The political crisis
Argentina is facing another political crisis. The last few weeks have been marked by protests of hundreds of thousands of civilians against the head of state Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, strikes and paralysations of the entire public transport systems, power cuts of large areas of the downtown area as well as many suburbs and inundation of streets and private houses, the latter of which is nothing out of the ordinary in Buenos Aires.
There are 6 days left before I will leave Argentina for good. Last time I wrote about what I will miss and not miss about Argentina was in May 2012. Since then, things have not become better, but worse.
The middle class in the cities is fed up with corruption and the rise of money devaluation and crime. It almost seems ironic that in the midst of all these problems and the population’s dissatisfaction with the system, the president of Argentina is trying to introduce a constitutional reform under which the president may stand as a candidate for a third term of office. The first general strike under C. Kirchner was founded on the high tax burden of up to 25% for salaries equal or higher than 5800 pesos (approximately 1000 Euros). This salary is hardly enough to pay the costs of living for a family of 2 adults and 2 children in the downtown area. With constantly rising prices of food, products and services, the quality of life is degrading significantly over time. The population is desperate.
Against inflation, the government has banned the purchase of foreign currencies, restricted imports in order to avoid currency drains and is thus limiting investments that are absolutely necessary. The antique electricity network in Buenos Aires has collapsed numerous times in the last few months due to heat waves during which all air conditionings in the town and suburbs are running at full blast. The canalization is rotten and a water runoff during heavy rains which have occurred on many days is not taking place.
The president’s reaction was self-praise and inflexibility. She published on Facebook: Argentina is experiencing a freedom of speech never experienced before and no one should ask her to contradict her politics that she has been defending since her 16th birthday. The problem is that there is currently no strong opposition in Argentina and they do not seem to reach any common denominator.
Blackout in Buenos Aires
The things I will not miss
Hard living conditions
Living under these conditions, it has very difficult for me to work. I work as a freelancer translator and foreign languages teacher from home and I am dependent on the internet. With power cuts several times a month, unexpected floods in our apartment, I am wasting a lot of time and money for services that I am dependent on.
When it rains for a day, it is almost impossible to go out and run errands. You need to be able to jump across little rivers that have formed on streets but sometimes the rivers are so big that you will definitely have to walk through them to reach the other side of the street.
It almost seems like prices are increasing every day now. I paid 3.50 for a liter of milk a year ago. The price then rose to 4 pesos, 4.50, 5.00, 5.50 and has now reached 6 pesos. An inflation of 10%, as claimed by the government, cannot be further from the truth.
The Argentinean Tranquility
As my schedule is filled, I try to use the little breaks I have during the day to take of things like going to the bank or paying bills which you have to do at the local post office in cash. I have already written about standing in line here for 30-40 minutes at an ATM. It doesn’t only seem to be the machines that are working slow though but also the people. In average, I take between 30 seconds and 1 minute at an ATM. I press an average of 4 buttons and can take my cash. Argentineans take 3 minutes in average and when you have 20 people waiting in line, this can be a real pain.
Argentineans prefer to confirm when you ask them whether they will attend your birthday party, meet you at a place or help you with something you have to do in your house. However, this confirmation is by no means a confirmation in the German sense. The Argentinean confirmation is simply a gesture of politeness in order not to hurt the other person’s feelings. They prefer to say yes, already knowing they are not going to show up, rather than say no and being honest. Most of the time, Argentineans show up late without letting you know in advance, send you a message 5 minutes before saying they will be 2 hours late or not show up at all without sending any message.
Germans are known to be too honest and direct sometimes. This is perceived by other cultures as rudeness. In Argentina, the opposite is the case. Argentineans tell you they love you, they adore you, they feel like you are their brother or sister and the next day, they have already forgotten you. They treat you like their best friend when they see you and tell you you look beautiful, have never looked better and your outfit is fantastic. Most of the time, they don’t really mean it or at least they are exaggerating to a great extent but they just wouldn’t tell you the truth.
A lack of Christmas feelings
This is my third year with temperatures of over 30 degrees and an air humidity of 90% in December. No hot chocolates or “Glühwein”, no Christmas carols, no Advent calendars and wreaths, like the ones Germany is famous for, no cuddling at the fireplace or running and playing in the snow. In Argentina in December, I just feel hot, my skin is sticky, my head turns and I have to take a shower at least twice a day to feel comfortable. I have not had a real Christmas feeling for 3 years. I miss the freezing temperatures, the Christmas decorations on windows and in back and front yards, which are very scarce here as well and the baking of cookies. Of course I could be following all of these traditions here as well if I wanted to but it just doesn’t feel the same and I prefer to leave the oven off to avoid raising the temperature in the kitchen even more. (Not every room is equipped with air conditioning here and as electrical devices are mostly imported and expensive here, buying them wouldn’t make sense).
