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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



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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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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



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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



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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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Phil_K



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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


????
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esl_prof



Joined: 30 Nov 2013
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil_K wrote:
Quote:
Excuse me. Something slimy is crawling up my arm . . .


????


We just opened a can of worms, remember?
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Phil_K



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Got it!
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MotherF



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil_K wrote:
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.



People frequently ask me why my family lives in Mexico since we could be living in the US. Behind this question is the assumption that life is better in the US because the US is more prosperous. If we base our measurement of good life on something like the ability to purchase goods than it is so. If we base it on our ability to purchase services then it is less true. If we base it on others things entirely then what makes life good is much more subjective.
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Phil_K



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not really talking about individual prosperity, or the ability to buy things, but...

A more productive country, producing things at a good rate = more jobs, more taxes paid, better services, better welfare benefits, better free health system, more security, less day-to-day stress, etc, etc, which for me all adds up to a better standard of life. (I'm thinking of the UK here, rather than the US - as that's what I know).

Just out of interest, MotherF, what makes living in Mexico better for you than the US, and would that apply to any other country, even a high-performing European one?
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Guero1



Joined: 20 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a big time difference here between here and the UK.

When we were living in different places I used to ask my then future wife an hour early for a date, knowing she´d turn up around about time for me.

Here, apart from being punctualish for work, for me there are just three times, morning, afternoon blended into evening - going out time.

Someone once asked me the time, and I told him it was still morning, he tipped his hat and went on with his business!

BTW "ahorita" means within a week to your landlord if there is an issue and in 3 minutes if you need to give him the rent, or never to some people.

Besides, time speeds up as you get older. However, time will tell on that one...
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MotherF



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 1:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil_K wrote:



Just out of interest, MotherF, what makes living in Mexico better for you than the US, and would that apply to any other country, even a high-performing European one?


One, the cost of services. I can afford to have furniture made to order here. Nearly all my furniture is custom made for the space it's in. I hate doing house work, and I don't have to do it because I can have that done. I have clothes made to order. I can afford original art work. My daughters' musical instruments were even custom made with their names engraved. Almost all of that would be out of reach for teachers in the rest of the world.

Two, food. I eat locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables 365 days of the year. Pineapples are five pesos a piece right now.

Three, work stress. I have a very low stress job. I don't know why you think stress would be lower in the UK, maybe you need to move out of the city.

Four, views/outdoor activities. I'm an outdoorsy type. I love the mountains, the forests, the desert, the beach. The US is a beautiful country. But it's also very large. From where I grewup you have to drive one or two days to get to the mmountains, three or more to the ocean. I have all that right here in Oaxaca.
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