Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guanajuato, Mexico -- Working The Culture #5

As I wrote in a previous post, I want to hurl when I hear Gringolandians, who when introduced to a Mexican for the first very first time, will use the Mexican's first name. The American Gringolandians will assume a familiarity with Mexicans when they should not.

Another Gringolandian culture blunder is in the Gringolandian's obstinate refusal to learn the language. The reason I say this is because it is within the language that you walk through the door into the culture.

A very simple point in the Spanish language is learning that the use of the reflexive verbs reflects the non-confrontational nature of Mexicans.

A Mexican would NOT say, "I dropped the cup." A Mexican would say rather, "The cup dropped itself." i.e. La copa se cayรณ.

If you were in a business meeting with a bilingual Mexican who accidentally spilled some sauce on his tie and you said, "You just spilled some sauce on your tie," you would at that point either confirmed in his mind you were a typical ignorant gringo and are clueless, or that you insulted him.

"Your tie got some sauce on itself..." is what you would say instead.

One is indirect while the other is direct and insulting.

It is essentially a learned behavior of deflecting blame and exists in the culture whether we Americans like it or not.

More indirect speech would be if you were considering a certain handyman for a job on your house. You ask a Mexican neighbor who has used this handyman before, "Is this handyman a reliable worker or not?" If the neighbor says to you, "He tries hard," or, "He is very sincere," you should NOT hire that worker. What the Mexican is saying is that he is a lazy lout and not to hire him."

The Mexican would generally not come right out and say, "Don't hire the baboso, he can't be trusted."

This polite approach dominates the Spanish language in Mexico in almost every verbal exchange on any level of life.

I have asked Mexican on all level of the spectrum how they tolerated the direct confrontational speech of the Gringolandian: the use of the personal instead of the formal pronouns (Tu versus Usted), and not using the reflexive verbs. They told me that the monolingual Gringo can't help themselves. They can't handle the language.

This isn't true. Gringos can indeed learn the language and learn it well. It is a matter of desire and the right approach. But, the Gringolandians have earned the reputation of being incapable.

I find that embarrassing.

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