Buenos Aires Skyline

Vamos, Argentina!

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During World Cup matches, this tenth largest city in the world is silent and ghostlike. Want to know why they love it so much? We translate an ad about Argentinean futball and point out the cultural clues that help you understand why soccer is as great a passion as tango.

The game is on. During World Cup matches, when Argentina is playing, the streets of this massive city are empty and silent. Last Saturday, a friend and I were looking for a place for a coffee, but it seemed nothing (not even in swanky Palermo Soho) was open. The places that were open, were packed with people staring at the screen in silence. The only noise came during a good or bad play. “Ugh” or “Ah” or “Vamos! Vamos, Argentina!”

It’s nothing like watching sports in the States. And to explain why it’s so different, let’s take a look at some creative videos of Argentina’s major passions, tango and soccer.

Two Argentinean Passions in One Video

Fantastico! Seriously, aren’t they amazing? This was shot on Pasaje San Lorenzo right in front of the Casa Minima (which happens to be right up the street from our newest vacation rental which we’ll be announcing this week).

World Cup Horns

On Thursday morning, the sound of horns woke me up. Thankfully, it wasn’t those horrific vuvuzela horns (which I ranted about on my Facebook page), but I knew that it meant the same thing. Game time. I turned on the radio since I don’t have a TV. But the vuvuzela horns were so loud and annoying that I couldn’t really make out what the announcers were saying. If it hadn’t been a workday, I would have gone to Plaza San Martin to watch the match outdoors on the big screen with hordes of others.

Watch the World Cup in San Telmo

If you’re in San Telmo and you want to watch World Cup matches, try Breoghan Bar, also on Pasaje San Lorenzo. We got a table there just before the start of the US – England match last Saturday and a table of Brits came in. When England scored, everyone in the bar cheered, then they looked over at the two girls from the States a bit apologetically. We didn’t expect to win, so the goal didn’t affect us too much. In fact, when the US scored, we weren’t even watching (so unlike Argentinean fans). Replays showed that it wasn’t a great goal, but we’ll take the tie.

Our Favorite World Cup Ad

This ad is my favorite because it’s so Argentine. Self-deprecating and proud. The audio is in several languages and there are Spanish subtitles when it’s in another language. My translations with cultural references are below.  I love these ads (this one and last week’s) because they illustrate points about Argentinean culture that took me years of living here to figure out. To show what I mean, I’ve translated both linguistically and culturally the significance of the ad in the section below.

Ad from Torneos y Competencia – TyC Sport

It starts with Argentines complaining in a roundabout way about things Argentinean. Which brings us to the first cultural note: Argentines like to complain, but it’s more of a cultural art than a legitimate complaint. It doesn’t mean they don’t like their country, nor that they want to live somewhere else. It may not even mean that they want this thing they are complaining about to change. It’s simply that complaining, or being aware of their own national defects, is an understood, well-accepted part of being Argentine.

Spanish with English Translations

Tipo 1: Si me preguntas a mi esto no tiene arreglo. Escuchame, en Estados Unidos vos pones un pie en la calle y se paran todos. ¿Aca sabes que?

First Guy: If you ask me, this makes no sense. Listen, in the United States, you put one foot in the street and everyone stops. Imagine that here.

Culture: Pedestrians NEVER have the right of way in Argentina.

Taxista: Por ejemplo, en Suiza aunque sigas trabajando cobra la jubilacion igual, hermano.
Pasajero: Europa es Europa.
Taxista: Sí, Europa es Europa… pero aca no ligamos nunca ninguno.

Taxi Driver: For example in Switzerland, even if you keep working, they still give you your pension, brother.
Passenger: Europe is Europe.
Taxi Driver: Yes, Europe is Europe. But here we can’t get one break.

Culture Note 1: Taxi drivers are the best Spanish and culture teachers. They like to talk. They have strong opinions. They tend to talk about important subjects.
Culture Note 2: Everyone is everyone’s “brother” in Argentina. If you want a discount, call the vendor your hermano.

Potro: En España, agarrás una bicicleta, la usas, la dejas, y se la lleva otro.
Asador: Aca tambien se la lleva otro.