Argentineans don’t know how to produce chocolate. Their chocolate usually has a high proportion of sugar and fat but lacks high-quality cocoa powder and milk. And the international chocolate they offer here is extremely expensive. They only chocolate I buy here is Milka, Kinder and Nutella, but when I consider what I would pay for this in Germany, I sometimes avoid buying it in the end.
The things I will miss
Argentineans adore children. And Argentineans adore parties. There are party rooms and shops selling party equipment and accessories on every street corner. So when they are organizing childrens’ birthday parties, you would think they are expecting the president to show up. Their cakes look like they were taken from picture books and the entertainment program includes loud music, clowns, games and dances. Parties are also especially loud. While at a German kid’s birthday party you would see a maximum of 10 children, there are no less than 30 children (the whole kindergarten group) including their parents, siblings and grandparents at an Argentinean kid’s birthday party. Argentineans have children when they are young and it is common to see families with 3 children. It will be the extreme opposite when I go back to Germany. I will be encountering 40-year old parents who are having their first and only child, a general hostility towards children and a large proportion of the population older than 50. The German population is dying out and this is not at all ironic. We can learn from Argentina that even though the country is currently having so many problems, they know how to reproduce and maintain their population.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Flor on July 16, 2015:
In my opinion, argentinean chocolate is amazing! Have you tried chocolates from bariloche? Even the most common chocolates from kioscos are pretty good. I'm living in USA right now, and their chocolates are disgusting.
Punctuality is not that big of a problem in Argentina, I've seen more unpunctual people in USA than in Argentina.
And you are right about Christmast, but if you spend Christmast with family I assure you you'll have a great time. When I spent my first Christmast in USA I felt completely depressed, because it was boring and it didn't feel like Christmast.
Thaddeus Byron Bullock Jr. from Clemson, South Carolina on September 14, 2014:
I just returned recently from spending the summer in Cordoba, and I agree with you on many points. Punctuality did not seem to be much of a priority for many Argentines that I met, but that was not my principle complaint. I absolutely could not stand having to ride the bus, as having to pay for this ride constantly was quite aggravating. For me, the exchange rate of dollars to pesos was actually quite beneficial, as it allowed me to live beyond my means. I will miss the friendliness of the Argentines, although as an American I found it somewhat uncomfortable when men would try to kiss me. That being said, I think that the openness of the general population was quite refreshing as opposed to the relatively cold manner many Americans seem to possess. All in all, I am definitely glad to be back, although I think I would enjoy a shorter visit in the future. Anyway, nice hub!
Jennifer Madison (author) from Lohmar on September 08, 2014:
I personally believe the best chocolate comes from Switzerland. The advantage in Europe is that you don't have to look for good chocolate, you just find it everywhere. Basically in every supermarket, you find international chocolate, international cheese and food from everywhere. In Argentina, I guess you would find it in Carrefour and maybe at Havanna but those cannot be found everywhere, so it's complicated. Your explanations regarding "the quiero" make sense. It's true that every nationality expresses affection in a somewhat different way. Some exaggerate a bit, others take a long time to express their emotions. That is what makes our planet so interesting. I also want to remind anyone who reads this article that I wrote about the things I will miss and not miss about Argentina. This is personal taste and preference. It doesn't mean, I judge Argentineans for eating Dulce de Leche instead of Nutella. :)
Juan on September 08, 2014:
If you are in Buenos Aires it's not chocolate you'll find in kioskos, but in "chocolate stores" (I suppose that's not the name), maybe in bars like Havanna (although I'm not sure). You went to the Patagonia, so probably there was that kind of chocolate there.
Regarding the hugs and kisses, if the person is your friend, they are sincere. Then you just fall apart, for whatever the reason. Here those things are important but don't have a deep meaning or a very special one. Basically it means "the quiero" right now, and tomorrow and in three months. Then if you don't see them for a year, well they are still going to like you and appreciate you, but maybe not for a "the quiero" (I don't even know if that makes any sense in english).
I suppose the thing is, not that here we are not honest, but that there was a difference in communication because germans express themselves in a different way than in Argentina.
Jennifer Madison (author) from Lohmar on September 07, 2014:
Juan, which chocolate do you mean? I didn't find the type of chocolate you are talking about in Buenos Aires. Regarding the hugs and kisses, I am wondering if they are really sincere. Do they have a real meaning if they are directed at anyone at any time? I remember many people telling me the quiero mucho three years ago and I haven't heard from them ever since.
