Since I grew up with consistent trips to Mexico, I thought I knew all there is to know about the Mexican culture and the people. I thought all I needed was my animated personality, an appetite for spicy things, and mi español. Apparently, I wasn’t that prepared!
1. Humor isn’t Dark
The humor in Mexico city usually doesn’t involve putting others down. Dry humor isn’t popular; neither is it well receivedl. It’s been hard to keep my dark jokes low since it can offend others rather than give them a good laugh. I was hanging out with an amigo at a conference, and two of his freinds asked us if we knew where their their sibling was at. My typical reply is, ‘in the world,’ which I said in Spanish. I could tell they didn’t get the joke. My amigo explained to me afterward to be careful with negative humor in Mexico (I didn’t consideer it dark humor, but still took notes). I had several flashbacks of how my mother never liked demeaning jokes and would discourage my sisters and me from teasing in such a manner. This is not to say dark humor is never for Mexicans; one must discern which audience would receive it well. In the U.S., dark humor is also not for everyone, but it’s widely accepted.
2. Hospitality in the South (USA) vs. Mexico
I am more familiar with southern culture than the rest of my country so I will compare Mexico’s hospitality accordingly. What I mean by hospitality is the acceptance and openness of individuals when building relationships. Both cultures are hospitable; there’s no doubt about it. But when Mexicans say, ‘mi casa es tu casa,’ they mean it! In general, there is less pressure to impress when inside a Mexican home or a social outing. The word ‘stranger’ or ‘extranjero’ doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary. In southern homes, they welcome individuals as friends. In Mexico, they welcome people as family. One isn’t better than the other, yet it’s a distinction made from my experiences. Sometimes, I feel like people are over welcoming in Mexico or that people are under welcoming in the U.S. (especially college students). Balancing hospitality is key. Nevertheless, I prefer to be over welcomed than under welcomed. I hope my guests feel at home, but sometimes I can be stiff and worried they don’t have enough to eat, sleep, etc.
3. Spicy can be Too Hot for Mexicans too
It was offensive for a while when my tios and primos (uncles and cousins) kept asking, “Is that too hot for you?” or “you may not be used to it.” They know full-well I grew up eating some of the hottest salsas. As more time passed by, I noticed friends and family would ask the same kinds of questions to one another: it’s not because I’m a gringa ! One of my cousins told me she didn’t prefer really hot foods. Therefore, questions about whether my food is too hot aren’t meant for gringos only.
4. Mexicans Take Their Time
Lunch breaks are up to 2 hours long, college classes take time to start (it usually starts ten- fiftten minutes later), and they walk slow to nearly everything. For someone who’s lived in New York City the last four years, taking your time to go to and from a place isn’t what I’m used to. I know that its normal for friends and family to spend hours at the table during meal times and fiestas, but everyday tasks? It’s a foreign language to me. However taking life at a slower pace has helped me savor little happy moments and sit inside deep reflections (although I always try to make time for deep reflections).
5. Feelings towards White American Christians
Throughout most of my experiences, I’ve heard positive feedback on the American church from Latin Americans. They tend to look up to pastors and well-known churches in the U.S. The only criticism I may have heard in the past is on the materialism of the American church and culture. However, this year is a little different as one would imagine. Some Mexicans are aware that some American Christians do support a presidential candidate who is threatening their country; others are not aware and can’t wrap their heads around why. This year’s presidential election has slightly changed how Mexican Christians feel about American Christians. The most common explanation I hear from brothers and sisters in Christ in Mexico is something along these lines: “Many Christian leaders are white, and therefore want to vote for someone like them.” (All feedback is from educated people). In short, they sense this group of American Christians don’t care for them.
This part of my Mother’s culture is a temporary part of Mexico’s political discourse. I happened to find it interesting to list the things I didn’t know. It’s hard to escape American Politics, even in another country.