How High-Achievers Lose Their Emotional Intelligence In Latin America
How the emotional intelligence (EQ) of Wharton MBAs, six-figure entrepreneurs, and Google software engineers vanishes in Latin America.
I have lived in three cities in Colombia and one in Mexico. I have seen the emotional intelligence (EQ) of Wharton MBAs, six-figure entrepreneurs, and Google software engineers drop to zero. They are ambitious, disciplined, and well-groomed. But they act like lords while in front of Latins as if the latter were servants. If a local custom seems odd, these foreigners ridicule it. They'll also get irritated when they can't please their petty desires.
In Mexico City, I met a Google software engineer. He wore a blue patterned shirt, brown suede jacket, dark jeans, and chukka boots. Posh doesn't describe his vocabulary choice, but he spoke well. Yet, his speech turned into full colonist mode when he told the story about a club bouncer taking a bag of MDMA away from him.
He cursed the bouncer and his ancestors. Then, he condemned the country for its drug politics. I asked if European countries let you carry a tote bag full of pills. We both giggled. He finished his last taco, and I launched WhatsApp to search for night plans that didn't involve him. I didn't want to spend time with someone who felt entitled in a new place rather than curious.
In Cartagena, Colombia, I met a British guy in a club's bathroom. We were tipsy. So, naturally, we spent our time chatting about who we were and what we were doing in Cartagena.
He was on vacation, picking up girls. "All girls here are hookers," he said. "They reject me whenever I approach them, teasing that looks aren't enough to get them." His story seemed credible. The number of prostitutes in Cartagena increased during COVID-19.
We shook hands, and I left the restroom. I walked past zero prostitutes on the way to my table. The club was full of women with high self-esteem and the right to reject anyone they didn't like.
Some of these intelligent guys might be assholes in their countries. But, I presume many of them are unintentional jerks, influenced by the beliefs of those they grew up with. A dad telling his child that people from a particular nationality are less educated can create adults that segregate others. These adults might be kind to their kin, but they may act entitled when dealing with another culture.
You are smart; I get it. When you enter a room, you doubt other people are as smart or financially successful as you. And if there are, you can create a story about why you are still the top dog.
You may say they are trying hard while you are playing. If you tried, they wouldn't stand a chance. But that's the wrong attitude to have. Does anyone know everything the world offers? Is there no beauty in surprise?
Anyone can teach you something, and, fortunately, most foreigners I've met believe this. They move from safer and more equal countries to others where corruption and inequality overshadow communities. There, they'll feed and help communities that the local state has ignored for years.
Ross, an ex-Tesla worker I met in Medellin, spent weekends assisting an indigenous community outside the city. Even if his bootstrapped language app wasn't profitable, he used his savings to buy fresh vegetables and protein for the tribe.
The last time we talked, I learned Ross moved with the tribe. He traded the comfort of a hotel for the enriching experience of interacting with a community that not even locals know. As I write this, he's likely playing the guitar during an Ayahuasca ritual. I respect that. The world needs more Ross's.
Communication styles, needs, and values vary between cultures. Before visiting another country, search online for articles discussing its customs. Read the food they like, the stereotypes they hate, and the traditions that make them proud. You can adjust how you act and avoid misunderstandings when you know this information.
Keep in mind that articles share the experience and beliefs of a person or a group of people. Their experience doesn't reflect the experience of a nation.
Form a theory of how people might act or think, but don't consider it a fact until you see or experience evidence. A harmful inference can lead a person to associate your nation with negative traits.
Treat people well, even if your kin sees your actions as odd. It's better to be known as a kind person than as a narcissist foreigner.