Juan on September 07, 2014:
1) What argentinian chocolate did you eat? Because one of the things Argentina is praised for is it's food, so that point was weird to me. Also, the best chocolate is the one made in the Patagonia, which is essentially german, since a lot of german immigrants went there after WWII.
2) The "honesty" part... That has never happened to me or anyone I know. I understand that people from the US, England and Germany think argentinians are too affective, that they hug too much and kiss too much. But what you say there is weird.
Jennifer Madison (author) from Lohmar on May 18, 2014:
I agree Rodrigo, there are also some Germans who are not always reliable, especially the younger generation. Punctuality doesn't seem to be a priority anymore which is too bad.
Rodrigo on May 16, 2014:
I'm Argentinian and I agree on most things here! However, I must say that I met a German girl at uni and she asked me to show her around Buenos Aires, so we set up a date - I arrived to the spot 10 minutes early and she only appeared 25 minutes later with another German friend, without letting me know or even apologizing. The guy said it didn't matter anyway because ''that's how things are done in Argentina''. In my experience, the unreliable Argie was punctual while the responsible Germans showed up late. All in all, not all Argies are unreliable and not all Germans are as trustworthy as they would like to think. Great article though! Hope you had a good time here, I really enjoyed Berlin when I was there four months ago.
Jennifer Madison (author) from Lohmar on March 15, 2014:
Enhutton, you have to consider the price in relation to an average Argentinean income though. If you come to Argentina bringing dollars, you definitely won't complain about prices but the Argentineans themselves have been having a hard time paying their bills for years. Also, you might be interested in this article from the Argentinean newspaper La Nacion: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1605747-la-leche-en-la-... according to which the milk prices in Argentina are among the highest of the world (more expensive than London!)
Enhutton on March 14, 2014:
While the inflation rate may be bad, 6 pesos for a liter of milk is still a heck of a good price. Using the official exchange rate for today of 7.90 pesos per US dollar that would put you at about $0.76 per liter of milk. This is why I have found good to be very reasonably priced here.
Césaire on March 02, 2014:
Its important to say that the protests you've mentioned at first, are being carried on by the upper-class society. The low and mid class had an important progress in the last few years, also the economy has grown a lot. The high society class can't understand how so many poor people are now having access to things that some years ago were only for the argie "elite", and that reality really upsets them. I'm from France, I've been living there for three years and now we've decided to move to Buenos Aires with my girlfriend.
Jennifer Madison (author) from Lohmar on January 18, 2014:
Thanks for your comments Mark, I agree with you, the globe would be really boring if everyone lived in the same way. And I wouldn't have written this article if that was the case. I think it is interesting to compare different lifestyles around the globe and I think we should also accept each other's opinions and criticisms. I also saw Cordoba and Patagonia, not only Buenos Aires and I must say that most of the things I said in this article also applies to those regions. My best friend in Argentina was actually from a small village in Cordoba. In any case, I didn't mean to offend anyone by writing this article. I also tried to adapt as best as possible during my three years in Argentina and also there are many things I criticize, there are even more things I learnt during my stay and I have become a new and different person due to that. I love Argentina and its people and always will.
Mark on January 18, 2014:
Wow! Seems like you came out a bit stronger on the second part. I agree with you in most of the points, especially the ones concerning economy, honesty, punctuality, etc. However, as an American who lived in both Germany and Argentina, I'd like to do some constructive critic of some of the points.
A. As I see, your posts are heavily focused on the life in the Buenos Aires area. I don't think it can speak for the country as a whole when there are so many geographical/regional differences. Comparing life in BA to let's say Santa Cruz is kinda like comparing Berlin to Bavaria. There's a huge difference.
B. I don't know why you remark so strongly the things that differ from your homeland, like say, Glühwein, Christmas in summertime, their diet just to mention some. When I moved out from the States I found stuff i liked and stuff I didn't in both countries, but I just adapted. I mean, like you mentioned before, there's no perfect country, but if all people would live the German/Argentinian/American or whatever style all around the globe, the world would seriously suck.
Jennifer Madison (author) from Lohmar on August 21, 2013:
Thanks for your comment Federico. I agree, I have written it on the basis of my experience in Greater Buenos Aires. I have visited Cordoba and the south of Argentina but only as a tourist which is why I cannot say much about life there. Thanks for reading! :)
Federico on August 21, 2013:
Nice article. Being an Argentinian, I can say this is very accurate, but one thing though: don´t forget this is the reality for Buenos Aires and Capital (our Capitol city), so this is not entirely truth in the rest of the country. In most places in Argentina you will find with a quiet and simple life, not one bit like the life in Buenos Aires or Capital.
Having said that, the article is nice and (sadly) pretty accurate :)