1. The distances are huge
Coming from a very small country as Belgium we are always surprised by how big Argentina and Chile are. It’s not an exception that you have to drive 100km to reach the entrance of a national park from the nearest hostel or 300km to reach the next “town”.
Belgium does actually fit 100 times in Argentina and is only 6% of the size of Chile. Thanks to thetruesize.com we were able to map Belgium (in blue) on the south of Chile, just to give you a perspective of the distances we are dealing with.
2. Mate is an Argentinean thing
It’s easy to recognize argentinean travelers: they always carry a thermos so they can have their mate, anytime anywhere. Mate is a kind of tea, but stronger and contains cafeine and if you drink it in group there are specific rules of how to behave:
- one person poors the hot water over the herbs and hands the mate cup to the next ‘drinker’ in the circle
- don’t talk too much when it’s your time to empty the cup, just drink and pass it back to the cebador (‘dealer’)
- don’t play with the bombilla (straw)
- if you say “gracias” at the end of your turn, you indicate that you don’t want another round. So don’t say thanks if you still want to drink
They also like it in Chile but it is more characteristic for Argentina. And we heard that it’s even more in Uruguay.
3. Chileans are more than helpful
So helpful that conversations like these are perfectly normal in a store or supermarket:
- We: Do you have tents?
- They: Our tents are not so good and not so much choice. You better go to Store X.
- We: Do you have bread?
- They: Yes, but in the shop next door they have homemade bread.
You got to love this vibe!
4. Siesta is not only for warm countries
Even in the south of Patagonia, were the temperatures do not reach a level that can lower your productivity, shops close between 1 and 3(if you’re lucky), or 1 and 5 (if you’re less lucky).
5. Chile and Argentina are like fire and ice
They are not only physically seperated by a long stretch of fire and ice (mountains, volcanoes and glaciers), they also behave a bit like fire and ice. Chileans warn you for Argentineans trying to charge you more than the correct price, while Argentineans say exactly the same about Chileans.
Conversation we had in Chile at the border office when we were exiting Chile and entering Argentina:
- The officer: Why are you going to Argentina?
- We: To travel
- The officer: Why don’t stay in Chile? It’s nicer here.
Conversation Benjamin had at a gas station in Argentina while I was cleaning the car windows and a guy saw our Chilean license plate:
- The guy: You are not from Chile, no?
- Ben: No
- The guy: I thought so. In Chile they don’t have that beautiful women.
Thus a bit like Belgians & Dutch people, it stays on a playful level.