Argentine quirks

Obviously each country in Spanish South America is different to the next, but none is as different as Argentina and its people. Whether in language, personality, reputation, there are a many quirks to Argentina that you’ll experience when you visit. Here are a few:

Language- It’s a little confusing, but the people of South America effectively speak Castilian Spanish (castellano) rather than regular Spanish (some people will ask if you hablas castallano so watch out with that one). This is Spanish from central and northern Spain, but bastardized a little. The people of Rosario, Buenos Aires and Montevideo speak Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect from the Rio de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay. Each area has its own dialect within the dialect, but they’re all similar. This developed primarily from more recent immigration from Italy and Spain so if you meet a few Argentinians from this region you’ll see a lot of Italian surnames. Indeed the Italian National Football Team actually has a well known history of calling up Argentine players, linked through parents or grandparents. The most famous of these was World Cup Winner Mauro Camoronesi, who claimed “I feel Argentine but I have defended the colors of Italy, which is in my blood, with dignity. That is something nobody can take away.

Anyway, the Spanish of these region is as immediately recognizable as a Scottish or Irish accent is to an English speaker, and just as difficult to understand for foreigners.

– Voseo- (informal you singular) is replaced with vos, and usted (formal you singular) isn’t used. A few verb forms also change, but the most important is ser (one of the to be verbs), where the you singular form becomes sos, making you are, vos sos.

– Rehilamiento or sheísmo- This one is just pronunciation, and is the one most characteristic of this dialect. Effectively the ‘y’ and ‘ll’ in words becomes a sh sound (like in mission or measure). So Pollo (Chicken) is pronounced po-sh-o and playa (beach) becomes pla-sh-a. This one is a little confusing at first, but you quickly get used to listening out for it, and saying it. Bear in mind that if you ever go to Colombia, the Paisas, or people from Medellin, call their city Mede-sh-een, using this same principle.

– Speed- This is something that is immediately obvious when coming from somewhere like Bolivia. Argentinians all over the country speak fast, but working class people in this area, such as taxi drivers, are the worst at it, merging words they speak so fast. It’s really hard to get used to.

– There are a few others, and I found this site to be helpful. The ones above are the one’s I noticed most, but with a greater grip on the language I’m sure someone could notice even more intricate differences, and incur my jealousy. Something I didn’t actually notice that I thought I would was the use of ‘che‘, the nickname of Ernesto Guevara, that is used as ‘man’, ‘hey’, or ‘dude’.

Prices– The three most expensive countries in South America (outside of a World Cup) are Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. In Argentina I was paying twice as much for accommodation, food, and drink than in Bolivia. Obviously those two countries have vastly different HDI rankings, but still, expect to pay from a bit to a lot more -especially in eating out- in Argentina.

Development- Having just mentioned the HDI, it’s worth adding that Argentina is the second highest ranked South American country on the index at 45 in the world (Chile is at 40), and this is immediately evident entering the country. While it obviously still has many problems in dealing with it’s poor (all the big cities have their own Villa miseria, or shanty town, nearby), the infrastructure, transport, and feel of Buenos Aires impressed me (I can’t talk for much of the rest of the country). It feels very like a large European capitol, and has a subway, good buses, and is safer and a less chaotic than other South American cities- I’m looking at you La Paz. 

Reputation– Argentinians do carry a certain reputation among other South Americans. “Arrogant” and “Rude” were both words I heard before I came, especially directed at
Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) and to be honest I think both carry a bit of truth. Because it’s a big city, taxi drivers a little more curt, people are a little less friendly, and there’s less of a community feel, but this is true of my hometown London too. I also experienced real moments of kindess of people, so I think it really depends on the person and what kind of day they’re having, as living in a big city can be stressful. Saying that, there is a bit of a swagger, maybe arrogance, that people carry. They know they have a recent European history, and they flaunt it. Fashion is really big, as is looking good, and those that do know it. They’re also very very passionate about certain things. They like to talk, and talk at length. I once made the mistake of bringing up the Falklands to a Porteña friend who then gave me the riot act on why I was wrong (last time I’ll be doing that). I also witnessed an altercation in the street between a bus driver and motorcylist, which led to the bus driver stopping, getting out, pulling the guy off his bike and kicking him in the chest before calmly getting back on his bus and driving off.

