I’ve noticed a few things about Argentina, some are a bit odd, some wonderful, and some not so wonderful. Staying in one place in the country for three weeks makes me no expert on Argentina, but these are some of the interesting things I’ve noticed while we’ve been here.
- Money– I’ve noticed a few things about the money here. One is: there are very few coins. In Ecuador I got used to carrying around a pocket full of change all the time. I often would have up to $20 in coins in my pocket over there. Here in Argentina there are very few coins, they use mostly bills for even the smallest denominations. There is even a 1 peso note (1/16 of a dollar).
In the U.S. I would often go months without any cash at all, but traveling abroad I have found that you can never have too much cash on hand. Being without cash in a foreign country with a cash economy can be a very scary experience.
The other thing we discovered, was that Argentina puts quite a premium on ATM usage. Every time you use an ATM here you are charged an astounding $6 U.S. by the machine. And to add insult to injury the maximum amount you can retrieve from the ATM is 2000 Argentinian pesos (about $125 U.S.). I can’t tell you how valuable my Charles Schwab account is here, it has saved us so much money in ATM fees!
- Keys– The keys here are really cool looking. They look like they will open something ancient and mysterious.
- Napkins– The napkins at most coffee shops and restaurants appear to be made of the same kind of paper as receipts. The are absolutely useless for cleaning anything. Really, they may as well have no napkins at all
- Bidets– All of the AirBnB’s we have looked at have bidets.
- Convenience stores– Most convenience stores have tables and chairs set up outside on the sidewalk so that you can enjoy your Coke, beer, or wine right there.
- Yerba Mate– Yerba Mate is the national drink of Argentina. I don’t know if that is actually a true statement, but it should be. People here are passionate about their yerba, and it is often shared among friends or even strangers. It is a tea made from the dried leaves of a holly plant that is native to these parts and it looks a bit like pot. It is prepared by spooning a healthy amount of the leaves into a gourd, or a really stylish mate holder, then pour in your hot water. Since it is not filtered like tea, you drink the beverage through a filtered metal straw. When drinking mate on the go, you always carry around your thermos of hot water, so as not to run out!
According to various websites, yerba mate is a healthier alternative to coffee or tea. It is naturally caffeinated and gives you all the energy you need to power through your day. I was excited to find that our apartment came with the mate set up. I had heard about it before, but never had the opportunity to try it out. My first impressions of the taste are: a mix between fresh grass clippings and an ashtray. It’s not my favorite drink in the world, but its growing on me. It really does provide an energy boost, even more so than coffee. Plus you look way cooler drinking mate than coffee or tea.
- Cigarettes– Everyone smokes. I feel like I’ve been transported back to the 80’s. Cigarette smoke doesn’t usually bother me much, but its really hard get a breath of fresh air.
- Pastries– Nobody told me that the pastries here would be so amazing! We have enjoyed the best sweet bread ever here. So much for all our healthy eating habits and weight loss in Ecuador!
- Language– I knew that people speak differently in Argentina, but wow are they hard to understand! It’s like they’re speaking a whole other language. For the first time in South America, Israel and I are on the same level of understanding. We will often ask for something at a store or a restaurant and get an answer, then we both look at each other with the same look of incomprehension and ask them to repeat. The vocabulary and accent are so different than in other Spanish speaking countries that we are definitely have to use our active listening skills here.
- Chivalry– This is probably the coolest thing I have noticed here. Chivalry is not dead, it’s in Argentina. No man will get on a bus before a woman, they will all insist that ladies go first. They will always give up their seat on the bus and open doors. I have experienced this before, but never to such an extent. I am truly impressed by the way this society has raised its men. I’d love to come back so that my boys can soak up some more of this aspect to the culture.