In praise of the Argentinians

The Argentinians are just so damn delightful!
I am going to have to take some time out from describing the amazing sights and scenes to heap some praise upon these wonderful people. They are utterly charming. And not in the obsequious, transparent “chaaaarming” way that one so often comes across in Britain. There is no tilt of the head and patronising smile as if to reassure you, “Don’t worry, I am so deeply interested in what you are saying”. They are entirely genuine – effortlessly and naturally interested and interesting.
They are masters of the art of laid back and yet absorbing conversation. They give off an impression of nothing being an effort which immediately puts the newcomer at ease. Their good manners and friendliness seem innate rather than taught.
I was lucky enough to stay with a Porteno friend for my last three nights in Buenos Aires, who was a great host (Augustine, I hope you read this at some point!) and looked after me wonderfully despite my only getting in touch with him the day before I flew.
It was a joy to move from my hostel in the dusty hustle and bustle of the city centre to the tranquil leafy barrio in the north of Buenos Aires where August shares a lovely house with Julio, musician and sock maker.
The streets were quiet and clean and empty of traffic. The air smelt of leaves.
While there I met a number of August and Julio’s friends. It would have been very easy for them to chat away and allow the English girl, whose Spanish could best be described as patchy, to sit in the corner and remain a passive observer. But they are Argentinian. Everyone introduced themselves with smile and casual kiss on the cheek before questioning and advising me on my travels and expressing unadulterated delight at some of the places I would be visiting.
“Aw, El Calafate, es hermosa! Si, El sur es muy linda, pero el norte tambien!”
They never reverted to English unless I invited it and listened patiently, occasionally helping out, as I struggled to explain myself in their mother tongue. Some even praised me on my mastery of the language despite all speaking English which would put my Spanish to shame! As I say, charming.
And this charm extends to shopkeepers, waiters, taxi drivers and people you simply find yourself sitting next to on the bus. If you read The Sun newspaper every day you could be forgiven for thinking the Argentinians want to lynch every Brit who sets food in their country until the Falkland Islands – or Las Malvinas depending on where you are – are safely back in Argentinian hands. I have variously heard the British and Britain described as “beautiful people”, a “incredible country”, the place “I have always wanted to go” and so on. If there is any animosity it sure as hell is not directed at the British people.
Even the way the Argentinians talk is charming. Perhaps it is the Italian influence or perhaps it is just their laid back mañana spirit but the Spanish spoken in Argentina is the most lyrical I have ever heard. I would happily listen to them talk for hours whether I understood or not. The women in particular speak with a musical softness which quickly sends me into a kind of trance. I kept asking one girl questions in the simple hope she wood keep talking despite the fact my dreamlike state made it difficult to concentrate on what she was saying.
What is more, the Portenos are famously considered unfriendly by their fellow countrymen. If this is true, I look forward to meeting the Argentines outside Buenos Aires!


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