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- Formality & Purpose in Latin America
Back when I was living in the US, you could argue that life is definitely more structured in a way up there.
For example, it’s entirely possible that you might get a ticket for jaywalking.
Or how folks up in the US frown upon more folks who want to drink during the day or in other circumstances not considered socially acceptable.
To just other things having a stronger formality to them…
Like how, when I was talking with my sister, she told me that it isn’t uncommon supposedly for apartment owners to want you to submit an application to live in their apartment.
I never once rented out an apartment in the US because I left the country at a relatively young age.
But I remember being surprised when she told me like a year ago or so that supposedly apartment applications are normal up there!
So on and so on….
And, to be fair, I guess it could be worse, right?
About an hour ago, I was going to take a quick nap.
But then I had this video show up in my recommended list on Youtube and decided to see what it was about.
It’s basically about Sweden and what it’s like to live there relative to the US.
Now, to be fair, I don’t know Sweden fairly well personally.
I’ve been there once for like a few days when I was city hopping around Europe some odd years ago.
So I never actually lived there on a day to day basis.
In that case, I can’t comment very well on how “formal” or “structured” life is there.
Outside of getting on a cruise ship or some type of boat to Finland and the manager of the kitchen area started berating a group of tourists for grabbing some slices of pizza that were “in the kid’s section FOR KIDS!!!”
Even though they didn’t have pizza in the rest of the room….
Anyway, the video was a bit of an eye opener to me also (though only the first 10 minutes were actually interesting).
Just in terms of seeing how formal life in Sweden really is supposedly.
To be honest, I’d hate that type of formality.
Which is arguably a little bit ironic since…
The Opposite in Latin America?
Since, in Latin America, life tends to be fairly informal.
And, as you all know, I’m not shy away from critiquing Latin America for all of its inefficiencies.
In part, many of those inefficiencies stem from how informal life can be down here.
Though, of course, it’s a little bit misleading to say that all of Latin America is the literal opposite to how Sweden supposedly is or how relatively formal life in the US is.
Because every country is different and….
Has different degrees of development.
In my opinion, the formality of life in Latin America or really anywhere in the world…
Stems down to 3 things from what I’ve noticed:
- How developed is it
- How effective is the federal or local government at being authoritarian mixed with their political ideology for the moment.
- The degree to which the local population is willing to submit to rules set onto them by those who are deemed as “authorities.”
Generally speaking, from what I have seen, a more developed country is usually going to have more formality to the structure of life.
A country like Chile usually has more formalities that people follow than a place like Nicaragua where things are less strict.
The same goes also even within countries…
A city like Bogota is going to be stricter on enforcing rules than a city like Barranquilla.
Or how a city like Mexico City can perhaps be stricter than San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas.
But why is that the case?
Why would a more urban and developed area be stricter on rules and formality than a place less developed or poorer?
I have no idea.
It’s simply what I’ve noticed.
For one, I feel there is an influence from the local culture?
Take Barranquilla versus Bogota.
In Barranquilla, the culture definitely seemed more laid back than that in Bogota.
People in Bogota generally seemed “colder” in a way and more observant on rules than those in Barranquilla.
On top of that…
And I’m only theorizing here…
Maybe there’s more people in a place like Mexico City or Bogota that have more formal jobs and have more to lose if they don’t follow the rules versus a place like Barranquilla or some city in Chiapas?
That sounds partly bullshit because you have lots of people in all of those areas with formal jobs that would be at risk if they didn’t follow whatever rules imposed on them by the local government.
But I feel there might be a degree of truth to that one.
Also, maybe to a degree, you can argue it also comes down to the ability of the local city government to enforce rules.
A place like Bogota or Mexico City simply has more money to enforce its rules.
More cameras for example to spot people littering.
When I lived in Roma Norte area of Mexico City, I remember seeing a sign that says that people who litter will be given heavy fines.
And, in that part of Mexico City, they do have a lot more cameras and police everywhere.
Versus when I lived by Cuatro Caminos of Mexico City and you literally had trash everywhere.
With also a huge ass pile of trash almost as big as me more or less just on the side of the street in the path between the metro Cuatro Caminos and this shopping mall nearby.
