London, New York, Paris, Xela – just a few of the world’s cultural melting pots where travellers and ex-pats come from all corners of the globe to munch down on pupusas, pizzas, crepes or whatever the hell they eat in London. While that all sounds well and good, the nitty-gritty of cross-cultural interactions can be somewhat of a minefield. Figuring out what to do, where to do it and who not to tell about what you did or didn’t do can be a pretty steep learning curve for the unwitting traveler in Xelatown. To get you over the chump hump and on your way to being Xela-savvy, the good folks at XelaWho have put together a crash course in Xela etiquette. Enjoy!
One of the first things perceptive travellers might notice about Xela is that the sidewalks are not exactly built for strolling leisurely at dusk with a loved one. Rather, while enjoying a calming stroll to the irresistible sound of reggaeton blasting out of a fridge-shop, many a tourist has found themselves thrust into oncoming traffic after expecting the two señoras coming the other way to part like Red Sea and politely usher them through. So who’s to blame then? The local ladies out walking like they have for years, or Mr. Darcy projecting his own version of etiquette on to said ladies? Judging by the whinging often heard by your faithful editor, it’s the señoras goddammit! The señoras!
After a relaxing afternoon of getting pushed off sidewalks, it’s off to the tienda (store) to buy the daily Xela ration of 10 bags of spicy Tortrix and a gallon of Tampico get the blood pumping. So here is poor Mr. Darcy waiting patiently for his salty treats while every man and his chucho (street dog) who walks in pushes past him and gets served immediately. Even without the Tampico, Darcy’s blood is pumping but he’d be better off using all that pent-up European passive frustration to just shout “Disculpa. Quiero. Diez. Bolsas. De. Tortrix.”
And far from the icy climes of Nordic public transport, no one on a Xela minibus is going to politely step aside and offer you a comfy seat. After being elbowed in the face by a 70-year-old Guatemalan lady wanting the last seat on the mini/chicken bus, you’ll realise that everyone’s fair game and that you can either take it standing up, or roll up your sleeves and get stuck in!
Adapting to Xela’s etiquette can be tough. Even the crew here at XelaWho have lost it occasionally when someone orders Q300 worth of tortillas at the tienda and we spend the next hour waiting for our 2 breakfast tortillas. Or when we’re woken up at 4am by someone setting off fireworks outside our bedroom not once, not twice or even thrice but consistently for over an hour.
But wrestle as you might between lofty ideals of Pride and Prejudice etiquette and the more take-what-you-can-get version here in Xela, there’ll only be one winner in the end. And just like on your budget flight down here, if you bring your own baggage to Guatemala you’re gonna pay a hefty price! Things will happen but maybe not when or how you want them to. So tranquilo muchá and good luck! And if you work out how to be at peace with all these things – please let us know!