When Reynaldo came to see what was wrong with the DVD player we were leasing from him, he spent well over an hour here. He chatted, he said “buenas tardes, princesa” to the munchkin, he cleaned the DVD player and several disks; he wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere. It was the same when he came to install it. It was as much a social visit as anything else. He asked us all about ourselves and how we were liking San Miguel. He showed us his pet lizard, whose leash goes around Reynaldo’s neck. He took his time.

A key ingredient of people’s friendliness here–and they are hands-down the friendliest people I’ve encountered in the dozen countries where I’ve traveled–is this expansive sense of time. Even in a simple exchange like at a store counter, there is seldom that feeling that the person is in a rush to get on to the next customer; there’s always time for a few friendly words, and often for a long chat.

This can be an exasperating trait when you’re on a schedule and still waiting for someone who is probably across town having a leisurely chat with another customer. But most of the time, for us, it’s been a reminder that there’s really no place more important we need to go, and nothing more important to do than talk to the person we’re with.

(#15 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel)