When meeting a Colombian there’s no point in arriving on time. It’s safe to say that when you arrive 20 minutes late, you’ll still have to wait a few minutes.
Arriving late takes some effort for the average punctual gringo and you may not be able to arrive late correctly the first few times, but after a while in Colombia you will learn arriving on time is only done when you are meeting the President himself. Arriving 15 minutes late is accepted for doctor’s appointments and even some job interviews.
So, arriving late is accepted, but what about showing up at all? It seems quite a number of Colombians do not mind not showing up at all without canceling. It may be easy to get used to people showing up horribly late, but how are you supposed to get not pissed off when your date leaves you standing on a Bogotá street corner when the temperature is dropping or when you arrive at the doctor only to hear that he’s not going to be in all afternoon?
Depending on who you ask, behavior like this is “normal” or rude. Usually, the guy or girl to leave you waiting for nothing will say it’s “normal”, while when it is about others, the same guy or girl will say it’s terribly rude.
Asking to respond to their own failure to comply often proves most difficult. A Colombian will often come up with the perfect excuse to arrive extraordinarily late or not showing up at all: “My tio ……”, “El Transmilenio…..”, “…y no podria salir.” They will generally act defensive or even insulted when you ask them to respond to their failure to show up.
The Colombian probably isn’t used to respond to his own faulty behavior, just like he or she wouldn’t be angry with others for failing them. “Men just are like that,” a woman whose boyfriend or husband proved to be cheating on them would say or “What can you do?” whenever a politician is proven to have lied. A Colombian will accept reality and move on.
Because of behavior like this you realize how in many gringo cultures we demand others to respond for their behavior and how we try control the actions of other people. It’s obvious that things work better this way, but you can’t say for sure it actually IS better this way. It’s one of those cases that things are different, not necessarily better.