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Your How To Source: Issues of Value, Ethics, Human Needs and Deeds    Edited by Heinz Dinter, PhD

Top ten tips for a happy life (2006-11-24)

I’ve been an expat in Latin America for more than five years, most of that spent in Mexico. I’ve learned a lot in that time, most notably:

1. The world is a big place, and the vast majority of it doesn’t work or think remotely like the U.S. Get used to it.

2. There are two interesting types of expat who relocate to foreign countries — those who love the culture they’ve moved to; and those who hate the culture they’ve moved from. The former are fun to talk to but often see the world through rose-colored glasses. The latter are fun to talk to but often make annoying drunks.

3. Outside the U.S., patience and personal contact are often required to get things done — even simple things that might only take a quick phone call in the U.S.

4. Learning, or at least trying to learn, the local language is a huge help in almost every way.

5. Personal initiative on the part of bureaucrats, clerks, and other functionaries in Latin America is a rare commodity for a variety of reasons. Therefore, don’t expect the girl at the telephone office or the guy behind the bank teller window to go out of their way to creatively solve your particular problem. That’s not in their job description. Their job is to correctly fill out paperwork, period. To get tricky problems solved fast, establish a cordial and respectful relationship with the highest ranking person in the office.

6. Many people in Latin America have no concept of the value of their own time. They know the value of labor, they know the value of products, but they will not complain if they’ve been waiting in line all day to file a form with a government office only to be told that the office is closing and to come back tomorrow. They will wander away quietly, and come back tomorrow.

7. You and your problems are not as important as your Mexican friend’s family, community, and religion. The fact that you may be paying them big money for something will not change this.

8. Mañana does not mean tomorrow. When someone tells you they will do something for you mañana, they mean that they will do it as soon after today as they conveniently can. Which could be tomorrow. Or next week. Or never.

9. Eat where the locals eat.

10. Friendship is the key to a happy life. If you can travel and live abroad for years at a time with your spouse/partner and not kill each other, then you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your spouse/partner is also your best friend.

Source: • Dan Prescher

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