Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Everybody lies



Let me get this straight. I am from Holland. Worse even, I am from Amsterdam. That means that I’m stereotypically very direct, straight-forward, undiplomatic and sarcastic, the combination of it often confused with being brutally honest. It’s not that I never tell a lie (All the time! It’s just that I call it “art” of fiction”, hahaha!), but it is not in our nature to lie about just everything. Because it’s just not necessary and often not very effective, and if we dutchies are something else too, it’s effective.

But in Honduras, stereotypically of course, everybody lies. I guess Hondurans are eager to please and rather send you in the wrong direction than actually confessing they don’t know the place you’re asking about. When you ask when something will be fixed, you’ll often get the famous mañana (tomorrow) for an answer, which means anything between “tomorrow” (however unlikely) to “next week” (way more realistic). Vague promises, lame excuses, evading answers and downright lies are much more common than an honest “I don’t know”, or, God forbid, “no” for an answer. A friend once told me that the tour guides at the archaeological park were taught never to admit they didn’t know something, but rather make something up, as to look professional. At schools too, a wrong answer is better than an “I don’t know”.
In Honduras you just never say no.

I’ve been living here long enough to know that some things will never change, but the fact that they can’t even be slightly altered is sometimes particularly frustrating.
Last week I finally got a complete set of ink cartridges for my printer delivered, which took almost two weeks and a lot of phone calls and visits to the store. When I bought my printer a few months ago, I was assured that they would always have ink in stock, which was one of the main reasons to buy that particular printer. It was, of course, a lie. But no problem, the ink could be sent that same day from San Pedro Sula and would arrive in the afternoon. Right. Day after day went by, with all possible excuse, but no ink. I pleaded the girl to tell me the truth rather than give me yet another implausible explanation, so at least I could plan my work around the absence of ink, or find my own way to get the bloody cartridges into my possession, but she assured me on a daily basis that the cartridges were on their way. After two weeks of having my professional life on hold, for no reason but the lack of truth, I finally had the whole set complete.

But even this sort of lying, as annoying as it is, I can sort of understand. It’s about not wanting to disappoint a customer, even if that’s exactly what happens. But why lie for no reason whatsoever?  I asked someone about his family the other day, and this guy told me he only had three sisters. A little further on in the conversation, he mentioned his brother.
“I thought you said you only have sisters?” I asked, confused.
“No, I didn’t,” was his answer.
????
This sort of stuff happens all too often, and it’s not because of my Spanish!!!

So there’s lying in to hide a hurtful truth, lying to gain profit, lying to impress and lying to avoid responsibility. I understand all that. But the lying for the sake of lying, why????
But then again, lying your way around and getting away with it?
I’m learning and loving it!

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