When discussing life in Latin America, sometimes people bring up the topic of “birthday parties.”
With this topic, there are some noticeable differences.
For one, people in the US tend to celebrate more the 16th birthday party while Latin families find the 15th birthday to be more important.
Also, when it comes to the celebration itself, you’ll find obvious cultural differences like with the music or the food obviously.
And, in Mexico City anyway, the scenery of young teenagers riding out in limousines that kids at 16 in Iowa wouldn’t be riding around in.
Not to mention other cultural differences that one might notice.
At any rate, one difference I have noticed once in a very rare blue moon whenever I see some birthday party being held (not necessarily always the 15th one) is in regards to how the adults and children finish the event.
Let ne give you a contrast to work with.
My Random Birthday Party
When I was a kid, I remember having some birthday party at some local pizza place in my small town in Iowa centuries ago.
It feels like centuries ago.
And it was normal.
Friends showed up.
That awkward “happy birthday to you” song as you sit at the end of a table at 8 years ago going “yes, sing in my honor, my peasants.”
During the event like in other birthday events back home that I remember, it’s always us kids who drag it out as we can.
Having fun playing with other kids.
Perhaps annoying our parents by doing dumb stuff that embarrasses them or makes them worried that we’ll hurt ourselves.
So on and so on.
But it’s the kids anyway having the fun and the parents who ultimately decide “alright, time to hit the road. I got to make dinner, check work emails and go to bed.”
And that’ll be that.
In contrast to the same scenario but in Mexico.
“The Adults Want More Beer!”
A few weeks ago, I remember being alone in my apartment building as both of my neighbors had left to be with their families on the weekend.
Waking up from a nap, I get up and get dressed to head outside for some food.
If I remember right, I think my mind was settled on either alambres or boneless.
When outside, I immediately notice this HUGE event being held outside the small gate of my apartment building.
A big tent was set up and easily 50 people or more were having fun.
Some mini games were set up for the kids.
The adults at the tables talking amongst each other.
It was probably 9 or 10 PM roughly.
Which, as a side point, I’d just like to say that it’s not uncommon in the neighborhood of Mexico City where I am now – Santo Domingo – for sections of a street to be cut off because families in the area want to cut it off for whatever event that they deem important.
I’m not even sure if they have to get city approval for it or not.
Things down here in Santo Domingo seem to run more informally.
Which, being honest, I like to a degree. Definitely makes things more interesting at times.
And so, when I saw the event being held outside my apartment building, I was taken by minor surprise as they were taking up the sidewalk too and I had to walk around it from the side.
But, overall, it looked like a fun event.
Roll the clock another hour or hour and a half.
During that time, I replaced the water supply to have some more for the next day.
And I got my food after, from what I remember, initially having some minor bad luck as some places I checked out first didn’t have certain things on the menu.
That’s a side point I wrote about here in which you’ll sometimes notice businesses down here having a menu but, for whatever reason, more commonly not having the items on the menu that they are selling.
Anyway, by the time I got back, the scenery had changed a tiny bit.
It was no longer the kids playing and having fun.
Instead, we were approaching midnight and the kids had run out of energy.
Most of them either gone (assumingly the parents took them home) or almost the rest of them were sleeping on chairs, on the ground, whatever.
Keeping the party going!
They obviously were not playing on the games.
The food was all ate assumingly.
From what I saw, it looked like they were just chilling while sitting down, having conversations, enjoying music like this here and having more beer.
Though I don’t know when exactly their party was over, I’d say maybe an hour after I returned roughly.
Either way, nothing notable about the party itself actually happened.
Why bring it up?
Wrapping it Up
It’s not the first time I’ve seen this before in Latin America.
It’s nothing more than just a subtle difference between the US and Mexico (and quite possibly some other Latin countries).
That difference being that, during these mini parties, you’d expect, as a gringo, for the kids to be dragging the event out as long as possible and the adults trying to be mature and responsible and ending it when they can within reason to go home already and carry on with life.
Instead, you see it more often down here – at least in my experience – for events to just keep on going.
And the kids lose their energy.
Either taken home to rest if they live close by or sleeping on chairs, on the ground, etc.
Having more beer, listening to more music and having more chit chat.
In short, it’s nothing more than a subtle and slightly humorous contrast for those who can appreciate it between life in the US and life in certain Latin countries like Mexico.
Like I said, I’ve seen it before in other incidents and it always stood out to me as just a minor but slightly funny difference between life here and life back home.
Of course, as always, I’ll mention that I’m sure this difference isn’t seen across all of Latin America.
I’d be willing to bet that class and nationality differences might play a role in how frequently you see this.
In the neighborhood where I live now – a “poorer” neighborhood in some respects – it definitely seems more common here than say in Polanco.
And, outside of class differences, do you see this subtle difference when looking at other Latin countries like Uruguay?
I have no idea.
Just asking because I always know each Latin country is different but I’ve never noticed this subtle difference in other countries of Latin America.
And I’m sure it goes both ways.
These subtle differences being more or less noticeable depending on what part of the US you are from and your own background.
Anyway, it’s nothing more than JUST a subtle difference and nothing more.
Something minor that you might notice after time in Latin America.
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