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appointment in Puerto Rico

An Appointment? HA! – It’s Island Time.

You make an appointment at, let’s say, a doctor’s office for 9:00AM. You get there and you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And if you’re lucky, you will be seen by 1:00PM. If you’re unlucky, it may be 4:00PM.

Does that sound familiar?


Well, then, you clearly haven’t lived in Latin America or the Caribbean.

Seriously folks, this is a way of life here.

Before we go on our trip to Spain, we wanted to get our teeth cleaned and get general dental checkups.

So, here is how getting the appointment went:

We asked around to find a dentist that actually schedules and keeps appointments. This one came recommended by multiple people, so we thought – Great!

We made the appointments nearly two months ago. The checkup is including in the cleaning – OK, that works.

We got there at 9:00AM and within 10 minutes we were lead to the back to get our teeth cleaned. AWESOME!, I thought.

Side note: I have to say that the cleaning was really rough and very, very quick. The lady nicked my tongue several times and sprayed water all over my face twice – the whole experience was a bit painful.

Back to the point. At the end of the cleaning, when we came to the checkup part, the hygienist informs us (I say us because Tim had the exact same experience on the same day) that the doctor is not in today.

Errrrrr, what?! I thought the checkup was included. Well, it is but he’s not there.

OK…..we have to make another appointment for the checkup now.  Fine, we wait another 2 weeks.

Two days ago, I’m supposed to go in at 9:00AM to get my checkup. At 8:30, I got a phone call telling me that the doctor was not in again. Shit. I pointed out that I need to have this checkup ASAP because now we are leaving for Spain in ten days. The woman on the phone tells me they don’t have any appointments until June 7. I will not be here in June!

After 10 more minutes, I was told that the doctor, may or may not be in the next day and may or may not be in on Monday, so I should call in the AM both days to see if I can get in. Folks, this dental checkup was including in my cleaning, so now I was thinking I was not going to get one, even though I already paid for the service.

We will not be back until September at which point, I highly doubted they would honor the already paid-for service. And besides, the whole point was to have the checkups before we left. Otherwise, we could have gotten them in Spain.

Here’s the kicker. Tim had an appointment for that same checkup (because he didn’t get a checkup either) coming up in a few days and we were already told that the dentist will most likely not be in then either. Even though they’re pretty sure he won’t be in, the receptionist advised us to call the morning of the appointment to see if the doctor came into the office.

So, we did as we were told and called the dentist office first thing on Friday and lo and behold! the doctor was in. They told us to come right over and we were there in 15 minutes. We both got our checkups at the same time – Whew! glad we got that worked out before Spain. Luckily, we didn’t have any problems and our teeth got a clean bill of health. But, had there been a problem, we obviously wouldn’t have time to take care of it before the trip.

OK, that’s dental appointments. What about everything else?

It’s pretty much the same.

For example, I made an appointment to get my hair done at highly recommended salon, when we first got here. I showed up at the appointed time only to be told by another person in the shop, that the lady I had the appointment with was not there and to come back in 2 hours. OK, silly me, I left and then went back two hours later as requested. When I got back, guess what? I was told she took the whole day off.


I still needed my hair done, so I made another appointment with the same hairdresser that went pretty much the same way. On the third try, I finally caught her at the salon and got my hair done. When I pointed out to her that she wasn’t there last two times, she was like yeah… No explanation, no apology, no nothing.

We had an almost identical experience with a local realty office. Guy scheduled an appointment with us (we found out later that it was on his day off) and he never showed up. We went back and tried to meet him three additional times before we finally gave up on dealing with him and his reality company because we figured that he must not want our business.

I could tell you countless examples like this but I think you get the picture.

So, appointments? Yeah, they don’t really exist here. And, there is usually a long wait line everywhere.

It’s island time!

So, you need to realize that if you want to live here, you better figure out how to adjust to a lack of scheduling or you probably will get really frustrated, really quickly. The efficiency, speed, and expectations you may have had “back home”, simply do not happen here in Puerto Rico.

On the upside, we get to live on a beautiful beach, enjoy the warm weather and friendly people around us – so, we think it’s worth the trade. But, is it for you?

In all fairness, we’ve adjusted pretty well to this laid-back, island life. So, it doesn’t really surprise or even annoy us (too much) any more. In fact, I often feel that it’s part of the charm of living here. The point is, if you’re planning on moving here, you should really leave your speedy service expectations behind because you truly will be on island time.

Also, let me add that this phenomena is not unique to Puerto Rico. We found the same thing nearly everywhere we’ve traveled in Latin America. Since we’re heading for Europe next, we’ll let you know how this fair there. So, stay tuned for more..

Do you have experience with this abroad? What are countries like in Europe or Asia?


About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. I live in PR, but also have a place in Florida. I usually schedule my doctor and dentist visits when I head back to Florida. Saves headache and time.

    My business dealings have been very good and rarely late. I find that getting things done here is better when you know people of influence.

    When I deal with appointments directly, with out using a PR contact I find it can take a long time.

    This is certainly an island that takes money and contacts of influence to get things done quickly and on time. Otherwise good luck.

    • I think that’s true for all of Latin America. You’re lucky you can split your time between both places. I’m glad your business dealings are going well. I find that in PR there is a definite preference to doing business with Puerto Ricans, versus doing business with Americans.

      I also find that the island is definitely centered around connections and who you know…

  2. Same experiences here, I will never understand it but I have come to terms with not expecting anything. I made an appt with a very highly regarded optometrist. The wait was only 30 min but the whole process took 3 hrs w/o a dialation, not too far off the usual. At the end I asked her if we were going to do the dilation and she said “no”. (The most important part of the exam to me) That’s it, just “no”. So I smiled at her after a few moments and say “Por quuueee….?” “I forgot my equipment” lol..ok. Next visit, same thing, no dilation. Hopefully the third visit will be the charm. We have a plumber that constantly will not show up at appts, then calls us out of the blue 2 weeks later (if he ever calls, even after leaving him msgs from us both) and says, “Can I come over now?” Um, no, we’re two towns over…sigh. 🙂

    • Yeah, I know the feeling. What has worked for us is to find the folks that are most reliable. I now go to a hair dresser that takes and keeps appointments (yep, we have one here), I no longer deal with that realtor. Found another one. But for medical appointments, all we can really do is ask around and see who people recommend. I bring a book and plan way in advance because things don’t usually happen on the first try.
      We are curious to see how Spain is going to compare. Is it that this is a norm everywhere outside of USA? In which case, who is to say that our expectations are right. Perhaps our busy lives in US, set those efficiency/speed expectations.. Or is it just the Latin American countries we’ve tried that are so different from our paradigm. I guess it really all boils down to what we can live with.
      Coming up is a post on why we still love it here, despite some of the inconveniences. 🙂

  3. it is exactly the same in Mexico. In the middle of a remodel job, the electrician just ‘disappears” and two weeks later knocks on our door ready to go to work that morning. No explanation, excuse or apology!!!
    It is maddening and if you complain they really don’t ever come back

    Enjoy Spain.

    Our plane takes off to Puerto Rico on Wednesday, so we will tell you about our experiences getting “set up” in our new home.

    Ps Crowley now handles door to Port auto shipping. You don’t have to drive to Jacksonville and you do not have to use the services of the very unreliable Puerto Rico Car Transport.(what a waste of time) Cost an extra $1,100 to have the car picked up in Dallas and transported to Jacksonville on an enclosed trailer(Suburban)