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Monday, June 18, 2012

The Culture of Argentina Beyond the Boundaries of Buenos Aires City

Cityscape to the south of Cordoba, Argentina.
Cityscape to the south of Cordoba, Argentina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The culture of Latin America is often associated with the words "friendly"  "open" and "hospitable". At times those three words seem synonymous with one another. Being friendly and open automatically means being hospitable too.....right? After extended experience here in Buenos Aires and multiple conversations with expats that have lived here, I want to challenge that idea.

First lets define "hospitality" or "hospitable". The dictionary defines it as actually welcoming guests or strangers into ones living space and hosting them well. It's more than simply being nice to someone in the grocery store.  Hospitality denotes creating an environment for someone where they feel loved and taken in and I am not so sure that definition really accurately describes Buenos Aires.

Just to be clear, I am talking about BsAs specifically, not about the other provinces and the whole of Argentina. The province of Cordoba is famous for hospitality and welcoming people into their homes.  Argentines who come to visit or live in Buenos Aires will tell you that the people living in the city are different than those in the rest of Argentina.  

The reason for this topic I wanna bring up is that  I've had conversations with multiple expats, some who are married and live here permanently, others who are here temporarily while others are here semi-permanently.  And it seems as if many of them are unanimous is saying that they don't have alot of Argentine friends or that it is really hard to get to know Argentines. In fact my Argentine mom Marisa said the same thing when I visited her in Uruguay "Angelina I have lots of friends but I only have one friendship" Only one person she defines as having friendship and that is someone she's known since high school.

Alot of the foreigners that have mentioned that in their home countries like the UK or North America, you can't just strike up a conversation with people in the grocery store. They would give you a funny look or the cold shoulder. There is definitely a wall there but after if you manage to get to know someone abit by playing sports with them or going to the same events, once the wall is down you start to get invitations into people's homes.

It's almost the opposite here, people will talk to you anywhere, the bus stop, grocery store, the street. However getting an invitation to know someone on a more personal level is really difficult. There is someone who runs a "Puerta Cerrada" (closed door restaurant in someone's home) who frequently has Argentine guests and they don't like sharing a table with strangers. So she has more personal seating arrangements instead of a communal table. Yet there are foreigners who come to Buenos Aires who come from more closed off countries who have no trouble with communal tables.

My story is abit different because on my first trip, I ended up in the church community where they do want to get to know you and integrate you as part of their lives. It wasn't until my 2nd trip that I met the foreigners who are living here and started to get involved in their events.  All the feedback I've been sharing with you here has been based on conversations with people living or visiting here.

In reality each part of Argentina can offer you something different.  If you love the energy of the big city, events happening all the time, a great expat community, diverse restaurants and multiculturalism then Buenos Aires is great for you. But don't discount other parts of Argentina that are alot cheaper and will give you a whole different experience. A great way to discover it is through the newly launched "Spare Rooms Córdoba".

 This is the exact agency I used to find the space I am using to live with locals here in BsAs but it is for the province of Córdoba. I have heard millions of awesome things about the province and I hope to visit it one day.  If there is anywhere in Argentina that you'll experience the world famous South American hospitality it would be in Córdoba.

Despite having roots here in Buenos Aires, I still have daydreams about walks through the forests in Bariloche, seeing the whales in Puerto Madryn and standing in awe of the Perito Moreno Glacier all the way at the end of the world.....

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas