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About Argentina

by: Valeria Rodriguez Brondo, Associate Partner of Hofstede Insights

Currency: Pesos Argentinos (ARS)

Capital: Buenos Aires  

Time Zone: GMT – 3:00

Population: 45,808,747 [1]

Ethnicity: Melting pot: 67% of the population being of European or partial European descent and mestizo (mixed European and indigenous people). There are also Arabs, Jewish, indigenous people (Guaraní, Mocoví, Toba, Wichi, Mapuche, Tehuelche) and Asiatics. The Afro-descendant population is very small.

Religion: Catholicism

Border countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay

 

Overview

The massive immigration of European Caucasians, together with the great economic splendor of the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, marks the Argentinian identity. 

The ethnic composition was dominated at first by whites and indigenous people. Subsequently, during the “Conquest of the Desert” military campaign in the 1870s, it became practically white, especially in the Pampas region. 

Argentina then dedicated itself to agricultural expansion and cattle raising, which reached its economic peak. 

Millions of immigrants arrived during the 19th century, transforming the Argentinian ethnic makeup with two large segments - those from Italian and Spanish origin - as well as other nationalities such as English, French, Germans, Russians, Poles Argentina has the 5th largest Jewish population in the world. Thus, in the 20th century, in Greater Buenos Aires, the majority were foreigners. From then on, the “national identity” that Argentina projected was associated with Europe, a country of white immigrants, a “melting pot” made up of various segments of white Europeans. 

Another type of migrants from the north of the country, as well as Bolivia and Paraguay, have arrived later in Buenos Aires. Called “black heads” (cabecitas negras) in a derogatory way, the people have been and continue to be discriminated against.

While immigration has been significant, with Argentina being the second country in the world to receive the most number of immigrants during 1857-1950, we must not forget that Argentina is a very large country (4th largest in America, 2nd largest in Latin America). Argentina has a large native population and shares cultural traits with the Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela), especially in the north of the country. That is why there is a visible ethnic and cultural difference between the north and the south of Argentina.

According to anthropologist Gustavo Lins Ribeiro [2], Argentinians are “nostalgic and attached to the past”. Why? Argentina had its great capitalist expansion linked to the agricultural sector towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th when its fertile lands made it the “granary of the world”.

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is a port city - outward-oriented, cosmopolitan, dominating Argentina’s international relations. It was built by immigrants and the children of European immigrants. People who come to Buenos Aires will probably exclaim, “How it looks like a European city!” The Argentine is “someone who speaks Spanish, gestures like Italian and thinks he is English” [2]. 

Argentinians are a progressive society - despite being very Catholic, it was the first country in the region to allow same-sex marriage and has had a great social struggle to legalize abortion.

 

Some cornerstones of Argentinian culture

There is a strong orientation towards success, assertiveness, and self-centeredness. Something that may catch your attention is the emphasis on the significance and uniqueness of the individual, and egocentricity, especially of the porteño (someone who lives in the port city of Buenos Aires). It can also be seen clearly in political figures - there is no political party culture with a clear right or left, but there is a cult of personality. Perón, Maradona and Evita are clear examples of this. Argentinians also like to “show off”; success is a positive quality and must be exhibited.

Be aware of viveza criolla (the Creole way of life or “Creole cleverness”). This expression describes a unique philosophy in life of always wanting to obtain some advantage, always wanting to walk the line of minimum resistance and greater comfort. An example known worldwide is “the hand of God” by Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona, who punched the ball into the net with his hand while referees did not have a clear view.

 

When in Argentina

  • In general, vendors do not like to give change, so try to have 20 or 50-pesos bills, so you do not have a difficult time.

  • It can be challenging to go to Argentina if you are a vegetarian because they eat a lot of meat. But if you like meat, without a doubt, you must visit a parrilla (grill/barbeque) restaurant and eat different types of meat; it is good everywhere. 

  • Do not forget to try mate (pronounced mah-tay), a traditional beverage made by infusing the leaves of a type of plant and served in a porongo (a gourd shaped like a light bulb). 

  • Argentinians eat late; they can have lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 10 pm. The good thing is that in the middle they enjoy drinking mate and eating pastries.

  • If you are invited to go out clubbing, there is usually la previa before, where you drink until 2 or 3 am, and then you go out to dance.

