Last week we crossed over from Chile into Argentina in order to visit Argentina’s Lake District. The first place we stayed in Argentina was in the small town of Junin de los Andes, which bills itself as the Trout Capital of the province. Very promising town title, but more on trout later.
Our second evening at the campground we met an English couple – Andy and Sabina – who had recently arrived in Argentina the starting point for their their first visit to South America. As we were talking, Sabina said: “Argentina is not what I expected; this could be the south of Spain. I was expecting something more exotic…”.
Sabina’s comment paralleled a conversation that Karen and I have been having about the countries we have visited: their perceived standard of living, character, “exoticness”, etc. So, I was curious and looked up the various GDPs per capita.
The GDP/capita numbers are interesting and in certain ways tie well with our impressions: both Karen and I would have ranked the South American countries we have visited in the order they are per the International Monetary Fund. And when we were trying to compare Chile to Bolivia, we were guessing that the relative GDPs would be anywhere from 7:1 to 15:1; the actual number is 6:1. Not too far off.
And no, Argentina on a GDP/capita basis is not Spain, but it is certainly a rich country, in particular compared with Paraguay and Bolivia. Not sure where the dividing lines are, but Chile feels like a 1st world country, Argentina a 1st – 2nd world, whereas Bolivia is more a 2nd – 3rd world country.
Interestingly enough, Karen’s and my perception of each country’s “exoticness” is also well aligned with the GDP numbers in reverse order. Bolivia is by far the most exotic, where I am using the word in the dictionary sense of “having a strange or bizarre allure, beauty, or quality”. Certainly a part of Bolivia’s exotic nature is due to the fact of it being a very poor country – and thereby different from the US – but it is only a small part of Bolivia’s allure; most of the allure comes from the softer things: people, culture, dress, etc.
On the other end of exotic is Chile – at least so far. Beautiful yes; gorgeous scenery, but not exotic. Our first town in Chile was Arica, right across the border from Peru. Arica was like a blend of Louisville, CO, with Home Depots, chain restaurants, and Key Largo, FL, with tourists in beach wear, hippies, and a laid back beach feel. Very nice, but hardly exotic.