In Argentina a job is a job. It is a place you go for the sole purpose of providing for your family. That is not to say that people do not take pride in their work or that they are not passionate about their work, because, indeed, they are. But what is different about the people of Argentina is that their jobs do not consume their lives. Although they may consume a lot of their time, Argentines refuse to let their work incapacitate them.
Instead, they pour their passion into their relationships. Their families and friends are of utmost importance. They value long conversations over three course meals or witty banter over a cup of mate, the official drink of Argentina. A lot of time is spent (not wasted) communicating with friends and family.
For example, for lunch most people (both adults and school age children) leave their jobs or schools and go home to a house with a table large enough for the entire family. And they actually eat at it! Hard to believe, I know, but the entire family sits at the same table without iPods, cell phones, or television, and they consume a hearty meal accompanied by face to face conversation! And they do this todo los dias. Every day. A meal. At a table. Preposterous, I know.
Furthermore, many families even have a special room or house just for these family gatherings. It is called a “quincho” and contains a built in grill on which to cook “asado” or barbeque. The quincho is used for the bigger family gatherings that most families hold on Sundays where they barbeque and eat several courses of meat and some kind of dessert. These gatherings usually last all day with no one cutting out early to get tasks completed before the work week begins.
Mate, the herbal drink unique to Argentina, is another example of how the people here cherish their relationships. Mate is a social drink; it is meant to be shared. The mate mug is filled with several scoops of “yerba mate” and hot water, and then is passed around a circle of friends, each person sipping from the same metal straw. It is a tea-like beverage with a stronger, more herbal flavor. Argentines consume mate quite frequently, some every day or multiple times a day. It is an obsession similar to that of the Starbuck’s phenomenon. Except it is less fattening and much more fun since it is shared with friends!
These are just a few examples of how the value of relationships is carried out in their everyday lives; however, there are countless more. Immediately upon observation, it is clear that the Argentines believe that time spent with family and friends is most precious. In fact, I have heard more than one Argentine refute the statement “time is money” when it was suggested by an American. Unlike Americans who view socializing in the workplace or leaving work early to go home to their families as a waste of time or a missed opportunity to earn that cash, Argentines believe time is valuable, but not in a monetary sense. Time should be spent in the best and most enjoyable way possible, a philosophy we could all benefit from adopting.