Fall in Mendoza

Fall in Mendoza
View outside our house

Monday, August 30, 2010

Answers to your questions

My good friend Patty sent me these questions from my last post, so I thought I would answer them in this blog.  Here goes:

When the cashier offers you veggies or candy instead of change which one do you choose?
Hmmmmm.  Actually, I don't have a choice.  The candy vs. veggie dilemma was not at the same store.  At the veggie stand, they just give you an extra item of what you were buying.  So if I was buying some tomatoes, they may throw in a few extra tomatoes.  The candy that was offered was at a neighborhood grocery store.  Again, you don't get to choose your candy.  They have a jar of candy and the cashier just digs in and gives you a handful.  Think of it as the Give a Penny, Take a Penny tray convenience stores have at the states.

Do you have fast food places like Wendy's? Arby's or McDonalds?

Here in Mendoza, we have Subways and McDonalds as far as fast food places that can be found in the states.  The city is full of hot dog joints.  Hot dogs (called Panchos) are the fast food favorite of the locals.  Unfortunately, these hot dogs are not very good.  The one item they put on hot dogs that is strange to us is Potato Sticks.  They put a handful of these on your hot dog.  Makes the hot dog a bit better...just a bit.

Hot Dog with Potato Sticks!

The malls do have other "Fast Food" places that are franchise type of places that can be found throughout the country.  These place serve the local fare, like Lomitos = steak sandwhiches, burgers, pizza, etc.

I am sure that in the capital, Buenos Aires, there are a lot more American fast food places.  We are planning a trip there, and will report back.

Do you have a mall? 
Yes, there are two major malls in Mendoza.  They look just like any mall in America.  They have food courts, movie theaters with stadium seating and some department stores.  Of course the stores are all South American branded stores.

Do you have cable?
We have Direct TV in our house.  It is just like Direct TV in the states, only difference is that the channels are not the same.  For instance, there is no ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC affiliate.  We do get most of the shows that these channels offer in the states, the difference is that there are on different channels.  

With that said, most of the shows are at least one season behind the states.  We are now seeing shows that were shown during the spring in the U.S.  HBO shows are only a week behind.  So this past Sunday, they showed last weeks True Blood episode.

Direct TV allows you to choose your language for most channels.  Some channels are in English only with Spanish subtitles.  There are a few channels in Spanish only.  Direct TV has the NFL package so I won't miss a game!!

Do you have english speaking channels?

See above.

What kind of health care do you have?
None right now.  I am not a resident of the country yet, so I cannot get health coverage.  For residents and citizens, there is free health care.  Unfortunately, the free health care is not always the quickest way to get treated.  There are health plans that can be purchased from different hospitals or associations.  The good thing is that if your employer does not offer the health care plan you want, you can choose from any plan you want.

When will it be summer?

It is getting ready to be spring here.  Basically, when it is winter in North America, it will be summer here.

What or where do you go for entertainment?

We play with sticks and rocks for entertainment!  

NAH!  We watch TV, go to the movies or watch current U.S. shows on the internet.  We also go out with friends for drinks, etc.  Major difference is that we don't have too many friends yet, so we tend to entertain ourselves.  Our Argentinean friends, have families and don't have tons of disposable income, so they don't go out much.  

We have friends from an Expat group that we are members of that, we go to happy hour with, etc.  There is always stuff to do around the house.  Plus, we will be busy trying to start our catering company and looking for different ways to make money.  

What do you do when you can't find sugar or other staples?

Nothing.  If one place is out of something, you just keep looking around.  Most of the times, we buy extra sugar and other staples in case there is a shortage.  Usually, if there is a shortage, it only lasts a few days at the most.

Are people in Mendoza interested in America

They are fascinated by America.  They always ask a ton of questions.  They are incredibly friendly people.  Most question asked is, what are you doing here?  I will blog about their fascination with America on a later blog.

I know Patty has a lot more questions to come, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Don't throw your change in a Piggy Bank!

So shopping in Argentina is always an adventure.  I won't even get into the decision-making process of figuring out if something is expensive or not relative to U.S. currency...that is another post.

No, the adventure really starts and ends at the cashier.  Here is an example of a typical exchange with a cashier in Argentina while buying veggies:

Cashier:  That will be $16.37
Me:        OK.  Here is a $20.
Cashier:  Um...do you have $.40?
Me:        No, sorry.
Cashier:  How about $2?
Me:         Let me check...nope.
Cashier:  Well I don't have any change.  Can I give you an extra tomato for the difference in change?
Me:         Um...sure

You read correct.  Sometimes instead of change...as in coins, you will get a variety of things.  Here are all of the things that I have been given instead of change:

  • Tomato
  • Candy
  • Carrots
  • Red Pepper
  • Cones for ice cream
  • No change at all
Can you imagine going to your local big box grocery chain and getting an apple as change?  This blew me away the first time I encountered this.  It seems that there is a shortage of coins in the country.  Now this is not an official decree, just my observation.

