Things Argentinians Do Differently
Argentina is a land of contradictions. Its huge size and varying geography means that it is home to most of the world´s possible climates. Its ‘Boom or Bust‘ economy has made some quick millionaires while many live in poverty. Receiving a factura can be the source of pleasure or pain, depending if it is made of paper or flour.
I have talked about some curiosities that I found in Argentina before. And I have written about funny things that Argentinians say more than once. Well, here is an updated account of some things Argentinians do… differently.
Change in Sweets
Ever since I first arrived two years ago, some shop workers have asked if they can give me a sweet because they don’t have a peso for change. Of course, the answer almost has to be ‘yes’, because they literally don’t have a any coins.
Over the last few months this has got to the stage where two or even three sweets might be given instead of change. It’s not good for your teeth!
Argentina might be famous for its meat, but one thing I notice people consume an incredible amount of is flour-based products. A common breakfast involves bicuits or medialunas (croissants), facturas (pastries) are bought by the dozen, and there is always bread on the lunch and dinner table. Argentina might be in the middle of an economic crisis, but you wouldn’t notice it in the bakery where you have to take a number and wait to be served.
Voting is the same everywhere, right? You are given a list of all the candidates and put an ‘x’ next to your favourite? Not in Argentina!
When Argentinians vote, they first go to a registory where they show their ID and are given an envelope. With this envelope they pass to a different room called the ‘dark room‘ (cuarto oscuro). In this room, all of the different possible candidates have individualised papers that have been printed by each politician or party. The voter finds the paper (called boleta) that they want, and then puts it into their envelope, before walking out and entering it in the ballot box (urna).
Does it sound complicated? That is not all! In most elections, there are different votes taking place at the same time (for the president, senators and deputies, etc.) Most parties will use one paper (boleta) with their preferred combination. If you want to choose people of different parties, you have to cut the papers, to show only one person for each position. If you put in two whole papers, or two papers cut incorrectly, then your vote will be nullified. Phew!
Of course, this system is bad for the environment, as it involves many millions of papers, mostly using coloured ink. It also allows for corruption as some people remove papers from the ‘dark room’. I think that there is some benefit to this system, but I can’t remember what it is.
Lastly, If voting seems like too much of a headache, that’s too bad! In Argentina voting is compulsory!
More Italian than Italy
Pizza, pasta, red wine and ice cream. Are you in Italy or Argentina? Due to a huge migration of Italians in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries, it is no surprise that so many of the most popular foods today are those of Argentina’s Italian ancestors. Fernet, the most popular alcoholic drink in Argentina, is comparatively unknown in Italy, where it was born.
But the influence goes beyond food. Listening to Argentine Spanish, particularly that of porteños (people from Buenos Aires), you might hear people say laburar, parlar, fiaca or mina. These (among others) are corruptions of the Italian words for (respectively) work, speak, laziness, and, girl.
Seeing a porteño accross the street speaking with a heavy accent, and moving his hands around despite being on the phone, it is easy to confuse Buenos Aires for Rome.
Argentinians are often very critical of themselves, or, Argentinian people in general. I often hear them complain about how Argentinians are rude, impatient and badly educated. However, this is also the country where people frequently pay a travel fare for a stranger who has run out of money on their sube. It is also the place where I see people feeding homeless animals in every street. British people are often known for being polite, but I hadn’t seen a queue for a bus before I arrived in Argentina. I have always found Argentinians to be very kind, friendly and open. They shouldn’t be so hard on themselves.
A few years ago, in my native UK, the right-wing newspaper ‘The Daily Mail’, had this as a headline: ‘Prince Harry admits counselling after Diana’s Death’. My response to seeing this ‘news’ was “Of course he did! This is like being surprised that someone went to hospital after breaking their leg!”
In Argentina, I see mental health as being an area that is much…. healthier! People are very open about seeing a psychologist, and people talk about it with their friends and family. It is not surprising for me that Argentina has the highest number of psychiatrists per capita. If there is one thing that the rest of the world could take from Argentina (other than how great mate is), it should be speaking openly about mental health.
Do you agree? What have I missed out? Are you annoyed that I haven’t given an opinion on the high-platformed shoes in the photo? What other things do Argentinians do differently? Let us know in the space below.