Argentina: Expectations vs. Reality


by Rease Kirchner

When we picture an unfamiliar place in our mind we often gather a random assortment of images and ideas that we have gotten from movies, books and just general word of mouth. I polled about 50 people to see what came to their minds when they thought of Argentina. Here are the most common answers and my responses.

Expectation:

Danger, violent crimes and kidnapping

Reality:

Calm down with your crazy scare tactic new stories. Yes, some of the big cities have seedy areas, but that is true anywhere. As for violent crimes, there are not a whole lot of guns here and most people take the bus, so a drive-by is pretty unlikely. As for the kidnappings, yes, there was a huge problem with that during the Dirty War in the 80s, but now this country is full of foreigners, intellectuals and political activists who can sleep at night knowing they will wake up in their own bed.

Expectation:

Meat, meat and more meat.

Reality:

This expectation is totally valid. Argentines love their meat. Everywhere you look there is a parilla which is basically a grill that serves meat and possibly potatoes. It’s not just steak but also blood sausage and other unpleasant sounding cuts from the inner part of the animal. You can also order what is called a “parillada” which is a mountain of various meats on your own personal grill that is brought to your table. As a non-mammal eater, this makes me want to vomit a little bit, but it’s definitely a huge part of the culture.

Parillada aka Meat Mountain

 

Expectation:

Tango dancers, preferably with flowers in their teeth

Reality:

Tango does reign supreme here. Argentina is the birthplace of tango and they take their dancing seriously. In Buenos Aires you can catch a show or class basically any night of the week. However, Salsa has become almost as popular and many people come here to study that style of dance as well. Oh and yes, there is the occasional flower in a dancer’s mouth.

Expectation:

Evita Peron and “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”

Reality:

I have never heard the song “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” in this country other than from the mouths of singing foreigners. However, Evita is still very much alive in the hearts of the citizens, even if she is buried in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires (so they say, others claim her body is not actually inside that tomb). Evita is a symbol of freedom for many people, though others despise the Perons. Either way, Evita and Juan Peron are still very much a presence in politics throughout the country.

Expectation:

Beautiful women, high fashion and sex appeal

Reality:

I’ll give you the beautiful women, but I’d say the jury is still out on the high fashion and sex appeal business. The women are gorgeous, but I’m appalled by the number of men I have seen with rat tails or mullets. Also, sweat pants and flip flops are pretty common here, I wouldn’t exactly label those fashionable. As for sex appeal, The big cities certainly can be sexy and their is porn practically smacking you in the face on every corner.

Diaper pants with matching Crocks=Fashion?

Expectation:

Beaches and constantly hot weather

Reality:

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world so there is just no way you can lump it all into one climate. Yes, there are a lot of beaches but most of them are river beaches, not ocean. Also, you will see all 4 seasons in most parts of the country. Argentina also lays claim to the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, which is certainly not a sunny place. You’ll find desserts, ice bergs, ocean beaches, river beaches and waterfalls all within Argentina. I live in Buenos Aires and trust me, there is no beach and I keep a heavy coat and gloves handy for winter.

Expectation:

Wine

Reality:

Yes, this is a country of wine drinkers, mainly Malbec which is made in Mendoza. If you plan to go out to dinner her, get ready to drink it up.

Expectation:

Cheap Living

Reality:

This isn’t Mexico, people. Argentina’s economy is constantly changing and suffering from inflation. The prices go up and the salaries stay down. It may be cheap for a week long visit with some US dollars or Euros in hand, but it is not a cheap place to live. Foreigners are constantly being taken advantage of for their lack of local documentation, meaning they pay higher rents and even air fares. As for locals, they work for small salaries and struggle to keep up with the constantly increasing prices. Some cities are cheaper than others, but Buenos Aires is certainly not the place to go for cheap living.

What are some of your thoughts and expectations about Argentina? Let us know in the comments!

Rease Kirchner a staff writer/Travel Adviser for Travelated. She is a US citizen currently living the ex-pat life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is bilingual and an experienced traveler. She loves gaining and sharing knowledge of local cultures, customs and adventure. Her blog Mi Vida en Buenos Aires documents her life as a foreigner.
Featured image: Creative Commons photo by quimpg



7 Comments

  1. Andrea says:

    We’ll be there next week so I really enjoyed reading this. One thing I’ve heard that I’d love to know if it’s true is the scary drivers and difficulty being a pedestrian. Probably our biggest safety concern! As for the rest, sounds fantastic! Looking forward to seeing it all for myself =)

    • Rease says:

      Are you coming to Buenos Aires? I’m out of town til the 5th but if you’ll be in BA please email me and we can meet up for coffee or something.
      And yes, being a pedestrian is risky business, so be careful!

  2. Alex says:

    The parillada sounds amazing.

  3. Somebody really wore those pants?! I have a feeling Scott and I won’t be staying too long in Argentina because it may put a big dent in our South America budget, but I do look forward to the meat and wine!

  4. Suzy says:

    Those pants are ridiculous. I’m not sure where you would buy those but apparently in Argentina. The meat, wine and differing landscapes intrigue me about Argentina.

  5. Jeremy B says:

    Awesome Rease! Not only is it good to give information to keep our perspectives in check but it’s also great to have this information to learn more about Argentina!

  6. Sabrina says:

    What a fun post. Never been to Argentina, but I had some of the same false expectations you “busted” :) I’be always heard that it’s very “European”. Is that true? And in what sense?

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