My girlfriend and I sat in a local restaurant serving a typical Argentina menu of pizza, milanesas, hamburgers, and lomitos.
Y a tomar? Said the waiter inquiring what I wanted to drink along with my lomito.
“Agua” I replied and instantly his expression changed into one of pure confusion, the likes of which I’d never seen at such a simple request.
He wrote what appeared to be 3 full sentences on the mini pad he used to record our orders.
I never got to see what he wrote but I imagine it went something like this – “The guy wearing a hat and a blue shirt ordered a water instead of Coke. That’s right…you read this correctly…a water! His girlfriend ordered Coke so at least there is some order in this world”.
When it comes to beverages, Argentina is probably better known for its Malbec or perhaps the yerba mate or even the fernet. However walking around Córdoba one option reigns superior in terms of the national drink…Coca Cola.
It’s everywhere. I told my girlfriend I bet per capita Argentina drinks more soda than the United States which is a bold claim given the levels of obesity that run rampant in my home country.
A quick internet search (everything on the internet is true, right?) confirmed my suspicion showing that the average Argentina downs 131 liters of Coca Cola per year (followed by Chile 121, Mexico 119, and the US at 112 liters per person).
Coca Cola dominates the market here. They recently used the Argentina market to introduce a new type of Coke called Coca Cola Life made with stevia and natural sugar, complete with a green bottle.
I guess they learned their lesson about launching new products in the US. I’m looking at you – Clear Coke!
The absence of cheap flowing water at restaurants makes Coca Coia an easy choice. One thing I always miss dearly when traveling outside the US is the free refills of ice water when dining. It’s one of those things you don’t really appreciate until it’s gone and you’re stuck buying Agua Mineral at 8 pesos a bottle. When buying a bottle of water costs more than a Coca Cola it’s no wonder people reach for the real thing.
With a 2013 goal to get into the best shape of my life, consuming Coke in place of water is a huge no-no. One of the items I brought with me to Argentina was my Nalgene Water Bottle. I’ve started to fill this thing up and take it with me in an effort to drink more water while living here.
Only time will tell if I can drink as much water as I used to in San Francisco or whether I end up consuming my 131 liters of Coca Cola in a year like all the other average Argentines.