Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Sunday, July 09, 2006

73. Losers (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Argentine fĂștbol song #5:
Volveremos, volveremos
Volveremos otra vez
Volveremos a ser campeones
Como en el ochenta y seis

We're gonna be we're gonna be
We're gonna be once again
We're gonna be champions
Just like in '86
Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. As all of you would know by now, Argentina lost in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Bummer. Guys shook their heads in dismay. My girlfriend cried after the game. And in an amazing display of immaturity and bad sportsmanship, a group of Argentine players picked a fight with the victorious German team. OK, so one of the German players blew a kiss or something at an Argentine player during the penalty shootout but so what. I should mention FIFA suspended the German player and an Argentine player two matches after the incident.

So then Germany went on to face Italy in the semi-finals, and my how the Argentine public got behind Italy. 99% of the public wanted Italy to win, for mixed reasons. Some of the population have Italian heritage. Others identify with a shared "Latin" culture. I think most Argentines would justify their support of Italy with one of these two reasons, but really, more than they wanted to see Italy win, they wanted to see Germany lose. So when Germany lost there was a collective sigh of relief, "a consolation", as one TV pundit put it. At first I thought "what a bunch of sore losers", but later my friend Juan explained that Argentina and Germany have a long World Cup rivalry, and the fact that Germany have won 3 World Cups while Argentina only 2 means a lot here.

What else have I been up to? Another birthday came and went. And I've met a couple of other BA expat bloggers in real life. It's always interesting swapping opinions with others on the way of life here, even if we do usually share the same list of grumbles.

Buenos Aires is still the same... the bank a block and a half away from me got held up a couple of weeks ago. The internet cafe from where I am writing this post is directly opposite and in full view of the bank, and a couple of robbers took the internet cafe hostage to prevent the cops being called. I recognised the guy who works there when they interviewed him on the news.
On Thursday night I went and visited my friend Juan, and as we ate pizza the TV showed live coverage of a ride by shooting of sorts that had just happened about 15 blocks from us. Some guy in the street pulled out a rifle and shot 7 passers-by, killing one, before fleeing the scene on a bus. He's still at large, and newspapers next day screamed El Francotirador (The Sniper).

Update: last night one of the Chinese supermarkets in my barrio was robbed at gunpoint. The robbers killed a policeman and another customer. Crime against policeman here is all too common - they keep an annual toll of it, like we have for the road toll back home.

Good news for bargain hunters - as reported in other blogs and the media here, Buenos Aires is still one of the cheapest major cities in the world, coming 142nd out of 144 cities. I told Juan about this, and he said yeah, but in 2001 it was one of the most expensive (well, 23rd most expensive actually, just above Los Angeles). Back then, he went backpacking to the US and Canada in the days of the strong peso. He told me that back then, with the peso so strong everything was cheaper for Argentines. Flights were so affordable - you could fly to the US for $500 pesos - that when you went travelling there were Argentines everywhere. For him, things in the US were about the same price as in Argentina, whereas the Europeans and Australians he met along the way would be complaining about the prices of dinners etc. $500 pesos to go to the US - man, I've spent $350 pesos on minor things for my van in the last couple of days.

Reader's comment:
I remember walking into the local grocery stores and restaurants and for the first 6 months I would always use pleasantries that most civilized people use like "hello", "thank-you" and "good-bye". After 6 months of NO RESPONSES, scowling and downright hostility I have tired of it and the Portenos can take their city and stick it...
I know what you mean - I found it the same. Worst of all are the Chinese supermarkets or chinos as Argentines call them. Every day I shop at one of two chinos near where I live - and never, in a year and a half of shopping, have I got a hola or gracias from the Chinese staff. At least the Bolivian who runs the fruit and veg section of the same store will say gracias.

One thing I've never gotten used to is whenever you call a business or government department, all you'll get when they answer the phone is "Hola?". They won't even say the name of the business, department, their name, nothing. Just Hola. And if you ask who's speaking they'll get all defensive and ask who you are.

Now, back to the rudeness comment. I think English speakers tend to use more pleasantries than in Spanish. My girlfriend, a waitress, complained to me the other day about how foreigners always order with too many por favores (pleases). We'd say "Could you bring me a coffee, please" which has three pleasantries - the could, the please and the question. Whereas in Spanish un cafe, por favor (A coffee, please) or me trae un cafe? (Could you bring me a coffee?) would be adequately polite. Being overpolite tends to rub people the wrong way here - it's the same if you said "I would really appreciate it if you could be so kind as to bring me a coffee, please". You get the idea.
Intermediate Spanish for tourists, lesson 1: when you ask for the bill, don't say "la cuenta, por favor". Argentines normally say traeme la cuenta (bring me the check) or me cobras (charge me). Make it a question if you wanna be more polite, or add por favor, but not both.

