1. To be more affectionate with loved ones.

It seems like too many kids in the US only give someone a hug if that person bought them something, or they give the obligatory hug to their aunt / uncle / grandma if their mom or dad push the issue.

Argentine kids know that it doesn’t hurt to give your loved ones lots of hugs. It’s not uncommon for Argentine kids to walk into school and hug the teacher. Even the most ‘too cool for school’ teenager can be heard telling his dad “Te quiero mucho, viejo!” before hanging up the phone.

2. That it’s okay to talk to strangers.

Gringo kids, news flash: Not everyone is out to get you! So take it down a few notches on the paranoid scale, por favor.

Argentines are world-class conversationalists. And they talk to EVERYONE. When kids grow up seeing their parents animatedly chat up every single person they pass, how would a kid not think that it’s okay to talk to strangers? In the end, for me, Argentina feels more like a community where people still help each other out — it’s not even uncommon here in Patagonia to pick up hitchhikers on the side of the road. You can invite the traveler at the bus stop home for dinner. You can offer yerba mate to strangers. Soon enough, they aren’t strangers. Your life is now full of new friends.

3. To allow yourself some free time during the day.

Meaning: You don’t need to wake up, go to school, go to club soccer practice, go to piano lessons, eat some fast food dinner while in the car, get home exhausted, do your homework, go to bed, then wake up and repeat. Para un poco, Yanqui…

If there is one thing that Argentines know how to do, it’s how to kick back and actually enjoy life. Kids here still PLAY. They sit down and eat dinner as a family. They take siestas. They definitely know the value of relaxing.

4. To not be such uptight freaks about germs.

I can’t even count the number of kids at school in the US who ran around with hand sanitizer in their backpacks. Their parents wipe down every possible surface with Clorox wipes. They bathe every single day. And somehow everyone ends up with the flu anyhow.

In Argentina, if you’re thirsty and you see a cup on the table, you take a drink out of it even if it’s not yours. It’s a cup, with liquid. You are thirsty. A huge sense of ownership does not need to complicate things. No one cares if you take a bite of your friend’s sandwich in Argentina. When drinking mate, you share it with every other person in the room, everyone drinking out of the same metal straw. Everyone’s more laid back, share-y…and just all around nice. And, go figure, it seems like people here get sick less.

5. That Christmas does not revolve around you and how many presents you get.

With too many of my friends in the US, if they ask for the latest iPhone or the newest Xbox for Christmas, they fully expect that they will get those things. If not, they feel entitled to throw a fit and get mad at their parents and / or Santa Claus.

In Argentina, especially outside of Buenos Aires, it’s not uncommon for a child to get one, ONE, present at midnight on Christmas Eve. They are usually more than happy, because, honestly, who doesn’t like getting a present? Often, instead of a big to-do with a bunch of stressed-out relatives trying to out-do each other, the family gets together for a day at a lake or river. It’s a relaxed, enjoyable day without all of the money and production involved.

6. That life goes on without fast food.

If you ask someone outside of the US to describe the first thing they think of about people from the US, many unfortunately say loud…and / or overweight. Well, what do you expect from a land of Cheez Whiz and triple hamburgers and mile-high greasy breakfasts from a drive-thru and venti lattes?

Argentine kids sit down at meals. They get together for Sunday asados with the family, where the meat might take 5 hours to slow-grill. School lunchrooms actually have ladies who cook whole food, to be served on real plates with real silverware, and kids are given more than 15 minutes to eat before the bell rings and they have to run back to class.

7. That fun can actually be had without fancy electronics.

In the US, kids often judge how cool you are by what kind of phone you have. They communicate by text, through Facetime, Facebook — anything but actually hanging out. And when they do get together to hang out, they play Xbox or call other friends on the phone. TVs and wifi in their bedroom is somehow considered a necessity.

In Argentina, many phones that kids have don’t even have internet capability. If you get the ancient Nokia with the good flashlight, and 30 pesos worth of credit, that’s still pretty awesome stuff. You can drop that tank from the tallest tree and it won’t break. Kids play board games still, they get the neighborhood kids together to play soccer, etc. I’m not saying that Argentine kids don’t like electronics. Ask any of them if they would like the new iPhone, and yeah, of course they would. But they also know how to live without it.

8. That you don’t need your mommy to go everywhere with you.

In the US, if you want to go with your friends to the bowling alley, you have to have your mom or dad drive you and then they pick you up again. If you want to go to the lake, guess who’s coming with you all day to chaperone? Mommy dearest! The student / parent ratio on field trips is often ridiculous. It’s like kids need to have 20 sets of eyes on them at all times.

But in many places in Argentina, you want to go to a friend’s house? Great. “Here’s some money for the bus or a remise, have fun, see you sometime later today, give hugs and kisses to so-and-so.” Kids can walk alone to the kiosko down the street to buy candy or a juice without their mom assuming a white van with a child molester will pick them up in the half block they have to walk. There’s even things called matinees — dance clubs that open early for kids as young as 10. And by early, I mean they go from 11pm til 2am. Try having that fly in the US.

9. That making plans does not have to be so complicated.

In the US, if you want to sleep over at a friend’s house, it almost definitely would not be on a school night and you would need to plan a week before. Play dates are carefully put on the calendar. Birthday parties are planned a month in advance, with invites and email reminders, and some toy stores even offer ‘registries’ to note down what presents you want.

In Argentina, if you want to go to a friend’s house, go. How do you know if you are going to feel like playing with that kid next Tuesday at 4pm? You’re bored and you feel like hanging out now! Done! And Argentine kids know that all a good birthday party needs is a few kids, a soccer ball, and a massive chocotorta.

Photo: Ostrosky Photos