Culture and Customs of Mexico
Mexico borders our country…
…it is a foreign country with it’s own laws and customs, so you do want to be well prepared.
I have included here, a picture of the Bull Fighting Ring in Mazatlan, Mexico.
I will probably never see the inside of this facility. Completely against my perception of entertainment. However – remember that Mexico is a different country, with different traditions and different customs than we are familiar with. While you may never want to see this spectacle either, you should respect the long years of tradition that makes this an important event to many Mexicans, when you are in their country.
What may be perfectly acceptable actions in the states could offend someone in Mexico and visa versa.
You’ll find the people of Mexico to be very conscious of everyday manners, both in their actions and their speech. How refreshing!
• Mexicans tend to be more conservative than Americans – this goes for dress, especially in the more Provencal areas of Mexico.
• When having a conversation with a resident of Mexico, you will find they tend to be more comfortable to stand closer together that we are used to – they don’t seem to fear “someone getting in their space” as seems to be the way in America.
• DO NOT use the old O.K. sign – making the hole with the thumb and index finger – that’s a vulgarity in Mexico and you will offend most people!
• A handshake is acceptable and a back slap. Hugs are usually for friends, but can also be used in business situations. In some instances a kiss on each cheek is appropriate. I’d let the other person initiate that.
You may find that Mexico is, unfortunately, a bit race-conscious. This apparently originates from the fact that the conquering Spanish (light-skins) basically enslaved the indigenous (dark-skinned) peoples. Ergo, for some Mexicans, the concept remains that white is rich and powerful and dark is lower-class. It’s amazing that such ideas still exist in this day and age. Today, with about ten percent of the population being white, 60% mixed and 30% indigenous, race consciousness sadly persists.
Americans, visiting Mexico for the first time, may be to see the high percentage of darker skinned individuals, rather than the white skinned Hispanics they have become accustomed to seeing in advertisements and on TV.
I believe the easiest way to deal with unwanted attention is simply to ignore it. Being not only light-skinned, but if your appearance proclaims that you are apparently not from Mexico, you may be called a gringo or a guera – there is usually no offence meant, it’s simply a description of what you are.
Gringo – There are many opinions of the derivation of this word – one is that the song “Green grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew…” was popular during the Mexican/American War in the 1800’s. The Mexicans heard the song so often that “green grow” eventually became gringo for Americans …it’s a possibility.
Anyway, now Gringo is used for anyone with Caucasian features basically. It takes a certain kind of person to live outside the U.S. If you plan to live in Mexico and enjoy it, you should immerse yourself somewhat in the customs and culture of the country.
In this article I hope I have basically introduced some everyday behavior, appropriate for us Gringos in Mexico:
• Be polite to everyone.
•Don’t assume just because someone doesn’t have a formal education they are not as smart as someone who does.
•Treat others as you would want to be treated!