In fact, there seems to be a shortage of all types of currency in Argentina.  Be it coins or paper bills.  We were at a big box retailer buying some groceries and the cashier asked the guy behind me if he had a two peso bill to lend her, so she could give it to me.  He said sure and off we went with our change and groceries.  What happened next was wild...she rang him up and give him a two peso discount for the money he had lent her!!!

So here are the coins that Argentina has in circulation.  Now I have yet to see a 1 centavo coin.  As a matter of fact, I was here two months before I saw a 5 centavo coin.  When you give cashiers correct change, they almost sing your praises.  They thank you with the biggest smile you have ever seen.

Circulating coins

DenominationObverse      Reverse1 centavoMoneda Argentina 1 centavo ARS.jpg5 centavosMoneda Argentina 5 centavos ARS.jpg10 centavosMoneda Argentina 10 centavos ARS.jpg25 centavosMoneda Argentina 25 centavos ARS.jpg50 centavosMoneda Argentina 50 centavos ARS.jpg1 pesoMoneda Argentina 1 peso ARS.jpg

I am waiting for the day that I go to pay for something with a $100 and they have no change and I will not be able to make my purchase.  I know it will happen.

Below are the paper currency in Argentina.  To me, the $100 is like the twenty dollar bill in the U.S.  It is what you whip out the most.

Remember kids, the exchange rate for one U.S. dollar is almost four Argentine pesos, so whipping out a $100 bill is not a big deal.  Now later I will post a Blog on what you can buy for the equivalent of $1 U.S.

For now I keep savings my coins, for tomorrow I will bring a smile and joy to an unsuspecting cashier!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grocery Shopping in Mendoza Part Two

My apologies for not posting part two earlier.  We have been busy with some renovations in the house and what not.  With no further delay, here goes:

I left off on talking about how choices seem to be scarce here.  Since the last post, that is still true.  But let me take you on a different ride.

There are times when you go to the grocery store to get some of the staples of life;  sugar, butter, milk, etc.  Yet when you get there, the shelves are bare.  Sugar seems to be an issue here.  At least twice we have gone to the store in the last two months and there has been no sugar.  SUGAR!  That is the stuff that we get too many packages of at Starbucks and toss out the unused in the States.

Now why do you ask is sugar such a scavenger-hunt type of item.  I don't know.  Locals say it is because the government is exporting the sugar at a higher price, therefore there is a shortage.  I have also heard that when the sugar does appear back on the shelf, it is not pure sugar.  They say it has been cut with flour.  I don't know about you, but this sounds like drug lords cutting their cocaine with baby powder to make a bigger profit.  I never thought that I would yearn for the days of pure....sugar.

Same story sometimes goes for beef.  BEEF!!  In case you did not know, but Argentina is known for its beef.  Again, locals say the beef is being exported out at a greater profit.  I'm all for capitalism, but when your citizens cannot get a good hunk of beef, maybe we have a problem?

Now one thing I am amazed at, is the bread.  Not only is it great, but freaking cheap.  Let's give an example.  A baguette of bread is the equivalent of $.60 in the states.  Last time I purchased such bread at my local Publix in Florida it was at the cheapest, $2.  Even cheaper are the small rolls that we typically pay between $.30 and $.50 apiece in the states is about $.10 in Argentina.  Why the difference in price...well without getting into a Keynesian economics debate, I believe it is because bread is such a staple of life.  The old saying about having food on the table is a sign of abundance; of wealth.

It does not matter where you go in the world, bread or wheat products are a staple of any civilization.  Yet in the states, if a loaf of bread is rustic - you pay more for it.  Must be a marketing thing:)

Changing the subject back a bit.  I was told by some expats, that when you find a food or food product from back home, to buy it up because you never know when that product may be back on the shelves.  I did not pay much attention to chat warning.  Boy was I wrong.  We had found some Guava paste in one of the major grocery stores a while back and only purchased one container.  Fast forward to the present and not one can of Guava paste to be found in all of Mendoza.  They were right.

Now, I cannot speak for Buenos Aires, the capital of the country.  For what I am told, imported items are much more readily available and at a more reasonable price.  I have not visited the capital, but with an estimated population of 13 million in the province, I am sure this is correct.  As for the prices of U.S branded foods like a can of Campbell's Condensed Soup in Mendoza, it will set you back more than $3 U.S. dollars!  Campbell's!  You know the cream of mushroom concoction that is the staple of all Thanksgiving meals!

