Latin America is not without its faults.
Annoyances, bewildering processes, and societal quirks are of course what make the world one very special – and colorful – place. But, depending on the personal background and adaptability of a North American outsourcing decision-maker or investor, the foreignness of Latin America can be a feature worth embracing or a concept that rattles visitors to the core.
We have come up with a list of mild grievances pertaining to daily life when traveling the Nearshore region that we believe are worth discussing. By no means a definitive list, it gives us a chance to point out that Latin America may seem very foreign – especially for the U.S. business executive accustomed to being able to grasp why things are the way they are.
1. Getting a check from the waiter, without asking. North Americans are likely to get itchy when waiting and waiting for a check to arrive at the end of a meal. It is considered taboo for the waiter to leave a check without it being requested, so unless you speak up, you may be sitting at the table for a very long time. Meanwhile, rather than eat and run, Latin Americans love to linger past the eating portion of a dining experience anyway. What’s the rush, Mr. North American?
2. Just because we’re North American doesn’t mean we want to eat American fast food. The U.S. fast-food chains are spread all over Mexico, Central America, and selected cities in South America. I don’t eat that fast-food at home, so why does the front desk clerk so often want to suggest that as a dining destination?
3. Making sure you get into the right colored taxi. Usually it’s okay unless you’re in Panama and then you’re likely to get taken for a ride around the block or two to pick the driver’s girlfriend up before getting dropped off.
4. Dealing with slow-moving lines for coffee, hotel check-in/check-out, or doing business in a bank or just about anywhere. Still in a rush, Mr. North American?
5. Pretending to be a gringo is a perfect excuse for not knowing how to Salsa or Merengue. In other words, Latin Americans are so hospitable, they will welcome you regardless of how many left feet you have. (Yes, we know this is hard to call a “grievance.”)
6. Foreign airlines take a backseat to the domestic operators. Ever fly on JetBlue into Bogota? Then you know what we’re talking about. Foreign airliners landing in Bogota will get relegated to last-class status on the airstrip – often having to stand idle on the runway while Avianca planes that land afterward claim choice gate slots.
7. Coming home with a fierce corporate farmer’s tan. The bright, shimmering sun is hard to hide from – especially in the countries closest to the United States. Anticipate lots of jokes and jabs when you get back to the home office in the U.S., when colleagues wonder if you spent the whole time golfing or driving during your Nearshore ventures.
Takeaway: It’s highly recommended to take at least half a day and put on a pair of shorts and cruise around the city you’re visiting. That activity alone will give you a fresh perspective on what Latin America society is really all about – and the fact that unlike the people in many places in the United States, Latin Americans don’t sacrifice the time necessary to warmly greet, engage and have meaningful human contact.