A common saying in Mexico is that here it is the land of tomorrow, because there is no such thing as "by the clock". If someone tells you they will be there in 15 minutes, they more likely mean an hour or so, and if they tell you 30 minutes it will probably be more like 1-2 hours.
It is an extremely relaxed culture, and you will find most people very laid back, to the point they will often ignore you if you are a typical Westerner who walks in and wants everything handed to them on a silver platter at the drop of a hat with a chip on their shoulder from years of being catered to in societies where "the customer is always right".
Consequently, you'll also have to get used to the fact that the customer is not always in the right, and you will have to unlearn many of the ingrained habits you have picked up in hour home country. Cancun is a place about relaxation, slow living, and taking things one at a time when they come at you.
One of the best pieces of advice you can receive about Cancun and Mexico in general is this: throw away your watch. You won't need it, and if you are someone whose life revolves around being punctual and keeping a schedule, you are going to find yourself hard-pressed to enjoy your time here in the country, simply because nothing ever happens "on time"...it's Mexican time.
There is no such thing as punctuality, nor do things happen "today". Most things happen tomorrow (or the day after, or the day after that), and you cannot come to Cancun expecting to see people punching time clocks and living their lives according to a system of control that forces them to live their lives around 8 hour work days, and 15 minute breaks every 4 hours and 30 minute lunches.
Life in Mexico happens as it happens. All a watch is going to do is frustrate you and probably leave you cursing more often than not. Ignore time, because it doesn't exist in Latin America.
This is also one of the most difficult issues for long-term expats and digital nomads to get used to when living on the ground, because the Mexicans have a very nonchalant way of dealing with things. If someone is late, service is slow, traffic is bad, or the line at the courthouse is long, they just shrug their shoulders and use the phrase, "ni modo", which basically translates into "whatever, I can't change it, I'll just roll with it".
If you plan on spending a lot of time in the city, or anywhere else in Mexico, you'll have to adopt this mentality of Mexican time, because if permeates every aspect of culture, especially with social gatherings. If a dinner party is scheduled for 7 p.m., for example, the vast majority of attendees won't start showing up until 9 in the evening.
You'll also find that the only people who actually cook food and have it prepared and ready on the table by 7 p.m. are foreigners who haven't been here for a long time. Mexicans and long-timers will wait until 8:30 or so to start putting food on the table and actually having things ready, and in the meantime the rest of the people who randomly showed up early will be well and truly sauced from a few too many beers and relaxed conversation beforehand.
So if you decide to come to Cancun for any length of time, ditch the watch and just learn how to relax and have a good time. You'll find yourself the merrier for it, and you might even discover something about yourself that you never knew beforehand: you can live without a schedule and a time card!
The author of this article, Tim Anderson, lives in Cancun. His book offers valuable insights not only for expats, but also for those of you that would like to vacation there...short stays or for a longer duration.
For more information about Tim Anderson and his travels, visit Marginal Boundaries
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