I recently wrote a blog post about the 13 reasons you might NOT like living in Mexico. I originally wrote it because I think it’s extremely important to be upfront with you if you’re coming to this blog to learn about living in Mexico. I want to share the many benefits of living in Mexico, but I also want you to know about the nuances that frustrate many newcomers.
One of them being noise.
So let me preface this by saying that Mexico is a lovely country. And it has a very different culture than some of us are used to. And I add myself to this group because although I was born and raised in Mexico, I spent most of my adult life in The United States. The land of rules and organization. Therefore, yes, sometimes I have culture shock too. But I also know and understand that Mexico is a noisy country, and I have learned to embrace it and love it!
Before you move to Mexico, I want to share some of the noises you’ll have to be okay with. Let me explain…
The first time I came back to Mexico since moving to the U.S., I spent a summer at my grandparent’s farm. I specifically remember hating the rooster next door! No one warned me there would be an alarm clock at 5 am every day. Contrary to popular belief, roosters don’t only crow at sunrise. Actually, depending on where you end up living, you may also be surprised to hear plenty of farm animals in residential areas. For example, in Ajijic, you might hear the horse’s hooves as they walk on the cobblestones at various times of the day.
It’s all part of the charm of living in Mexico. Life is happening around you.
There may be some noise regulations in parts of Mexico. But most of the time, they aren’t really enforced. And if you’re not okay with that, Mexico might not be for you.
For example, it’s common in Mexican culture for dogs to sleep outside. And if you have dogs, you probably know that most dogs bark at anything or anyone passing by. So, it’s very normal to hear all the neighborhood dogs start barking at the same time when someone is walking by in your neighborhood. A lot of newcomers learn to tune out their neighbor’s barking dogs. But if you’re very sensitive to noise, or a light sleeper, you might have a hard time with this one. Here’s a great video example of that.
That’s why I highly encourage you to visit the area(s) of Mexico you’d like to live in. Spend some time looking at different neighborhoods. Drive through the neighborhoods you like at different times of the day. Some gated communities have HOAs that help avoid that. But again, you can’t be certain they’ll enforce it. So the only way to get a true sense of what noises you’ll have to live with at different times of the day is to be here.
2. Cohetes (Fireworks)
I’ll never forget visiting my grandparents in Mexico and hearing the “cohetes,” aka fireworks in the middle of the night on the weekends. To me, they sounded like cannons in the distance. That’s when we knew there was either a town party or a church celebration. Mexico is largely Catholic, and most religious celebrations are synonymous with fireworks. If it’s a local saints day, you’ll probably hear fireworks for one or two days. For all other religious or Mexican holidays, you’ll hear the loud noise of fireworks.
I find that September and December are the most firework-heavy months. That doesn’t mean you won’t hear fireworks every month, but the days leading up to Independence Day and Christmas are the loudest. Watch this video to hear an example of church bells and fireworks going off at 5:55 am in San Miguel de Allende.
It’s one of my favorite things about Mexico. Life seems happy, and people are always celebrating something. But if you get annoyed and are easily irritated, you might have a hard time adjusting to the noise.
3. The Local Street Food Vendors
Now, not all noises take place at night. In fact, most of the noises in Mexico that you’ll hear will be throughout the day. Every neighborhood in every town has a local street vendor or vendors coming by to sell everything from elotes, tamales, fruit, vegetables, tacos, and everything in between.
Usually, your local street food vendor will have a loudspeaker on the back of their truck to announce what you can buy from them. And when I say a loudspeaker, I mean a loudspeaker.
In most cities around Mexico, you might also hear a distinct whistle that sounds like a braking train. This is the “camote” man selling his delicious roasted yams. It’s a beautiful thing to have a sweet and warm yam when you least expect it. That’s the wonderful thing about Mexico. There is always some street food vendor around the corner selling delicious treats. Think of the excitement you would feel when the ice cream truck comes through your neighborhood in the U.S. Except in Mexico, you get to chose from tamales, elotes, camotes, tacos, and sometimes ice cream. I love Mexico!
4. The Loudspeaker Truck
I was in Mexico City when I first heard the resale truck passing by my aunt’s neighborhood. Except, it wasn’t a truck; it was a horse with a loudspeaker playing the same thing on repeat. “Se compran colchones, lavadoras, secadoras,” which translates to “we’re buying mattresses, dryers, and washers.”
You might be surprised to see the truck (or horse) packed with mattresses, appliances, or any other items they’ve collected for the day. I found a great example of this in Mexico City. Watch it here. They always say a man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Other types of trucks with loudspeakers going around your neighborhood can include political messages, the local authorities, or other vendors selling miscellanous items.
Most people who are very sensitive to the afternoon noises or loudspeakers should consider moving to more rural areas. If you plan to work from home or take a daily afternoon siesta, these are the kinds of things you should know ahead of time. It’s not good enough to ask if there is noise in the area. Most landlords will say no because, to most locals, this isn’t considered noisy. Spend some time before committing to a long-term rental in a neighborhood you like. Only then will you know if you can handle the noises around you.
5. The Gas Man
Zeta Gaaaaas. Ahhhh, there’s nothing like taking an afternoon siesta and being woken up by the alarming horn followed by the loudspeaker “Zeta Gaaaaaas.” You see, in Mexico, gas is not usually stationary like we’re used to in the U.S.
