04 December 2006

Us versus them

Day one in Buenos Aires seemed an appropriate time to be guided around by a professional. I found Robert Wright's Urban Explorer tours online, and signed up immediately. Robert's been living in BA for six years and definitely knows his way around. He also has a very interesting blog, so I knew we would have plenty to chat about.

The tour lasted a little more than four hours, and I learned many things about the city (some of which were included in my last post). Robert's enthusiasm for his job and BA itself were clear as he explained history and culture to a vivid degree, bringing great meaning to buildings and graffiti alike.

But the thing that really struck me was how Robert referred to the city, and more in particular, to Argentines. Early on in the afternoon, I noticed he would say things like "Our political system" or "Our people." When discussing the economic crash in 2001, he said "We really suffered." At first I thought it was a fluke, and I began to listen more closely. But he never faltered through four hours of description.

I was fascinated. And a little bit jealous. Why? Well, I would never, I repeat never, refer to anything related to the Dutch as "we" or "us." It has and always will be "them." Living in the Netherlands, it's never dawned on me that it was even possible to feel such an affinity, even after residing in that country for years and years.

I asked him, and surprised him with my question. He hadn't been aware that he was doing it. He thought about it, shrugged his shoulders, and ventured a guess: All his friends are Argentinean, and they consider him one of them, a "porteño."

Again I bring up my jealousy. How wonderful it would be to start a new life somewhere far away, somewhere with a different culture, and within years feel so completely a part of it. Now that I think about it, maybe this is what I had hoped for when I first moved to the Netherlands.

I can only thank Robert for the fantastic tour, but also for making me realize that it is possible to embrace a "foreign"culture so completely, and in turn be embraced by that culture.

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