You may have recalled from an earlier post that I mentioned Buenos Aires had the most psychoanalysts per capita in the world. Because I’d read a couple of semester’s worth of material on the city and it’s quirks before I came, I knew that Argentines were very comfortable with the fact that practically all of them see a psychologist on a regular basis. They also don’t tend to censor themselves quite as much as we do–political correctness is literally a foreign concept here. They’re all very polite and aware that I might have a much stronger filter than they do, but sometimes things slip through, leaving me a bit lost for words. (The other day my host brother asked me if I was on my period because I had cramps. Just writing the fact that he asked me that on my blog makes me feel kind of uncomfortable haha.)
So, despite knowing that everyone would be acutely aware of their attraction to their mother here, it still sometimes catches me by surprise and squeezes a little smile out of me. It happens more often than I thought that plans with an Argentine friend have to be rescheduled because they have to go to the therapist. “I can’t reunion with you today, as I have to go to an appointment at my shrink. That’s how it’s said right?” Yes, my dear friend, that’s pretty much how you say it and total gold star for the contraction! Adorable. ❤
To give you guys an idea of how concentrated the psychologists are here I have two photos from google maps both at the same scale. One shows the results of psicólogo in Buenos Aires (the blue arrow is where I live now…please don’t stalk me) and the other is a search for psychologist in Fort Collins with where I used to live. Obviously, I didn’t live in such a compacted city, but I still think you get the idea of how popular it is around here. Argentina had 145 psychologists per 100,000 residents (that’s 1 for every 689!) in a 2008 study by researchers Modesto Alonso and Paula Gago. That’s far more than second-place Denmark, with 85, or ninth-place U.S. with 31 (1 for every 3,226 people…), in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization.
^^Where I live now, in Buenos Aires.
^^Mi departmento (my apartment) in Foco.
The 13th of October is really Día del Psicólogo, and although it’s not a national holiday, there is said to be quite the festival surrounding the occasion.
With all of the stress of being in a new country, culture shock, and missing my family and friends back home I would never have considered going to see a psychologist. Even as my level of self-discovery reaches new heights that I never anticipated upon coming here and I’m constantly trying to figure myself out, going to the shrink wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, but it’s so common here. I don’t really feel like paying someone to tell me that the reason I sometimes chew absentmindedly on pen caps is because my mom didn’t stop nursing me soon enough. Maybe it’s true though–how could my mom resist my cute little baby face?!
I don’t think the reason that porteños have such a fascination with unearthing their subconscious desires is because they all have repressed childhood memories. I think it’s because they want to sit in this badass chair:
Well, at least I do. And to their credit, Argentines seem to be really happy people that are in touch with their own personalities and motives. They don’t seem to complain much (probably because they already vented to their therapist about how their id and superego just won’t call it quits and finally shake hands), and they have a crazy amount of energy (something I’ve mentioned before in several posts.) Maybe their dreams really are filled with ponies and butterflies after all that therapy, I don’t know.
Psychoanalysis and psychology in general in Argentina, however, is certainly a concept that transcends social culture and diffuses into my classes. I wrote another post (one of the one’s sitting in my draft box) about how interesting it is to study Marketing in another country because it is directly linked to culture in many ways. We seriously covered the psychology concept exclusively for three hours as an essential part of market research in one of my classes; by that I don’t mean we talked about how people in general are motivated by certain types of advertisements (sex appeal, etc.). No, I’m talking about recognizing the specific psychological issues a certain demographic may be dealing with and how that’s going to affect our marketing decisions. That particular class period wasn’t even presenting the topic as a potential topic of discussion with reasons you should do market research by psychoanalyzing your markets use of ego defense mechanisms. It was already assumed that a good “relacionista pública” would conduct market research in this field, so instead we spent the class disscussing the logistics of how to obtain accurate psychological statistics and data for your target market. Rather interesting. Really different. 🙂
Take from it what you will. I don´t think it would hurt us conscientious Americans to pull a page from their book and lighten up a bit when we’re talking about “taboo” subjects. It’s kind of relaxing (just kind of, it´s still really weird and awkward to a certain point for me) to just say what comes to your mind. For example, and I have to disclaimer this because I don’t want to come across as racist and if you know me, you’ll know I’m very far from racist: The other day I came home from school with a banana and some of my favorite alfajorcitos. Yum! My host brother, to make conversation, asked me if I’d just gone out and bought them. I replied:
“Sí fui al supermerc–un ‘minimercado’ en la esquina.” (Yes, I went to a supermarke–‘minimarket’ just on the corner)
And he clarified: “Ah, un chino.” (I think that one is pretty obvious.)
I looked at him like he’d just pulled a pet rat out of his pocket to show me and told me he´d named it Nibbles–a little confused and unsure because I didn’t think I’d understood. I mean, yes, there are little minimarkets on practically every block with your basic set of produce, toiletries, milk and eggs, bread, and the like, and I´ve yet to see one that’s not run by Asian people, but really…?
^^A little market here in Recoleta…I didn’t take this picture myself (camera tomorrow hopefully!) and it’s hard to find good ones on Google…
it’s like nail salons in the States (and my American sense of political correctness is prickling as I write this), how most of the nail artists are Vietnamese. But we don’t call nail salons “Vietnams”….that would be outrageously inappropriate!!!
After I’d digested this information thoroughly and assured that it wasn’t just him but EVERYONE calls the little markets “Chinos”, I asked him if he would really call it that in front of any Asian friends he has. He assumed a pensive face and then gave a slight nod in affirmation before saying, “I’ve never talked to an Asian person outside of a ‘chino’.”
Don’t even know how to respond to that haha.
Anyways, I’ve got to go early to pick up my visa tomorrow and see about getting my camera fixed (I swear I’m actually going to finally go try and do it), so I’ll leave you guys with this humorous picture of a book I saw at El Ateneo (famous three story bookstore here) the other day:
For just $89 pesos you will:
- Learn to understand the feline language! (How many ways are there to say f*** you, really?)
- Learn to take care of your cat in a caring manner and maybe even train it (also caringly)
- Identify when your cat is well and when it is having problems
Don’t get me wrong, I think cats are cute and funny (Oh no! I’m going to have “Can’t Hug Every Cat” stuck in my head for the rest of the night…), but I still thought you guys might get a kick out of it 😉
Hasta Luego! Besos 🙂
Seriously, I have that song stuck in my head now 😦 I’m never going to fall asleep!
Posted on September 28, 2012, in Fall Semester, Travel and Study and tagged Argentina, Buenos Aires, cats, culture, freud, gatos, obsession, oedipus complex, psychologist, psychology, standinginargentina, Study Abroad. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.