How to be a local in Mexico
Bordering the USA to the north and other Latin American countries to the south, Mexico is blessed with a unique culture, which dates right back to the ancient Mesoamerican civilisations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs.
Since then it’s taken on influences from modern developments and social sways, leading to the exuberant culture they have today.
For visitors, there’s a lot to take on board; the language isn’t quite like the Spanish we learnt at school and the bright colours, sights and sounds of everyday life are a feast for the senses – let alone their delicious cuisine being a feast for our bellies.
While the tourist hotspot of Cancun is cosmopolitan and runs similarly to the US, if you’re heading to any of its other destinations here are a few pointers that the Flexicover team think are worth knowing about in advance.
Slow it down
Relax! It might be frustrating for those used to a faster pace of life but remember life moves more slowly in Mexico - so much so that arriving on time is considered inappropriate. While it can be difficult to shake the stigma Brits attach to being late try to be conscious of this when interacting with locals and use the culture to make the most of your holiday. In restaurants, for example, leave plenty of time for leisurely meals. And note that it’s considered rude for the waiter to bring the cheque before being asked, so be sure to request "la cuenta, por favor” in good time if you do need to leave promptly.
Show some respect
The age-old aphorism ‘respect your elders’ takes on a very real sense in Mexico where the family hierarchy is strictly adhered to. As such, listening to those older than you will earn you lots of points and will avoid any cultural awkwardness. Mexicans are also very polite so be careful not to lose your temper or complain too loudly or you’ll risk being branded as rude. Courteous to the point of being formal, social etiquette is also important. Be sure to address people properly as either señor or señora and before asking a question and if your linguistic power allows make some small talk or excuse yourself to avoid appearing too curt.
Meet and greet
With strict social hierarchy a cultural norm it’s no surprise there are equally formal rules when it comes to being introduced to people. When meeting a group be sure to individually address each person – you’ll risk offence if you ignore any of the party. Strangers should shake hands, friends (either women to women or women to men) will kiss on one cheek, while men will greet each other with a hug and vigorous back slapping. While you’ll notice Mexicans show their friends and relatives significant affection it’s best to be reserved with people you don’t know well. If ever in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a handshake and a warm smile.
Say sí to street food
From tacos to tamales it’s no secret that Mexico has one of the best street food scenes in Latin America. Whether strolling the colourful streets of Mexico City or browsing the traditional markets of Oaxaca, you’ll find hole-in-the-wall vendors churning out everything from freshly made tortillas to tender pork carnitas, with both vegetarians and meat eaters catered for – though you may have to brush up on your Spanish to know what you’re getting. The good news? Times have changed in modern Mexico and higher culinary standards mean you’re able to join the locals in indulging in their afternoon antojitos (‘little cravings’) without too much cause for concern. Be sure to pick a stall that’s crowded: a long line is a sure-fire way to sniff out the tastiest street food.
Prepare for a culture of machismo
While divides between gender roles may have softened in modern day Mexico, remember that the country remains a patriarchal society. As such, you’ll find machismo practices (that display very male behaviour) quite widespread – in fact Mexico is where the word ‘macho’ comes from. Acts such as wolf whistling and comments that may be construed as sexist in other countries are not necessarily seen as such in Mexico. While this may not be ideal there are so many wonderful aspects to Mexican culture to discover that far outweigh any such downsides.
With its fascinating history, vibrant culture and sheer scenic beauty, there’s so much to explore on a trip to Mexico. And it’s great to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.