Sunday, December 05, 2004

Little Europe

My first impressions of Argentina are very positive: the people are very friendly and laid back, things are generally well organised, the music is good, and lets not forget that they have paved roads as well. Actually Argentina seems, in many ways, to be very much like Europe. There's a large middle class, a more predominantly white population (the only area where indigenous people form a sizeable portion of the population is here in the north west) and a strange fondness for French cars. This Europeanness is a source of dislike for some other Latin Americans who regard the Argentines as being quite snobby and "too good for the continent", but to me they don't seem big-headed (although that could have something to do with the economic crash of a few years ago which may have humbled them). Similarly I thought they might harbour some resentment towards the English/British as demonstrated by a sign at the border: "Las Islas Malvinas apartienen a Argentina" (the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina). But they seem genuinely phlegmatic about that and the only dislike I've heard professed by an Argentinian has been against the Americans (and I can completely understand that).

My only problem with the Argentinians is the way they speak: far too fast and very often missing the end of the word (especially if it's an "s"). This has been one of my bugbears whilst travelling through Latin America; I thought that having got with the lingo in Mexico I'd be fine for the rest of my trip, but no, not only are the accents different (annoying but understandable) but several everyday words are completely different as well. For example parking in Mexico is estacionimiento, in Peru it's playa, and in Bolivia it's parqueo. Luckily for me I don't drive. What's more the slang is different too, so even though I can insult people pretty well in Mexico (which of course I wouldn't do, this is only a hypothetical situation you understand) the same words mean nothing in South America. Ah well, I'll have to learn to be rude in every country's particular slang then.

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