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The concept of time in Mexico
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:59 am    Post subject: The concept of time in Mexico Reply with quote

Learning to tell time – in Mexico
By Whitney Eulich, Christian Science Monitor | June 10, 2015
Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2015/0610/Learning-to-tell-time-in-Mexico

A few weeks ago, I showed up to a lunch meeting 20 minutes late. I was embarrassed, frazzled, and had literally climbed out of a window to get there. But when I showed up at the restaurant in a strip mall in Monterrey – sweaty, hands covered in dirt, and mentally exhausted from trying to map my escape from the building I’d accidentally been locked into – the restaurant was empty.

I sent a message to the woman I was meeting: “I’m here. I’m so sorry…. I don’t see you.” She wouldn’t show up for another 30 minutes; almost an hour later than our original meeting time. I felt silly for sending out updates for a measly 20-minute delay when my lunch date hadn’t thought to message me once, even though she was creeping up on the hour mark. But I didn’t find it rude. It was just a wake-up call that I really had no clue how to interpret time here.

Time is one of the stickier issues facing anyone living or working abroad. Whereas an American in the United States might know that “just a second” could mean up to a five-minute wait, how should that same person interpret “right now,” ahorita, in Mexico? (Look out: You might be waiting over an hour). These are subtleties that take a while to fully grasp, and as I learned in Monterrey, even when you think you “get it,” there’s a chance you don’t.

When I moved here seven months ago, I knew to expect social engagements to start late. Yet I was still surprised recently when my husband and I showed up two hours late to a birthday party, and still beat the rest of the guests by another two hours. (Mexican friends responded to this anecdote by saying that “at least the hosts were there” when we arrived.) I’m still adjusting to interviews scheduled nonchalantly for 10:00 pm, or canceled at midnight. There are restaurants in my neighborhood that are busy serving the lunch crowd at 5 p.m., and while I take an after-work stroll, those diners are heading back to the office.

There are lots of stereotypes associated with cultures that tend to see "late" as "on time." Some interpret tardiness as a sign of laziness or being irresponsible. But in fact, Mexicans work incredibly long days.

A recent ranking by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development placed Mexico second-to-last in terms of work-life balance. Nearly 30 percent of Mexicans work 50-hour weeks, whereas in the US some 11 percent of citizens work those same "very long hours," according to the report. One of the better explanations I’ve read about the difference in attitudes toward time between Mexico and the US is this, from an article for “Global Business Languages” and published by Perdue University: "…[M]onochronic cultures like the U.S. [are] “clock-obsessed, schedule-worshipping cultures.” People from polychronic cultures such as Mexico have much more flexible attitudes toward time, and are less obsessive about punctuality and deadlines. They place a higher value on relationships than on fixed schedules and timelines.

I appreciate that the people I’ve met so far value taking the time to get to know a foreigner like me – even if the conversation starts a little later than expected.

(End of opinion)
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Xie Lin



Joined: 21 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Perdue" University? Shocked The Monitor is slipping. (And one of my favorite papers, too.)

.
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nomad soul



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw that and left it as is. Perhaps the individual who proofed the article hails from Dixie, where it would likely be pronounced as "Per-doo." Laughing
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Unrung School Bell



Joined: 13 May 2015
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's how they tell time in Old Mexico.
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esl_prof



Joined: 30 Nov 2013
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Location: peyi kote solèy frèt

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:51 pm    Post subject: Re: The concept of time in Mexico Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
One of the better explanations I’ve read about the difference in attitudes toward time between Mexico and the US is this, from an article for “Global Business Languages” and published by Perdue University: "…[M]onochronic cultures like the U.S. [are] “clock-obsessed, schedule-worshipping cultures.” People from polychronic cultures such as Mexico have much more flexible attitudes toward time, and are less obsessive about punctuality and deadlines. They place a higher value on relationships than on fixed schedules and timelines.


Much of what the author describes certainly resonates with my experience elsewhere in Latin America.

Another way to describe these difference concepts of time is time-orientation vs. event-orientation. Event-orientation is the prevailing model in much of Latin American culture. While not common in mainstream U.S. culture, it can be found in certain domains. For example, how long is a baseball game? Nine innings. How long is an inning? In terms of hours, minutes, and seconds, pretty much as long as it takes. Unlike the U.S., where event-orientation is largely limited to a handful of domains like baseball, it's much more widespread in Latin America.

This is in contrast to the very time-orientated sport of American football. How long is a football game? Four quarters. How long is a quarter? Fifteen minutes. In reality, we know that with time-outs, the half-time show, etc., a football game typically runs 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Unless, of course, it goes into overtime. But even then, the use of the term "overtime" to describe the occasional fifth quarter speaks volumes to the fact that the U.S. is a very time-oriented culture.

In short, when living and working in Latin America, keep in mind the baseball analogy above. Things will take as long as they take, and they'll happen when they happen.
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Phil_K



Joined: 25 Jan 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will get slaughtered by the Latin American-culture worshippers for saying this, but could not Europe's relative prosperity (relative to LatAm) be related to this difference of attitude? I know, I know...take the culture as you find it and all that, but I can't help thinking that long working hours are due to lack of efficient working practices (In fact, I KNOW that's true in some cases - I've seen it first hand) and lack of attention to schedules and deadlines are almost certainly a factor in lowering efficiency.
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MotherF



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
I saw that and left it as is. Perhaps the individual who proofed the article hails from Dixie, where it would likely be pronounced as "Per-doo." Laughing


I'm not from Dixie, but a place not far from Purdue, attended a big ten university and have a couple of close friends who went to Purdue so have heard it pronounced countless times and its always been per-do.


As for time, well it varies a bit around the country and after 17 years I'm still almost always the first one there.
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esl_prof



Joined: 30 Nov 2013
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, my!!! That's quite the can of worms.

Inasmuch as Europe and its Anglosaxon offshoots have set the rules by which the international economy operates, then, yes, those who don't conform to those rules are probably at a disadvantage. I don't think it's about culture so much as power and which countries have enough of it to make their culture(s) normative for everyone else.

In short, I think you're on to something, Phil, but it goes much, much deeper than what either of us are going to be able to unpack in a simple message board exchange.

Excuse me. Something slimy is crawling up my arm . . .
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