As an American living in Mexico, one may think that I will proclaim the food as one of my favorite things. Well, OF COURSE it is! As are the vibrant colors, incredible destinations, artisans, art, architecture, just the energy…I can go on and on.
However, in this list I am choosing to highlight things that a tourist may not notice, tendencies rooted deep in the Mexican culture, things that make me fall more in love with this country every day. Perhaps after reading this, you will notice these things on your next visit, and they will def warm your heart.
1. PERSON TO PERSON ETIQUETTE
You can be in an elevator, walking down the street, or sitting on a bench with whoever, whenever, and most likely you will be greeting each other. The standard here in Mexico is to say hello and goodbye and give well wishes for the day and I think that is so special. It makes everyone feel good, shows respect and unites every cultural and social background.
What’s more, the greetings are so adorable- Mexicans are strict when it comes to the timing of their greetings and they are even a bit formal compared to the US’s “hey, hi, hello”, kind of like the Ritz-Carlton.
From daylight to 12 pm: Buenos Dias (Good Morning)
From 12 pm to dark: Buenas Tardes (Good Afternoon)
From dark to daylight: Buenos Noches (Good Evening, also Good Night)
Literally, if it’s a moment past 12 pm, you will hear people stumbling over their words to correct the transition of greeting from morning to afternoon. I recommend greeting people like this while visiting, it’s nice to respect the traditions of the country you’re in! When in Mexico…
I know the whole world uses nicknames, but perhaps not so often as they do here. The thing is that here in Mexico, people have very long names- normally two first names, and two last names, one from their mother and the other from their father. So this is shortened very often, and people us just one of the first names and one of the last names.
Then, there are the obvious nicknames like anywhere else, where the name is just shortened or changed. Since the names are so long, they are almost always changed to the nickname- Tefy for Estefania, Paco for Francisco. Also, here in Mexico there is this sweet way that people you don’t even know immediately warm to you and automatically shorten your name. I will get a work e mail from a new vendor that has shortened my name to Dani, and almost everyone calls me Guera, from street vendors to my boyfriend’s family, just based on my appearance and that I am clearly American. These nicknames create comradery almost instantly.
Then there is when “ito” or “ita” is added to your name or to a word, ie. “Danielita” o “cervecita”, meaning little Danielle or little beer. Its just a loving twist that can be added to anything and if someone is calling you a “cosita” or “little thing”, they certainly like you and think you’re cute.
3. BREAK TIME IS REAL
Something I think is wonderful about the Mexican culture is that they really take the time to enjoy the important things. There are what I call “Mexican Lunches”, where you sit down at 2pm, you’re having a fabulous time, and then suddenly its dark outside. You’re completely living in the moment, and no one is rushing back to the office or home to finish e mails. Or, when I was living in Los Cabos, Sundays at the beach were family days, and not just the mom, dad and kids- the cousins, the grandma, the aunts and uncles would all come and set up camp for the day. Almost no one works on Sundays. Or how almost everything is closed for Semana Santa, the entire week surrounding Easter, and kids are out of school, giving people a chance to relax and unwind and spend time with family.
Sure, its frustrating when you are trying to accomplish things for work and you call a business and they tell you they are out on a two hour lunch break, and even if that person is lunching next to the phone, they refuse to help you. Or how its almost impossible to get anything delivered on a Sunday in Mexico City. Or how the approval process and payment takes forever. Everything just takes longer.
As exasperated as I can be in those moments, I appreciate the fact that this culture realizes that you do need to stop and just take a minute. There are many less working lunches here, and people don’t skip their lunch break like many Americans are accustomed to doing. I think its beautiful that nourishment is important here, because it really is.
I adore walking through markets and seeing plates filled with tacos and beans and cheese and rice. How there are always people lingering around taco stands, how a vendor literally almost shut the door on me the other day because I was a minute into her lunch break. We shouldn’t compromise our lives for work. We need to eat to be level headed and strong, and a break can make us better at our work and definitely more patient. Instead of thinking its rude, I embrace it and realize that in that extra hour or half hour the world isn’t going to fall apart. And that person has gotta eat!
These are just a few of my love confessions for Mexico…more to be confessed soon!
Danielle – la Güera