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The View from Argentina – and How to Do Business in Buenos Aires

Posted on February 1, 2007
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By Shally Steckerl, Chief Cybersleuth, JobMachine
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After a short stint in Montevideo, Uruguay I am back in Buenos Aires to finish out the week. My general impressions as a traveler (this being my second time here but my longest stay so far):

  • Argentines are proud of their country and culture. From the taxi drivers to the street vendors and of course all the business people I’ve worked with are well-educated and sophisticated. They see the world in a very cosmopolitan and progressive manner.
  • People are very warm and welcoming. On Sundays every plaza and park has a feria (bazaar) and people gather in groups to drink mate from the same cup, listen to live music and shop at the kiosks. You get hugs and kisses when being introduced to friends and family. They also tend to talk very close and touch you while speaking. Oh by they way, don’t use the “OK” hand sign, or the thumbs up, both are considered vulgar.
  • Its very European here. About 85% of the locals hail from Italy, Spain, Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Poland and the Middle East. From the outside dining to the quality of food and abundance of sidewalk cafes, they take “eating with friends” as seriously as they do in France, Italy and Spain. I read somewhere that Argentines are “a nation of Italians who speak Spanish and think they are British living in Paris.”
  • Be ready for some small talk before talking shop. People will ask you all about your personal stuff before getting down to business. Once they start talking shop, they are tough negotiators. If its going well, your meeting may last longer than expected even causing the next engagement to be postponed.
  • Argentines love ice cream. Like donut shops in every corned back in the Stats, here there are gelato or ice cream shops in every corner.
  • They also love leather and beef. They have great quality leather goods, hand made, and its easy to get anything made to order. The beef is some of the best I’ve had. Corner restaurants are quaint and elegant, and most of them serve asado – grilled meats. I guess the gaucho culture extends into the city, at least in the love of leather and grilled meats, as well as the pervasive mate cups.
  • If you want large knockers, this is the place to go. Practically every door we have walked by in the city is decorated with large and frequently elaborate but always elegant door handles and door knockers.
  • You get lots of bread with your meals but you have to pay for the butter! A bottomless basket of bread in different varieties is always set with the table, but to get butter you have to pay extra. Most dining is a-la-carte so if you order a steak that’s all you will get, a nice big juicy steak right in the middle of your plate. If you want salads or veggies you must order those separately.
fiambres

But its not all about culture. I’m not just a tourist here. I’m also listening and learning while I work here so expect more insights once I get home and process all this. Oh – one last thing – if you come to work here, bring Skype or a Vonage V-Phone which makes it very easy to connect with people back home, and around the world.

Saludos desde Argentina!

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