Top 10 examples of Gringo Logic

gringos abroad

A little while ago, I wrote a post about Mexican Logic, so I thought it only fair to comment on how the Gringo mind works too. Having been in the Americas for a while now, I have a good grasp of how westerners behave here, what frustrates them, and some of the dumb shit they do.

Disclaimer: To avoid throwing stones from a glass house, I will admit that I have practiced much of this silly behaviour myself.

1. Business logic

Westerners want mo' money. Latin Americans don't.

That is a grand oversimplification, but it does explain to some extent the stream of business based questions that many Westerners have:

  • Why don't they want to sell more things? 
  • Why don't people negotiate here?
  • Don't they want to be more successful?

Gringo Logic: If I want to be a millionaire, why doesn't everyone?

People have different ideas about success. Here's a great fable about a Mexican fisherman and why he didn't want more.

2. Punctuality logic

punctualityTime in Latin America is a concept. It's a rough guide for when things are going to happen, but it's not something to set your watch to.

A recent travel companion told me "people are zo zlow 'ere, in Europe we do everyzing zo fast 'uh?" (He's French).

There's no incentive to go fast here, you just get more work or have to wait for people to turn up.

Gringo Logic: I'll turn up on time, I don't want to miss anything.

I once saw some Americans in Oaxaca wanting to leave an Easter procession to go to their dinner reservation. No one else was in the restaurant because they were all waiting for the procession, It boggles my mind that they wanted to leave to keep time.

Pro tip: Turn up whenever you feel like it, because everyone else will do the same.

3. Line logic

good manners
I'll wait my turn just doesn't cut it in Latin America.

I've spent three years trying to lead by example allowing ladies, children and students onto the bus first, but it just leads to more people trying to cut in front of you.

Manners may never go out of fashion, but venting about being treated unfairly is so Gringo.

Gringo Logic: I'll give the attendant a stern look to express my disapproval at not being served in an orderly manner - that'll teach 'em.

The only way to get 'fair treatment' is to do what locals do. If they don't think it's rude, it isn't.

If you can't beat them, join them.

4. Politeness logic
In Europe and the US, it's polite to refuse, to act reserved. In Latin America nothing makes people happier than feeding you, and sharing things with you.

Gringo Logic: I don't want to impose, I'll refuse the offer of food for the fourth time.

Nobody likes a moocher, but you should go with what people want, and that's for you to accept their kindness.

5. Language logic

Speak English
English is probably the most useful language to possess, but that doesn't mean that it's useful for everyone.

It can be frustrating when people don't know how to help you understand in a foreign language. A lot of Latin Americans will just repeat what they said, us more complex language and not slow down. However, this isn't an excuse for blindly asserting that 'everyone must speak Englsih'

Gringo Logic: Why don't they speak English? They need to learn if they want to be more successful.

Even in tourist locations, us Gringos have to accept that not everything is tailored towards us.

6. Internet logic
Internet logic
The internet here sucks. Outside of big cities, a lot of the connections are satellite which falters when it's windy, rainy and whenever it feels like it. Funnily enough, developing countries have developing infrastructure. People seem to think that complaining about a slow connection will make it faster.

It's often much quicker to ask for information in person here too. You certainly get the most up to date prices and schedules if you ask in person.

Gringo Logic: I can do everything on my iPad . . . wait, why isn't all of the information online? And why is the WiFi out?

I remember an infuriating prolonged conversation I had with a rather dim witted ex housemate in Argentina.

Him: People aren't responding to my emails about jobs.
Me :That's because they don't really check emails, you have to go and see them in person.

A day later . . .

They still aren't responding, it's so annoying.
That's because they don't really check emails, you have to go and see them in person.

A week later . . .

It's really hard to get a job, because no one responds to your emails.
God damn your feeble brain . . . I give up.

7. Trusting logic

Many a Gringo has been tricked by smooth talking Spanish types. I'm not talking about getting conned, just believing the bullshitters.

Latins don't like to say 'no', or admit that they don't know something. Normally they just misdirect you, or tell you to come back later. It's always worth getting a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th opinion on your question in case number one was full of shit.

Gringo Logic: I'll come back tomorrow, he said it would be ready by then.

Coming back later, means at least another two trips.

8. Safety logic

Travel safetyGringos have strange ideas when it comes to safety. They can't really tell the difference between 'dangerous in general', and 'dangerous for tourists'.

San Pedro Sula in Honduras is branded the world's most dangerous city because it has the highest murder rate. But none of those murders are because an American tourist wouldn't give up his or her money belt.

I always said that Buenos Aires is much more dangerous for tourists, than Mexico (contrary to the public perception of cartel violence). Tourists need to avoid places with high levels of petty, not organised crime.

Gringo Logic: Colombia is dangerous because of Pablo Escobar, they're all druggies there.

An Aussie girl once told me that she couldn't go to Oaxaca, because she had seen a safety warning about the state online. "It's totally safe for tourists" I said. "I live there". "Yeah, I really wanted to go, but I'll have to see it another time." she complained.

9. Bad service logic

Service in Latin America isn't the best. There is less of a tipping culture and only very high level businesses understand the importance of good service for their customers.

It's something you have to get used to, to amend your expectation levels. Remember, if you are asking a question starting with "Why . . ." in Latin America, the answer is most probably " . . . because they don't care"

Gringo Logic: The louder I complain, the better the service will be.

Just yesterday I saw an American complaining about the lack of filling in an empanada she bought at the Panama Canal. The poor girl in the coffee shop spoke no English, and when she finally understood that the ample framed woman wanted more food because of her disappointment she just laughed.

10. Home comforts logic
Americans abroad
It's natural to be more comfortable with what you know, but Gringos seem to want the same as what they have normally, all the time.

I often wonder why these people travel at all, if they want the same experience and convenience they have at home. I love reading one star reviews on Trip Advisor as they highlight people's crazy expectations. One hotel in Huatulco, Mexico was blasted by an incredulous customer because "They didn't even serve fries on the menu". Oh the humanity!

Gringo Logic: Why won't they accept my dollars in McDonalds, and why are the names of the burger different? It's an America chain ain't it?

I'll leave you with the image of a worried black American preacher I met in Mexico city who was asking for help with his luggage issue. He seemed bamboozled at who to ask because of the lack of evangelical churches and was just pacing in circles repeating "Everything is so different here. So different".

Yes sir. Different countries are different.