Argentines like to share. I would have thought this was blindingly obvious to locals and foreigners alike, but it would appear that this wonderful trait has escaped the attention of some. Maybe, being Irish, where 800 years of oppression by the English (it’s all good now though, love the Limeys) has engendered a possession obsession, and I’m more sensitive to it. Sharing is not something we do: we OWN. It’s not because we’re not generous, we are, it’s just important to us that what we have is ours and isn’t going to be taken from us.
Argentines, on the other hand, are different and the innate value placed in sharing here is pretty easy to see when comparing the way Argentines socialize to the way the rest of the world seems to operate.
Rest of the world
You show up with a personal stash of alcohol. You’ve fallen short of scratching your name on it, but make no bones about it, it is YOURS. You will stash it somewhere and be super pissed if you come back and someone has taken it. This is stealing, pure and simple.
You show up to a party with a bottle to contribute to the communal table of booze. Once the bottle hits the surface, it is to be consumed by the masses. You concoct a bevvie for yourself from the spread, and one for your friend, and another for the random guy standing beside you reaching for the Cynar. If it runs out, you order more and split the cost. Party continues, everyone’s happy. The UN should take note.
Rest of the world
You order a drink and guard it with your life. You scowl at anyone bashes into you and spills your precious courage cocktail, and anyone who asks for a sip is branded a cheap, stingy weirdo.
You’re getting down to some sweet cumbia beats (zero judgement – you do you) when the person next to you turns and asks you for a sip of your drink. They’re parched, they say, and, without hesitation, you proffer them the straw to have a glug of your grog. They thank you and make small talk for a few minutes before boogying off into the night. Later, they may come back and find you to reciprocate with a swig of their hooch. All is right with the world.
Rest of the world
You go to a bar and everyone orders their own individual bottle of beer. Maybe you do rounds, but each beer will still have its own landlord.
You go to a bar and order a litro which will be delivered with a few glasses. Stragglers can get in on the action, and as soon as one is done, another one is ordered. Sharing is caring, guys.
The godfather of sharing manifested in one humble gourd, a helping of yerba leaves and a metal bombilla. North Americans will shudder at the potential germ-fest lurking in the mouth of the straw, the Irish will raise an eyebrow at the absence of alcohol in this most social of lubricants and the Germans will nod in appreciation at the abundance of rules, but nothing says compartir like getting your charla on with some yerba.
One drink to rule them all, one drink to bind them. Show me the rule where it says that decapitating a Coke bottle and filling it with Argentina’s favorite elixir, Fernet, then collectively emborrachar-ing-se from the same cup is a big No-No??
Rest of world
Someone will have the barbecue, but often people will bring their own steaks or chicken breasts or whatever. The host will often provide the rudimentary BBQ necessities such as sausages and salads for the bottom feeders, but anyone with a more discerning palette will have to fend for themselves. Turns are taken cooking the meat and when it’s time to dine, people line up with their own plates to be doled out their individual portions.
The asado is a more inclusive barbecue – huge hunks of meat sizzling away on the parilla for hours amongst an array of chorizo, morcilla and halved peppers filled with eggs for the vegetarians. The asador sweats buckets and saves the most succulents morsels for himself as he carves the cow into bit-sized chunks, then lays it out on a board in the middle of the table for the feeding frenzy to begin. Everyone throws into the financial pot at the end of the meal and rubs their bellies in contentment and waits for the carne-coma to set it.
Rest of the world
You’ll “go for pizza” with your mates, but when those asses hit the seats, it’s every man for himself and personal pizzas are the order of the day. Occasionally you’ll go halvsies and get one pizza with different toppings bisecting the pie, but you’re probably gonna get balls deep in your own carb fest before getting down with someone else’s measly margarita.
Whether there are two of you or twelve, he who orders his own pizza should probably think about getting his own goddamn table too, because if you ain’t sharin’, you can’t sit with us. It’s social suicide, like wearing green on Wednesdays. You’ll have to make nice with the selection too, as the standard napo and jamon y morron will definitely be on the menu. Expect litro beers aplenty too.
Ever gotten pissed off by the fact you can’t just order a fistful of tiny little baked treats from the confiteria? That’s probably because you’re an individualistic imperialist, seeing as these succulent little morsels are almost exclusively sold by the ¼ kilo, because they’re for SHARING. Duh. Also, you better bring your own cake into work if it’s your birthday to be shared with your colleagues. Why? Because what better way to say “Hey, it’s awesome I was born!” than to provide that hysterico pack of co-workers with pastries. Do not drop the ball on this, no one will say anything, but you will be labeled a dick for the rest of your tenure there.
There’s a reason the bus is called the “colectivo”, because it unites people under one movable roof. There’s a camaraderie that goes with taking public transport in Argentina, no one will leave you hanging. Run out of money on your Sube card? Not to worry, other passengers are more than happy to front you a ride without expecting remuneration. This act of generosity sounds small but it saves the day and puts Argentines really high on the human decency index. Try to pull that stunt in London, it won’t be cute.
Just moved into a new place and forgot to bring a bottle opener to open that inaugural bottle of Malbec? Just knock on your friendly neighbor’s door and borrow theirs! Same goes for sugar, milk, power tools and probably even their WiFi if Fibertel suddenly goes AWOL and you are left intermittently internet-less. It’s also common practice to set up shared internet connections with your vecinos to cut down on bills. Netflix accounts? Best. Idea. Ever.
Books are expensive, and revisions and new editions are a total con designed to benefit publishers and keep students cash-strapped. But Argentina flips the proverbial bird to copyright law and re-purposes the photocopier for the grand old tradition of sharing resources. Same goes for handwritten notes, where the chick with the neatest writing will make her work available to all the lazy bastards skipping class. Job done.
Hacer cola, or waiting in line, is a national sport. Bureaucracy and the double-edged sword of free cultural events that everyone wants to go to means that you spend a shit ton of time queuing, so you better be prepared to settle in. Argentines seem to love waiting in line, as it gives them ample time to do what they do best – chat and drink mate. After three hours of queueing. you’ll have been asked to house-sit, organized an asado for the next weekend and heard all about someone’s marital affairs. That’s just how queues roll in Argentina.
This needs its own section, as one Argentine family can also become a foreigner’s surrogate family, the second family of their child’s boyfriend/girlfriend and the extended family of the friends of every family member. Mi casa really is su casa and teenagers grow up in the houses of their friends and girlfriends or boyfriends, parents dutifully feeding these stragglers day in, day out. Sundays are reserved for family, this time bound by an unbreakable chastity belt of familial bonding.
Sharing probably stretches beyond the social realms. A couple I know let a chef friend of theirs use their kitchen every day to make food for her catering business in return for free dinners… as in, they literally share their kitchen with this chick, every day, rent free. This could be saying more about the exchange economy (which I realize is a different article) than anything or maybe, just maybe, it serves as anecdotal evidence for a bigger social process occurring here, in Argentina. Regardless, now your spidey-senses have been awakened to the communal buzz, there are no more excuses for not asking the entire office if they want anything when you go to the kiosko, or for buying a porron instead of a litro. You’ve been told, so get sharing.