Air Conditioning Mexico

Air-Conditioner Repair… Mexico Style

Derek Mexico 45 Comments

Air Conditioning Mexico

Rarely do I use the air-conditioner in my apartment here in Mexico. As long as I open up all the windows, turn on the two main fans in the living room and open the balcony door, the temperature inside is usually bearable, even when the temperature outside reaches 100 degrees (35 C). Usually.

Last Monday, this was not the case as my lungs and nostrils seemed to catch fire with every breath I inhaled and walking from the bedroom to the kitchen felt like I was swimming through a hot tub filled with molten lava. Okay, it wasn’t that bad but I was sweating heavily despite sitting directly under the fan.

And so, on this occasion, I decided to turn on the air-conditioning unit for the first time. Unfortunately, when I pressed the “ON” button on the remote control, nothing happened, and after opening the unit and fiddling around with buttons and levers for five minutes, of which I know absolutely diddly about, it was time to call the landlord.

Our landlord is a wonderful young lady and so, two days later, she arranged for a repairman to come to the apartment to fix the air-conditioner.

Most of us have dealt with plumbers, electricians and appliance repairmen at some point in our lives, but I’m not too sure how many of you have dealt with plumbers, electricians and appliance repairmen in Mexico.

Believe me, there’s a difference.


When the doorbell to my apartment rang, I enthusiastically opened the door, knowing that cool air was on its way. However, I found myself a little stunned by what I saw. Then I remembered that I was in Mexico and so I quickly welcomed into my apartment the team of 8 people who had arrived to fix the one air-conditioning unit.

The actual repairman (yes, there was only one repairman in this group) turned out to be the father of the three teenage children in the group as well as the husband of the sole female present and the friend of the other three guys. It appeared that everyone was there to lend a helping hand but apart from the repairman, the rest of the gang just stood around at first.

Less than five minutes after the repairman opened up the air-conditioner unit on the wall, he suddenly climbed back down his small ladder and called out to Liz and I in the kitchen, where we were sitting on stools, trying to get some work done. Did the repairman need a screwdriver? Or maybe a rag? Perhaps he forgot his pliers and was wondering if we had a pair to lend him?

Nope, nope and nope.

The repairman asked us if we had a Wi-fi signal in the apartment and when we told him that we did have an internet connection, he asked if his wife could have the password. He explained that she needed to log-in to her mobile phone account because she was having trouble activating the new mobile phone she had just purchased.

Sure, why not.

The wife then sat down at the dining room table and pulled a netbook out of her purse. At around the same time, one of the sons disappeared outside for a few minutes, only to return from a trip to the family’s car that was parked in front of the building with two large plastic bags full of chips, soda and other snacks, which he began to distribute to the others.

Of course, the fact that the air-conditioner wasn’t being worked on at all apparently seemed strange only to us, as the repairman and his wife seemed perfectly content checking emails on the netbook while the others sat around the living room eating.

This behavior was so confusing to me that, after thirty more minutes passed, I felt that maybe I was supposed to invite them all for a swim in the pool, cook them a meal or offer them the guest bedroom in case any of them felt like taking an afternoon nap. Clearly, nobody had any intention of fixing the air-conditioner any time soon, and so I just accepted the fact that I might have some new flatmates for a while.

At one point, the repairman stood up and walked towards his ladder, leading me to believe that it was finally time to fix what he was supposed to fix. But, not too surprisingly, he just pulled out his other mobile phone and began making phone calls instead.


Three of the men did eventually decide to leave, apparently not too impressed with the party that we had thrown for them, which I thought was going quite well considering that earlier in the day we had no idea we would have to throw a party for the air-conditioner repairman, his family and his friends. Sure, there was no wine and cheese but we did offer them water and fruit, and free Wi-fi.

The repairman and his family remained inside of my apartment for a total of 3 hours and luckily, towards the end of those 3 hours, he did fix the air-conditioner, which only ended up taking 10 minutes of dedicated work.

And when they did get up to leave, I found myself as confused as when I had first opened the door and saw all eight people. It now felt as if this family had been staying with us for a week and so I wasn’t sure if I should give them all hugs and invite them back for another visit sometime.

Of course, once the repairman handed me the bill for his services, I no longer felt like giving anybody a hug and was more than content with giving him a quick “Gracias, adios!” instead.

And then, as I spent the following few minutes after their departure cleaning up potato chip crumbs from the floor, all I could think about was the next repairman that was scheduled to work on our apartment.

Next Tuesday someone is coming over to start fixing the floor that suddenly lifted up, exploded and cracked into pieces last week due to the extreme heat. I guess I should start planning the menu and entertainment schedule before he and his entourage arrive.


