Known as the “Europe of South America,” modern-day Argentina boasts many Italian, Spanish, and other European traits. Walking through downtown Buenos Aires, one could easily get confused with the strong influence of European architecture, bustling bars, and fashionably dressed locals, who look more European than South American. Wide tree-lined avenues, lead to an abundance of museums, restaurants, and bars, where the highly social Argentine people meet to vent the troubles of the world.
Spanish is the main language spoken, with a strong almost guttural accent, heavy on “j” sounds, while there are many indigenous languages still spoken in the more isolated parts of the country.
Courtesy, etiquette and appearance are hugely important in Argentina, and business matters must follow a certain format. Contacts are vital, and it is often as important who makes the introductions as what introductions are made. While Argentinian contacts may arrive late for scheduled meetings, foreign guests would be wise not replicate this trend. A well-placed Argentinian PR agency with high calibre contacts will ensure that your business is met at the appropriate level.
One of the most active publishing industries in the entire region can be found in Argentina, the birthplace of many literary giants known the world over. Local cinema has been gaining ground recently, on the international scale, with the release of films like The Motorcycle Diaries. Cinema attendance in Argentina is akin to Europe, with locals spending more time at the movies than any of their South American neighbours. Buenos Aires is renowned for its vibrant theatre scene, and its landmark Teatro Colón is ranked internationally as having the best acoustics in the world.
Consumer preferences and trends tend to be a lot more European than in any other neighbouring country. Traditionally, Argentines tend to repair rather than replace, and spare parts do a roaring trade. However, Brazilian and Chinese newcomers to the country have injected many choices into the market, especially with household appliances. While price is always of concern, younger consumers are loyal to brands, even as they cost a little and loyalty campaigns are something that Argentinian PR and marketing agencies should see as a crucial element to any communications programme targeting this audience. While traditionally quite conservative, wealthier customers tend to opt for known brands, rather than the bottom of the price line, as they believe this will give them a better quality item. The improving economy is showing a growth in brand loyalty, as society has more expendable income.
The challenge for companies marketing in Argentina is to become the “go-to” brand for customers in the market. It is important that the consumer trusts your brand, and any promise made. Once their minds and hearts have been won, research suggests that they are increasingly likely to remain as faithful customers.
A rich tapestry of open-air food festivals, free gigs, cultural exhibitions and parties pop up all around the urban settings on a weekly basis, populated by trendy health-conscious urbanites. Organic foods enjoy great popularity with locals who push for farm-to-table trails when choosing where to eat. Coffee, wine, and yerba mate are sipped for hours, as the extremely social Argentine get together for long conversations over healthy traceable meals. Craft beers and organic wines have witnessed prolific popularity in recent years, both in real life, and online.
Argentines are politically minded, report high levels of personal freedom, and regularly take to the streets to defend their ideas. They are not shy to speak their mind but remain tact while being direct in their manner. Widely recognized as being an open-minded culture, Argentina was one of the only countries in South America to legalise gay marriage – in 2009 (before it was legalized in the US, or the UK).
Football is a national passion in the country that produced Messi and Maradona, and which won the coveted World Cup twice. Argentina supplies players to many of the world’s biggest clubs, with over one thousand Argentines playing abroad, mostly in Europe. The country is ranked third globally in basketball, and fifth in rugby.
A well educated population, Argentina has the highest literacy rates in Latin America (just under 98%), and the education system has a fairly positive reputation internationally. School is compulsory from the age of five – with thirteen years of free schooling offered to all. Over twelve million people are enrolled in the free Argentine education system. Many expat families opt for schools that offer international curricula, and there are at least 160 such schools listed.
While the early years of secondary education are more general, youngsters are encouraged to start specialising in the senior cycle, when they may apply to take entrance exams for the local universities. Local universities are considered at worldwide levels of excellence, and several Nobel prize winners have been educated in the Argentine system.
While university education is free for all, the hidden costs of education (transport, materials, etc), means that students from the lower social classes are under-represented in the university student body. Many Argentines will work throughout their studies, which may contribute to relatively high drop-out rates from the universities.
The current government hopes to increase the school day from 4 hours daily to six, and say that current investment will reap benefits by 2030. Argentina spends the same ratio of its GDP on education as Finland, but with less satisfying results. The government is mirroring Finnish approaches to teacher training, and looking at the Singaporean recruitment methodologies to attract the best graduates into teaching.
Among the recent reforms in education was an initiative to send secondary schools students on work experience placements, without pay, causing student protests groups to occupy at least 25 public high schools, arguing that the internship programme, as part of the “High Schools of the Future” reform was a distraction for students.
As can be expected, the country that sent Pope Francis out into the world is predominantly Catholic, largely due to the strong Spanish influence. While 75% are self-stated Catholics, only around 24% actually attend regular religious services. For many, religion is only practised at certain times of the religious calendar, like lent, the 40-day period of abstinence leading to Easter. Argentina is home to Latin America’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities, each thought to represent around 1-2% of the population.