Astute readers will have noticed I've added a little clock showing the local time in Argentina to the right side of the blog, above the weather. I also added some Google ads to the right side of the blog (just to see if they actually do pay out anything), and so far in two weeks or so they've earned me a whopping $6.60! That's like, 47 cents a day. Dude, sell-out. At this rate I might earn $100 by the next World Cup.

Say friend, (deep breath, sales pitch coming) if you out there use the links in the Ad section of my page (to the right) to download and install "Firefox with Google Toolbar" OR "Google's photo software" (aka. Picasa), both of which I use and recommend (really), and you haven't already installed them on your computer, they pay me ONE whole shiny dollar. So far no one has bothered (I know - Google tells me). Fellow bloggers, if you want to join the life on Easy Street like me, earning around 47 cents a day, use the link at the right to sign up (Generate revenue from your website. Google AdSense), go on. For that they pay me too (but only if you manage to earn $100 in your first 6 months - for which I estimate you'll need 60 readers a day). Gold.

Update: I just downloaded and installed Firefox on the PC in the internet cafe to see if I'd get that $1, and no, they'll pay me UP TO $1, depending on the user's location. If someone in Argentina installs Firefox they'll only give me 10 cents. Bah.


  • I'm an Opera fan myself, but I always keep Firefox on hand. Next time I download it I'll go through you, maybe you'll get 20c for an NZer.

    All the ads are for sports tickets for this blog entry.

    By Blogger Slag, at 1:07 PM  

  • Argentine spanish is much more polite than in many other countries. Here, almost everyone will say 'please', 'thank you', 'excuse me', 'good morning' (when entering a lift, for example) whereas in chile no one says any of these things and there's a sense of permanent aggression in the air. bolivian and peruvian spanish are a little more polite than chilean but not a great deal. it's not that they're being deliberately rude, it's just a different way of using the language.

    as an englishman, i really appreciate the effort argentines make to be polite. it makes life so much more pleasant where people are friendly, even if it is false or not really meant. i was asked the time recently by an old lady and the translation of what she said is along the lines of, "young man, would be so kind as to tell me the time, please", which i thought was beautifully put and made me smile. pleasantries rule.


    By Anonymous chematuco, at 10:57 AM  

  • Fuerza Matt. Whenever I wrote something critical, I'd get jumped all over for not being open minded. I feel the same way, tried to avoid the foreign friend route, struggle with my spanish and working day to day, and then people tell me I don't see the "real" Argentina. The "real" Argentina is not Palermo Hollywood as far as I'm concerned. And it took me two times to realize "me gusteria" was way overpolite, "para mi, un cafe" works just fine. Nice to see you're still going strong.

    By Blogger Dave, at 1:29 AM  

  • Hi Matt,

    I have just discovered your blog and read all the more recent posts and comments. I think what do are doing is fantastic, keep going and if being honest attract negative comments from some quarter of the expat community so be it.

    I am an Aussie-chinese married to an Argentine. We met and lived in London before moving out here last year. I have shipped my belongings over, am still applying for my DNI, also have an extended Argentine family and local friends so I have gone through a lot and do know some of the negatives of this country.

    I do not live in Recoleta nor receive pension or salary in any hard currency so my perspective is going to be different from a full expat having a good time for a few years.

    I have also met more than a few long-term expats who want to be more argentine than the argentines. They would not tolerate any constructive criticism of this country. Any negative comment, to them, means I haven't been here long enough (not as long as they have) or I should just f*off back to where you came from. It has taken me a while, but I've finally realised, we all have our inner demons; they may see us and our occasional negative comments as an attack on the protected exsistence they have built for themselves and their family.

    Do visit me at my blog

    cupcake in BA

    By Blogger miss cupcake, at 7:04 AM  

  • Yea!! This needed to be said. Abruptness or rudeness is cultural, & it's one of the things that I stress when talking about AR. "Puede ser?" is as polite as you need to be here. In general, I find Argentines to be a bit lacking on pleasantries, but who cares? I'm from the southern US where we douse every word we say with an extra helping of politeness... most of which is fake. I prefer the up-front approach. I think a lot of expats get a misconception about what's going on here because of cultural differences - not necessary a language problem. That's what takes a lot of getting used to.

    And I love your comments about going to the "chino." I've been going to mine for years & they FINALLY began to say hi, thanks, & not get an attitude when I hand them a 100 peso bill. Small victories.

    By Blogger Robert, at 1:15 PM  

  • "And if you ask who's speaking they'll get all defensive and ask who you are."

    Just a thought - you might start by giving your own name as in "Hola me llamo Mattiboy Mattiboyson" ...

    By Blogger John.St, at 7:07 AM  

  • "And if you ask who's speaking they'll get all defensive and ask who you are."

    Just a thought - you might start by giving your own name as in "Hola me llamo Mattiboy Mattiboyson" ...

    By Blogger John.St, at 7:07 AM  

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