you point out my mistakes, but if you find them cute, it’s ok as well. And wait to hear my accent! I live with Juan and our 4 cats and 1 dog in a decent apartment. We are saving money for a small house with a big garden, to enjoy nature and share maybe with more adopted animals, and grow our organic vegetables. I love my family more than an Oscar’s wining speech could tell. We are a breathable trustworthy always available network. I wish everybody had that. I’m a Sociologist and I have also studied Gardening at the Botanical Garden School. I have always worked in cultural exchange programs, I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve enjoyed the intercultural experience myself meeting people from everywhere, and I love it. I love reading, and can recommend lots of books and articles and local writers and hidden bookshops and some writers’s tours. I’ve lived most of my life in Buenos Aires, but also in Mendoza, and in Montevideo, Uruguay (can share some tips about that brother country as well, it’s an hour boat trip, and totally worths a visit).

What moves me to be writing now: I’ve got a lot of information, insights, pictures, tips &former visitors recommendations, that can convince you to visit us and help you make the best of it, as well as benefiting locals, our economy and the environment, and our mutual understanding and enrichment. I know that “Live the experience” has been so over-used. And too often it is already made up, which is the opposite of experience. But what if it happens?

So this is the deal: I provide some tools instead of a package and you provide your whole you, including your questions, so life can be lived and experience can be experienced. Here.