Culture & History, Learn Spanish

No Hay

If you have lived in Mexico for a while, the title of this article will sound a familiar ring

Spanish Pinpointed

If you have lived in Mexico for a while, the title of this article will sound a familiar ring.  If you come to live in Mexico for a while, you will, without doubt, become well acquainted with these two words.

No Hay, in Spanish, means “there isn’t any,” and in Mexico the term may be applied to almost anything, anytime you need or wish to acquire something.

The term may be used to express a dearth of foodstuffs, “No hay leche” (no milk today), stuff in general, “No hay lentes de contacto” (no contact lenses in stock), and even services, No hay luz” (power cut).

While the overall availability of all kinds of things and services is Mexico has improved immensely in recent years, in comparison to its northern neighbors, the continuous reliable supply of certain types of goods and services can sometimes still be a hit-and-miss affair here.

This inconsistency of supply can sometimes be a source of frustration, in most part, because Murphy’s Law dictates that in Mexico, the infamous ‘No Hay’ will spring up at the precise moment when whatever isn’t available will cause you some inconvenience, and never when it really doesn’t matter.

It could be that your car just broke down, and ‘no hay’ applies to the very part it happens to need now; perhaps the local store has run out of a key ingredient you need for tonight’s dinner party; or perhaps you’ve been looking forward to eating tamales, and the restaurant you sit down at “doesn’t have any today.”

The impact of ‘no hay’ also depends upon where you are situated, how much energy you’re willing to expend in locating whatever it is you want or need, and what price you’re willing to pay to obtain it.

For example, if a store in Mexico City you go to says ‘no hay,’ there’s a high probability that some other place in the capital will have stock.  If you are in the provinces, ‘no hay’ could mean ‘no hay’ for hours, days, or weeks, – or ever – leaving you with little alternative but to try the next nearest ‘bigger’ town or city. Or Amazon.com.

The ‘no hay’ effect may be mitigated with some forward planning, but it may never be completely avoided.

Part of the art of living in places like Mexico is that one comes to accept that, on some occasions, you just can’t—and that’s as it is.  In the moment when it happens, ‘no hay’ may be frustrating or inconvenient to your situation. Nonetheless, when you live in Mexico, the omnipresent ‘no hay’ will pay homage to your situations sooner or later.

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7 Comments

  1. peter obrien says

    Behind all the comments here, there is the unstated (unrecognised) belief that you entitled to have anything you want, as soon as you want it. In actuality this is a belief manufactured and sold to us by huge commercial entities and their parasitic ad agencies. This totally unfounded belief is an important part of the wage trap that keeps people both enslaved and needing more. Needing more, right now. Read this article again but as you do remember that a large portion of the worlds population can’t get a glass of clean water, let alone any food; for themselves or their children. Then sit back in your upmarket cafes with your lattes and tell each other harrowing stories about peanut butter shortages, Wake up!! What bought you here?

  2. Colette and Philip Pepperell says

    Great post!
    “No hay” is a common phrase down here in Ecuador as well and comes up a lot at the grocery stores. Even the huge Megamaxi (supermarket chain) down here in Manta, which theoretically has everything, when they run out, it could be ‘no hay’ for weeks and months.
    All part of the “Aventura de Cultura”! Love it!

  3. B.Buckman says

    As the writer states ‘no hay’ could mean never in the provinces, I know because that’s where I live. Over the years I have heard the phrase ad nausea and since we are within 70 kilometers of Leon folks here always add: ….’en Leon hay’.
    I agree with Oscar, it’s simply a matter of poor management. A store, even a large chain store, will stock a case or two of a product, say Skippy Peanut Butter, and they will sell quickly. Then, instead of recognizing they have a good seller and making sure they have ample in stock and means for ordering more the product simply disappears. Some will return eventually but some never return. I’ve asked an employee where a certain item is that I’ve been buying for months and will receive the ubiquitous ‘no hay’. No matter how I try to convince them that I have bought said item in this store for a long time I’m given a quizzical look which seems to say; ‘Are you sure? Perhaps you mean some other store because here ‘no hay’.

  4. Oscar Romero says

    The problem with this sentiment about the reasoning as to why–we seem to always hear “no hay”, I think, in my humble opinion–that it will always boils down to poor planning or no planning, most likely. Why can we simply learn and–try and plan better so that we could minimize or eliminate the “no hays”? Or–at the same time, place ourselves in our customer shoes and go further with a much better customer service and provide a place where “si hay”. That will cause a “wow” response from the customer for sure.

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