So, Argentina? What do you actually know about Argentina?
You will properly start thinking about wine, soccer, big steaks and tango, right? Or maybe you also recall one or two of the world heritage sights on the Argentine territory; Iguazu Waterfalls, the Perito Moreno Glacier, or maybe Peninsula Valdés?
However, there are so much more to Argentina! And there are things that are less told about the massive country in the very South of the American continent. That is the aim of this blog post; to get to know some of the things that nobody else tells you about Argentina.
As I have already written about there are plenty of things that you don’t normally get to know about the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. So, today let’s take a closer look at things nobody tells you about Argentina!
Basics about Argentina and the Argentines
Most Argentines have a better understanding of the concept of inflation than the majority of European Business School students because they have lived with it under their skin for decades. And it seems like speculating in getting things cheaper if you can pay them in the future have become a national sport.
Argentina is a mix of Italian, Spanish, British and German immigrants who primarily arrived in the country’s huge immigration flows of the 1880s…
… For that reason, many Argentines hold a European passport.
Around 30% of the Argentine population lives in poverty – even though the former government of los Kirchners (more about them further down) said it to be 12% (well, they anyway also liked to play around with the numbers at the statistic office).
The possibly most used word in Argentina is Che meaning something like hey – oye, che!
Shopping and money in Argentina
Before you swing your credit card remember to ask whether there is a discount for paying in cash. In some places, you can get around 10% in discount if you pay en efectivo (e.g. in cash). Rumors go that this makes it easier for the shops or restaurants to reduce their tax bills.
In most shops, you will see the price of paying everything now or the price of paying in cuotas. Cuotas means that the shop let you pay your purchase over the course of 3, 6, 12, 18 or whatever amount of cuotas you choose. In times of crazy inflation movements, these cuotas made good sense for Argentines because inflation would reduce the debt over time. You can try it out but until now my international credit card hasn’t worked with cuotas (e.g. my bank doesn’t accept it).
In some shops, you will get assistance at one counter but pay your purchase at another… In my world, not the highest efficiency seen but at least it must help to keep unemployment down?
If you are staying for longer in Argentina, your favorite app and website for purchasing will most likely become Mercado Libre. Here you can find close to anything from new and second-hand merchandise to house rental and fast good. For example, I found a decent second-hand espresso coffee machine on Mercado Libre.
There are two different 100 pesos notes; one with the iconic Evita Peron (more about her later on), and one with Julio Argentino Roca a politician and military man and twice Argentina’s president in the 1880s.
In 2016 a 500 pesos note was introduced, however, the cash machines from where people pay their bills still only accept up to 100 pesos notes… Kind of (very) annoying getting 500 pesos notes out of the ATM but having to find a place to exchange to 100 pesos notes to be able to pay one’s bill.
There used to be both a 2 peso bill and a 2 peso coin… But now they took the 2 peso bill out of circulation and only let the coin.
Food habits in Argentina
The milky caramel cream dulce de leche is a proud part of Argentine cuisine, and can be added to basically any kind of dessert… Trust me, when I say ANY kind. You will be surprised how many desserts the Argentines can add dulce de leche.
One of the things to which dulce de leche is added is the popular alfajores, a small piece of cake with for example chocolate or dulce de leche between dough of chocolate cake.
A popular way to sweeten up life a bit in Argentina is to buy facturas, small pieces of pastry (where dulce de leche, of course, also can be added!). However, do not confuse them with getting an invoice for the items you purchased in a shop, which in Spanish also is called factura.
Even though Argentines love their good big steak, they are also big consumers of milanesa; a dish of fried meat. It can also be found in the version milanesa napoliana which is added tomato sause and cheese on top of the fried meat.
No doubt in the fact that the Yerba Mate drink is a popular drink in Argentina. You will see everywhere from gas stations to hotel receptions offering hot water for their clients and their mate – yes, even on the beach some smart guys made a business out of selling people hot water for their mate.
A bit about Peronism and politics in Argentina
Even though Perón died in 1974 and his iconic first wife, Evita, in 1952, they are still a present part of Argentine political self-understanding. Especially, the symbol of Evita can be found many different places around the country – among others as mentioned on the 100 peso note.
The Peronist movement is not some antique social movement even though its founder Juan Domingo Perón. It is an ever changing movement who is still present and active today. However, today it is divided into Peronism Kirchnerista (after the former President couple Nestor and Cristina Kirchner who govern Argentina for a total of 12 years), Traditional Peronism, and Peronism anti-K (anti-Kirchnerista)… Confused?
Expect a government from 1999-2001 (just before the big crisis), the current Argentine government under Mauricio Macri is the first non-Peronism government in almost 30 years. Quite impressive, and widely discussed topics among Argentines.
Now it is up to you; did you learn something new about Argentina? Is there something you would like to add to the list? Please feel free to share it in the comments below!