Before we get into this week’s Spanish Culture topic, I just wanted to let many of you readers know briefly about our Spanish course. Many of you have asked if we recommend a particular course to learn Spanish. I just wanted to give you a link to our website www.spanishprograms.com where you can take a look at our course, see our free course demos and get more information about our course. To give you an idea of the effectiveness of our course, Visual Link Spanish™ has been taught to thousands of people around the world, to major corporations and at the university level for the past four years.
Now, moving onto this week’s culture topic; the postal system in Latin America is very different from that here in the U.S. If you’ve ever lived in Latin America and waited for a letter from another country you know what I mean. When I lived there it would take anywhere from weeks to usually months for letters to arrive from friends and family.
Needless to say, the postal system is very slow and quite different from ours. When I would receive packages with coveted items like cookies and candies from the U.S., usually they had been opened first by a Latino postal worker to see if there was anything of value in them.
I had an American friend who also lived in Latin America and wanted his mom to send down his high school letterman jacket. She carefully wrapped it and sent it through the normal mail system. He checked the post office after a month and nothing had arrived. Then he checked every week for the next few months and still nothing arrived. Finally after quite a few months he went into the post office and noticed that a postal worker was wearing his letterman jacket. He got upset and claimed that the postal worker had taken his jacket! The postal carrier denied that any wrong doing had happened and kept “his” new letterman jacket.
Now for another humorous postal story; I had a different American friend that also lived in Latin America for an extended period of time. He lived in many of the lower-income pueblos where they didn’t have many of the niceties of life. For example, there weren’t toilet seats in any of the apartments in the cities where he lived. He ordered a new toilet seat from his family in the U.S. a few months before Christmas and it came through just in time. It was opened by the postal workers but wasn’t “claimed” by them and went right through to him. We laughed at him, but he was thrilled to get a small part of his former life back.
Because the postal situation is somewhat less reliable in many Latin American regions, as you can imagine, people don’t usually send their bills or payments through the mail. Many of them take their payments directly to companies where the payment is due and pay by hand using cash.
Many pay bills by cash because of the bank situation. In some Latin countries, inflation rates can be astronomical. If people keep money in the bank, in the worst cases they can lose the majority of the value of their money virtually overnight. Because of that, many don’t have bank accounts and as a result, they don’t use checks or credit cards either. I knew someone in Latin America personally who had around $30,000 in the bank which was devalued to just a few thousand in only a few days. OUCH!!!
To our international readers: what is the bank situation like in your countries and how is the inflation rate? Is it common for people to own credit cards or use checks?
Practical Life Lessons:
- If you live in Latin America, putting large amounts of money in their banks is not recommended. An account in your original country is preferred and money can be transferred to you on a regular basis.
- If you visit Latin America, many places don’t accept credit cards or checks – cash only. Be sure to take some cash and get instructions to ATM locations as there are fewer of them available.
- If you are doing business in the U.S. and cater to many Latinos, it’s important to realize that many will pay you with cash and only a few will use checks or credit cards. It was amazing to me that, as my company taught English classes to Latinos a few years ago, probably over 98% of Latinos paid for the classes with cash.