The term culture shock is coined when people move abroad because cultures differ from country to country.
And if you are thinking about moving to Mexico from either the US or Canada, some of the ways of life in Mexico will probably make you frustrated at times and/or make you chuckles sometimes. Even though we are all neighbors, living in Mexico is different. And there’s no doubt you’ll notice that when you first move here.
So here are 8 ways that I can help you integrate into Mexican society a bit faster.
Lunch Is Not At Noon
In a traditional sense for Mexicans, Lunch is the main meal of the day. And it is usually taken between 2 pm and 4 pm. Lunch is leisurely taken, not rushed, and then most people go back to work or school till around 8 pm. Dinner in a Mexican home is usually around 9 pm and somewhat lighter in fare.
Doctors in Mexico
One of the things that amazes most expats living in Mexico is the availability of cheap affordable healthcare.
How many times have you not felt well, and called your doctor only to find out you can’t get an appointment for 2 weeks? Here in Mexico, problem solved. If you need a doctor for a minor ailment just about every pharmacy has a Consultorio and no appointment is needed. For about 50 pesos (approximately $2.50) you can see a local licensed doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Most all prescription drugs are available over the counter at a fraction of US prices.
Street Food in Mexico is Delicious And Cheap!
For me, my favorite time to enjoy local fare in Centro (downtown) is around 8 pm. By that time the local restaurants and Taquerias are in full swing, and the street carts are on every corner and in the public parks. It’s an absolute food fest! From tacos to tlyudas, churros, marquesitas, fresh fruit, elote, tortas. For about $5.00 USD or less you can enjoy many of the local’s favorite foods.
Mexico is A Full Service Type of Country
When was the last time you visited a full service Gas Station? Here in Mexico, they are ALL full service.
Not only do they pump your gas, but the attendants also clean your windows, check your tire pressure and even check your fluid levels. Always remember to tip between 10 and 20 pesos as it is customary to do so here. One note of caution, there are many scams that can take place at the pump so be aware of what’s going on to be sure you are not taken advantage of.
Grocery Baggers or Cerillos
Another big difference you will find here in Mexico is at the supermarket checkout. They are also known as “cerillos” by local Mexicans. Most of them are senior citizens of Mexico who volunteer to bag your groceries. I have had the pleasure of personally meeting and talking to a few seniors who graciously explained the system. They aren’t employees and do not receive a salary. They are members of a Government sponsored program called INAPAM, all are over the age of 60.
They work 6-hour shifts six days a week and have schedules so that as many seniors as possible can participate. Many only receive a small government pension and this is a golden opportunity for them to earn pesos from your tips. Please support them as it is customary to tip 10-20 pesos.
Formal and Informal Spanish Tips
Probably the largest social difference between Mexico and your home country is the language.
You will find that many locals do not speak a single word of English outside of the Tourist areas. Learning Spanish will make life here easier and more productive. Even learning just a few basics will go a long way. Every local you will ever meet is extremely proud of their country, traditions and customs, and roots.
Respect is an honored tradition and even strangers will greet you with “Buenos Días, Buenas Tardes, or Buenas Noches.” If you are new to Spanish or just beginning to learn it’s important to know how and when to use it in a formal sense or familiar sense. The formal form is used in situations where you are meeting someone for the first time, persons older than you, and in business.
Generally, the familiar tenses are used in situations where you are friends and younger persons who you already know.
Mexican Time or American Time?
And no, I am not referring to time zones. Americans generally make schedules and appointments for everything. Punctuality is engraved in American society.
With very few exceptions, your entire perspective of American Time (being on time) disappears. In fact, the Spanish word “ahorita” (right now) is a great example of Mexican Time and is an integral way of Mexican life. When someone tells you “ahora” or “ahorita” when you inquire about receiving a service, definitely set a time.
From the Mexican perspective “ahora” can mean now, right now, five minutes, tomorrow, next week, and in some cases never!
Cash is KING in Mexico
In most of the western world, plastic is king.
But in Mexico, cash is KING. The majority of payments for goods and services we make in Mexico are paid with pesos. Even rentals, for the most part, are paid in cash each month. For the average Mexican credit is expensive and rarely used.
Outside of the tourist areas, there are many shops, local taquerías, and markets that only accept pesos. On the 1st and 15th of the month, you will see tremendous lines at banks and ATMs with locals withdrawing their salaries to pay their bills and living expenses.
Avoid banks on those days at all costs.
In all honesty, it is virtually impossible to live in Mexico without Pesos in your pocket. You will need pesos to pay for a variety of things especially at local shops and restaurants and for tipping. With that comes another issue of dealing with large bills and coins. It is safe to say that one of the biggest social challenges is having to deal with many merchants unable to break the MXN $500 or MXN $200 peso note for a small purchase.
Pro tip- go to your nearest bank teller window and ask for smaller bills if you don’t have change.
Learn more about integrating to Mexico in my video below.