We are in Argentina since 2 weeks and slowly getting adjusted to it.
The cultural difference between Peru / Bolivia and Argentina feels big. But whenever I want to write about it I can’t quite put a finger on it.
Argentina feels soooo much more European and closer to home than Bolivia: There are supermarkets and street signs, sidewalk cafes and ice cream parlors. However,we are already missing the crazy overloaded fruit, vegetable and meat stalls at the local markets, the juice bars and the street vendors at every corner.
Shopping at a supermarket makes us feel easy and in control but eliminates the fun of tasting and negotiating the price. Human interaction is reduced to the exchange with the cashier. Someone in La Paz told us that Bolivians would reject supermarkets because they like the personal connection with the vendor too much.
On the other hand we enjoy the improvement in hygiene: After leaving Los Angeles this is the first time that we can brush our teeth with tap water or eat fruits including the skin without the risk to get sick; hostel rooms come with towels and soap and there is toilet paper in every bathroom (you can spot the South America traveler by the roll of toilet paper he carries around).
Improvement in infrastructure and hygiene seem to come with a price tag and Argentina’s inflation rate makes it worst: Our transportation and accommodation cost almost tripled. Even little courtesies have a price: Loading the backpacks on the bus has to be tipped, getting it back costs again. [Taking it to my seat is not allowed.] Leaving the luggage at the hostel we just checked out until the bus leaves might cost a fee, leaving it at the bus agency is not possible. In Peru and Bolivia we could store our backpacks anywhere for free – including at the police. It just made me think about Los Angeles where we tip the waiter 18% of the bill. Shouldn’t businesses in a developed country be paying high enough wages so that the employee does not have to rely on tips?
After having said all this – we enjoy Argentina! It’s a wonderful country.