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Comments 45

  1. Pingback: The Twitter 10: June 2011 | The Working Traveller

  2. That’s a funny experience. haha. Is the father of the family really a certified professional? Or maybe he can work better if his family is right by his side when working. I had fun with this post. Haha. 🙂

  3. I’m in one of the first air-conditioned places that we have been in Mexico right now. There is nothing as satisfying as that first breeze that hits your face.

    As for the work crew… wow… I would have no clue what to do.

    1. Hey Erica – It is a good feeling! There’s nothing worse than trying to get some work done on your computer while sweat pours down your face 🙂

  4. Earl,

    I drop by to say hi 🙂

    I saw your guest post over at I really admire your audacity.

    I came from southeast asia (I now live in southern california). Travelling around the world is definitely on my list (the “someday list”).

    I just noticed in your “where I’ve been map” that you haven’t been to the Philippines (where I originally came from). Try it!

    1. Thanks for the comment Marlon! And that is right, I have not been to the Philippines yet. I will definitely visit that country soon, the next time I am in Southeast Asia! I keep hearing more and more good things from other travelers who spend some time there.

      That’s great to hear you’re interested in world travel as well. Let me know if you ever have any questions or need any advice. Just send me an email and I’d be more than happy to help out.

  5. Haha…I hear you as I’m in Mexico too. I’m now making sure that I don’t need anything fixed cause I don’t want to miss the swell that’s about to arrive- much rather be surfing than entertaining a crowd that has too much time to spend in other people’s houses! Funny story 🙂

    1. Hey Federico – I agree with you…surfing sounds a lot better than entertaining the repairman and his family and friends. So take care of your apartment so that you won’t have to go through a similar experience!

  6. That’s one of the funniest stories I’ve read in a long time. I e-mailed it to a friend who has been on a work assignment for a few years and can probably relate very well.

    Thanks for the laugh.

    1. @Money Beagle: Thanks for passing the story along and glad you got a laugh out of it! I’ve been laughing about it as well now that I’ve been reassured by locals that this is quite normal behavior.

  7. This brought a big grin to my face. Things work in a very similar way here, in the Canary Islands! That said, 8 is a bit much. I’ve often known workmen to bring wives or children along.

    Certainly the concept of personal space is very different here, also the concept of anticipating another’s needs – for instance in the supermarket one family will meet up with another (shopping is a family pastime too apparently) and totally block an aisle. When you ask to get through they are all smiles and apologies, but it never occurs to them to move to the side in the first place.

    1. Hey Linda – That’s too funny about the families blocking the aisle because I tend to notice that as well in some countries. It’s as if people aren’t aware that there are other people around and can’t make the connection between other people needing space to pass and the fact that they are taking up all of the available space. I feel much better now because I thought I was the only person who thought about that!

  8. Whoa, that is a big cultural chasm – or something. I wonder if all repairmen would behave similarly in your corner of Mexico or if that was just a personality quirk on his part. It seems like they were taking advantage of you and your nice apartment and free wifi, in my opinion. I think you were amazingly nice to them.

    1. Hey Sabina – I’ll let you know next week after the floor repairman fixes the floor! Hopefully it was a one time thing but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if another group shows up this time around as well. Although, I’m not sure I would let that many people inside again.

    1. Hey Ozzy – The landlord does indeed pay the bill in the end but we decided that I would pay the bill right there and then deduct it from the month’s rent. This is often how things are done down here. I’ll be paying for the floor repairs this week as well and then taking that out of the rent too.

  9. This was a very fun story. You were so polite to let them stay! We have had that happen a few times in our travels now. I can’t blame people for asking. Internet is expensive so when they see us with wifi on our phone or computer they give an ask. We have had guides check email in the middle of the desert. However, we have never had people linger for 3 hours while putting off fixing our air conditioning. That is too funny.

    1. Hey Dave and Deb – Well, I’ve yet to have someone check their email from some remote location like you guys have experienced! But like you, I do understand why they ask and I have no problem at all sharing my internet. Although, next time I might have to turn the internet off after an hour 🙂

  10. I had a similar thing occur in Italy. I cannot say was as amused (nor amusing) as you. I treasure my privacy, so the unexpected appearance of Air Conditioner Repair Guy’s family was a bit jarring, to say the least. Also, they showed up near dinner time. Umm… were we supposed to feed them, too?

    1. Hey Katrina – I’ve definitely learned over the years that the concept of privacy is different around the world and in many places, it doesn’t even seem to exist at all. Luckily, everyone who showed up here was somewhat friendly and so my natural reaction was to just go with it and see what happened. Cooking a meal for them, while it admittedly crossed my mind, did seem a bit over the top in the end so I avoided doing so…

  11. Earl, you crack me up! and as Daniel, I can’t wait to hear about the next party!!
    You know, most of the people commenting here don’t seem very surprised…maybe something is wrong with you!!! lmao =)

    1. Hey Tannia – I’ve started to wonder the same thing! Even after all of my years of traveling I found myself quite surprised by the situation. Clearly, I have not had the same experiences as other people who have lived overseas. Now I know for next time at least 🙂

  12. I can’t wait to hear how the floor repair party goes! Sounds like you’re doing a great job getting plans in place for it. What do you think…maybe 23 people will show up for that one? 🙂

  13. This reminds me of an American guy once telling me people in Nepal didn’t understand the concept of personal space. And that was before I had been outside of Nepal and India.