Which, even though I’m sure they have official rules against littering, they have less ability to enforce it there.
Less police officers maybe?
Less cameras perhaps?
Less money overall?
So on and so on….
At any rate, that all ties into the second point about the ability of local governments to enforce their rules and have some degree of formality to society.
Of course, that also is mixed in with local politics.
Take for example the COVID situation.
In Mexico, you have had poorer states enforce much strictier COVID rules where people could be jailed for not following them!
Meanwhile, the Mexican President AMLO, as you can see here, has been critical of some of the measures placed in other parts of the world.
Considering them to be “too authoritarian.”
In Mexico City?
We’ve had some restrictions but not anywhere near as strict as some other areas of Latin America or even other areas in Mexico.
But even with rules in place…
Well, it also depends on the willingness of people to follow those rules.
For example, let’s take Mexico again.
A friend of mine named Blayde took a trip to some small beach area in Mexico some odd months ago…
And noticed how nobody in that area gave a rats ass about wearing a mask.
Apparently it was mask free in that area!
However, he got yelled at by a group of Mexicans near Metro Viga in Mexico City some odd months ago in a market for not wearing a mask.
And then he pulled the ol’ “did Jesus wear a mask?” line against them.
I’ve had similar experiences.
In El Centro of Mexico City, you notice a shit ton of people wearing a mask.
Before I moved to El Centro months ago?
I was living in an area called Pedregal de Santo Domingo where maybe 60% of the people had a mask on.
Where I live at right now…
The street food workers will comply with mask rules a bit less than what you might see in other areas of Mexico City.
So putting all that together….
The topic really comes down to this….
Do you prefer living in an area with a more formal structure to life or a less formal structure?
Let’s consider both options.
A Formal Life in Latin America?
As I said, some areas in Latin America have more formalities to them than others.
Now, in my experience, there is no area in Latin America I’ve seen that is as formal as life in the US and definitely not what is described about Sweden in that video.
But some areas in Latin America are more formal than others.
Take cities in Chile or Argentina to those in Guatemala or Bolivia.
So on and so on…
In my opinion, there are pros and cons to all of this.
So let’s first consider the pros and cons to a more formal part of Latin America.
The main positive is that things are generally going to be more comfortable.
This isn’t always the case 100% of the time but it basically is.
What I mean by that is you did have some places in Latin America, like El Salvador, that supposedly put very strict rules on COVID and apparently enforced it.
Now how well did they enforce it compared to a country like Argentina is another story….
But outside of cases like that…
Yes, places that are more formal tend to be more comfortable.
With more international businesses like Starbucks or Dominos.
Or Best Buy.
Better customer service all around.
Perhaps less crime overall?
With the locals (like cops or gringo pricing individuals), in my experience, taking less shots at trying to fuck you over.
All around, it’s going to be a nicer place to live materially speaking.
Having said that…
There are some negatives to it also.
First, urban places that are less developed tend to be relatively less boring compared to urban places of Latin America that are more developed.
Less fun parties.
Think Santiago in Chile to Barranquilla in Colombia.
And I emphasize urban because obviously a place like a rural part of Hidalgo (Mexico), El Chaco (Paraguay) or in the countryside of rural Brazil would be more boring to most people when compared to Santiago or Buenos Aires.
However, saying they are “boring” might not be the right word because it depends on lifestyle – some folks would enjoy a more rural area.
And those rural areas can bring with them many of the other benefits of a less formal place like those below…
Second, less formality also means you can get away with more shit like bribing cops for example or just flying under the radar without cops coming after you.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t always the case – Mexico City is pretty fun and relatively formal.
Still, I think the point is generally true here.
Third, people are less pretentious.
People in Mexico City can overall be a shit ton more pretentious than people who are from Nicaragua or Bolivia.
Though, as I said, this all varies even within countries.
I found folks from Santa Cruz of Bolivia to be more pretentious than folks in Cochabamba for example on average.
Fourth, things are generally a little bit cheaper or even a lot cheaper in places with less formality and development than places with all that.
Fifth, though it’s not always true, chicks tend to be better looking in less formal places than more formal places.
