Monday, May 4, 2009

Cultural Tidbits

As I pass the four month mark here in country, I’ve picked up on some interesting cultural tidbits I thought you might all find interesting…

Being indirect is always preferable.

If I generalize, Guatemalans tend to shy away from direct communication.  Even if the news is positive, confrontation is avoided at all costs.  What this usually amounts to is a string of words and phrases, painting a picture of the general idea the person wants to communicate.  For those who speak Spanish as a second language or are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the culture, this means getting lost in the forest of vague explanations and unclear directions.  Fun times.

Yes often just means no…in a nice way.

People here hate saying no.  When asked to participate in something, many people say they will think about it and get back to you.  For me this has always, always turned in to a negative answer.  I’m not sure why “no” isn’t just said in the first place.  But even better is when people commit to going somewhere, doing something or give you permission….when they really won’t go, won’t do, or don’t want you to do what you’re doing. 

Fíjese que…

So this phrase has turned out to be the bane of my existence in Guatemala.  It doesn’t have a good direct translation, meaning something like “look here”, or “fix on this”.  But my problem isn’t with the phrase itself, only what comes after it- always some type of excuse.  Like, fíjese que I would have finished cleaning but someone suddenly came in or fígese que we ran out of half the things on the menu.  My co-workers have caught on to my dislike and now use this to torment me, but I have noticed many have stopped giving me crazy excuses...


  1. fijate que voz....miss you! hope all is well. Say que onda to Selvyn for me. Hope you have had a chance to take a temascal.

  2. I did go in the temascal- absolutely amazing! I'll definitely give a shout out to Selvyn...when are you going to come visit us!?