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Expats in Mexico Meet The World of Tomorrow

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Sunset in Queretaro, Mexico
Credit: Bigstock
Maria and Fernando Garibay Bloggers at Expats In Mexico
Maria and Fernando Garibay

Has it ever happened to you? Somebody tells you, “I will do it tomorrow,” but somehow that day never comes. Well, if it hasn’t happened to you it’s because you haven’t spent much time here,  where expats in Mexico meet the world of tomorrow.

Mexico is forever the land of tomorrows, promises of things to come, but somehow those promises don’t get fulfilled. If you’ve hired a Mexican worker to do any job in your place, you may know what we are talking about.

Now, how do we say tomorrow in Spanish? We say mañana.

Here in Mexico we tend to take our promises very lightly. A simple thing like, “Sure, I will give you the name of the restaurant mañana” or “I will fix your air conditioning unit mañana” are both treated in the same manner. Of course everybody has different opinions on what´s important and what´s not, but expats in Mexico agree that when you promise something, you should do everything possible to keep your word.

This is one of the main differences between Mexican culture and northern cultures like American and Canadian. Latinos take their word more lightly than expats do. This might be a problem when you cancel all your appointments for mañana because mañana the worker is coming, or at least he/she said, “I will come mañana to fix, repair or replace whatever you have hired me to do.”

Mañana comes and you wait and wait, and then wait some more. You decide to call the person but – if you don’t speak Spanish – you won’t understand a word said on the answering machine. You will be frustrated, but don’t get angry. He/she will come in the end and do the job happily, like nothing has happened. He/she might say: “Sorry ma’am, Mexican time, you know.”

Don’t’ be discouraged. This happens to everybody: Mexicans, expats, the rich and the not so rich. It´s part of our culture and we learn to live with it. The job will be done, but it will just take a bit longer than expected. In the end, you just have to accept that it’s part of the Mexican culture. You might get a bit frustrated at the beginning, but little by little you’ll be able to work around it.

People deal with mañana in many different ways. We recommend that you use this time to meditate or catch up with the activities around your house, like Mexicans do. It’s not a good idea to sit down and wait impatiently. If you do, you’ll ruin your day. Ultimately, it’s your decision whether or not you get involved in a negative vibe or transform it into a positive one.

For Mexicans, It´s much easier because of the language, and we have lived with mañana all of our lives. However, that doesn´t mean we are happy about it and it’s often as irritating for us as it is for any expat in Mexico.

We truly understand how annoying this can be, especially when you really need a service performed on time, or to get something done right away. However, we remind you that here in Puerto Vallarta, for example, we are very laid back. Our people are extremely polite and kind, and even if they arrive mañana or the day after mañana, they will always give you a big smile and be very helpful.

Hasta mañana.

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Maria & Fernando Garibay
Taking Root in Mexico Blog by Maria and Fernando Garibay is their take on Mexico's very rich culture. Both have been expats—Maria in London and Fernando in Vancouver—and have a very unique perspective on intercultural experiences and how to integrate into a new culture. The couple lives on the north shore of Banderas Bay and help Puerto Vallarta-area expats learn Spanish.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Contrarily, even though it’s “Mexican culture” it’s still rude and wastes untold hours of everybody’s time.

    Think about the cumulative, productive hours lost to waiting, and how much more successful people could be if they weren’t missing work while waiting for appointments.

    Because there is no respect for the value of people’s time they are routinely hearded around like sheep in government offices and medical facilities. Individual consumers must give up countless hours in waiting for promised services. Family and friends either plan to arrive an hour, or more, late for scheduled events, or sit idly by until the organizers, who set the time, decide to get things started.

    This is not culture, it’s lack of respect and organization, which is reinforced by acceptance and articles such as this. If Mexico and it’s people ever want to gain the respect of other nations and move beyond being an emerging nation their first step is to learn to be responsible and honest about their commitments.

