I love living in Mexico. I have never regretted our decision to move here. I love the people, the weather, the food, and the more relaxed pace of life that permeates the culture.Sometimes I write so favorably about Mexico that family, friends, and readers have asked me if there is anything about living in Mexico that I do not like. Is there a downside? Is there anything that makes my skin crawl, puts a bee in my bonnet, or makes me want to scream?.
There is.I have actually written about this before and it continues to be an issue with me. I have explained that the "maņana" concept, which Americans could not go far wrong in adopting a bit into their lives, can have some most puzzling, if not downright maddening, effects on an American expat's life here.The idea that there is always tomorrow, maņana, basically means if you do not get it done today, there is always tomorrow. There are nuances to this that I am convinced a gringo will never master no matter how long he or she lives here.
What you have is Americans' anal retentive idea of structure and schedule versus the Mexican idea that structure and schedule is a relative thing that is not to be worried or fretted over. It goes even deeper, though. A Mexican will think that though a commitment is made to show up for an appointment on time, that as long as he shows up sometime, he has done well. If he shows up two hours late, then he has succeeded in keeping the appointment."So, why are you so upset," the Mexican would ponder, "that I kept you waiting? I am here now. That is what counts.
".I totally get this. We Americans and Germans have this idea that for someone to make an appointment with us and then not show for two hours or ever, that we were shown disrespect. It is saying to us that our time isn't valuable.
It is saying that we didn't have anything better to do than sit around waiting for someone who made an appointment to show up. And mind you, the Mexican will rarely call to cancel the appointment or tell you he will be late.That is how we think.
Not so the Mexican.Mexicans simply do not regard time in the same way. There are other things in their minds that they regard as holy.
Time?as in keeping appointments?isn't one of them.Where my wife teaches ESL, the classes are supposed to start at the top of the hour. The students show up fifteen or even forty-five minutes past the hour and act as though nothing is wrong. Or, they will pay for classes and not show up for weeks?if they even bother to return.In the Spanish schools here in Guanajuato, it is the same. The Mexican teachers, those you are paying, will not show up on time.
They will come fifteen or twenty minutes late and act as though all is well. "What's your problem, you silly little gringo?".This even affects the television programming. I was waiting for a Steven Segal movie, dubbed in Spanish, that was to start at ten p.m. As usual, ten rolled around and there was no movie.
They just kept playing the previous program. Suddenly, as though someone finally figured out that he was supposed to be playing the Segal movie, the movie began. They played exactly two minutes of the movie before breaking for commercials?right as one of the characters was in mid-word! They showed 25, I am not making this up, commercials before going back to the movie.
By that time, I could not remember the name of the movie or what had transpired in the first two minutes they graciously permitted me to see.A very interesting mystery to behold is when a Mexican is behind the wheel of an automobile or is walking on the sidewalk. He is always in an all-fire hurry. I have never seen such fast drivers or walkers in my life. And yet, they are not rushing off to make an appointment on time! They just aren't! Where are they going in such a rush?.I have no earthly idea!.
Americans could afford to adopt a little bit of this. We could afford to shave a bit off of our anal understanding of appointment-keeping and things beginning on time or else, that might just reduce our national dependence on mood-altering and blood pressure drugs. We could afford to "lighten up" and be a little more flexible.Mexicans could, on the other hand, afford to modify this culturally-bred idea that appointment-keeping and time management is not important, so why worry about it.
They could most certainly get it into their heads that when you tell someone you will do something and make a commitment, by God, you'd better do it or notify the person with a reasonable explanation of why not. Don't tell someone you will be there, make them count on your word, and then not show up without so much as a "how do you do".This cultural bugaboo makes you not want to trust one word out of their mouths! Sorry! But, this is how I feel!.Here is a very practical example of how this works out in daily life.Where my wife and I expatriated, Guanajuato, Mexico, we have to get our potable water from one of two water companies.
You must obtain bottled water. You cannot drink tap water. The way this gig goes is that the employees will walk up and down the street screaming the word, "Agua" (water). If you need water, then you have to run to the nearest window and scream back, "Agua!".
Then the two of you, the potable water employee and yourself, engage in what must look to the rest of the world as the mating call of two amorous beasts. Once you get the water guy's attention and a connection has been established, then you scream how many bottles you need. He brings the bottles, you pay him, and off he goes until the next time.
The problem is until the next time.The water guys could come on a Monday, then never again. Or, they could come on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then never again. They could come twice a week for a month, and then never again.They come when and if they want to come.
When they think you need water, they will appear. There is absolutely no predicting from present or past water-delivering behavior when or if they will ever show up. It is as though they think you must have died or moved and that they never have to show up again to deliver water.You can call the companies and they will assure you that they will come right out. They never come.
You can, as we have done, go looking for them on the street. You tell them, crying and pleading, that you are on the verge of death from dehydration. They will promise to come ASAP and then never show up.As I write this, we have been without water delivery for more than six days.
We have called the companies, both of them, went looking for the delivery trucks, and have been told they would be right over. We are still waiting. They will simply refuse to show up no matter what you do.Let me assure you of this: If and when they show up, if I were to go all ballistic on them or were to calmly ask them where they've been, they will sincerely not understand my consternation because they are there NOW. This truly would not matter one iota to them.
What would matter is NOW and that they are there NOW. So what's your problem, you anal-retentive gringo?.I've been wondering what they would think if I actually died. I don't know. But that I would be standing in front of them questioning them for their inefficiency would really and sincerely puzzle them.
They would be there NOW, I would be alive and yelling at them NOW, and the water would be there NOW.They would not get it whatsoever!.Also, if you were to confront them, which would really be a cultural boo-boo, chances would be that you would not hear the truth. Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990, Octavio Paz, once said that Mexicans lie for three reasons: out of desperation, out of fantasy or out of necessity.
Why I would be told for more than 6 days that they are coming right out with water?who knows!.This makes for many sleepless nights and lots of aspirin-taking. I cannot for the life of me figure this out. I cannot wrap my mind around it.
I mean, if they come twice a week for a whole month then suddenly stop, what are they thinking?.Do they somehow come to the conclusion that I've died, moved, repatriated, or that my house fell into a hole? Do they even begin to wonder that this crazy gringo might be wondering what happened to them? Why do they establish a schedule of delivery and then, suddenly, it takes an act of God to get them to come back? Do they simply forget me? Do they hate me? Do they take a week off and forget to tell their relief person there is this gringo up the street who might die for lack of water?.So, is there is anything about living in Mexico that I do not like? Is there a downside? Is there anything that makes my skin crawl, puts a bee in my bonnet, makes me want to scream?.Now you know!..
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The issue is that living in the city of Guanajuato is nothing like living the Gringo Landias or Gringo Gulches of San Miguel de Allende or Puerto Vallarta.CHECK IT OUT: http://www.zyworld.com/theolog/eBOOKS/Home.
By: Douglas Bower