Ok, folks, this one is a must-read for anyone who has Mexican family or friends or who might invite Mexicans to an upcoming event. There is a thing called “Mexican Time,” and it’s real. Mexicans, of course, don’t call it “Mexican Time.” To them, this is just normal time. For Americans, the thing that’s real is the struggle to adjust our clocks to this new time.
I have to admit that adjusting my own clock to “Mexican Time” has been the most difficult cultural adjustment I’ve had to make. I haven’t taken the adjustment lightly or always even cordially either. And I’m still adjusting.
Here’s the deal: Mexicans live on an alternate timeframe. The idea of arriving at a specific time is completely foreign to their culture. On Mexican time, everyone agrees to an arrival time/start time, and then people show up whenever they want anyway. For instance, you plan a party and send out the invitations. It starts at 3 p.m. You can expect your Mexican friends to arrive sometime between 3:45 and midnight. Or you are talking to your Mexican husband (just as a totally random example), and he says, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes.” This actually means, “I’ll be there when I get done with what I’m doing here, and I just said 5 minutes to appease you. It will be more like 1 hour.” “Mexican time” refers to the phenomenon of Mexicans showing up really, super late for pretty much everything.
To prove it’s not just my family and friends who happen to live in this alternate time, here is the official definition of “Mexican Time” from Urban Dictionary:
usually about 30-45 minutes after the expected deadline/time – urbandictionary.com
In my experience, this estimation is a bit low (perhaps that part’s my Mexican family and friends :)).
For American culture, punctuality is a virtue. I know my German ancestry mandates Punktlichkeit. I will admit here (since I know a lot of my readers and they would call me out on this), that I, as a rule, have never been one to be on time. This predates my knowing Jorge by some, I don’t know, 27 years. But to be fair, my own tardiness generally fell in the 5-15 minute category rather than the 1-2 hour category. In any event, I know adjusting to/fighting against/living with/complaining about “Mexican Time” has been a difficult bridge for my American family and friends – and ME. I’m pretty sure my family just starts eating without us a majority of the time since waiting on our arrival could be a long delay 😦 For my part, I now more accurately translate Jorge’s “5 minutes” to an hour, and usually that helps me plan better. When we throw a party, like the annual summer fiesta, I know we need food in waves. Some food needs to be ready at or before the stated start time for our American family and friends and about 2 hours later for those arriving on “Mexican Time.”
“Here we like to plan EVERYTHING. We feel uncomfortable without every day, weekend, event being planned out well in advance.”
I’ve learned through the years that the complete lack of adherence to any specific time stems from culture back in Mexico. Perhaps some of this is specific to mi esposo’s small town Mexico experience. I don’t yet know. Here, we like to plan EVERYTHING. We (me included) feel uncomfortable without every day, weekend, event being planned out well in advance. When you plan everything, you have expectations of how is will go, such as when it will start and end. In Mexico, gatherings happen more organically. People live right next door to each other or right down the road. Work days aren’t as structured. There is plenty of time for getting together with family and friends, and spontaneous drop-ins that lead to a bigger fiesta are commonplace. Instead of planning the thing happening 3 weeks from now, they are living in the moment – today, now. The notion of hard and fast times for anything is just not prevalent in the culture. People will come and go. Parties will pop up out of nowhere. And who cares if you show up 3 hours later than everyone else? I mean, they’ll be drinking tequila until 2 a.m. anyway! You can bet that a mundane dinner, a little kid’s birthday party, a baptism, etc. will last until the middle of the night. With that kind of timeframe, who’s focusing on the start time?
Of course there are virtues on both sides of this cultural divide. Having a relaxed and open attitude, an ability to really live in the moment and live life without knowing every detail in advance, these are definitely positive mental adjustments to make. On the other hand, respecting and valuing others’ time is also a positive lesson to learn. It is not always about you and what works best for YOU. Sometimes it’s about those you are gathering with. You’re getting together with them for a reason. Presumably, they’re pretty great, and they deserve to be treated that way.
As with everything in this life on the border of two cultures, it’s all an adjustment. If you’re not flexible and open to learning, you won’t survive this border!