The main reason is obesity.
A place with more development tends to have more obese people who are comfortable.
Again, I’m just generalizing here…
Sixth, the places with less formality in Latin America usually (though not always) tend to be noted for having better or warmer climates.
Think Mazatlan compared to Mexico City.
Or Barranquilla or Cali compared to Bogota.
Or Colombia in general compared to Chile.
The Dominican Republic compared to some nice Patagonia city in Argentina.
Or Cuba to Uruguay.
Seventh, places with more formal development like Buenos Aires tend to have more severely autistic people who make politics their identity.
Of course, not everyone in Buenos Aires is like that but you’ll notice more people like that in Buenos Aires than Cochabamba or Xela for example.
At least that’s what I’ve noticed.
Eighth, countries in Latin America with less development tend to have more favourable residency rules.
That’s not always the case but it looks that way to me from what I’ve seen briefly.
Just in terms of how much money you need to prove to get residency.
Of course, there’s another element to that regarding which countries tax worldwide income also when you do have residency…
As you can read here, the countries that don’t tax your worldwide income are: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Of course, in that list, we can see Costa Rica, Panama and Uruguay in there.
So it’s not like places that are relatively more developed always tax your worldwide income.
But most of the countries on that list are a bit poorer.
Ninth, less formal places tend to have less structure or rules you have to follow to get something done.
Now, to be fair, that isn’t always the case.
In an urban city in Latin America like Lima or Mexico City, it’s not unheard of to have bureaucratic rules when dealing with fancier establishments or government buildings.
Like having to wait in multiple lines to achieve one thing or dealing with bureaucrats who are bad at their jobs and want to tell you no.
Granted, you get that shit in every country that has government buildings.
And especially outside of the major capital cities, you’ll find a lot less formality like that…
Or less formality when it comes to things you can and can’t do in day to day life.
Finally, some people might argue that places with less formality and development have less intrusive governments spying on you.
I don’t agree with that entirely.
Cuba? Nicaragua? Venezuela?
Those countries have more authoritarian governments in general.
Granted, a country whose government is richer would have more means to invest in technologies to spy on its citizens and be intrusive.
Either way, I don’t agree with this point entirely but it’s one that is brought up at times by people when thinking of a country to settle down to.
Though most people don’t see the trend I’m seeing here – which is that relation between how developed a place is and how formal life can be.
Along with all of the positives and negatives that come with that.
However, it’s a bit misleading to characterize this discussion as only being “pick the more developed place with a formal structure” or “pick the one without.”
Like we can only pick some crappy barrio in Caracas to the nicest street of Montevideo to live in.
Like I said, no part of Latin America is even really as formal as life is in the US and definitely not like Sweden or some other countries in Europe.
And that brings a question – can you find a balance?
Finding a Balance
Truth is, I think most of Latin America that any gringo would consider living in is going to have enough of the balance he will want.
Because most gringos are not going for the gated community lifestyle in the richest areas of Uruguay…
And most are not going to live in the shittiest barrios of Caracas or some small rural life in Paraguay.
Still, it’s a question of how formal and developed do you want your new home to be in Latin America?
Or that’s how I see it anyway.
For me, I think Mexico City has a nice enough balance.
As I hinted at before with the example comparing Roma Norte to Cuatro Caminos…
Or to Pedregal de Santo Domingo…
You have a wide variety of neighborhoods to live in.
Some where people follow rules and formality more than people in other neighborhoods.
Suffice to say, I think you can argue that I personally don’t want a life too formal.
If any of that information is true about life in Sweden in that video way above…
I know I’d hate it with a burning passion.
Despite all the shit I say about Latin America, any place down here sounds like heaven compared to how formal life supposedly is up there.
Even when compared to the US…
You remember shit your sister says about an “application for apartments.”
Like what formal faggoty ass shit is this?
Who do these people think they are?
I’m looking for an apartment, not a job motherfucker.
Or you see videos like this here where some person gets arrested for riding their bike on the sidewalk?
It’s formal rules like that which I know I wouldn’t do well with.
And that is arguably one of thing I love and hate about Latin America.