  • In Argentina, there is the official exchange rate and a parallel one, with a large price difference. Thus, it is more beneficial to change currency in the informal market. However, you must be careful not to receive false bills or to go to dubious places. 

  • If you take a taxi, pay special attention that they do not give you an “extra ride.” Taxi drivers often ask, “Which way do you prefer to go?” to test your knowledge about the city and see if they can give you a longer ride to charge more. It is best to check the shortest way to your destination beforehand and specify that you want to take that route or pre-book transportation.

  • Small talk to start the conversation is highly recommended. Some topics can be food, football, how beautiful Argentina is, etc. 

  • Avoid controversial topics such as politics. Politics is a very delicate issue; in Argentina, there is a great social fracture. Therefore, it is preferable to stay on the sidelines since any opinion can turn into a strong argument that ends up breaking a relationship. Taxi drivers usually talk a lot about politics; try to listen without making comments that go against what they are saying.

 

Communication and body language

Spanish is the official language of Argentina, and native languages are spoken in some regions of the country. The Spanish spoken in northern Argentina, part of the Río de la Plata region, has the particularity of yeismo where “ll” is pronounced as “y” (“sh”); this supposedly has its roots in the Neapolitan language of Southern Italy. English is studied at high school, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, you will probably get a reply.

As people are normally treated in a relaxed and informal manner, you will be referred to as vos, which is a version of tu (informal) in other Spanish speaking countries. Usted (formal) will rarely be used as that is generally reserved for older people. Titles are not very important; people will normally call you with the short form or diminutive of your name, even without knowing you well.

Argentinians are very spontaneous, and they say what they think. The communication style is very direct, relative to other countries in the region, and they like to show what they feel in public.

Gestural language is very important and has a lot of similarities with Italian culture.

It is common to be greeted by a kiss on the cheek, whether you are a man or a woman, even with strangers, and even in the workplace. Remember that this is widespread, and most people will do this, so do not feel uncomfortable. This is sometimes accompanied by a touch on the arm or a quick hug. When you are having a conversation, it is normal for them to touch your back or shoulder as if to get your attention.

 

Good to know

Argentinians are direct; they tend to say what they think and feel. The tone of voice can seem authoritative, and it is common to be interrupted before you can complete your sentence. Meetings are usually long, with a lot of arguing. It is acceptable to show emotions, yelling when angry and even hitting things. Swear words and off-color jokes can occur even in the workplace.

To other cultures, it may seem like there is a lot of complaining and aggressiveness. However, this should not be taken personally; it is simply a way of externalizing and expressing emotions. Argentinians also express love openly, telling friends, “I love you”. Public displays of affection are acceptable.

You will probably be invited to after-office drinks, but this does not necessarily mean being friends. Working life and private life usually follow different paths. The after-work is very important since it is the place where decisions are “cooked”. Everyone participates, from the secretary to the general manager. Being socially connected is desirable, although not essential, to be successful in business and in the job market.

 

Dress code

Argentinians have a more informal style than other Latin American countries. Although clothing can be relaxed (for example, a shirt without a tie), they dress very well and accessorize with watches, jewellery, and good shoes. Argentinians tend to look at and criticize how others are dressed; that is why they worry about looking good themselves.

For a business meeting, it is desirable to use sober colors, formal dress pants (not jeans) and a shirt, without the need for a tie. 

 

Keywords to describe Argentinian culture

Creole liveliness / European immigration / Catholic / progressive/ Culture pride/ Informality in workplace

 

The expert recommends

Doing business in Argentina can be challenging because: 

  • It can be difficult to understand the culture at first. Although Argentinians tend to be direct, they also have a certain collectivism. There is a “parallel kitchen” in which things are defined.

  • As much as you feel that you have a trusting relationship because people are nice to you, this may not be the case. Argentinians keep private life from work on the sidelines.

  • Bureaucracy and corruption are two common things that go hand in hand in the country. There is considerable corruption throughout the system, which is why having a local partner is very important.

  • Be willing and open to negotiate with all entities, offices, and especially with the unions as they have great power in the country.

  • Financial and monetary stability, as well as legal security, are highly debatable, volatile and dependent on the government of the day, which makes it very difficult to settle.

  • Legal advisory is recommended due to the complex legislation and bureaucracy.

  • Explore various ways to secure your capital in foreign currency, for example, by having a bank account in a neighboring country.

