Today I present a few random likes and dislikes regarding life in Argentina. Espero que disfruten!
1. Perception of engineers
I studied Industrial Engineering from the University of California Berkeley. One culture difference that I love is the image that the engineer title carries here. In the US the level with which people lose interest when you tell them you’re an engineer is amazing. While I was in Chile I was chatting to an American girl who asked me what I did. Upon declaring I was an engineer she yelled “Borrrrrrrrring” in my face. Meanwhile at the same table the local Chileans had a higher level of respect for engineers and wanted to know what kind I was and what I was doing with my degree. The status of engineers in Latin America is much more akin to US doctors or lawyers.
2. Kiss on the cheek hello and goodbye
Argentines greet one another with a kiss on the cheek. So warm, so friendly. I’m not exactly sure how I could go back to the handshake especially with members of the opposite sex. I will admit my first few man-on-man kisses on the cheek left me feeling a little awkward but now I’m completely accustomed to this warm and powerful greeting.
Additionally, its standard to greet absolutely everyone. In the US upon joining a group of friends one may just give the group a giant wave but in Argentina every single individual is greeted one-on-one. When I was visiting a client in Córdoba I was working in a room with 10 other people. Just saying hello in the morning was a long but enjoyable 15 minute process of kisses and greetings.
3. Fresh meat and vegetables
With the same frequency that San Francisco has nail salons, Argentina has carnicerías and verdulerías where you can find fresh meat and vegetables. Because of their convenience I visit these stores multiple times per week to pickup things for dinner. The freshness and quality of the meat and vegetables is amazing.
1. They’re always out of stuff
I went to a Subway they had 1/2 of the ingredients available – no turkey, no tomatoes, no onions, etc. At restaurants its very common to have the waiter tell you that item you just ordered they don’t have tonight. Same response with your 2nd and 3rd choice.
2. No free refills on drinks
Free refills was something I took for granted until traveling around Europe and South America and having to ration my 500mL Coca Cola for the entire dinner because I was too cheap to order another one. All the sodas and water come from bottles so free refills are out of the question. As a corollary to dislike of no refills I also don’t like the no free water situation.
3. No (good) Mexican food
When I opened my Facebook account in 2008 I listed but one interest: Burritos. It remains my only interest to date. I love a good burrito and San Francisco does them right. You can’t get good Mexican food here. There’s a restaurant next to current apartment that claims to be a “Mexican” restaurant. The only difference with this restaurant is that in addition to serving the normal Argentina cuisine of lomitos, pizza and pasta, they also serve (average) fajitas.
4. The napkins
At regular (not upscale) restaurants across Argentina the napkin setup is quite unique. In the middle of the table along with the coffee sugar and sweeteners is a metal triangle which contains the tiny folded napkins. Some of the napkins are made of wax paper which gives me the chills just thinking about it. It absorbs nothing and serves only to move the food around your face and mouth instead of aiding in its cleaning. Gross!
Photo is of the Argentina pampas coming back from a road trip