    1. Hey Vishal – Your comment had me laughing as I thought back to my first visit to India. I think one of the biggest shocks that any visitor has to that region is the difference in the concept of personal space. Sometimes it seems as if everything is everyone’s business!

      1. Hey Earl,

        Considering I was a quiet and shy guy in Nepal, even I knew a lot about what was going on in my community and what everybody around me was doing. But here, I know nothing about what my neighbors are doing. And I have come a long way out of introversion. You can just see it’s a completely different world out there. I think it has at least something to do with the Asian and Western focus on oneness and individuality respectively. Of course with a bunch of other dynamics.

        I have a long article for you to read if you have some time. Tell me what you think.

        Btw, did I tell you I am a couchsurfer? Anyways, I quite liked your article on working on a cruise. I am wondering what prospects are available for non-US citizens.

        1. Hey Vishal – Thanks for sharing that link. I’ll have a read as soon as I can. I just read the first couple of pages and it certainly is an interesting piece.

          And as for working on board cruise ships, actually, the majority of crew members are non-US citizens. As an example, on the last ship I worked on there were a total of 1300 crew members on board. Out of those 1300, there were only 15 US citizens!

    1. Hey G! Yes, you should not be alarmed at all if such a thing happens to you. You should be alarmed if only one person shows up to fix something!

      And I did get a couple of photos but not very good ones at all. They weren’t too happy when I pulled out the camera and asked me not to take any photos of them…

    1. Hey Dalene – Cupcakes and juice! That’s perfect. Why didn’t anyone inform me of these rules when I moved into the apartment? Thank you for bringing me up to speed, much appreciated 🙂

    1. Hey Jill – I was thinking of hiring a mariachi band and serving up some wine and bruschetta. And probably I’ll have a clown for the children who will make balloon animals for them all 🙂

  14. I can understand the on-looker to worker ratio in outdoor type projects, but would have never suspected them to come over to your house. It sounds like you handled it well but I wouldn’t have been able to take that. Would have gone nuts.

    1. @optionsdude: Well, such is life in Mexico so I’m getting used to it now! Things function a little differently down here and honestly, if I told them I didn’t want 8 people in the apartment, they would have looked at me as if I was the crazy one. I’ve since told this story to several Mexicans and almost all of them found it to be quite a normal tale and weren’t at all surprised. So, that is why I must now prepare for the next round!

  15. Whenever I pass building sites or see roads being repaired I tend to note the ratio of onlookers to man (it’s always singular) actually doing some work. I think Vietnam holds the record of 17 to 1.

    1. Hey Shane – Hahaha….that is definitely the truth! It seems one guy is designated as the worker and the others are hired to make sure nobody steals the shade.

      17 to 1 is just an absurd ratio and makes me feel a bit better about the team of 8 that I dealt with.

  16. Dude I know the feeling about having a gang show up to fix something. If that many had showed up I’m sorry I would have said no, that you didn’t want 8 people in your house (bc of fear of people seeing things inside to come back later to steal it) as in Ecuador this is case. 4-5 nothing happens but that one time can costs you everything you got when the group comes back and gets everything out of your house.

    Nice note about having to clean up after them when they leave as well. This normally never happens in the US but found it all the time when living overseas. Foot prints and dust all over is the norm. That part I just keep my mouth shut and clean up afterwards.

    1. Hey T-roy – Luckily, the apartment complex is gated and has two security guards so there’s not much to worry about over here. And we did hide everything of value before they came over, which I normally do whenever any stranger is coming over.

      As for the mess they leave behind, you are unfortunately right. It wasn’t only potato chips I had to clean up but once I moved the chair under the air-conditioner, I found strips of tape, piles of dust that was cleaned out of the vent, plastic bags and even puddles of some kind of liquid he sprayed on the air-conditioner! Instead of cleaning it himself, he just slid the chair over the mess while we weren’t looking. Clever.

  17. I hope he didn’t charge by the hour!

    To be fair, it’s no different from English tradesmen (it’s okay – my brother’s a plumber and he will agree that); they all stop for a cup of tea at least once an hour.

    1. Hey Sanny – He didn’t charge by the hour but he clearly wanted to pay off the new Android phone he had bought earlier in the day as quickly as possible! And I wouldn’t have minded if he stopped for a cup of tea every hour, but this guy did the opposite. He stopped relaxing every hour to do a minute of work 🙂

    1. Hey Andy – It’s not a bad job idea at all…get paid a ton of money to check emails and hang out in other people’s apartments all day long!

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