Monday, March 31, 2008

"con permiso"

This is a "magic" phrase in Mexico! It was told to me by Warren Hardy who has a very good language school here in San Miguel about seven years ago! The culture of Mexico is very courtly and when passing a Mexican it is appropriate to say "con permiso" - with your permission - and they will give you permission to pass..............The appreciation on the faces of people when I'm walking down the street and need to pass or walk between them is palpable when I use this phrase. I treasure the look. It is magical because if you are in a crowd and want to get through - saying "con permiso" is like the "parting of the seas"........quite remarkable. People just graciously move aside to let you through. It also is extremely effective if you're in a store and none of the clerks are approaching you or offering to help (which is a cultural thing because they do not want to "impose on your space") so, if you say "con permiso" they come over immediately and offer to help. It's knowing these little things that add to the joy of living in Mexico.


Steve Cotton said...

Babs --

I had a similar experience in Barra de Navidad last December. One of the indigenous trinket merchants on the jetty walked by and noted it was a slow day because no one was walking around that day. So, we sat down on a bench and I tried conversing in my broken spanish. He was very gracious adding certain words. He spoke no english. But we talked. And laughed. And enjoyed each other's company for about an hour. I lost track of time, and then noticed I had mere minutes to catch my bus. I felt the same awkwarness everyone does when conversation is not coming to a natural end. Then I remembered. During a pause in the conversation, I started to rise and said: "¿Con permiso?" He looked a bit surprised and then beamed. In that moment, there were a lot of cultural dynamics at work. But they all came to rest on a common field of "Con permiso."

You are correct, Babs. Those two words are as magic as "open sesame."

Babs said...

Oh Steve, what a beautiful memory! It is truly the "open sesame" in Mexico and shows our committment (in my opinion) to be respectful of the Mexican people and their customs!