For class, week 6: Smalltalk does not exist here

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Unless you want to count the obligatory ¨¿Que tal?¨ as smalltalk.  After that,
however, you´d be hard pressed to find conversation that isn´t productive or
interesting here when chatting with locals.  They don´t discuss weather, and the
lack of tabloid news is quite impressive.  I noticed this stark difference
particularly today, as one of the new American arrivals brought along some
tabloid magazines back from the states, and thought about how much I really do
not care about any of that, especially while I´m here.  The thing about the
States though, is that celebrity gossip has almost become the news, and it is
unavoidable.  And on top of being ubiquitous, you almost feel an urge to be in
the know, because this is the type of material discussed in the social settings
to which I am accustomed there.

The case is different here.  People are more inclined to discuss politics, or
explain complex economic philosophies, or examine cross-cultural differences
over a beer at the cafe.  I think part of this can be attributed to the
conducive atmosphere of the cafe life, leading to long conversations
interspersed with playful banter or witty comments.  In America, it feels as
though the things which have come to define our modern life - fast meals, long
and stressful commutes from the suburbs, overuse of our cars, the demise of mom
& pop shops and the rise of large corporations - all of these things have
limited our time and energy that could otherwise be devoted to more meaningful
and personal relationships.  We´re often in too much of a hurry to make
conversation with the Starbucks barrista or to pick up a daily paper or two, and
I think it is lamentable.  I hope when I return I can bring back a bit of this
style of living - I just hope my friends will be open to eating 3.5-hour dinners
at 10pm, and can learn to savor the conversation as well as the food with a
little more gusto.
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