Sherwood Lingenfelter talks about time oriented people and cultures versus event oriented people and cultures in his book, Ministering Cross-Culturally. There are some cultures that follow clocks. There are others where time doesn’t rule the day. Mexico is definitely an event oriented culture, which conflicts with the American time oriented culture. Wanna know how? Here are two examples:
Today we went to Sam’s Club specifically to buy bagels. Every time we go there, it seems, there are no bagels. There were no bagels today, either. So we asked the guys in the bakery if there would be bagels today. They said in twenty minutes. Knowing that Mexico is more an event oriented culture, as we walked away, I told Janell that they meant more like 30-45 minutes.
We went to the mall part of the shopping center. We walked around Wal-Mart. We spent a good deal of time buying what we needed at those stores before we decided to go back to Sam’s Club to buy bagels. When we arrived at the bakery, about an hour or more after they told us the bagels would be ready, they looked at us like we were crazy for asking for the bagels. They were nowhere to be found. There were no bagels. Their “20 minutes” didn’t mean anything.
So, we walked into the mall again to see if a sports store was open that was supposed to open at 11. It was 11:10. There was nobody there, and the door still had the lock on it.
So, we went to the pet store to look at the animals. Since Nathan likes to see the puppies and kitties, we thought we’d take him into the store that opens at 11. The door was unlocked, so we opened it and started to walk in. The guy behind the counter was talking to another guy, but he was waiving his finger at us telling us that they weren’t open yet. He obviously wasn’t doing anything to get the store ready to be open, either. Being from a time oriented culture, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was well after 11. Guess what. That didn’t matter even to the event oriented businesses in our little part of Mexico.
We either have to adjust to this difference in orientation or go home. It doesn’t do much good to complain about it. The culture is the way it is. But it’s still frustrating at times.