Top 10 “Spanish” Hand Gestures You Need to Survive in Argentina
Have you noticed how peculiar Argentinians’ accent is? This is due to the massive number of Italian immigrants that came to the country in the 19th century. Believe it or not, this has influenced many cultural aspects, like the way in which Argentinians use their hands when communicating. So, if you ever go to Argentina, you may have some trouble deciphering what their gestures truly mean. But don’t worry: here we will break down the top 10 Argentinian hand gestures you’ll need to get by in Buenos Aires. This knowledge will certainly complement your Spanish skills and help you become a proficient communicator!
1.“ Estás loco” (You’re crazy!)
Your friend ended a relationship with a person who cheated on her. Twice. But she gives you a call and tells you she’s back with him for the 12th time. Do you feel puzzled? An Argentinian would definitely use this gesture to show disbelief and let her know she’s acting crazy.
How to do it: Point your finger to your template and move it in small circles.
2. “Vamos todavía!” (Yess!)
Did Argentina just win the Worldcup? Did you get a 50% discount when buying some shoes? Then, you can celebrate like a true Argentinan and say “Vamos todavía!” while moving your fists towards your body.
How to do it: Make an L with your arm, and move it towards your body. A possible alternative is to move your arm up and down to celebrate your football team’s victory like a local.
3. “Qué boludo” (I’m/ he’s an idiot)
If someone does something silly, in Argentina you use this gesture to show this person he’s being stupid. You can even shame yourself! For example, if you just got home and realise that you forgot to buy bread for la picada, you can certainly use the qué boludo.
How to do it: Bit your lower lip and downcast your eyes. Shake your head to show even more disappointment.
4. “Ni idea” (No idea)
Have you ever been walking around the streets of Buenos Aires when a person approached you and asked where the bus stop is? Well, you can answer by doing the “no idea” gesture. They’ll soon understand you are not a local, just like them. But watch out: in other cultures (like in Italy), this gesture can be interpreted as obscene.
How to do it: Flick the back of your fingers from underneath your chin.
5. “Un minuto, por favor” (Just a minute, please)
You called an Uber and were on your way out when suddenly you realise you forgot the chocotorta on the table. Don’t worry, just place your index finger on your palm to show the driver you’ll be back in a minute.
6. “Ojo” (Be careful, I’m watching you)
This is a gesture typically used as a teasing warning. Students at high school, for example, usually get this “ojo” when they are talking too much instead of paying attention.
How to do it: It’s very simple, just point to your eye using your index finger. Then, lower your eyelid a bit.
7. “Arrugaste” (You’re a chicken)
Argentina is also a place where you can practise extreme sports like bungee jumping or white water rafting. So, why not go paragliding with friends and have the time of your life? But don’t back off at the last minute or you might get an “arrugaste” gesture, indicating you are a chicken!
How to do it: Join your middle finger and your thumb first and then add the rest of your fingers.
8. “Qué te pasa?” (What is wrong with you?)
Traffic in Buenos Aires can be a nightmare. If you don’t watch out, you might end up being run over by a bike or even a car. After you spend a few days there, you’ll notice that almost no car will slow down for you to cross the street. And even though Argentinians are used to it, you might see many of them yelling at car drivers “qué te pasa, estás loco?” while using this gesture to show utter disbelief.
How to do it: Add a few wrist shakes to “you are a chiken” gesture, and you are ready to use qué te pasa like a pro.
9. “Qué rata/ Tacaño” (Cheapstake)
It’s Sunday and you are going to have a delicious asado with your new Argentinian friends. You are at the grocery store, about to pay for (very expensive) meat and suddenly one of your friends says he “accidentally” forgot his wallet. Everybody knows he always does this and never pays back, use this gesture to show him what a cheapstake he is!
How to do it: Just pat one of your elbows with the palm of your hand.
10. “Andá!” (Go to hell)
When you take public transport in Ciudad de Buenos Aires, you’ll soon realise you need a SUBE card to pay for the tickets. Now, it can be really hard to find a place to top it up. And once you find it, you also have to be lucky enough for the system to work. At times, the store might be so full of people that the owner does not want to waste time topping up your card. Try to convince him, but if he repeatedly refuses, then you can go for the classic “andá” and leave.
How to do it: Take your hand towards the back of your head by the side.
So, if you are travelling to Argentina, it’s a very smart idea to understand at least these 10 basic hand gestures. If you are not sure how to use them, it’s probably best to just keep your hands pinned to your sides.
But if you would like to know more (there are dozens of more gestures to learn, Argentinians are very expressive!), contact us at Language Trainers. Our native-speaking instructors will prepare a complete course for you to learn not only the language, but also non-verbal communication cues that are essential when communicating effectively (for example, have you checked our post about the top 10 universal hand gestures and how they are used in different cultures?).
Take a look at all our free resources for improving your Argentinian Spanish accent (like this Spotify playlist featuring the best Argentinian songs and artists we’ve just created for you!) and take your skills to the next level while having some fun!
And while you are at it, why not test your Spanish skills with our Free Spanish Level Test?