May 6, 2013
Argentine hospitality is incredible. I haven’t experienced anything quite like it — and that’s saying a lot, especially as Filipinos are trained from birth to persistently push food and drink on their guests (after asking them to remove their shoes first, of course).
Argentines (I say Argentines, but really it’s been people from all over South America who now live in Argentina) seem intent on lavishing love on us (now that eggs aren’t being lobbed at us.) When an Argentine is your friend, s/he is unstinting in their kindness, tsunamic with their hospitality, overwhelming during feedings. When you visit an Argentine’s house, they are attentive to your every need (and even those you didn’t realize you had). When you are friends with an Argentine, everything they do is aimed at making you feel comfortable and welcome. As my friend M put it, “They want to give you their best.”
They do it genuinely — I never felt like they showed this care begrudgingly, or that it was done in hopes of some future favor. They do it warmly — there is so much kindness and cheer in their actions that one can’t help but accept and appreciate their hospitality. And they do it on an extended time line — when you go to an Argentine’s house, be prepared to stay a while.
Case in point: One Saturday night, Bjorn and I were invited over to the home of our friend D (another one; I realize we have several friends with this same starting initial). He told us to come over at 8 p.m. for empanadas and panqueques (pancakes).
Large groups of dogs are a frequent sight on Buenos Aires sidewalks and help contribute to the slow pace on them.
We got there about half an hour late. This is nothing new for me; Filipinos also have this “half an hour late to all events” time shift, aka “P Time.” What did surprise me was the stamina of the Argentines. We socialized for about an hour and a half. Around 10 p.m. we remembered to order the empanadas. By that time we had also started a movie, “The Secret in Their Eyes,” (riveting, but I’m still wondering who killed her?) The movie and the empanadas (so good, btw — even the ones with corn inside. Sounds weird, but still tasty) were finished at around midnight. So of course that’s when D said, “Who’s up for panqueques?”
We talked and watched D make his famous panqueques (he makes it all from scratch and include some fantastic pyrotechnics), eating each one as soon as they were made (they were very flat, like a crepe, spread with dulce de leche and fruit (optional), then rolled up like a cigarette — a huge, fat, delicious, non-cancerous cigarette. Yum.) We watched some more TV and then the Argentines called it quits.
It was 2 a.m.
Bjorn and I were barely conscious by that time. What with the overstuffing of food and no nap, I was forming only just coherent monosyllabic responses. The Argentines (there was another couple present) were alert and funny and still going strong. I think they decided to end it out of sympathy for us. Though it does us no credit, I feel I must also add: We were the youngest ones there.
Apparently, this is the norm in Argentina — having a large, late dinner and staying up. On another recent Saturday night, Bjorn and I were returning home at 2 a.m. Groups of 20-somethings (large ones, I might add) passed by us in the opposite direction, walking jauntily and dressed to the 9s. “Oh yeah,” said Bjorn when I flabbergastedly wondered if they were just starting their night, “this is when Argentines start going out.”
I think this might stem from how Argentines spend the day. Although Buenos Aires looks like New York City, it certainly doesn’t act the same. People don’t bowl you over (physically and/or with a snide remark) on sidewalks if you walk slowly (indeed, walking with caution is advised as the sidewalks are in atrocious condition). Shops usually open at 10 a.m. On subway escalators, people who wish to stand rather than walk don’t stand to the farthest right. They all stand, cramming all space on the escalator, so even if you did want to walk up it would be an exercise in futility. This is a culture that takes its time — and enjoys it. No need to tell them to stop and smell the roses; there’s probably already a crowd 20-deep around that flower.
I can’t say whether this mindset makes for a better quality of life or not. But this I know for sure: Befriend an Argentine. You won’t regret it. Trust.