The Love & Hate of Formality
Like I said, it’s a love-hate thing.
On one hand, you hate the higher number of corrupt cops looking for a bribe..
Maybe you don’t appreciate the extra lack of security with crime in the area…
Or all the extra trash in the streets…
So on and so on.
However, I like the informality.
Like when I got having sex in a public bathroom in the Dominican Republic as you can see here…
I simply bribed my way out of it.
Need a bottle of vodka but the guy behind the counter can’t sell it because of COVID rules?
Here’s a bribe motherfucker as you can read here.
Or how, over a week ago, I tried to buy liquor at a 7-11….
And this lady wouldn’t sell it since it was over 12.
So I came across a bar in the plaza below me that somehow got around the rules for bars to close at 12!
They party all along until 2 AM or sometimes even later!
I asked the guy how he could do under COVID shit and he said “there are ways.”
And I could go on and on…
My opinion is this…
First, find the place in Latin America that you like the most….
The place that gives you whatever type of balance you need between formal and informal.
Most won’t go to Caracas nor a small village in the Amazon…
But other gringos, on the other hand, do question what would be the point of living in a gated community in Uruguay…
At that point…
The question becomes – “why not go home?”
If you want a much more formal life than what Latin America can usually offer…
Well, to a degree, I think those folks have a point…
You might as well go home at that point.
And, as we know, some folks do!
For various reasons.
Maybe they get tired of the negatives of a more informal life and go home…
Or perhaps they go into a new stage of life where they have to take on new responsibilities…
Changing Desires for Formality?
Finally, we should address one last point…
Since we are on the topic of “finding the place with the right amount of balance” for you.
Also recognize you change as a person.
When you are a 24 year old, having a life in a more dangerous part of Latin America like Cali or Rio de Janeiro might seem like fun.
Hell, it might stay fun forever!
With the hotter weather, hotter chicks, better parties, so on and so on…
But you might not be that way forever…
You might desire having a child someday.
A friend of mine fell in love some odd months ago with a Mexican chick..
Now he’s thinking of moving out of Mexico City if he were to ever marry and have kids with her.
Though he thinks Mexico City is a very fun place..
He prefers a place that is calmer for raising children.
Perhaps back home in the US?
He’s not sure yet.
I’ve had the same thought myself.
If I were to never have kids, I could see myself taking plenty of vacations in my life to the DR, Brazil, Colombia, etc.
Simply because those places can be very fun!
But I’d never want to live in any of them outside of Brazil if I’m being honest.
At least not for more than a year like I have in Mexico.
Simply because, as I’ve gotten older, some cities in those countries can be a little bit “too informal” for me to tolerate long term.
The constant harassment by more aggressive folks looking for money..
To shittier infrastructure in some parts more than others…
Like Barranquilla versus Bogota for example…
So on and so on.
Still, those places can be fun.
But, as I get older, with a family or without, I do value little by little having a more comfortable place.
And, if I were to have kids, I’d definitely prefer a nicer place to be in like Chile or Argentina.
Though not a place as formal as you see in Sweden supposedly.
That’d be hell on earth for me.
Finally, it can be said that not everyone who is older prefers the more formal life either to be fair…
Especially those retirees or recently divorced folks in their 50s who want the nicer life in Cuba or somewhere.
However, even if you want a place that is not too formal…
Perhaps very informal – much more than I’d tolerate!
Another question comes up…
Changing Trends Over Years
The last question I ponder when it comes to this topic…
Is how places change over decades.
I remember talking with a Canadian guy I know named Doug from Nova Scotia or whatever the place is called…
And he was telling me some few years ago how Mexico City has changed a lot over the years.
He was there in the 90s and has noticed how it has changed so much.
Gotten so much nicer.
And, like I said before, nicer can often translate to “more formal.”
The rules are enforced more so to speak.
With more structure on life regarding what you can and can’t do.
And stricter punishments on not following those rules…
Heavier fines and so on…
And less of a likelihood, over time, of being able to bribe your way out of any consequences.
That’s a question to ponder perhaps.
Maybe it’s not important?
But it’s one where you have to wonder..
If you prefer a place with relatively little formality…
Will the place you live in always be like that?
