‘Keep the change’ and other cultural musings

Time for some more cultural musings that I’ve noticed since I’ve been back in Argentina:

  • Having correct change is a complete rarity. I was told the other day that businesses actually have to pay to buy coins because people melt them and make them into jewelry that they can get more money for than the coins are worth themselves. It is not uncommon for a shop to not have change to give you and to offer you some candy instead. “No, I don’t want candy, I just want my change….oh, that is the change.”
  • Traffic: The only thing clear about who has the right of way in Argentina is that it is not you, Miss Pedestrian. When you come to an intersection, it seems that whoever feels they have the right of way, does. One direction of traffic will go for a while, until the other side seems to get antsy and edge their way out. Just when you think you’re about to witness an accident, the flow switches for a while….making street crossing a sport for us pedestrians.
  • I have a ‘mercado central’ addiction. Especially since I hit Mendoza and north, every city and town seems to have a mercado central. It’s typically tucked away inside a city block like a gem in the core of a mountain. The entrance may look like another store entrance, until you go in to explore and you find that the entire heart and guts of the block is this hidden market with everything from fruits and veggies and meat and spices to handicrafts and electronics, movies and socks.
  • The best gifts are the cheesiest ones. I was being helped in a store while talking about how I love Mendoza and think I may move there. It turns out the guy is a Mendocino and was so excited. He told me to hang on and in a few minutes returned with a freshly made key chain gift; a wood cutout of Argentina with some plastic grapes glued to it and signed ‘Mendoza’. To use my dear friend Christen’s words, there’s just this special way down here where people get very excited about sharing a passion or something simple in common and wanting to celebrate it. I hope to bring this sort of sentiment with me when I return to the States.
  • You can learn a great deal about Argentina history from the names of the streets and plazas. Every town has streets and plazas named after dates, generals and other important historical figures. They love their generals here! My personal favorite is Perito Moreno, a guy who supposedly changed the direction of a river so that it flowed to the Atlantic instead of the Pacific, which conveniently makes it belong to Argentina instead of Chile…the border of these two countries being determined by the continental divide.
  • One night I had a group of 11 Argentinos at the hostel helping me with Spanish. As I was sharing that I love how they always say ‘Buen Provecho’ to each other under all eating circumstances, they start elbowing me and laughing until I realize that a couple of guys had walked in with late night food and I should actually participate in this custom that I love. “Buen provecho chicos!”
  • In other language lesson news, in the last couple of weeks I have had a few guys trying to practice their English with me. They have pointed behind them to indicate the past as I had done my first few months here. It made me immensely happy to let them know I understood what they meant and did not think they had imaginary friends.



One thought on “‘Keep the change’ and other cultural musings

  1. so glad you did a post on this! I love hearing all these anthropological details, and now i am off to google how this general changed the direction of a river. . . hope the Peru trip is going really well! Miss you Erin!

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