Expats in Mexico.
At Expats in Mexico, La Sirena Tejana is a blog about life as a foreigner in Mexico.
I can now proudly state that I am competent in at least 85 percent of all adult activities. For those areas in which I’m not (what was that again about water “subiendo”?), I’ve at least gotten good at convincing others to help me, which is perhaps the number one most important life skill to have as an ex-pat.
Getting things done as an adult in Mexico isn’t always easy, and the methods for doing them aren’t always obvious. Whereas you’re likely used to many things being automatic, or at least remotely controllable in the U.S., Canada or wherever you’re from, there are plenty of duties here for which you’ll actually need to leave the house and talk to people, call someone on the phone or talk to someone who shows up to make a delivery, all in Spanish. ¡Que horror!
Let’s run through a few of the most important basics:
When you’re learning Spanish, don’t decide that the formal “usted” form is too much trouble to learn on top of everything else.
Mexico is a much more formal country than the rest of North America, and designations of respect are important; use it for people you don’t know, especially if they’re obviously older than you (no need to use it with children). For women especially, I find it very useful when I want to establish social distance between myself and strange men, which is an important tool in a generally more romantically forward culture.
Speaking English loudly is annoying.
If you’re going to do it, which is understandable if you’re with other English speakers, at least remember that you don’t have to “show off” to everyone around you that it’s your native language. You certainly don’t want to insult or make fun of people in English, either. As David Sedaris reminds us, it’s not as if English were some obscure language that only a small tribe and a handful of anthropologists speak. Be on the safe side and assume that anything you say in English can be at least partially understood!
Believe NO ONE when they say “no pica” (not spicy).
They are lying. EXTREME caution advised when they say “casi no pica” (practically no spice at all).
1. Lighting. The right combination of lamps, light bulbs and light fixtures can go a long way toward creating a warm and cozy environment. If you can do nothing else, get the right light bulbs. You DO NOT want “daylight” light bulbs; you want “luz cálida.” Next, try some lamps. While they’re quite expensive at department stores, you can usually find beautiful, unique pieces for good prices at artisans’ markets. Many places simply have a wire hanging down from the ceiling with a bulb in it, but things like paper lanterns can be tricky as they tend to darken a space. That said, they’re usually cheap enough to allow for some experimentation.
2. Paint. One of my favorite things about Mexico is the combination of vibrant colors everywhere you go. Paint is a cheap way to make a very dramatic difference, and it’s forgiving. if you don’t like something, you can simply paint over it. If you’re feeling really enthusiastic (and I am always feeling really enthusiastic), you can go for some murals. If, like me, you don’t have much “free-hand” talent, a projector will help you trace images on the wall so that you can fill in coloring book-style.
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