Cute Guy: In Spain, you grab a bike, you use it, leave it, and another person comes along to take it.
Grill Guy: The same thing happens here.

Culture Note 1: Don’t leave your bike (even locked up) when in Argentina. It will be stolen. Maybe in Spain bikes are part of the public transportation system. Here, they’d laugh in your face if you suggested that.
Note 2: Sarcasm is alive and well in Argentina.

Primer Tipo: En Alemania, tirás un papelito, y se te acercan y te dicen “Señor, se le cayo esto.
Segundo Tipo: Es cultural.

First Guy: In Gemany, if say you throw out a piece of paper, they’ll approach you and say, “Sir, you seem to have dropped this.”
Second Guy: It’s cultural.

Culture: Argentines don’t use trash cans. (Ok, that’s not 100% true, but there’s plenty of trash and dog poop dog on the sidewalks and even Argentines, who are used to it, complain about it.) In their defense, they do collect the trash every day except Saturday and there are lots of workers whose job it is to pick up the trash. But it would be nice if the trash wasn’t thrown on the street in the first place.

The next parts are in other languages. Basically, it’s Europeans talking about Argentina, or Argentinean soccer. Since the parts are already subtitled in Spanish, I’ll just write the English translations below.

First German Guy: It’s incredible. They throw millions and millions of papers every time the team comes out on the field.
Second German Guy: It’s cultural.

Culture: Argentinean fans are awesome (have a look at our video of the Boca Juniors match for an idea of just how awesome they are).

Guy (maybe Belgian, I’m not good enough in French to know): It’s just not important there. Whether they are wining or losing, these guys just keep on singing.

Culture: Argentinean fans are loyal to the bone. It’s not that they don’t care if the team is winning or losing; it’s more about loving the team no matter what.

Italian Guy: With a sock. I’ve seen them play with a sock. They grab it, they roll it into a ball, and they play in the street with this sock. It’s something I’ve never seen in my entire life.

Culture: Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to soccer, you play with what you’ve got because you love the game. It doesn’t even matter where you are, you can always find something to use as a soccer ball.

Guy (I have no idea what language he is speaking): His heel was the size of your neck and he played anyway.

Culture: Argentine players may throw themselves on the ground like weaklings after every other play (which I think they may have learned from the Italian immigrants that came here), but that’s just show. Even if they’re hurt, with an elephant-sized swollen heel, they play the game.

British Dude: If they lose, they don’t go to the cinema or to the theater. They do nothing.
Second British Dude: The fans?
British Dude: The fans and all the players.

Culture Note 1: Argentines feel a loss in their bones. They may be loyal fans who cheer whether their team is winning or losing, but if they lose, gloom and doom set in. After all, this is the home of tango, a pretty melancholic music, albeit a beautiful and passionate dance.
Culture Note 2: If you are here during important games, you had better hope that Argentina is winning, so you can go out and celebrate with them. Otherwise, you might want to go to the movies where you are assured you’ll get a great seat.

French Dude: These guys don’t play with their legs. They play with their hearts. With their hearts! I mean think about it, in every great team across the world, there is a great Argentinean player.

Culture Note 1: Ok, ok. Brazil has won five World Cups and Argentina has only won two. But…. but, if you look at the great teams, seriously great teams, around the world, there’s always an Argentine. And, the Argentine is always one of the best players. So, while Argentina may not be able to get it together as a team, they have the best players in the world.
Culture Note 2: We are the best!

There you go. That’s your cultural lesson for the week. Seriously, these ads are giving me such magnificent ways of showing parts of the culture here (even if we all know these are stereotypes and you can find tons of people who’ll dispute them).

What say you? If you have some experience with Argentina, do you think these cultural clues from the ad are accurate or not?

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San Telmo Loft is a boutique vacation rental service in Buenos Aires. We've hand picked each apartment in our small collection so that you don't have to spend hours weeding through the blah and mundane. Quirky and stylish, comfortable and quiet (a big plus in this noisy city), each listing is well-located and comes with our stamp of approval.

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