 

So these are some things I picked up while I was there. After saying all this, I still maintain that Buenos Aires was my favorite city (partly due to the people I met there, some Argentine), and a place I will always have a soft spot for.

 

Something I can’t fit into another post: stupid stuff I did there…

– Spraying aftershave at pharmacies. Pharmacity, a big chain there, has stores large enough that you can wonder in, pretend to be checking out the aftershave section, and spray a bit on for a night out and leave. I find carrying aftershave around while travelling a bit of a hassle so this helped!

– Call Taxi drivers muchaho. They love it, will give you discounts and offer to pick you up when you need to go to the airport.*

– When you have to give your name at a restaurant, choose something stupid but easy for the waitress to understand. Maybe the name of the local football hero (Messi, Ronaldo, Radamel etc) or famous figures (Ernesto, Evita, Fransisco). Get creative, it’s fun seeing people in the restaurant look around when they hear the waitress call out “Messi!”

 

Random pics from BA:

Lovers in Recoleta

Long Exposure shot

Runners in Bosques de Palermo

Long exposure of a Tango show.

Area of Palermo near MALBA art gallery.

*This is a joke, do not do this.

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Uruguay

I will never not remember Uruguay for this Simpson’s scene, but when a friend at a hostel said he was going for the day and asked me to come along, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.U R GAY. I love the simpsons. I guess we know where justine beiber was born.. Still fascinated with the Beeb, right?

To get to Uruguay from Buenos Aires requires a ferry either to Colonia or Montevideo (the capital), and costs about 40 pounds. We got ours at 12 midday and arrived there at 1, giving us about 6 hours before the return at 7pm. As we began to check out the town, we found that while I’m sure it would be beautiful in warmer weather, it was not only a little miserable in May, but also devoid of most of it’s citizens (I assume many people have summer houses there). The Old Town has a few decent restaurants, a church, bike and buggy rentals, some old colonial walls and a viewpoint from a lighthouse, but the lack of sun and people was rather depressing.

But anyway, we were hungry , so we decided to get some local Uruguan food. The Chivito (“little goat”) is a meaty sandwich filled with churrasco (grilled, thinly sliced beef), ham, bacon, lettuce and tomato, mozzarella cheese and a fried egg. Try beating that for protein. There are a few extra options, such as piccles, onions, fries and others, although the “fungi” type stuff we had with ours tasted like feces. You can also get it without bread, loaded onto a plate, as ours was. Although stuff is a bit more pricey in Uruguay than Argentina, which is pricey already, the Chivito is a relatively quick and cheap way to fill yourself up, plus it’s really tasty.

 

 

After this we still had about 4 hours left in the city, so decided to hire bikes for about $10 each for a few hours. We left the old town and cycled along the coast to the nearby town(ship) of Real de San Carlos, whose main attraction is a decrepit bull-fighting stadium named the Plaza de Toros. Although it’s forbidden to go in, we left a dog that had run the whole way with us (for no reason) to guard the bikes, and sneaked in through the unguarded fence to view the inside. You can really feel the history when you enter. Designed in Moorish style, it would once have been a vast, grand structure capable of containing 10,000 spectators. Opened in 1910, it hosted a mere 8 fights before bullfighting was banned in Uruguay in 1912, and since then has been abandoned. Parts of it are crumbling, and walking on the concrete seating feels a little bit dodgy. However it does seem that someone’s been keeping it from complete disrepair, as the grass is obviously mowed.

The coolest bit about being inside is that it feels very similar to a gladiator arena, so naturally we did some reenacting of scenes from Russel Crowe and Ridley Scott’s epic film Gladiator (“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”).

Afterwards we decided to enter the countryside a bit, and came across beautiful, vast fields of varying crops, which, with the sunset approaching, merely added to the dreamlike Gladiator quality of the place.

Long exposure of the sea and distant lights of Buenos Aires.

We arrived back to the bike rental place, and had enough time for a beer before getting on the coach and heading back to Buenos Aires for about 10pm.

Strangely, what started off as an average day had become something I’ll remember really fondly, but maybe it’s because I got on so well with the guy I went with, PJ from California (you can’t not get along with people from Northern Cali).