  2. Thank you for the heads-up! I’ve heard of this, but being that we’re just now in escrow to purchase, not yet living in PV, we’ve not had that experience. However, I will say that when it’s come to our escrow with Wayne Franklin at Tropicasa Real Estate there’s not been any manana. Everything has instead been, pronto! Gracias!

    • Blake Mashburn,
      We are very happy to hear that. You are doing a very important purchase, and it is wonderful to know that things can also be on time. Congratulations.

    • Bill, you are right. But we might be surprise that sometimes mañana really means mañana. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Manana also means”morning”; but here in Sonora, I think the most apt defintion of manana (sorry, my keyboard doesn’t have all the symbols to wirte it correctly) is “sometime in the future”

    • Definitely, When we latinos say mañana, we don´t really mean it. Mañana is something like, later on, or not now.

  4. After 11 1/2 years of life in Mexico we have to agree with the author of the article, one thing they forgot to mention was getting directions here. Asking for directions is always an adventure as you will always be given assistance whether the person asked has the slightest idea where ever it is you asking for. After numerous side trips to neighbourhoods we never knew existed we now hope that our Mexican maps in our GPS are accurate enough to get us close.

    • Happy in Mexico, thank you for mention it. We are very conscious of this situation in Mexico and in many other parts of the world such as China, India, etc. For that, we have a special blog coming to address this subject.

  5. Seems to me that anyone who is frustrated by the culture should go back to gringolandia. In the north they may or my not show up but they will have a negative demeaning attitude. Expats often do not know the language but that is not nearly as important as trying to learn the culture. Knowing the definition of a word is not the same as knowing what the communication is.

    • Steve,
      Thank you for your comment. As you say, learning the culture is far more important than the language itself, because when we learn the culture and emerge ourselves into it, the language will come easier.
      On the other hand, Let us tell you that we Mexicans also get frustated by this issue, but as you know this is a very smal fraction of the Mexican Culture. Our culture it´s amazingly rich, therefore when mañana is not mañana we remember that it´s just a fraction of it.

  6. I have been living in Mexico for about 5 years now and at first Manana was a source of frustration for me, but over time you get used to it and you learn to live with it. I have never completely accepted Manana as a good thing, but it is what it is and you live your life knowing that this will happen now and then. The great life here in Mexico certainly out weighs a few minor problems here and there.

    • Aaron, It is exactly as you say. When mañana is not mañana and you live in Mexico you get used to it. That´s the attitude!

  7. If this is what this site is about count me out. Was a licensed general contractor in California for over thirty years you want to talk about not showing up… Building inspectors plumbers, , roofers, cable guys, sati light installers, bankers, auto repair people, (the last transmit ion I had done took six weeks of defiantly tomorrow), calfire, engineers architects, clients, lab results, dr. Looking at lab results, any branch of the government, and our eldest son just to mention a few.
    This only plays into the idea that Mexicans are lazy and that’s bull. Right now your getting twenty to one on the dollar and this is how you choose to talk about the Mexican people. Ugly American is all you are.
    Happy trails. Mac

    • Mac,
      Clearly you view this blog as a personal insult to hardworking Mexican people, which, of course it isn´t. It’s historical cultural behavior from not only Mexico but most of the latin world, including the Mediterranean. A big part of it is synchronous time versus asynchronous time…northern people are on synchronous time and southern people are on asynchronous time, where being on time is not as important to them. That is just the facts, well supported and documented by behavioral scientists. We pointed this out as a major cultural point of difference between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We think that expats need to understand it if they are going to successfully integrate into the Mexican culture. How they react, accept or be frustrated by it is up to them, but the fact remains that it exists.
      Furthermore The blog was not written by an American or a Canadian, it was written by us, María and Fernando, we are native Mexicans who fully understand its importance in daily life.
      In fact, research shows that people in Mexico work more hours than those in the U.S. This cultural difference is not about how hard people work, it’s about how people think about time and how it is used. Some people will think Mexicans as lazy because of this issue, however as we mention above, Mexicans work very hard.

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