Most houses in Mexico have an external gas tank that needs to be refilled or changed from time to time. In Mexico, most stoves are gas, your hot showers are powered by gas, and if you have a washer and dryer, you’ll also need gas. We’re fortunate that gas is automatically available through a gas line in the U.S. In Mexico, however, you’ll learn that gas companies need to refill your gas tanks before you run out. I know many people who aren’t used to this and end up running out of gas as soon as they’re taking a hot shower! And if you live in a newer house, chances are there’s a stationary gas tank that gets refilled directly. That way, you’ll never have to deal with exchanging the actual tanks.
6. The Knife Sharpener
How many times have you thrown away a dull knife because it didn’t cut anymore. Well, get ready to make longer use of your knives in Mexico thanks to the Knife Sharpener.
The knife sharpener comes around about once a month, and throughout Mexico, his whistle is the same. I love this interview with a knife sharpener in Guadalajara because he gives a good description of all the tools he can sharpen. Most knife sharpeners can also sharpen your scissors, your lawnmower blades, and any other tool you need. Next time you hear that whistle, remember the knife sharpener is nearby. Don’t throw away those dull knives out just yet!
Isn’t Mexico and the noises in Mexico incredibly charming?
7. Church Bells
I mentioned earlier that Mexico is dominantly Catholic. And that means there are a LOT of religious celebrations. Not to mention, there is mass every Sunday. The churches in every town and city have these large bells to announce mass and to announce the celebration of an event.
I especially love the church bells in Mexico. I love the sound they make. I don’t find it to be just noise. It makes me feel like I’m in a fairytale land where ancient traditions are still alive. If you live near the city center, you’ll probably hear the most noise than living in a subdivision outside the town. If you’re not crazy about church bells going off every other day or at odd times of the day, I’d suggest living further away from one. But at the same time, if you’re thinking about living in Mexico, you have to be prepared to accept these wonderful noises as part of the culture.
Mariachis, bars, cars with loudspeakers, parties, and everything between play loud music in Mexico. One of the biggest advantages of living near a town’s center is the practicality of walking everywhere. However, you’ll quickly realize that this also means being okay with all the noises around you.
Music is loved in Mexico, unlike any other country I have ever been in. Music is played loud at all events. Even if it’s a small get-together among friends or family, you can count on the music being played at a higher than normal volume. A few years ago, my twin cousins spent a summer with me in Austin, Texas. The first thing they noticed was how utterly quiet my neighborhood was. They constantly thought something must be wrong because the music wasn’t constantly playing. One of them even told me, “sounds like a funeral here.” as in trying to say it sounds dead. And now, I appreciate the music playing all-around at any town you visit in Mexico.
It’s a completely different culture in Mexico when it comes to music and general noise. If you grew up in Mexico, it wasn’t uncommon for your parents to throw parties at home and expect you to sleep through the music. And we did. We slept right through it without a problem. So you can understand why most locals don’t get bothered by the parties, the mariachis, the bar down the street, or the noise in Mexico. In fact, most of the Mexicans that visit the U.S. feel like fish out of water when it’s so quiet.
What If You Can’t Live In A Noisy Neighborhood?
My dog goes crazy when there’s heavy thunder, fireworks, or children playing and screaming. And I know that many of you will probably have the same concern.
So, what do you do if you can’t live in a noisy neighborhood?
I highly suggest looking for more residential parts of town instead of living right in the middle of the city. I also highly suggest living in a small gated community since these tend to have HOA rules that tend to be enforced- like no music after 10pm. You won’t be able to escape all of the noises in Mexico all together. Mexico is a noisy country, and most towns and cities regardless of how rural the area will have fireworks, barking dogs, roosters, and neighbors that like to play loud music. But you can definitely still find very quiet houses in small subdivisions, and before you know it you won’t even notice the background music, dogs, or roosters.
It’s all part of living and embracing Mexico. The noise, the laughter, the music, the fireworks, and even the barking dogs are part of the fabric that makes this country so special! I suggest visiting and staying a few weeks in different areas to find your perfect future home.
To learn more about living in Mexico, check out the “Quick Living in Mexico Guide for Expats (2021 Edition)“
Thanks for giving some insight; I d just like to point out that for noise, very loud music and use of explosives I experienced the same things in Peru and Guatemala! There seem to be a common culture over latin America! However I wonder what it was like before electricity arrived? Live music mut have been so wonderful
That was such a beautiful reminder of Mexico; I only spent 4 weeks there but was really struck by how the Mexicans embrace life and they also have few fears. There is a real sense of living for the day – which is supposed to be a British motto (ahem). The Mexicans know how to live on the edge and enjoy every moment if they can they cook beautiful food and share it; they embrace life to the full – literally they are the most colourful people inside and out.
Our British world here is building on fear and the notion that everything is “rude” and “disgusting” when anybody is seen to be enjoying themselves. Even playing some music in their garden! Whereas to me the disgust is witnessing a hoard of people eating McDonalds on Sunday and daring to call it a meal. Many seem repressed and anxious here. There it is though – a dull and miserable England.
Ken Riley says
If you live in a gated community with the rules of an HOA, you are probably not living with Mexicans and you are certainly not living in anything resembling Mexico. Attitudes like this is what gives American expats such a deservedly bad reputation among Mexicans. Ugh. Bet you don’t speak Spanish either.
Mariana Lange says
Thanks for assuming that- I was born and raised in Mexico. Bet you think you’re better than everyone else because you live around locals and speak Spanish.
Ha! Most people living in gated communities are Mexicans- Not only extranjeros. But I bet you didn’t know that.
Please take your shaming to another site