Well my friends.  I am freezing my butt off making an Asado - grilling meat outside in freezing weather. Why do you ask?  Because that is what you do on Sunday's in Argentina.  You make an Asado.

Asado...yet another topic for my blog.

Promise to post something else real soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Grocery Shopping in Mendoza Part One

Got lot's to say about grocery shopping in Mendoza, Argentina...therefore this will be a multi-part blog.

Let's get this out of the way real quick.  The meat here is awesome!  Argentina is known for their meats and I can confirm that it is a well placed honor.  Most people get their meat from a "carnicero,"  neighborhood butcher.  We get ours from such a butcher.  The meat is extremely fresh.  I spent some time with Luis, our butcher, and I can testify that these guys are artisan butchers.

Luis gets his beef in half cow carcasses!  From there he cuts it down himself to the specifics of his customers.  Can't say enough about the quality and the tastes of the meat.  When we grill the meats, all you need is salt...yum!  There will be a Blog about Asado's,

Enough of that...

First impression of going to the major grocery chains is that there is not much different from U.S. stores;  the same layout and the same concepts.  Most major chains have two types of stores.  Large, all inclusive stores and small "express" type stores.

The large stores are just that...huge.  They are like Walmart Superstores in the U.S.  They sell TV's, clothes and of course food.  The selection of food is decent.  As someone who enjoys cooking, there are little options.  It doesn't matter where you shop, you well get the same brands and the same food.

As for said-called brands, 99% are Argentine brands.  When I first went grocery shopping I noticed that almost everything that was bottled or canned said, "Industria Argentina" on the back of the product.  This means made in Argentina.  What a concept, made in your own country?

Not being an economist, I figure this is good for the country, but being an outsider looking in, not good for the consumer who wants to have a large variety of foods and options.

Let me explain.  In the U.S., I was used to not only a large selections of products from the U.S. and abroad, but there seemed to be new products being developed and introduced to the consumer on a weekly basis.  The large multi-nationals that cater to the U.S. consumer are constantly looking to outdo their rivals, therefore we were bombarded with a million types of cookies, chips, etc.

Made in Argentina, means no multi-nationals competing for your money.  This is what there is and well, this is what you buy.  At first I liked all the new things they offered that in the U.S. we don't eat.  But after a while, I wanted diversity...choices.

All this talk of food is making me hungry.  Next post will be about the U.S. brands that we do have in Argentina and how much it costs!  OUCH!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Few Weeks - Impressions

So I continue to catch up the world on my adventure.  I had only been to Mendoza once before, 3 years ago.  My first impressions back then was that It was a nice place.  Very picturesque with the mountains and vineyards everywhere.  Of course back then I had no thoughts of living here, so I just looked at everything like a tourist.  That is, with blinders on - just seeing the pretty things.

Fast forward three years and I see things a bit different.  Still very pretty - big mountains, that at times look fake against the blue skies.  The vines are now in their dormant phase.  Things are a bit dusty here.

It seems like the planners of Mendoza wanted the city and departments within the city, to have a more rural, organic look and feel to the streets and boulevards.  There is plenty of dust in the air because of this.  Where in the States their would be grass on the sidewalks, in Mendoza there is...dirt!  Because of this lack of landscaping, the city seems to be more dirty.  This with-standing, the city is full of trees everywhere - very impressive - huge trees.

We live in Lujan de Cuyo - a department within the city of Mendoza.  Lujan is like a suburb if you will.  Lujan is known for its vineyards and unimpeded views of the Andes Mountains.  We are about a 25 minute drive south of downtown Mendoza.  Downtown Mendoza is like most metropolitan cities.  Busy, lots of traffic and the usual cadre of store fronts, pedestrians and apartment living.

What will stand out to most Americans, if that around 1pm, most stores and restaurants close.  Close as in, "We are closed come back later."  Later is around 4:30 or so.  This is called Siesta!  Mendoza fully embraces this old world custom.  Most people go home, eat lunch and take a nap.

Now of course I love a good nap, but when you are trying to do business, you must remind yourself that if you call in the hours of Siesta, no one will pick up he phone.  Very frustrating to get used to.

Next post...grocery shopping...I miss you Publix!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Intro to my Blog

So I have been wanting to create a blog for some time now on my adventures of living in Argentina. So here it is. Angelo you ask, what can we expect from this forum...well, just about anything. For those of you who know me, it will include my sense of humor and how I see the world...demented!

I will begin by catching everyone up on what I have experienced my first five weeks of living in Argentina. I will also blog about Claudia (wife) and my attempt to start up a catering business and maybe one day a restaurant.

If have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let me know. I am new to this blogging thing so be patient.

BTW...for those of you who are Geographically Challenged, it is getting ready to be Winter down here:)