Cayo is a melting pot of different cultures. There are a lot of people from different places who come to live here. If I am not wrong, Cayo is the second biggest expat destination in Belize so you see a lot of variety. People from the US are completely different from the people from Europe, Canada, or Japan but they all live close together here in Cayo and I have a feeling that they accept each other more than they do in other places.
The differences in culture are not to be underestimated. For example, Austrians are very straightforward and some Belizeans might find that rude. On the other hand, Belizeans like to say “yes” even if they mean “no.” Another example is if you ask a Belizean if he knows the way, he would say, “yes” even if he doesn’t. Then he would tell you something else. If you ask him if he could do a certain task, he’d very often say, “yes” even if he can’t do it. They say that not to get embarrassed or lose face.
You will eventually figure out if you’re getting the right answer, or something else. For example, you ask someone to fix your washing machine and he says yes he will do it on Tuesday. Then Tuesday comes, you’re sitting there waiting, you call him but he says he will come later or that his grandma needs help so he won’t be able to come Tuesday but he will fix your washing machine on Wednesday. Then he won’t show up the next day, either. You call him again and he tells you that he’ll do it in 2 weeks. They tend to postpone things and find excuses as to why they couldn’t do it but they won’t say, “I can’t do it now.” In the end, you just give up.
There is no way for you to tell based on the initial conversation whether they mean their “yes” or they don’t; at least not in the beginning. But as you live here longer, you will learn to tell the difference based on their behavior. We Austrians are very different. If we don’t know something, we say, “no”, and if we do, we say, “yes”. This is the difficult part of dealing with different cultures.
(Belizean dancers by Jet Metier for Best Places in the World to Retire upcoming ebook about Belize, pictured.)