In English, the word ‘tomorrow’ literally means ‘the next consecutive day’. This meaning does not vary and is not subject to any conditions which might alter that definition. The concept of “mañana” in Spanish, by contrast, seems to be a highly subjective concept.
“Tomorrow” (“mañana” in Spanish) is an interesting word…
To be sure, I had long heard that the use of ‘tomorrow’ in Spanish-speaking countries did not always have a firm definition. This had certainly been the case when I lived in Dominican Republic many years ago, and as such I probably should have been mentally prepared for Mexico.
While finalizing the rental deal on our new home, the leasing agent handed over the keys to the property, but advised that he didn’t have the security key-cards that would allow us to open the gates to the neighbourhood or our privada. He did promise, however, to deliver the cards to us tomorrow.
In this case, however, the statement that our access cards would be delivered to us ‘tomorrow’ did NOT mean the next consecutive day. Nor the next consecutive week. In fact, from the time of receiving keys to our new rental home, a total of fifteen days elapsed before we got the cards necessary to enter our property without needing to use the visitor entrance. Toward the end of that long delay, the guards at the gate had begun to question whether or not we actually lived on the property, and seemed to be suspicious that something dodgy was going on.
Although I was thrilled to finally be able to get into our property without running the gauntlet of curious guards, I was forced to conclude that “mañana” only indicates an unspecified and undefined date in the foreseeable future. (In English, it’s a bit like using ‘someday’ to indicate a future time, like saying, “Someday I will visit Bora Bora“.)
I asked around a bit about the fuzzy concept of “mañana”, and I turned up an interesting fact. Mexicans have a cultural aversion to disappointing anyone by stating an unwelcome truth. As a result, they will always choose to agree with you, answer in the affirmative, or provide information requested (even if incorrect) rather than having to say ‘no’ or otherwise disappoint, which they view as being too confrontational for polite society.
In English-speaking locations, if someone promises something will be delivered ‘tomorrow’, a logical person would be reasonably justified in staying home all day to wait for that delivery. In Mexico, that same logical person would find themselves waiting four or five times (without results) in anticipation of that same delivery that was promised ‘tomorrow’.
Now, every time I hear the word mañana, I can’t help but suppress a mental sigh of resignation.
Who knows… maybe after living in Mexico for a few months I’ll get used to this new reality and learn to embrace the slower pace of life that mañana suggests.