In El Salvador, it’s important to remember a blanket assumption that applies to most deliveries and service visits to your home:
There is always someone at home
This means that garbage trucks come by without any regular schedule, and the water turns on at an hour that may not coincide with your non-working hours. Bills get dropped off at your home literally three days before you are supposed to pay them. Things are scheduled for a specific day, but not necessarily a specific hour, but that’s because someone will be home, right?
Companies delivering appliances or furniture come by “whenever”. I’ll never forget how aggravated I was when our refrigerator needed servicing. It was a brand new fridge we had just bought at a “Comercial” in Chalatenago, but it was not cooling at all. They were to come by “tomorrow” but they never made it. “Oh, there was an issue, and they couldn’t make it,” they said when we asked what happened. “Someone will be there tomorrow morning.” When morning became afternoon, I called the store where we’d bought it, and they said that “Primero Dios” they’ll make it, which means, “God Willing.” “Primero Dios?” I said, all huffy and uptight (I was a newly-moved here expat gringa), “This has nothing to do with God,” I said. “Get them over here, my food is ruining!” The fridge fix-it crew did finally make it later that afternoon.
I’ve calmed down considerably since then, but at that moment I was so annoyed with them behaving like I had all day to wait around for them. But it goes back to that greater assumption people make that either you don’t work, live in a house with many people – at least one of whom is not be working, or you have a “muchacha” who can let them in (muchacha is the Spanish word for girl, but here in El Salvador, it’s used to mean a maid).
Fortunately, when I was working full time, no major emergencies or deliveries were required. My husband’s schedule was more flexible so he could be home if a landlord or housing related issue came up. We figured it out. It’s all part of re-adjusting to a different mode of life in Latin America, which has a good side to it:
Agárrelo el suave
Take it easy, man. Don’t get so uptight, because as annoying as it is to hear someone say they won’t make it until tomorrow, it’s just as annoying to deal with an ants-in-the-pants person with high expectations bitching to the high heavens about it being put off until tomorrow. But guess what? For most people, tomorrow ALWAYS comes. Agárrelo el suave is a nice change in attitude compared to the typical American response, which is to fret and stamp feet at the slightest inconvenience one must endure that cannot be resolved within moments. It’s annoying for Salvadorans (and Latin Americans in general) to be around Americans when they are in that state. When you learn to separate wants from needs, and luxuries from necessities, there are a less appointments and requirements, and you can begin to take it easy, and relax.