A cultural observation: Brazil vs. Argentina

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A beautiful road near Bariloche, Argentina

In 2014 I spent quite some time in Latin America and I have fallen in love deeply with each and every country I traveled through. My love for these places grew especially due to all the great cultures I’ve learned about and the warm souls I’ve met, let alone the amazing scenery that passed my sight every single day.

While I was on the road I thought some things, some cultural differences, stood out quite a lot and I decided to write them down from my point of view so that I could share them with you. Today I am giving you my observations on the differences between Brazil and Argentina. It might look like a smack down and I know Brazilians are very touchy about Argentina and Argentina is very touchy about Brazil, but it’s really not. However, I would love to hear your opinions on this topic!

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Language

Let me start with Argentina. A country with more meat than I can handle, but especially their different pronunciation in Spanish stays with me. The beautiful sound of sha which is used by everyone in Argentina when they pronounce words spelled with a Y. Meaning playa doesn’t sound like plaia, but more like plasha. Also, they never refer to you as tu, but they’ll say vos. I find their choice of words more friendly and warm compared to the average Castellano.

Then there is Brazil. How I have fallen in love with their way, their lifestyle, and above all their words like vocรช instead of tu. In Portugal they use a different dictionary than in Brazil, but I have to say (and this goes for Argentine Spanish as well) that I find the Portuguese in Latin America more appealing. However, the pronunciation of the people inย Sรฃo Paulo is a whole different story. When I met Brazilians who are living in Sรฃo Paulo it was like listening to someone from the United States speaking Portuguese, since they don’t use the rolling R. It was a pretty unique discovery I have to say.

Reality of distance

The Brazilians don’t really refer to distance when they talk, they prefer to name an amount of time you will need to reach a place, which can be quite confusing for someone from Europe. You might walk to a certain place within 30 minutes according to a Brazilian, while after the walk you just made, you realize that it took you over at least 2 hours to get there… My recommendation: multiply the local time by three and you’ll get more or less a realistic idea of how long it will take you to get there. It’s not even that they walk really fast, this is just their way.

For the Argentine people distance is a whole different story. They actually tell you it will take you three times longer then it really is!

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Passport control

When I flew domestic in Brazil they didn’t check my passport, not even once. Not at the customs, not at the gate, nor at the plane itself. I was actually stunned.
Whenever your in a transfer van in Brazil and a police control is coming up, they’ll quickly tell you to write down your passport number on some kind of form, put on your seat belt and behave yourself. Just for a few minutes.

In Argentina I have the feeling that this is a bit more strict. It’s still quite relaxed compared to the States and Europe, but I have to say they do have a bit more of organization.

How locals treat tourists

In Argentina mate tea is THE way for meeting locals. Perhaps I can’t really name it tea, but it’s probably the best word for mate if you’ve never heard of this warm drink with herbs. The lovely Argentine people love to invite you over to have mate with them and share stories. From my experience they’ve always been interested in stories about Europe since possibly they have family member with European roots. Tip. Buy your own mate cup and herbs and invite locals to join you for some mate. Then there’s the Parrillada or Asado, which is like a giant carnivore barbecue. Locals always have an extra plate for you to join their home made Asado!

In Brazil, especially on the country and beach side, the people are very, very friendly. They love to invite you over to their house for diner, but even for you to stay there. They will tell you to forget about your hotel and enjoy their house as if it’s your own home. In my experience Brazilians like to pay for their guests and don’t want you to spend money at their home. It also happened to me that people who were sitting next to me on the plane or bus I had not even spoken with yet would offer me a gum or some nuts if they were having any. Sharing is caring!

Business

Business talks as a European with a Brazilian is not easy to arrange. You cannot just send a message, e-mail nor text, because Brazilians want to meet you and talk about things over lunch. Even if there is no business discussed yet, you will have to meet the manager or whoever is in charge by calling and arranging a lunch. It’s all about getting to know each other first!

The Argentine people are more European compared to the above mentioned. They like to organize things efficiently, but will still love to meet you for lunch! There is also pretty much every time a bottle of wine involved when meeting your Argentina business partner, so don’t look weird if you get a glass in the afternoon.

So, A or B?

Of course there were also plenty of things cultural wise that these countries have in common. The people enjoy life and their aim in life is to be happy instead of being rich (not talking about the people in the big cities), family and friends are their priority and a lot of people work outdoors through the entire day. I can’t really choose when you’d ask me pick a favorite country between Argentina or Brazil, since they both have their great charm. I do know that to me both countries are totally amazing and the cultural differences I noticed, being Dutch, were amazing to see and experience.

What do you think about the differences between Brazil and Argentina?

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.
8 Comments on “A cultural observation: Brazil vs. Argentina
  1. Hello!

    I’m brazilian, from Sรฃo Paulo and I just come to say that the competition of brazilians and argentines is not true at all. Specifically to me, exist a kind of ”love” among those countries… I really like Argentina! ๐Ÿ™‚

    About your report, from the beginning, it seemed to me that you tended over the Argentina. On business, Sรฃo Paulo is distinguished again. Here, people (involved in a corporate environment) often act as the United States.
    In the end, there is no such a ” Argentina or Brazil. ” There is no need to choose a ” side ” and you can enjoy both without any prejudice to the other. Brother countries, friends and close people who like another and who will welcome you. A good example to understand the relationship Argentina-Brazil today, is look to France and the UK.

    Courteously,
    C.A.

    • Hi C.A.,

      Thank you for your comment! I really think there is no competition, but there definitely is pride from both sides. Very nice to read about your point of view and I agree that in Europe we have this differences or relationships between countries as well ๐Ÿ™‚

      Take care and happy travels!
      Renate

    • I don’t want to be that guy that replies to old topics but i had to say it
      If you really do like argentina, then you probably don’t like futebol.
      it’s just impossible to do both.

  2. Hello,

    Good article!

    I’m Argentinean and I don’t think that there is something like choosing Brazil or my country. The competition between Argentina and Brazil is in the football aspect.The majority of Argentinean really like Brazilians and we have a deep respect and admiration of their culture and people! And I think is reciprocal. Don’t chose one of them, just chose both!

    Cheers!
    Noel

  3. Hi, I really liked your post, but I don t agree when you said you could fly domestic in Brazil without a passport control. Every time you flight in Brazil you have to show some document, which is the passport for foreign tourists. I ve never traveled here without showing my documents before boarding. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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