You can take the American out of America, but you can't take America out of the American

Apr 2, 2008

Yesterday we had our cleaning lady come for the first time. When we lived in the states we had a cleaning lady that came once every other week (and cost three times as much as our twice-a-week cleaning lady here). She was awesome and cleaned the house REALLY clean in three hours. She was systematic and FAST and had lots of houses that she cleaned per week. With her income she was building a 2 story, 6 bedroom house in Colombia for her family.

Yesterday our cleaning lady showed up at 8AM and wasn't done until 1PM. That's five hours, folks, on a 1000 sqft apartment. Neither of us was really sure what she was doing the whole time, but the apartment is clean and smells clean. It just took her forever.

When she got here she was wearing a skirt and blouse, she changed into her cleaning clothes and then before she left again she changed back. She attends night classes, so I guess she was going straight there, which leads me to the title of this post...

Our cleaning lady charges a flat rate. In the states our cleaning lady charged an hourly rate (which happens to be our lady here's flat rate), so if she stayed 4 hours we paid extra. When we noticed how slowly the lady was cleaning here yesterday Hans said "Well, an hour is an hour is an hour, why rush through and do two houses when you can spend 5 hours at one?" But then I reminded him she's getting a flat rate!

So any healthy, capitalist American would come to the following conclusion: Right now, if she cleans 6 houses a week she's making around $120 a week. If she cleaned faster she could clean two houses each day and double her money.

Hans reminded me that she's making an average to good monthly wage here and that she might think that she's able to make that without really busting her ass, why push it? Her needs are met! Especially if her husband works, too.

It's funny because that's one of the things I wanted to get away from about the American culture- the drive to work harder to get more money so you can work harder and get more money so you can work harder....

Before I moved to Mexico I remember reading a story about a Mexican fisherman who would get up in the morning and go fishing. By lunch time he had caught enough fish for the day and would come home, sell the fish, eat lunch with his wife, spend the afternoon playing with his kids and napping in the shade and in the evenings he would go down to the bar and play music with his friends.

One day he met an American who asked him, "Are there more fish out there that could be caught?"

And the Mexican said, "Yeah, but I catch enough before lunch so I stop fishing and come home."

The American said, "You should fish all day and catch more fish so you could increase your earnings."

The Mexican asked, "And then what would I do?"

"You could then buy another boat and hire another captain and catch twice as many fish and earn twice as much. Then you could start to sell your fish to the large corporations."

And the Mexican asked, "And then what?"

"You would keep adding boats until you had an armada and then you could build your own fish factory and ship your fish world-wide! Then you, of course, wouldn't be able to fish any more, you could move to the US and run the company. You would be making tons of money!"

And the Mexican asked, "What would I do with all that money?"

"You would save it!"

"What would I be saving it for?"

"So one day you could retire, move to a Caribbean island, fish in the morning, eat lunch with your wife, spend the afternoon playing with your grandchildren and napping in the shade and in the evenings you could go down to the bar and play music with your friends!"


Bluestreak said...

Hello from sunny Spain. Great post and great anecdote. I don´t think I can get away from that American attitude no matter where I go. Here I am, having picked the good life in Spain where everything is more relaxed (so they say) but I´m working 13 hour days for a fraction of what I would make back home doing a similar job. What happened to the siesta and the sangria? I haven´t seen that in awhile.

sean_peadar said...

I've never left the good ol' USA, so I just assumed that this drive for more was human nature.

Much like the constant, insatiable hunger to decipher the origins of the Bubu Lubu.

Mel said...

Lovely story :)

beachin77 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beachin77 said...

ja ja ja! my boyfriend (mexicano) told me that story waaay back when i moved here. and its soooo true! when he worked at charlies in coz he said you could tell when the waiters had made what they needed for the day because they would become really lax and not rush for the tables!

but thats one thing i really love about living here - people enjoy life. i mean, how could you not, right? it doesn't matter if they are a fisherman, a waiter, or a business tycoon. everyone, more or less, enjoys living! LOVE IT!