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…
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Forever waiting in line
slightly suicidal and you happen to be in Holland, then you might like the following experiment: Go to any regular, well visited stored, let’s say a bakery, and
instead of carefully checking out who is last in line, you walk up front and
loudly ask for a half a whole-grain, sliced, please.
you’ll get killed.
Although not as
polite or obsessed with queuing as the English, for the Dutch it is an
unwritten rule that you never EVER go before your turn. NEVER!
So, being born
and bred in Holland, during my first few months
I spent quite a bit of time waiting for my turn, until it finally dawned on me
that there is no turn.
In the big cities
it’s probably a whole different story (there you have such things as
supermarkets), but in Copán most shopping is still done in small neighbourhood pulperías. With their own set of rules…
I’d go into a
store and politely wait behind two women until the store owner would be so kind
to pay me any attention. It’s not that the women were actually buying anything.
Or at least not a lot. But there is always a whole lot of chatting and laughing
going on. This would go on and on until I would get so frustrated that
irritation would override my genetic politeness and I would interrupt the
conversation and ask for a pack of toilet paper. Nothing would happen. At least
nothing what I expected, such as killer looks, flying daggers, or a
condescending up- turning of noses. Instead, the lady behind the counter would
grab a pack of toilet paper from a shelf behind her, tell me the price, accept
my money, give me change and all of this
without even the slightest pause in her conversation!
It took a while,
but I finally learned that you don’t go shopping to buy stuff, (that’s sort of collateral damage), but to see what‘s
going on in the world. You go to the store to discuss the weather or the price
of eggs and of course to hear the very latest gossip. Shopping is a social
event that should not be hurried or interrupted. It’s an almost sacred ceremonial
exchange of information that is not disturbed by other customers, whining children or salesmen.
If you actually need to buy something, you send your kid to the store.
This way of
shopping, as much as I’ve come to respect it, is really not my thing. But that’s
fine, it’s just not for everybody. Now, years later, I have shopping in a hurry
down to an art. I walk into a store, ignore everybody else, ask for what I want
and am attended instantly, happily exiting the store seconds later with my
But every once in
a while, while I’m being attended, someone else comes up from behind and will yell
out whatever he or she wants, while it is still my turn!!! That’s when the Dutch
part of me awakes like an angry orange lion. I’ll turn around and snarl and the
Hey you! Wait for
I can’t help it. Even
though I know very well that the response will be a blank stare.