Chile vs Argentina

July 10th, 2008 Posted in culture, travel

Written by Shanie

I was recently traveling in Chile for a seminar. It is always a great experience visiting the other side of the border to see what the Chileans are up to. Even though the drive is quick to the other side of the Andes, we tend not to venture that way often. Our absence is mainly due to our infatuation with our backyard and having to rent a car because Argentina won’t allow temporary residents to drive across the country lines for fear that the gringo will attempt to sell the car (strange we know – there just has to be crazy laws out there, I guess).

In case you didn’t know…Argentina and Chile have a huge rivalry. Ask either and they will say the other is a waste of time. For Chileans everything is better in their country, for Argentines the opposite is true. I think it is pretty silly…it reminds me a lot of Canadians vs U.S. (I grew up in Bellingham, Washington, on the Canadian border).

Anyway, while vagabonding through the west side of the Andes, I noticed some differences in the cultures that I thought I would share. They go a little something like this…

  • Chileans don’t care about coin change. They don’t ask for change at the cash register. They don’t look up at you with puppy dog eyes if you can’t offer them some moneda (coins). If you don’t have the jingle it’s okay, they have enough made throughout the country that they don’t have change shortages.
  • The Chileans are a bit more serious. They aren’t as quick to smile or laugh. A good example of this was driving through the Argentine/Chilean border. The Chileans were very solemn as they processed our papers. Argentines, on the other hand, were watching a racy comedy show when we walked in. They were more interested in getting us through and out of there, so they could watch their show, then they were about our kidnapped fruits and vegetables.
  • There is no kiss on the cheek. Or very rarely. It took me a bit to get used to shaking hands again.
  • The roads are in great shape. At least their highways, anyway. The lack of potholes is very relaxing.
  • The Chileans are not infatuated with the Rolling Stones. I saw a cover band of the Rolling Stones, Hot Stones, and they would of been the hit of the party if they had been playing in Argentina. They weren’t accepted with open arms on the west side. In fact, most of the bar walked out before the session was over. I thought they were actually a pretty good cover band and was surprised to see people leaving.

A little Hot Stones

  • Chileans are not fanatics about Mate. A few people drink it, but it is not the social-butterfly inducing, job procrastinating, time-waster that it is here in Argentina. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff.
  • Chilean drivers are nice and stop for pedestrians. I received some strange looks by drivers in Santiago when I was so cautious to step in front of their car when crossing the street.
  • The food is spicy in Chile. Or maybe I should say spicier. It isn’t like Mexico in the hot category, but there are some sauces that give the flavor.
  • Chile seafood is off-the-hook. They definitely have Argentina hands down on that one. I’m not saying that the trout in Argentina isn’t good, it’s just that I enjoy some variety with my “swimming” food choices. The king crab in Chile is to-die-for.
  • In Argentina the word “listo” is used for everything…it has a hundred uses. In Chile exchange “Ja” (the same pronunciation as ja in Germany) for anything listo.
  • There is no Malbec in Chile. Not surprisingly, Chile has not adopted the Malbec taste of its easterly neighbor. Merlot is the red wine of choice for Chileans.
  • Restaurants start and close a lot earlier than in Argentina. It took me a bit to get used to making sure I was dining before midnight. I guess I am adopting the ways of Argentina.
  • The bathrooms in Chile are given more love and care then in Argentina. But then again, many of the public bathrooms in Chile are pay-to-pee.
  • Last but not least…Argentina’s queen Cristina wears A LOT more make-up then Chilean president, Michell Bachelet. I don’t think these two ladies exchange secrets on keeping the youthful appearance.

Argentina and Chile are both amazing countries. Each one has diamonds and coal. Each has friendly and not so friendly people.

Hopefully someday they will realize that they are the superpowers of South America and the sooner they work together despite their differences the sooner they will both be better for it.

  1. 11 Responses to “Chile vs Argentina”

  2. By Roy on Jul 10, 2008

    When I visited Chile recently I admired their efforts to turn themselves into the “Switzerland of South America”, but I thought the Chileans I met were extremely stressed and quite materialistic. Nice people, but I hope the rest of South America doesn’t end up that way.

    Love your blog by the way, I’m a daily reader and I’m insanely jealous reading from far far afar :)

  3. By Quickroute on Jul 12, 2008

    I noticed you get a receipt for everything you buy – even a can of coke. I think it’s required by law and designed to eradicate tax fiddling.

    I saw a lot of people eating this monstrous plate of papa fritas covered in fried onions covered in fried eggs topped with fried meat. Not the healthiest!

  4. By livinginpatagonia on Jul 12, 2008

    Thanks Roy for the cudos!

    I find it interesting the different things that catches the travelers eye.

    And very true Quickroute…Indeed, papas fritas with onion, fried egg and meat no es bueno.

  5. By steven hatcher on Jul 13, 2008

    If I may…

    First, let’s not confuse Germany with Switzerland. The Germans have been immigrating to Southern Chile since the end of the century. The 19th century!

    A nice post and fun to read. To clarify, the Chileans, in fact, do kiss on the cheek. Sometimes, though, if they think or know you’re an extranjero(a) they will go for the handshake instead.

    For wine, the Carménère is king. Carménère is to Chile what the Malbec is to Argentina. Though neither grapes are indigenous, both claim them respectively as their own idiosyncratic varietal.

    Oh, and a big plate of fried potatoes, onions, eggs, and beef is called “bistec (or bife) a lo pobre” and is most definitely la comida de los huasos.


  6. By Patagonia on Jul 13, 2008

    I would call that last plate “the artery hardening special”. How would you say that in Español?

    Suerte, Jamie

  7. By livinginpatagonia on Jul 13, 2008

    Gracias Steven for the clarifications.

    Glad you enjoyed the read. As I did with your post.(:

    The Carménère is on the list for our next trip.


  8. By changcho on Jul 15, 2008

    As an argentine married to a Chilean wife (and living in the US), yours are interesting observations. We visit both countries whenever we can. A couple of my observations:

    * In Chile everything’s/everyone’s referred to as a ‘huevada/huevon’ (I’m exaggerating of course, but only a little).

    * Argentines’ are way more obsessed with politics and futbol than Chileans.


  9. By changcho on Jul 15, 2008

    Ah, what you say about Chilean seafood is true…try some in Puerto Montt, which is not too far from Bariloche.

  10. By Patagonia on Jul 15, 2008

    Thanks for the input Changcho! I appreciate the new lingo,that is a new one for me – huevada/huevon. Gracias.

    That is something I didn’t mention: the difference in dialect and different words for different things. Crazy how many variations in common speech there are.

    And you are so right Changcho, Argentines are more obsessed with politics and futbol.


  11. By Big Daddy on Jul 16, 2008

    As an American married to a Chilean living in the US, I guess I am slightly biased.
    Chileans do kiss on the cheek, stay a litte back when meeting a total stranger.
    I agree with Shanie on the sea food from Chile but I have to say the beef from Argentina is probaly the best in the world and quite resonable in price considering the
    size of the portion you receive.

  12. By Trish on Mar 16, 2012

    Hi there,
    My12 yr old son is doing a project on Argentina. Some things we just can’t find are:
    1. Are houses mostly wood, brick, or mud (what are they made of)?
    2. Are the houses generally big or small?
    3. Do most people buy or rent?
    4. Are most people rich or poor? (we did find that 30% live below poverty line)
    If you can help, that would be fantastic!
    Thanks, Trish and Nathan

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