When will it change to being a place that you no longer appreciate because of how too formal and rigid life is?
In part, I think all of that is an unnecessary concern.
Well, first, your desire for a more formal life might come as you get older anyway.
And perhaps the place you chose to live in doesn’t ever become more formal than what you can tolerate.
Second, most things down here tend to run on “Mañana Time.”
Meaning whatever happens in the US takes its sweet time to arrive down here.
Though, in severe cases like Covid, we saw that wasn’t entirely true across the board as some parts of Latin America became much stricter on COVID rules than most of the US ever was.
However, from my understanding, it was the relatively more developed parts of Latin America that usually were like that.
Not always though.
But I imagine a life in El Chaco of Paraguay would wait a while for any stricter rules to be imported down there.
Granted, life won’t be as fun there necessarily if you like to party and all but it can serve for a calm and easy life away from the rigid formality of more developed areas.
But let’s wrap this up now on the final thought that comes to mind.
And the most important one with the main lesson from this article that I want to convey.
The Purpose of Latin America
So what do you want?
These are all the things that come to mind when it comes to this topic.
It’s a topic that sometimes pokes its head out for all to see.
Whenever someone says that they prefer a more developed part of Latin America…
Like how you notice that Chile is a relatively popular country for expats to live in.
Which might be odd to some because the idea goes again “why move to Chile when you can have a similar life of formality and development back home?”
And, again, I see the point to that.
It’s similar to a conversation I had with a guy some months ago about Panama City…
And he noted how he doesn’t like Panama City because it’s not a good bang for your buck.
“Can’t get 10 dollar steaks in Panama!”
So, in his words, it defeats “the purpose of Latin America.”
Which, if we are being honest, this is the whole point of the article truly.
If you can get one thing from this article, it’s to understand this concept of “the purpose of Latin America.”
What is the purpose?
I don’t have an answer.
Depends on you entirely.
Some folks do not see a reason to live in Latin America because the purpose of this region is to benefit from the low cost of living and those “10 dollar steaks.”
Other folks want something more than that…
Maybe along with the 10 dollar steaks also..
But they want anyway a life in a large metropolitan city where they can basically fuck every hole that passes by them while consuming an insane amount of drugs and liquor.
That’s cool too.
However, some folks don’t want that and see the purpose of Latin America as being one big travel adventure.
To see the Amazon, the beaches, Salar de Uyuni, etc.
Granted, you could mix all three of those together and say “that is the purpose of Latin America.”
Other folks though may not want to sleep with every single woman they see…
And instead want a quiet life with a family.
Perhaps in a calm city that few have heard of or in the countryside.
El Chaco Lifestyle.
And that is the purpose of Latin America!
As some put it.
To live in a, what they perceive to be, a more exotic area that has the scenery that they always imagined Latin America to look like in peace with a local family in a less populated area.
Maybe go hunting on the weekends.
Granted, as I implied, some folks disagree with that and think Latin America is not the place for family raising at all!
That this is a terrible region to do so and you would be a fool trying.
And I’m sure there are many other visions that others have for “the purpose of Latin America.”
Like this one woman I met in Mexico City years ago who left the US to live here because she has family here and wanted to reconnect with her Mexican roots.
To her, the “purpose of Latin America” was less about fucking everything under the sun and more about knowing better your heritage.
And I’m sure there are a million other visions regarding “the purpose of Latin America.”
I can’t tell you what is the purpose of Latin America.
That’s entirely up to you.
And I don’t see any particular purpose as being better or worse than others.
If the guy who does drugs and has sex with 1,000 5’s is as happy as the guy living in the countryside of El Chaco with a family…
More power to both of them!
And to everyone else who fulfills whatever their purpose seems to be with life down here.
And keep in mind too that whatever “your purpose is”can, as I hinted at before, change as you age and have different priorities.
And "your purpose" doesn’t have to keep you down here forever.
That it can be just a chapter in your life also or maybe the rest of the story.
Whatever you prefer.
But what is your purpose?
Leave a comment below about anything to do with this article.
Any of the points made.
Would love a comment as I enjoy hearing the perspectives of others.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.