  • The country has gone through numerous financial and social crises, which is why it has a lot of poverty and violence. 

  • There is a strong need for rules and legal systems designed to structure life, even if these are broken later.

 

El cuento del tío (the story of the uncle) is a classic story that parallels a scenario that occurs in real life in Argentina. It has many variants, however the essence is the same - a hoax or scam based on the innocence of a person. I strongly recommend watching Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens) with actor Ricardo Darín [3] before going to Argentina.

After taking all these things into account, enjoy, eat a good parilla (grill/barbeque), have some alfajores (traditional sandwich cookies made with cornstarch), read Martin Fierro (an epic poem about the life of a gaucho in rural Argentina) [4], drink a good wine, and finish with a fernet con coca (Italian amaro liqueur and cola over ice). Argentina is an addictive country; you are going to love it!

 

 

In Latin America, we find a trend - countries generally accept hierarchy, tend to be collectivist and in need of controlling uncertainties. However, Argentina is less hierarchical and more individualistic compared to other countries in Latin America, probably due to the heavy influence of European immigration.

Power distance

Argentina has a score of 49, on the lower end for Latin America (aside from Costa Rica). This implies a more egalitarian type of relationship with superiors. People tend to be more independent to carry out their work than in other Latin American countries. They have initiative and are not waiting for the authorization of their boss to do everything. They are decisive and make decisions. A saying often used is “better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

 

Individualism

With a score of 46, Argentina sits in the middle rankings globally but is by far the most individualistic country in the region. People are not afraid to speak out in public, or stand up for their ideas vigorously, regardless of what others think. 

Individualism can be seen especially in Buenos Aires, where there is a clear division between private and work life. 

However, although this difference is felt a lot at the Latin American level, at the global level, Argentina is in the middle. Therefore, there are collectivist traits in this society, such as the obligations and opinions of the extended family, friends, and groups. In addition, having well-known people in various fields makes it easier to achieve the objectives.

 

Masculinity

Argentina’s score of 56 reflects slightly masculine characteristics such as competitiveness, strong achievement-orientation and assertiveness. They are known regionally for having a great “ego” and the need to excel and stand out.

They think and say they are the best in everything. A classic joke among Latin Americans is: “What is the best deal? Buy an Argentinian for what he is worth and sell him for what he thinks and says he is worth.”

 

Uncertainty Avoidance

The score of 86 points to Argentine’s general desire for a structured life with clear rules, like most Latin American countries that were colonized by the Spanish Kingdom.  However, despite the number of laws and regulations, there is considerable corruption. There is a very widespread saying in Latin America, “hecha la ley hecha la trampa” (made the law, made the trap), and in Argentina it also applies. This implies that there is a legal country and a real country, where things that are outside the regulations occur.

 

Long-term Orientation

With a score of 20, Argentinian society tends to be fairly short-term oriented, for which reason the focus is more on the past and present. They are respectful of tradition and history, but their vision for the future is almost nil. Results are expected quickly. In this type of society, there is also great concern to establish the absolute truth.

 

Indulgence

Argentina’s score of 62 for indulgence indicates that Argentinians are optimists and enjoy life. The mentality is positive; they enjoy life. It is not known if tomorrow they will have an economic crisis, or if they are going to die, so money must be enjoyed in life. Consumption is high, and therefore, there is an ample supply of credit and people tend to get into debt. Cafes and restaurants are always full.

 

References and Interesting Links

[1] INDEC, Argentina https://www.indec.gob.ar/

[2] Ribeiro Lins, Gustavo, “Tropicalismo e europeísmo: modos de representar a Brasil y Argentina”, em Frigerio Alejandro y Ribeiro Gustavo Lins: “Argentinos e brasilenhos. Encontros, imagens e estereotipos”, Petropolis, Vozes, 2002.

[3] Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens) movie (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0247586/)

[4] Martin Fierro: The Gaucho by José Hernández (1872)

Edward T. Hall “Beyond culture”, Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1976.

Travel in Argentina (https://www.argentina.travel/#!/global/home?lang=en)

Hofstede Insights “Compare countries” Argentina (https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country/argentina/)

Esperando la carroza (Waiting for the Hearse) movie (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089108/)


 

Edited by Marlond Antunez, Associate Partner of Hofstede Inisghts

 

Last updated: 01.10.2021 - 13:45
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