Palo Boracho ("drunken stick") direct translation - or Mechanical Flower

I’m officially employed!  While I am elated to have a job and to be keeping busy, I can’t resist writing about what has thus far been so different and Argentine about my first two days.  Please don’t mistake anything that I write as negative, nothing like that, just different.

Thursday morning I arrived promptly at 9:30am, the time my new boss told me they liked to get things started.  To be fair, it might have been more like 9:20am, as I assumed it the norm to arrive very early on your first day at a new job.  The office is located in the trendy neighborhood of Palermo Soho in an apartment-converted office.  I buzzed the door and waited.  No answer.  I waited a minute or two and buzzed again.  No answer.  “No ha venido nadie,” said a woman washing the sidewalk.  Hmm, really “nadie?”  I waited twenty more minutes and still no one.  I started to think maybe my watch wasn’t set right, but then I began to think more wisely – welcome to Argentina, Erin, where things don’t exactly run the way they do in NYC.  At 10:05, a co-worker arrived and thankfully had the key to let me in.

I was given a space along the long table where the five others sat next to each other.  There was no one I had to call to get a computer login, no security check to make sure I wasn’t some sort of criminal or scam artist before I was allowed access to their network, no mountain of tedious paperwork I had to fill out as I had at every previous job I had held.  The rest of the office streamed in until about 11am.  Next it was maté time, something that seems a staple in the workday here.  The preparation of maté is quite a process and cannot be rushed.

Many questions were asked about my life in New York, why I was in Buenos Aires, why I liked it here, if I understood any of the slang they had been throwing around for the past three hours (I hadn’t). At around 12:30 some coworkers gathered on the balcony to smoke cigarettes and chat.  All are Argentine and speak quickly, so I understood very little and felt very “gringa” refusing the cigarettes they all smoked.  Everyone was friendly in the very Argentine way, trying to speak slowly so I could understand, offering me their snacks and advice on various things, from what bus I should take home to how I could find an apartment.

My second day I found myself waiting outside again and started to think that maybe it was viewed as even a bit rude that I arrived so early every day, even before my boss did.  Such small cultural things can be viewed so differently around the world.  In New York and pretty much anywhere in the U.S., I think it’s pretty standard that during the beginning of a new job you want to appear enthusiastic and do so by arriving early.  But in this case, I once again just seemed very “gringa.”