I’ve now been here for just over a week and I must admit that it feels good to be back into the Argentine ways. I’m not trying to dismiss the Aussie lifestyle, I highly look up to goon sacks and drop bears, but I didn’t realise I missed the Argentine culture until I found myself in it once again.
Argentina has a very particular way of life and it basically consists of mate, asados and siestas.
Mate is simply a hot drink made from yerba (herbs) that is drunk out of a circular wooden bowl (what’s called the mate) and through a bombilla (special metal straw). The water is usually heated (but never boiled) and stored in a thermus for use. Mate is a very social drink in the sense that everyone will gather around together and will all drink the same mate and bombilla. I don’t think Argentina would ever stand a chance against any infectous disease as it would spread through the people drinking mate. Mate is drunk absolutely everywhere. I’ve seen people drinking it on the streets, in shops, on the buses, inside hospitals, at the airports and basically anywhere else I’ve stepped foot in. Let’s just say that the immigration guards on the Argentine border were more focused on their mate than in checking our car to see if we were smuggling things into Uruguay. There is also the cold option called tereré that’s made out of juice and is more popular among the kids.
Asado is basically the food of the nation. It refers to both the barbequed meal and also to the cut of meat (beef ribs). A typical asado includes chimicurri (a vinegar dressing for the meat) and choris (chorizo on bread). More extravagant asados also include morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulin (cow intestines), riñones (kidneys) and other types of meats. Veggies do tend to make an appearance but the main focus is on the meat. Asado is so popular that it’s seen it more often being cooked on the highway than service stations. While it can be found on the streets in any town, be wary buying it, as it’s usually not very hygienically cooked. Siestas are the best things ever invented. They are naps that occur after lunch. The Argentine society is structured around the siesta where people start work at around 8am and will work up until 12. At midday, everyone including school kids go home to each lunch as a family. After a big meal, people are usually well nourished and give in to the sleepiness that occurs after lunch. Siesta time usually runs from around 2-4pm. Once the batteries are recharged, people head back to work (or kids with an afternoon slot go to school) at around 4 and stay out until around 8pm. Dinner in most households is at around 9:30/10pm and bedtimes aren’t until midnight or later. At first it’s a bit strange to have to wait for dinner until 9pm, but once you embrace the siesta, the day goes by a lot quicker. If you’re not much of a napper, it’s still best to stay indoors during siesta time as there less people on the streets and it is therefore more dangerous. All shops are closed anyway so there is nothing to do but sleep.
As well, I’ve finally been able to explain and understand certain things about myself. I now know why I’m so drawn to wearing jeans. It’s what everyone does here. The other day I ventured out to the town centre wearing a loose pair of shorts (it was 18°C and that’s considered warm in my books) and I got so many looks from my lack of jeans. Nearly everyone in the morning wear jeans and they only get changed after the siesta if the day gets warmer. The dress code here is much simpler which I do enjoy. The only think I haven’t embraced are the platform shoes that females wear which I don’t like and look ridiculous. Everyone here is short and now suddenly the girls are taller than the boys.
I should also mention that dulce de leche (caramel) is found in absolutely every sweet thing, and that crocks and socks is fashion here – I giggle every time I see someone rocking it on the street.