La Vida Argentina
I’ve realized that despite being in the country for more than 3 months now, I haven’t posted much about Argentine culture and people. So, I’ve come up with a list of “palabras claves” (keywords) to describe what I’ve learned so far about Argentines.
Relajados: Argentines are, above all, very relaxed people. The pace of life in this country (aside from Buenos Aires), is much much slower than that of the US. Businesses and stores (Mendoza may be a bit extreme in this regard) don’t open until 9 or 10am, and they close around 1 for the siesta. The city literally becomes a ghost town as everyone goes home to see their family and rest for several hours before going back to work (around 4 or 5) for a few more hours. People here are also a lot more relaxed in terms of commitments, too, which can be a little annoying at times. Of course, not everyone is like this, but there have been times when an Argentine has made some kind of promise and then later backs out on it. Just the other day I was talking with my host mom about our broken washing machine. She told me that the repairman had promised her 3 days in a row that he would come fix it, and each time he never showed up. Of course, there are many people who are much more reliable than others, as in any culture, but in general this is a difference I’ve found.
Because of this ultra-lax culture, things that would be fairly easy to do in the US can be fairly complicated here. For example, to mail a letter, you have to go to one specific place and wait in a huge line, sometimes for more than an hour! Now you all know why I haven’t been sending as many postcards as usual 😉 Buses are also NEVER on time, although the transportation here in Mendoza seems better than other parts of Argentina. Things are a lot more disorganized here, but overall it never causes anything more than a minor annoyance. As our director told us in orientation, “it’s a crazy and disorganized system, but somehow, it works”
Tarde: Another thing that comes with this relaxed pace of life is that people are usually late to arrive places. I remember my first few weeks of classes adjusting to this- there were several classes to which I went and the professor arrived up to 20, 30 minutes late! This can be frustrating at times, but it has taught me to be more laid back with my horario and live more moment-to-moment (although my friends all know that I wasn’t the most punctual person before I left 😉 ).
Not only are people less punctual here- the entire structure of the day is later! The day starts at about the same time- people eat “breakfast” (which consists of mate, some cookies, and maybe a slice or two of bread if you’re lucky) at around 8 or 9 in the morning. However, lunch is at about 130 or 2 and dinner isn’t until 930 or 10 at night- even later on the weekends! And this late schedule also applies to going out. Here in Argentina, the previa (pregame, if you will 😉 ) starts usually around 12, the clubs don’t start filling up until 2 or 3, and you can expect to arrive home around 7 or 8 in the morning! Yes, it’s nuts, and the day after is definitely rough. But it’s a cool way to pass the night, and it’s definitely something to be proud of if you go to bed after the sun comes up 😉
Curioso: Argentines are very curious people, and they’re definitely not afraid of crossing boundaries. Within several minutes of meeting you, chances are good that they’ll ask you if you have a girlfriend/boyfriend, your view of Obama, and a variety of other topics that would be considered off limits in the states, at least at first. Once they find out you’re not from Argentina, they practically flock to you to ask you everything under the sun about your country, and, more importantly, what you think of Argentina Staring isn’t considered rude here, so if you don’t look like a typical Argentine, you can be sure you’ll get some looks.
Abierto y amable: After 3 months in the country, I’ve found that Argentines are incredibly open, friendly, and above all, kind. They are very willing to open up and invite you into their lives, and they have virtually no walls. They love getting to know new faces and won’t hesitate to go out of their way to help you. As I’ve said before, the people in Mendoza are somewhat more reserved than those in Córdoba, but in relation to the United States, Mendocinos are definitely more open 😉
Obviously, one can’t generalize an entire society based on a handful of people they’ve met, and I know there are definitely a lot of exceptions to this list. But, in general, this is what I’ve learned about Argentines so far. There’s definitely a lot more traits that the majority of people here share, but I’ll have to save those for another post. I have to keep you all reading somehow, right? 😉