Lines, lines, lines, everywhere there’s lines!
I found myself standing in yet another mile-long line at the bank last Friday, thinking: what’s with all the damn lines in Puerto Rico?
I mean, really! There are lines everywhere! – No matter where I go, there is nearly always a line.
This was one of the very first things I noticed about the island. And yes, we’ve traveled enough and we had been warned enough about “island time” – so it’s not like we didn’t expect things to be slow.
But these lines are even beyond anything I could have envisioned and a rather big culture shock to us.
We have found that if you go ANYWHERE to purchase ANYTHING or do any type of business, you can expect to find a line of people already waiting.
I’m not exaggerating one bit! If you go to Walgreens, you can expect to stand in line of 6-10 people; if you go grocery shopping there is ALWAYS a long line; if you go to the ATM to withdraw money, you will find a line; if you go to the gas station, there is a line to pay; and even if you just want to run out and get a movie at the Redbox, you will find a line there too.
And let me tell you, these lines are not fast – I’m talking SLOOOOWWWWWW.
So, pretty much, you can expect to stand in a lot of lines in Puerto Rico. It will definitely teach you patience – I know it is adjusting my mid-western “go-go-go” attitude.
The only thing I can think of as a reason for the lines, is simply the culture or mentality here. People are used to slow services and don’t seem to mind standing in line. It’s expected, in fact.
Take a doctor’s office, for example: you made an appointment for 9:00AM, you show up at 8:50 and find that there is already a line of ten people waiting before you. You’re first reaction might be: what the hell?!
But, you may not know, that everyone in that line had an appointment for 9:00AM and so, whoever gets in line first – wins. In fact, I found out that most medical appointments are made either at 9:00AM or 1:00PM for EVERYONE and so you may have 10 scheduled for each slot (9:00 or 1:00) of the day, and you show up and wait in line.
Oh, and if you’re dealing with the government, for things like getting your license plates on a car, expect to wait in line multiple times over multiple days – see post Registering Your Car in Puerto Rico. That’s just the way it is.
I am not sure if the reason for the lines is that everyone just moves slower around here because of the tropical weather or if it’s something ingrained into the culture. In either case, if you go to a restaurant and wait 30 minutes to have your order taken, do not be surprised. It has nothing to do with you being a foreigner here, the locals get the same treatment.
While most people do not mind the slow pace here for a vacation, in fact it may be one of the attractions to take a break from the fast daily grind, they do seem to have trouble adjusting to it as a way of life.
If you can adjust your expectations and get used to the lines and long wait times, you will be just fine. If you have to have everything fast, you may want to skip Puerto Rico, you won’t get it here.
For me personally, the lines are a small price to pay for living in paradise.