Respect and Honour

Argentinians want to be respectable, but breaking promises and being always very late is considered OK because it is “relaxed”.

We made a one day ferry trip to Colonia, Uruguay, to fix our expired visas. It was the cheapest and easiest way to do that. Colonia is a very small village that seems to exist only because of Argentinian tourism. It is not worth the pain of sitting six hours in an old, Soviet-style ferry. The Buquebus ferry was actually exactly like George Ots that used to cruise between Finland and Estonia. The physical resemblance was not the only similarity. Purchasing tickets required queuing in front of four different desks and the conditions of the ticket were inflexible. The company did not allow us to change our tickets to a faster ferry despite the fact that the actual conditions written on the ticket clearly allowed that. There was also a nice Brazilian-type of surprise when leaving Uruguay. We had to pay 10 pesos extra to Buquebus as “departure tax”, an additional surprise fee.

Last weekend we celebrated our 70th birthday (Päivi 18 + Santeri 35) by having a costume party and disco. We rented a smoke machine and disco lights for Santeri to play with. The hall was full of smoke almost all the time. Some neighbours thought that the house is on fire and asked the guard to check the situation. The guard laughed when he saw the cause of anxiousness. Bill and Betty got the first prize of the costume competition. They were dressed as Ceasar and Nun. Santeri was dressed as Päivi's slave which was a nice birthday present for Päivi.

In the past three weeks our relation to Argentina has turned into a love and hate relationship. We felt frustrated many times a day and started to evaluate seriously what was wrong. The reason we discovered was that companies and people broke constantly their promises and manifested that way their total disrespect to us. First, naturally, we blamed ourselves as being too punctual and serious ex-Finns. However, it did not seem to be the root of the problem. We found out that many Argentinians feel the same way about the culture of disrespect. Still nobody seems to do anything about that. They think that why should they keep their promises when nobody else does.

Keeping promises depends quite often on other people and this causes a chain reaction. It is simply impossible to keep your promise if it depends on other people´s promises. This seems to petrify the situation into an evil status quo.

One natural cause of disrespect is the lack of honour. Argentinians are not proud of themselves and their doings. Still, giving false promises or being always late of appointments is considered acceptable because it is more “relaxed”. When you first get to know people, they appear to be punctual and mostly keep their promises, but quite soon they show their true colours. There is actually a good saying of this in Castellano: "Escoba nueva, barre bien". Inside the family the respect seems to exist to certain extent as Argentinians are heavily dependent on their family relations.

Disrespect exists also in a wider context. There is no respect to laws and regulations (another good Argentinian saying: “Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa”). The government itself has made some secret laws that nobody knows about, and of course, only to raise their own salaries. In an environment of total disrespect to others it must be very hard to make business with companies and countries, who have a different kind of mentality. If one is not willing to respect commitments, agreements, and the other party, business with Europe, Asia, and the US is doomed to fail. Argentinians state that in business they are punctual and reliable, but we simply do not buy that. It is not possible to be sometimes respectful, and sometimes not. In the same way, one cannot decide that one keeps exactly every second promise one makes and breaks all others. Respect is a way of life. One either respects or not.

Argentina is advertising itself as being a country to be taken seriously, with slogan "Un pais en serio". According to us, this can never happen before people start to respect each other and discover the sense of honour. A better slogan would be "Respeto y honor" (respect and honour), but first someone should teach what those words mean and why they are so important. If some foreigner tries to do that, the common Argentinian reaction is that the person should go back to his home country if he is not happy with the way how things are here. Most people think that criticizing the country is an attack on personal level. If you say the country sucks, people feel that they suck. The same problem exists in Brazil.

Argentinians themselves are very cautious about what they speak in public and how they behave. Usually they recite normal and commonly accepted opinions because they are afraid of each other and want to look as "normal" as possible to be socially accepted. There is a lot of back stabbing, ill rumours and manipulation going on behind the scenes, which also originates from the same root than other problems: lack of respect to other people on personal level. Social pressure is enormous since Argentinians depend on other people´s opinions. They need to see the signs of acceptance constantly.

All kinds of social relations require following strictly unwritten rules, and playing games. And there is plenty of them. They are most clearly seen in dating culture. Women are supposed to play hard to get and men are making an enormous effort just to get a date with them. All the time both parties are wondering what kind of an impression they are giving to outsiders, what they should say, and what they should not. Dating from outsider perspective seems to be close to impossible. Santeri has been wondering why Argentinian women have not converted themselves to lesbians because of that. Men have solved this problem by living with their mothers, like the famous writer Jorge Louis Borges. He left his mother and moved away from home when he was over 60 years old.

All in all, we do feel ourselves quite disrespected and this makes us behave in the way we would not want to behave. If somebody does not respect us, we can not respect them either. To solve the problem we are considering to leave Argentina at least for a while. This would be taking a kind of holiday from disrespect and putting things back into perspective.

Santeri's quiz of the month: try to connect the pairs:

World domination Oil
Gold and treasures Global control
Antisemitism CIA
SS Terrorism
Jewish people Guantanamo bay
Concentration camp Muslim people
Superior race, arians American democracy
National socialism Weapons of mass destruction
Mein kampf Stars and stripes
Svastiga We Will Prevail
Ribbentrop George W. Bush
Adolf Hitler Tony Blair

Does history repeat itself? Hope not, but it certainly seems so.

The word for the day: bushshit.

Keywords: Respect, honour, Colonia, Uruguay, Buquebus, departure tax, Bill and Betty, ex-Finn, disrespect, family relations, Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa, secret law, un pais en serio, social pressure, acceptance, dating culture, Jorge Louis Borges, bushshit.


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