This week I have been sunning myself on the beaches in Mexico. It is a unique experience to visit so many different places and cultures in such a short period of time, and I appreciate every moment of it. Part of visiting different countries involves learning and respecting their cultures. I didn’t truly understand the expression “island time” until I started visiting the Caribbean and Mexico. Everything there happens in its own time and there is no such thing as an appointment. When you are told that something will happen in a (Mexican) minute, it could be an hour. For a Type A person like myself, this has been a bit of an adjustment, but mostly it has been a valuable learning experience in how to relax. This can be a hard lesson for some.
The other night I took a catamaran sunset cruise. Admittedly, the catamaran was not as large or luxurious as I have experienced in the past, and the on-board washroom was more like a bucket inside of a tight cavern. However, I chose to embrace the moment and boarded anyhow. I grabbed my spot on the boat and pulled out the camera while my husband was already making friends with the two couples up front with us. They were delightful. The two men had been friends since high school and the couples often traveled together. One of the couples was celebrating their 25th Anniversary and they were enjoying every minute of it, until things took a turn.
Part way through the tour I overheard the wife of the anniversary couple discussing return times with the boat captain. She had made a dinner reservation based on tour times, but the times she had been given at the tour desk did not align with the actual sunset, and we would not return in time for her to make her dinner. She was assured that the restaurant would wait for her and give her a nice dinner whenever we returned, but the damage was done. She wanted to be back for her reservation and she felt like the captain wasn’t interested in her plight. He offered to call and change her reservation once we were closer to shore, and apologized for the inconvenience, but it was not enough. What was a fun trip turned uncomfortable very quickly. She first tried to get her husband to fight her cause, but he was fully immersed in the Mexican culture and didn’t see the problem. Her voice rose and fell. F-bombs were dropped. She teetered between yelling and pouting. Her frustration turned to her friends who were sympathetic but not supportive in her attempts to bully the captain into an early return. Then she turned her sights on me.
During our earlier discussions she had learned that I am a writer and blogger and would be sharing my experiences online. In mid tantrum, she turned to me and shouted, “you better be giving them a negative write-up about this”! I told her that I had actually enjoyed myself. I know I could have been more empathetic, but I’m not game for bullying and wasn’t about to be shamed. She turned her attention to her friend, and then back to me again. This time I moved over beside her and explained that I am also a Type A person and it can bother me a lot when I don’t make an appointment on time, but I was certain that the restaurant would not penalize her in any way and she would get to enjoy her anniversary dinner after everyone on board enjoyed the sunset that they had paid to see. Suddenly her problem wasn’t with the reservation, but with the condition of the boat and the lack of attentiveness from the captain. She expressed hope that no one would offer him a tip for what was clearly a booze cruise and not a sunset cruise.
In all honesty, I agree that the cruise I went on was not the one I expected to go on. The boat was inferior to catamarans I have cruised on in the past, and the food wasn’t fancy. However, it was authentically Mexican. We were served beer, tequila and margaritas along with chips and guacamole. The captain was directing most of his energy to the couples in the back but to be fair, none of them were swearing at him.
I had not intended to write about this particular outing. It was an adventure that I was taking with my husband in hopes of seeing some wildlife. We saw birds, manta rays and there was a whale sighting that I missed, but it was still there. The sunset was phenomenal and the food and drinks were delicious, if not fancy. Even the company was perfect, for the first half of the trip. I still think she was fun company, but she wasn’t able to adjust when things didn’t work the way she was accustomed to. When traveling, you can choose to take in the culture that you are visiting, or try to make it conform to you. You can choose to board the boat, or walk away when it doesn’t meet your expectations. You can choose to enjoy yourself or not.
Have you come across a cultural difference that impacted your enjoyment on a trip?