Lessons from Latin America, Straddling Two Worlds

How Living in Latin America Has Forced Me to Become More Patient

On dictionary.com the word ‘patience’ is defined as “the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.”

I’ll admit, I have never been anything close to being a patient person. I am ambitious. I am action-oriented. I like to see progress, change, and results. Part of me thinks that these are just my own personal qualities, but then I take a step back and realize that the culture I was surrounded by in the States actually had a huge impact on my ability to be a patient person.

Think about it. Aren’t we wired to be naturally impatient people in the United States, where life runs on convenience and time is very legitimately money?

We work ourselves to death, literally, especially when considering the alarming number of the stress-related health conditions Americans suffer from. We value punctuality, expect timeliness, manage our lives ‘on the go’ as the norm and most importantly – hate waiting.

Wow – that’s a depressing light you shed on us Lauren. Sorry, I know. I’m a realist. But it’s a reality that I’m hoping to call attention to as I share my reflections on just how the Latin culture can teach us to become more patient.

Here in Latin America it’s a very different story.

Given that Colombia is still a developing country, the pace of life is naturally much slower. Understandably therefore, progress and innovation don’t come as easily or as quickly when the institutional systems put in place are racked with corruption, misguidance, or general lack of resources. To give a very simplified example, people are used to waiting in long lines at the bank and the grocery stores. They have seen harder times, so they don’t complain. In other words, they are forced to be patient.

The consumers may not receive the technologies they desire that would otherwise make these processes faster and more efficient, but societies like this also don’t tend to suffer from the adverse side-effects of the impatience, whether that be chronic high blood pressure or simply a cranky mood.

I’ve learned that the price of not living in the fastest or most efficient societies is the development of patience. This, when extended to other areas of your life, can reap tremendous benefits to our overall well-being and happiness.

So I wait in line, and ponder freely about the coincidences of life. I walk slower, like I own time, because really I do. I take a deep breath when things don’t go my way and understand it as an opportunity to strengthen that virtue of patience that the typical modern American worker tends to lack.

Living in a country where the newest products, updates, and trends aren’t necessarily changing as often really does have its benefits. I can live  s l o w e r. I can live with more thought and less pressure. I can give myself the TIME needed to reflect.

All good things come with time, so I won’t fret or lose my temper. I’ll instead follow the words of one of my favorite albums by Latin artist Juan Luis Guerra: Todo Tiene Su Hora (Everything Has It’s Time).

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