A Visit To Argentina

May 28th, 2015


Ideas, Psychology & Sociology

This text was fully written by humans.
  • Sometimes it feels like I’m working in a kindergarten, with grumpy doctoral students and complaining supervisors.
  • The upcoming conference season, including the Organization for Human Brain Mapping Conference, has created a concentrated and diligent atmosphere at the institute.
  • I recently visited Córdoba, Argentina, where I gave a successful seminar and experienced the inconveniences of daily life. I observed cultural differences, including self-image and time perception, and was both intrigued and saddened by the experience.

Before My Visit to Argentina: The Seasonal Grumpiness.

Sometimes it feels like you’re working in a kindergarten. The doctoral students around me are offended by the gods know what. Supervisors complain that they are paid too little for all the hard work they do, and threaten that they will quit their job one day. No one wants to answer emails…

But it’s probably a seasonal grumpiness caused by the upcoming season for conferences, specifically the annual Organization for Human Brain Mapping Conference in Hawaii. As only two weeks are left before the conference starts, the whole institute is in an atmosphere of concentration and outstanding diligence. Someone would think that we are so hardworking all year round.

A Trip To Córdoba.

But not about that today. I recently took another excursion to South America, and more specifically to Córdoba in Argentina, a city much less known than Córdoba in Spain despite it having a much larger population.

This time, I embarked on a trip to visit a friend under the pretext of giving a seminar at a local university. The seminar itself was successful. The audience did not sleep and even listened to me and my monologue about causality in neuroscience.

At the same time, I got to know the Argentine culture a bit more. For example, I visited bars where cougars hunt for young boys, bars for gays with beards only, bars with everyday drag queen shows… Literally all kinds of unusual nightclubs. However, despite the variety of places I had a chance to visit, this whole trip was a bit sad. Namely, daily life is really inconvenient here.

The Daily Life in Córdoba.

Firstly, this is a city of 1.3 million, which is maybe eight times the population of Nijmegen, and yet, it hosts much less art, events, and entertainment than my little village. The locals here are far from everything, and there aren’t many things you can do on a Saturday night.

Even the local architecture suggests what the local life is like: houses are mostly low and sprawling; typical Latin one-story bungalows make the city spread endlessly in every direction. Therefore, it takes ages to get literally anywhere, including a grocery store. If you want to eat lettuce and not, for example, have a low-key beer, you have to take the bus to a special supermarket where you can find lettuce and other “luxury” products.

I brought my friend a bottle of the famous Polish vodka, Żubrówka, also known as Bison Grass, and he opened it with a great deal of curiosity because he had never even seen anything like it. He claimed that it was the best vodka he had ever drunk. Unfortunately, I believe him because all the equipment in his room consisted of a desk with a computer, a pile of T-shirts, a mattress and a cat. Poor guy.

People of Córdoba — Their Self-Image and Time Perception.

Here I go back to the people of South America and their eternal complexes toward our Western culture. Again, I had the same feeling as I had before: they are warm, wise people who prefer family time and a good book over shopping and gadgets, and yet, they feel much worse about themselves than Europeans. Why? It’s just sad.

Yet another problem is the sense of time. Well, the “South American Time” is a tough business. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My friend happens to do research in the field of chronobiology. Namely, he models the neural networks that control the human biological clock.

Well, the shoemaker goes without shoes. He wasn’t able to make it on time anywhere, despite the fact that he constantly wore a huge electronic watch on his wrist. Buses ran away, shops and restaurants were closed in our faces, we were hungry in the big city because he didn’t care so much about the tie passing by, and he was irritated by every remark on this subject. On this occasion, I read a bit about the sense of time across different cultures in general.

At the moment, I live in a culture in which all events are scheduled “on time,” which is the Anglo-Saxon way. When organizing two meetings, at 19:00 and 20:00, the first should be ended in advance to be on time for the second. Likewise, if you invite someone to dinner the next day, you need to explain your rush. Latin American cultures live in Arabic time, or “in time.” In such cultures, if one meeting is prolonged, it does not hurt, and another person may join at any time. And there’s no point in planning too long ahead.

Time perception is so different in different cultures! When I wonder if some activity is worth considering or not, I usually pay attention to the time cost. However, my Argentinian friend doesn’t. Despite that, he is on time with his life responsibilities — he is 27 and is just slowly finishing his doctorate, which is quite early according to the European standards.

Conclusions: My Overall Impression of People in Cordoba.

Overall, Argentinians are different in many ways. Different, and yet, highly enjoyable. I enjoyed the locals so much that I even started learning Spanish, finally! But I was a bit angry with myself…

If only I started learning as soon as I came back from South America for the first time, that is, fifteen months ago, and I had been studying for a stupid few minutes a day, now I would have been talking on a communicative level. Spanish is a simple language after all. And since I did not do it, I still can’t say pretty much anything. But that’s the end of complaints, tengo suficiente.

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Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (May 28th, 2015) A Visit To Argentina. Retrieved from: https://nataliabielczyk.com/a-visit-to-argentina/

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