I realize that I have complained a lot lately about how slow things have been and how frustrating it is to deal with Guatemalan bureaucracy and the red tape. But really, there are many reasons why I can’t complain, you can’t have it all.
If I love that most rules aren’t enforced and you can pretty much do what you please, I can’t complain when the rare directive applies to me and I am asked to comply.
If I love that taxes are so low, I can’t complain about the state of the roads or the absence of public services.
If I loved building my little house without asking anyone for a permit, I can’t complain that the neighbor did the same and his house makes my eyes sore.
If I love that you can climb a Maya ruin when in Europe you would have to see it from the distance, I can’t complain that they are not in perfect shape and with proper explanations or a map of the compound.
If I love that order is not the first word that comes to mouth in my region, I can’t complain when someone gets into a shop after me, yet is being served first.
If I love to park my car right in front of the arrival door at the airport, when the parking lot is 50 meters away, I can’t complain that sometimes someone is blocking my car when I park.
If I love that you can drive almost as you please, I can’t complain when people do not drive in an orderly manner or 50cc motorcycles use the left lane and I have to pass them on the right.
If I love that the police almost never stops my car, and when they do they never point speed but barely check the registration papers, I can’t complain that they are not around when one needs them.
If I love that everything is dirt cheap, I can’t complain when things aren’t high quality.
If I love to get a bargain, I can’t complain that sometimes I have to haggle for some time to get it instead of paying asking price.
If I love some parts of the macho culture, like never letting a woman pay for a date or men always carrying the bags and opening doors, I can’t complain when they make comments about women not being as strong or whatever adjective they have to consider themselves superior.
If I love to live in a country where the sun shines almost all year round, I can’t complain when it is unbearably hot.
If I love the abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables, I can’t complain when I don’t find an item no one eats here.
If I love the low cost of labor, I can’t complain when I give peanuts and get monkeys.
If I love to consider the lake as my private swimming pool, I can’t complain when the neighbors do it too and use loud jet skis for hours.
In Europe the process to split one’s land may be more straightforward because the system is well greased but they would ask for many more requirements than they do here. In France if you want to do an extension over 200 sqft to your house, you have to apply for a permit. Depending on the council, you can’t build on more than X% of your land. In the South, it can be as little as 30% so your extension may be denied if you already have a 1,500 sqft house on a 4,500 sqft plot. You have to build a house that will fit harmoniously into the landscape, or renovate like it was in 1900 if you are in a historical village, and so on. They would give you a list of paint shades that you can use but you can’t paint the house bright pink if you feel like it and that is not on the list, your windows will have to be a certain way, the electric wiring has to follow European norms of safety, and the list goes on and on.
Freedom here means everyone takes advantage of the lack of rules, not only your little person.
Have you ever wanted to do one thing that benefits you, while not wanting people to do something that would benefit them? Or tried to get both ends of a stick? You can’t have it all, and for many advantages that this little paradise has, there is a counterpart, for which really, I can’t complain.
Jack @ Enwealthen says
Freedom is scary, especially when you’re not used to it. And frankly, if you’re living in the developed world, you have no idea what real freedom looks like. It’s dangerous, it’s unpredictable, and chaotic. But it’s beautiful!
Well said. There are so many rules in Europe or the US you don’t have to think much for yourself, your life is pretty much defined for you. Which is even scarier than freedom.
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Love this, Pauline, and I think most of us (myself included) want, to some extent, to do what we want yet not let others have the same privilege. Part of the constant battle to avoid selfishness, I guess. 🙂
Guilty. Yesterday we crossed the border with the motorcycle and I told BF to skip the queue of cars but he wouldn’t, we were tired and cranky and had to wait another 30 minutes to be done with customs. But the world would be a terrible place if we would all skip queues!
Well and beautifully said, Pauline.
A link to this post is now an addendum to http://jlcollinsnh.com/2013/07/08/they-will-kill-you-for-your-shoes/
Yours should be required reading for those planning to live or visit new lands. As Jack said so well above, freedom is beautiful and scary!
Thank you Jim, and thanks for the link love too. I just read a fun post about the unexpected effects of living abroad, and the author was talking about the fact that you would hate everything at first and become very nationalistic, missing things from home you didn’t even like in the first place, it was an interesting read too, sorry I can’t find the link now. You can’t have it all, and freedom is definitively something worth having, even if it has drawbacks.
Tammy R says
Pauline! This is one of my very favorite posts EVER!!!! Wow!!! I am not able to expand upon it. Instead I will have my breakfast with CJ and sip coffee and discuss it.
I loved the writing. I’m not sure if it’s your saying or borrowed but “peanuts for monkeys” just tickles me!
Hope you’re enjoying it all! I do complain, but I try not to. I can’t help it. Sometimes rants are just plain fun. 😉
Thank you Tammy! I have heard “if you give peanuts you get monkeys” but I don’t know how widely spread that saying is. Sometimes I just pick up a saying and repeat it, and the person I have heard it from made it up…
I also love our low cost of living area, and I shouldn’t complain about how hard it is to get to a major airport or when I have to drive a ways for services we can’t get here. I also kind of feel this way about the new health care reform. I am glad that lots of people can now afford health insurance, but I’m also not happy that I will have to pay more because I’m not low income. We just can’t have it all, and I certainly want to be selfish sometimes.
I tend to want big city things when I am home as well but now I try to make a list and have it all when I go back to France. That makes for really weird meals some days and other strange combinations but I get my fix and am happy to go back to the quiet life afterward.
Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says
Great post, Pauline. It’s so hard to remember these sorts of things sometimes, but it’s a great reminder. I live in a high cost of living area, but it’s beautiful and I love it. I can’t complain because I haven’t left!
Ha! Compared to many states, TX is pretty lax on its laws. It’s great for running a biz like we do, but not so good for people texting while driving. I suppose I won’t complain until someone hits us;) Great thinking in this post, Pauline. Have a fun one!!!
What happens to people texting and driving? when you say not so good I think death row..
I understand why you associate death row with TX, but I just mean they will not make any laws pertaining to texting/talking while driving except for in some, but not all school zones. Zoinks!
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says
It’s great that you put everything into perspective. At times, you love the lax laws but at the same time, see issues with them. As long as you can keep everything in perspective, you’ll be fine.
My Wealth Desire says
In our neighborhood if we want to extend our house we need to get the building permits plus a lot of fees. And if we paint with different color you’ll get penalty or fines