I have now been in Yucatán for a while and I finally feel like I’m starting to figure things out. I’ve decided to ask my Yucatecan neighbors “the Sánchezes” for a 6 o’clock dinner. How do I make them feel comfortable?
A: People in Yucatán tend to have later lunches, with mealtime commonly coming after 2 or 3 p.m., so if you are planning a dinner party, it’s perhaps not a good idea to schedule a huge meal at 6. That being said, it is a good idea to maybe have some drinks and botanas ready to get the evening going. Consider preparing one of your personal favorites from back home, people are usually up for trying new things. For example, chicken pot pie may not sound exotic to you, but for people here, it would likely be quite a novelty.
In the past, I have run into issues with people not showing up on time? Is this to be expected?
A: Generally speaking, Yucatecos are notoriously late, even by Mexican standards. It is sometimes hard to not take this personally, but I assure you it’s not. If you have invited people over at 7 p.m. and it’s almost 8 already, there is no need to panic. Maybe just send a text message to ask if everything is all right. Chances are that they simply got delayed by something entirely predictable. Even as a Yucateco with OCD issues when it comes to being on time, this is a major struggle. Just as Yucatecans might tend to have the tendency to arrive late, they also sometimes stick around far beyond the time you had allotted for your little gathering. Conversations tend to go long into the night, and simply leaving after the meal has ended is unheard of.
Should I try my hand at speaking Spanish or just stick to English?
A: In general people in Mexico appreciate the effort when “gringos” try their hand at Spanish. Chances are your guests are not exactly native English speakers either, so they will appreciate the gesture. Just don’t over-extend yourself and try to find a linguistic balance everyone is comfortable with.
Since I moved to Yucatán I have hardly ever dressed up. Are shorts and sandals acceptable?
A: Don’t underdress for the occasion. For some reason, Yucatán’s international community assumes that the region’s laid-back nature means that it’s socially acceptable to wear whatever you want whenever you want. This is simply not the case. As a person who puts time and thought into her outfits, it feels a little disrespectful to see others going out dressing like they were at the beach. This is not just me, plenty men and women feel the same way here. There is a time and place for shorts and sandals, it’s just not “all the time,” and especially not a dinner party. ′
Unsure about how best to connect with your new friends and neighbors in Yucatán? Confused about the culture? Ask a Yucateca is a new column written by Yesica Benitez, a local resident, and our marketing director. She was born and raised in Kanasín, just outside of Mérida, and is more than happy to explain the realities, dispel the myths and otherwise give advice to bewildered expats. Send your questions to email@example.com.