Photo: Angela Meier/Shutterstock

16 Details I Wish My Mom Had Told Me Before We Moved to Patagonia

by Ava Brown Oct 16, 2014
Editor’s Note: Ava Brown is the daughter of Matador Contributing Editor Cathy Brown. They recently relocated from Michigan to El Bolsón in Argentine Patagonia.
1. Toilet paper can’t be flushed down the toilet.

Let’s just say that the plumbing in many places is ‘Argentine-style craftsmanship.’ Translation: sketchy and not very functional. So you are expected to wipe your butt and throw the toilet paper in an overflowing bucket with everyone else’s dirty toilet paper. Something about this just does not strike me as sanitary.

2. Peanut butter does not exist here.

And, no, dulce de leche is NOT a suitable alternative. Not even close.

3. This place is Hell on Earth for a germaphobe.

You are expected to kiss strangers on the cheek when saying hello or goodbye, and if you don’t do this you are considered to be a cold, rude brat. In a group situation there is sometimes a lineup of 20 people waiting to enthusiastically greet you with a big kiss and a hug. On top of that, everyone shares glasses, straws, even forks without thinking twice.

4. In school they teach how to inseminate sheep.

I know it’s Patagonia. I know this skill might come in handy if I were to plan on raising sheep someday. But I’m not. And I’m still a little traumatized.

5. As a girl in Argentine culture, you are not supposed to be good at soccer.

MACHISTA. Sorry, boys, but when I kick your butt on the fútbol field, shut your mouths and step up your game instead of not letting me play next time.

6. If you are vegetarian, something must be wrong with you.

Yes, I manage to still go on living without consuming an entire cow per week. Weird.

7. Dinner can start anywhere from 10pm to midnight.

If you are not a night owl, you will be starving come nighttime. If you eat dinner at 5 or 6pm, just call it a late lunch so you don’t confuse everyone.

8. Hitchhiking is a common form of transportation here.

Meaning you never know when you will arrive anywhere. Or if you will arrive. And, joy, sometimes you get to ride in the back of pickups alongside muddy farm animals and other random strangers, who, let’s remember, expect you to hug and kiss them.

9. Christmas is in summertime.

Coming from white winters in Michigan, everything about a summertime Christmas is wrong to me. And one Christmas we lived in a small community where all the kids got one present each. ONE. Not a tradition that this kid is super psyched to embrace.

10. Speaking of difficult-to-accept traditions — Argentine kids don’t get a tooth fairy.

They have “Raton Perez,” a mouse. Coming from the land of cute little fairies, there is something really unsettling about a mouse sneaking around your pillow at night.

11. The horror of having to wear the guardapolvo.

This is a fashionista’s nightmare. It’s basically a shapeless white science lab coat that kids are expected to wear to school. It’s bright white. It’s rural life in Patagonia (think: mud). It’s not rocket science to know that the two don’t mix very well.

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On a more positive note, Patagonia’s not all bad:
12. Some bars and clubs here are open to ages 13 and up, and kids get home at dawn.

My friends get together and go out at 2 or 3am. This makes it a little tricky when my ‘conservative’ mom wants her 14-year-old daughter home by midnight, but we are trying to figure out how to compromise. And for those who want to get a head start on the nightlife, there are ‘matinees’ — tween clubs for ages 10-13 that usually go from 11pm to 2am. Can you imagine a 10-year-old kid from the US getting picked up at the club at 2am?

13. Amazing skiing awaits at Bariloche.

Any ski lover would have to appreciate the gorgeous views or Lago Nahuel Huapi and the near-perfect snow conditions.

14. It’s almost impossible to not stay in good shape in Patagonia.

Between organic food fresh from the garden, the complete lack of access to fast food, having to literally walk 3 km over the river and through the snow to get to anything, it’s pretty much effortless to be in great shape here.

15. There is a never-ending list of feriados.

The Argentines certainly like their holidays — any excuse to not work and to go have an asado with the neighbors! It seems like a few times a month at least there is no school for something. Some general’s birthday? No school. The anniversary of some general’s death? No school. Day honoring the people who clean the school? No school. Day honoring the people who cook at the school? Other separate day of no school.

16. I’ve learned to love the dolar blue.

Dolar blue. Oh, how I love those two words. I don’t understand the specific economic details of how it works or why. Honestly, I don’t really care. All I need to know is that when I come back from visiting the US with dollars, there is the official exchange rate (currently around 1 to 8). Then there is the dolar blue exchange rate where I can go to certain storefronts and currently get 1 to 15. There are definitely benefits of being bicultural and having access to US dollars…

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