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The ins and outs of living in Puerto Rico

Island Time

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There is something called “Island Time” and most of the Puerto Rico idiosyncrasies are based on “Island Time”. If someone tells you a particular time, expect it an hour late at least! After living in the states for 7 years, I forgot about “Island Time”, so when my sister invited the whole family to diner at 530 PM, I showed up at 530 PM to find her still cleaning and not ready. I was like “oh I thought you said 530”, she said YES! You are early! But it’s 530! To what she replies by saying, I know! I say 530 so people start showing up at 7!

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If you have to go some of the government offices, expect to wait for hours in line! Every time I went to a government office,they have opened late and closed early. One time I went at 830 AM and they opened at 9, there was a gigantic line of people outside waiting, 915 AM and they finally opened the doors, after 2 hours of waiting I was told that they were not taking any more people today. The next time I showed up at 345 PM since they closed at 430 PM, well, they were already closing shop and they ALMOST told me I had to come back another day!

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You go to your doctor appointment that it is at 8 AM just to find a closed door and a piece of paper for you to write your name. You see other people’s names there and you add yours to the list. You see, the doctor schedules you at 8 AM but there are other people scheduled for the same time, so it is essentially first come first serve. In fact, I had a doctor appointment once at 3 PM and a lady that I let in first into the office by opening the door for her had an appointment at 4 PM, at check in she put her name on the list then I put mine, guess what? She went in first even though she was scheduled for a later time.

I’d love to hear your stories!

Jay-Webmaster

Author: Jay-Webmaster

Jay is an Atmospheric Physicist and Massage Therapist who was born and raised in Puerto Rico but went to college in the US before moving back to Puerto Rico. Creator of NewToPuertoRico.com and the new forum NewToPuertoRico.com/forum

7 Comments

  1. Born in Puerto Rico but living in Florida Now. I just went back to the Island for a Funeral this Past October, 2014. In order to get a Birth certificate mistake corrected, we had to visit the Central Vital Record office. ( Registro Demografico )
    When I arrived there I was told by the Security Guard ” excuse me, you can come in here with shorts”. I asked the Guard ” Am I entering a Federal Building or Court? I just needed it to get Information on the process to get this corrected. How many Stamps for the Puerto Rican IRS (Colecturia) I needed. ETC.. well to visit the Information Window, You need a Skirt, Dress, or Long Pants. Lesson Learned. Found the nearest Me Salve and Bought a pair of Leggings (which I had in trunk for the duration of my visit). Went back just to find out that the ONLY person that worked in that area was ABSENT, so I had to come back the next day.. Being Sarcastic, I ask the person if I should call the next morning to see if the person didn’t call in Sick? so I didn’t waste my time ? Yes, Puerto Rico Does it better!!!

    • Jay-Webmaster

      Hello Mayra! Yes there is a dress code to enter those buildings! I was left outside once but the court clerk was nice enough to come outside to help me! I did call though and I came over from really far so maybe that’s why they helped me like that.

      Government offices can be tricky to deal with but one thing I learned with just about any place was to call first. I call even national parks because sometimes they close for the day for no reason. However I’m curious as to which one did you go to because I’ve been to 3 different ones and actually received decent service in all of them.

  2. My favorite one was this past winter. I was at Econo in line to pay for my groceries and the guy in front of me was just going off about the stupid Americans doing this and doing that and the poor cashier was giving him looks and looking at me then looking at him. She finally told him that she was sure I spoke Spanish and he flew back at her and said He’s like all the other Americans..he figures if he speaks English slow enough we will understand. At that point I started laughing and he looked back at me bewildered and in my slowest Spanish complete with a Tennessee accent I said I know what you mean about stupid Americans. It never ceases to amaze me that using the word American encompasses a lot of people including Virgin Islanders, Puerto Ricans, and even half breeds like me who is half Hillbilly and half Puerto Rican and by the way if you speak Spanish slow enough even stupid Americans will understand. By that time the cashier was laughing and the people behind me were giggling and the guy turned red and he started laughing. He then clarified saying he was talking about the surfers who congregate in Barrio Puntas aka Gringo Hill (and YES, during season I think you have to check your brain at customs if you are staying on Gringo Hill). A lesson for folks who live in the states….be careful of what YOU say here because most have a good working knowledge of English and some of my Puerto Rican friends speak better English than I do!!! 🙂

    • I agree to be careful on what “gringos” say in English in PR. Puerto Ricans receive English education during their school years, so even when many may be shy in speaking the language (and may seem that they don’t), they understand it perfectly.

      Yes, people operate on “Island time” and doctors don’t see you at an appointment time like in the US (I hate that – it’s a huge time-waster). There’s no such thing as being on time. I haven’t grown used to parties in the US, they are way Too organized and structured (less fun) – they start and finish at a specific time. In PR, parties start whenever people start showing up and end whenever they leave, and they are memorable parties.

      Yes, government offices (and their extremely laid-back employees) are frustrating, simply because you Have to go there to solve everything – there’s no such thing as solving anything over the phone or via the internet. I think most of that laid-back attitude comes from Spain… 🙂

      You either go with the flow or move out of PR, unless you stay and take the risk of growing an ulcer due to the constant frustrations… lol

    • Jay, are you from Tennessee?

      • Jay-Webmaster

        Hello Ginger!

        I am not from Tennessee. I am a born and raised Puerto Rican! =)

        I’ve been to Tennessee though, Memphis to be exact. Loved the accent! I’ve heard the Great Smoky Mountains are amazing! Maybe someday I’ll be able to go there!

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