Living the “Tranquilopa” Life in Paraguay
If Paraguay had a catchphrase or motto it would undoubtedly be “Tranquilopa.” A mixture of Spanish and the indigenous language of Paraguay, Guarani, it means relax, no worries, hakuna matata, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Living in Paraguay has, at times, been difficult for me coming from the go, go, go, fast-paced culture of the United States. I grew up with society telling me that time is money, and that both time and money were very important, if not the most important things. For Paraguayans that is not the case. I can’t tell you how many times as a Peace Corps volunteer I tried to have some sort of meeting, which in the United States would have taken 20 minutes, to have it take almost two hours. Paraguayans aren’t in a hurry. Yes, the task will get finished but there is no need to stress out about it, take it easy, drink some tereré, the national beverage of Paraguay, and gossip a little. This obviously can have a negative effect on productivity on a personal level and on a national level when it becomes a consistent cultural norm.
According to a recent Gallup poll Paraguay is the happiest country in the world with 87% of residents scoring high on the index of positive emotions. This poses an interesting question. What is more important? Being efficient, making more money and working as hard as you can or being happy? Can you have both? There are so many who will say that yes, Paraguayans are happy, but they also live in the poorest country in South America, there are families of eight who all share one bedroom. That again is a matter of priorities. To most Paraguayans money is important, but, it is not the most important thing in life and I think that is a vital lesson to be learned.
Back to the question of can you have them both? I think you can. When I came to Paraguay over two years ago, I considered myself a laid back person, I later realized that was far from the truth. Having lived in Paraguay I have definitely learned to be “tranquilopa” and according to other Paraguayans, I still have a long way to go. I now have a mixture of both the go, go, go culture and the no worries, just relax culture. I realize it’s important to work hard, to earn money to maintain a good living. But I also appreciate that work and money are not everything, that there are times when you just need to sit back and relax, drink some tereré and gossip a little with your friends and family.