Thinking of moving to Mexico? Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Mexicans call things as they are. A fat man will be nicknamed El Gordo, a bald one El Pelón, and the one with a big nose El Chato. People seem accepting of their own physical appearances and don’t get offended by these nicknames. To the contrary, they name their businesses after them! So don’t be offended if people call you Gringo (American) or Güero (whitey). And they definitely will.
2. Many wonderful meals are, in my opinion, a fair trade-off for a bout of Travelers’ once in a while. Don’t pass up all of the fantastic street foods to be had in Mexico!
3. Now that I have Mexican food on my mind, I recommend you don’t leave Mexico without tasting each of the following, very classic dishes: pozole, tacos al pastor, birria, mole, chiles rellenos, tortas ahogadas, huevos rancheros and chilaquiles. Wash down those meals with a good variety of aguas frescas and you may never leave Mexico.
4. Beware of dogs. There are far more of them than there are leashes.
5. In Puerto Vallarta or other touristy areas, it is quite unlikely you have any problems with violence. Things do happen, of course, but Mexican criminals and drug traffickers know better than to drive away one of Mexico’s biggest revenue source: tourists. Be more mindful when you travel to big cities like Guadalajara or Mexico City. They are, after all, big cities where pick-pocketing and other petty crimes aren’t uncommon.
6. If you are a woman, get used to catcalls. Many men, especially when with friends, think it’s an amusing way to give a compliment and love it when you react. So don’t.
7. If you speak Spanish, take advantage of the fact that many Mexicans are very warm and friendly and proud of their country. They might take a lot of interest in why you are there and may ask a lot of questions about where you are from. Don’t be shy and get used to personal questions and amicable physical contact.
8. If you don’t speak Spanish, at least try to learn it.
9. You will see poverty that chills you to your core. You will see begging children and want to give them money. Please don’t give them any at all. If you look closely, you can often see their parents watching them get paid by gringos, and because they successfully make money, they are kept in the street. There are other ways to help the situation so channel your compassion into a more creative constructive outlet (e.g. www.investours.org).
10. Soak it in. Mexico, political turbulence, poverty, environmental hashness and all, provides a fascinating example of how resilient people are. There is so much to experience and learn, so be sure not to live it behind your camera, simply live it.
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