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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Friday, October 13, 2017
Buddy, do you have some change?
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Yea, but they’re not on the ’net, man

I didn’t know that
Over the course of a fishing season and after more than 20 years down here in Baja, we end up chatting with hundreds of visitors every year. Over that time, I’ve come up with a list of things Americans seem to be amazed about.

Some are generalities based only on my own experience and may well differ from other areas, but check these out:

Most of our friends, even those with decent incomes, don’t have TVs. If they do, there’s one TV. Not one in every room like in the U.S. But, everyone has a cell phone.

They’ll go on hock for years to have a cell phone which are three or four times more expensive in Mexico than the U.S.

Most don’t have computers. Most things are, understandably, done on (surprise!) cell phones.

Most don’t have cars. It’s rare to see anyone with a new car, let alone a used car. It’s truly a luxury item. They walk. Take the bus. Ride a bike. Hitchhike. Sometimes many hours to get where they need to go.

How many Americans would walk an hour to a minimum wage job? Or ride three buses for 90 minutes to get to work?

Speaking of minimum wage, it averages about $4.20 per DAY. Not per hour. Per day. That’s 52 cents an hour. A six-day work week with 8- to 12-hour days.

And that bus ride mentioned above might eat up 25 percent of those daily wages.

You think everyone down here must fish, swim and eat fish all the time? Actually, most locals I know do not know how to swim. That includes fishing captains as well.

Fishing families might eat fish often as a staple, but other families consider even the smallest bit of fish a welcome delicacy, which is often un­affordable. Give someone some fish and you’ve made a friend for life.

Kids only go to school until the 6th grade. After that, it’s not mandatory, nor is it provided. For many, it’s cost prohibitive.

So, kids don’t go to school. If a family can afford to send a kid past 6th grade, they send the boy, not the girl.

For the cost of what an American kid spends on a pair of Air Jordan sneakers, a kid can go to school for a year and include his books, lunches, transportation and uniform.

Families afford big-ticket items like washing machines and refrigerators by joining “pyramid clubs” whereby groups pay into a fund. The more that join, the higher an individual moves up the pyramid. When they reach the apex, there’s a sum of money they would not have otherwise been able to save.

Once they do purchase something, if it’s on credit, there’s no limit to the interest rate or how long the term of the loan can be. A TV can be a decade-long payment worth a zillion times the value of the object.

We own a restaurant and bar. Surprise. Most Mexicans don’t like tequila and have told me they think Americans are crazy to drink it. Most prefer whisky or scotch if they are drinking.

As for beer, they also wonder why Americans love Corona so much. It’s not held in high regard down here. Tecate and Pacifico are the big sellers.

Fastest growing beer among the young? Bud Light!

Speaking of beer, they also wonder at Americans squeezing lime into their beer. The original reason for rimming lime on the mouth of the beer bottle was to keep flies off.

Speaking of American habits, it’s considered rude to walk around with your shirt off.

Here in La Paz where we live, tourists use as much water as they want. But most don’t realize that water is a precious commodity. Baja is an arid desert.

If you’ve ever seen those giant water tanks on top of houses and buildings, that’s to store water. Water from the city is only turned on several times a week and only for a few hours. Sometimes, it’s only a trickle. Sometimes, it doesn’t come at all.

So, water is stockpiled in those storage tanks and used very judiciously. If you run a restaurant like ours or have a hotel or other high-water usage business, you pay for water trucks to come and fill up your tanks.

Speaking of restaurants, I often hear gringos complain about slow service. Americans don’t realize it’s a cultural thing. Americans are always in a hurry. In Mexico, it’s more leisurely and folks linger over their meals, which can take hours.

Americans complain about having to flag down servers in a restaurant to order… to ask for something… to request their bills. The waiters aren’t bad, it’s just culturally, they don’t hover. You’re left alone to enjoy your meal and socialize.

To get a driver’s license, you don’t need to take a driving test. You take a blood test. I don’t get it.

To work in a restaurant like ours, prospective employees also have to take a blood test. I sorta get it.

We had a health inspection at our restaurant and received a penalty for a violation of the health code. Not what you think. Food was fine. The facility was fun. But…

A little known health regulation is that there MUST be recreational equipment for our employees to use whenever they want. You’re kidding, right?

We bought a soccer ball. We put it on a shelf in the office. We had everyone sign a paper acknowledging that they knew it was there and could play soccer in our restaurant whenever the mood struck them. We haven’t received a citation since then! No one has asked to play soccer yet either.

Things you didn’t know…

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