Impressions of a Gringo

Well, we’ve been here a little over a month now and my friends and family back home keep asking me the same questions – what is it really like? How do you feel? Are you learning the language? Etc, etc…

After about the 3rd week, I think we started to get our groove. The feeling of being disconnected slowly faded – not because we felt totally connected but because I think we just got used to being gringos in a foreign country. It started feeling quite normal to walk down the street and only hear Spanish or to buy groceries at 4 different stores rather than just one or to know that nothing would be open between the hours of 1:30 pm and 5:00 pm.  We’ve adapted – and it wasn’t too hard.

One of the biggest realizations is how easy and quick EVERYTHING is in the US.  We are a culture of “I know exactly what I want, I want it now, and I don’t want to pay very much for it”. That culture is a huge contrast to pretty much every country I have visited. Not that people wouldn’t like things to be that way but for some reason the cultures of Argentina and many other places we’ve visited aren’t centered around this mindset.  It’s good and bad. People here don’t generally buy a whole bunch of stuff that they don’t really need, they spend more time with their families during their 3-4 hour siesta, and they walk everywhere. However, things also don’t happen very quickly here and we don’t seem to get near as much done. It took me 2 weeks to find baking power and it took us about a week to figure out where and how to buy propane for our stove – which resulted in a complicated series of hoses and adaptors to fit their small tanks. I’m sure if you lived here and knew the language, things would be a bit quicker and easier but we have 9 months so we’re not really in any hurry.

Language learning has been slower than I expected. James and I had a decent foundation of Spanish before we started and I had hoped that after a month of being here, a magic switch would be flipped and we would be speaking and understanding with ease. We are making progress and we are starting to understand more but I think it will be a slow process.

Here are a few more observations. There are lots but these are the ones I could remember:

  • When you say thank you here, they answer “no” or “como no” or “porfavor no” which literally means, “why not” and “please no”. It’s not meant to be translated word-for-word but it’s weird to hear “no” the first few times.
  • You have to flag the busses down here for them to stop. However, even if there are 20 people waiting for the same bus, they will ALL wave the bus down. It seems a bit redundant to me.
  • The pedestrian does not have the right of way and many intersections have no stop lights or stop sign. The general rule is the car to the right or whoever is bigger has the right of way.
  • No one is allowed to sell alcohol for 24 hours during election day and it is mandatory to vote.
  • We ate dinner at 11:30 pm last night – not only is that normal but  they would think you’re crazy if you try to eat at 6 or 7.

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