Crossing Cultures: The Best Laid Plans

Each month, I try to choose relevant topics in the field of inter-cultural experience, usually based on what we have been dealing with recently. And let me tell you, we are being stretched all over the place in the reliability of planned activities. I hadn’t realized just how much this affected us until we had a chance to plan out a week’s worth of activities for our most recent visitors from Tullahoma, Ken and Suzanne Smith. It struck me as a little out of the ordinary that we would decide what we would do, and then actually do it. It felt unusual, because it is. This is not to say that Peruvians never make plans. But plans made too far in the future are assumed to be uncertain unless verified much closer to the actual date. And most often, no plan is communicated until the last minute, which is culturally normal around here. Examples would include getting an invitation to a birthday party that takes place the very next day, or being informed by your child’s school that there is a mandatory meeting the next evening (or the same day). We are learning to navigate these, and find that it really is more effective to wait until the same day to invite friends over for dinner, because otherwise they might not remember to show up. 

Another facet of this phenomenon is the canceling of plans. Honestly, I have yet to figure this one out. It is not unusual that some- one will wait until an hour after their expected arrival (punctuality doesn’t translate, so it’s no surprise they aren’t here yet), to call and inform their hosts that they actually will be unable to come at all. And that is if the call even occurs. Whether they call or not depends on personality and if they have any available minutes on their phones, as I have some friends that always communicate in one way or another, but others that almost never do. Making plans with them is hit or miss, even if they have been confirmed earlier in the day. 

It can drive me crazy. On my good days, I can take a deep breath, thank God for the extra leftovers and take advantage of the time just handed to me. On my bad days, I grump and gripe about how unreliable so and so is and how it’s just not worth it to try and connect with them, even though I know that it is. Makes you appreciate those who always make time for you, doesn’t it?