You’re on Mexico City time

25
May
2008

One of the less pleasant aspects of Mexico City is the super loose concept of planning among the residents. On three separate occasions in the past 3 days I have had people let (what I thought was) an appointment drag on so many hours after it was originally planned as to de facto cancel it. “Let’s meet at 8” Then at 7:30 a call, “I’m across town still. Let’s meet at 10.” And then at 9:30 “Can we make it 11?”
And I thought LA was bad about being late. The thing one has to do here is act as if you never made plans at all. Then if anything happens, it is total spontaneity. I realize this is one of those things that is strongly ingrained in me, and is a part of my culture, but I still think it is rude.

Comments

  1. If it didn’t work for you to wait, why didn’t you cancel it when they called at 7:30 rather than agreeing to postpone the appointment?

  2. Stephen says:

    Not wanting to seem unreasonable, I accepted the first delay (remember I am trying to adapt to the culture). By the second one, I was over it and did cancel.

  3. Is this one of those experiences that (as you mentioned a few posts ago) shows us we need not be as time obsessed as we are taught to be in the West? :)

  4. Stephen says:

    In some ways, definitely. In others, not so much. It isn’t an obsession with time so much as it is with the elastic concept of keeping one’s word or promises to someone else. No matter the culture, I personally find it rude to make a promise of any sort and then break it, including appointments. But here is where Mexican culture seems to differ, for here it seems to be considered more polite for example to say “Yes, let’s have dinner Wednesday evening” (even if one has no intention of doing so) than to say, “I can’t plan that far ahead”, or “I’m not sure, let me get back to you”. My friend George (who lived here for many years) told me by way of another example that when leaving a party early, you should never let on that you are tired, or have another engagement. You should always say something like, “I’ll be right back”, even if you have no intention of coming back.