I’ve just spent a year living and working in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. As an experienced world traveler, I’ve noticed a few differences between the US and Mexico. Just for fun, I thought I’d share them. This list is in no particular order. The photos are from my last days in SLP.
Time Everyone is a tad delayed here, though it’s not as bad as advertised. The airport time, for example, is 5 minutes slower than my automatically synced phone/iPad/computer. My students don’t really consider themselves late if they show up in the first 15 minutes of a one-hour class. I think differently, however.
Speaking of airports When your flight is delayed or there’s a gate change–nothing goes on the announcement board until after the time flight should have left. And you can’t look at the corresponding arriving flight because it won’t ever be listed as arriving late. Oh, and most announcements are only in Spanish, even for flights going to the USA.
It’s noisy Being loud is simply more acceptable in Mexico. Talking loudly on the phone in public places is common. The school near me had blaring music often in the evening. This past month, fireworks began just after 10pm. The noise and bangs didn’t end until shortly before midnight. This was on a Thursday night. The school is located between a residential zone and a hospital.
Personal space is less It’s common for someone to use your chair, which you are sitting in, for their purse or bags, as though you aren’t even there. At the airport, a woman sat beside me and put her shopping bag on the edge of my chair while she got adjusted, elbowing me twice. She didn’t even acknowledge me. I smiled and handed her the shopping bag as though she’d forgotten it. It’s common for people to touch you as you pass on a narrow sidewalk. They don’t mean anything bad, but as an American, I find it unnerving. Standing in an obviously busy doorway is common. And annoying. When you ask them to move out of your way, they smile and politely let you through, then stand back in the doorway.
Perfume WAAAAAY too much perfume.
Sidewalks They are often impossible to use, which is why people walk in the street. The sidewalks are narrow, broken and may have signs or power poles in the middle of the passageway. Open holes are very common. If the sidewalk is wide, there’s likely to be commerce blocking your way–food carts, especially. Heaven help you if you’re handicapped.
Stop signs There are very few of them. The ones that are there, may be ignored. However, in one year, I didn’t see a single collision at an intersection. I don’t know how they do it, but they do.
Turn Signals It’s rare for someone to use turn signals. Or seat belts. It’s like the USA in the 1950’s.
Green Spaces Mexicans use their parks and plazas. It’s not as trashy as I’d expected either. There was some graffiti, but no worse than in the USA, not that that’s saying much.
Buenas dias People are generally very friendly. People will smile and greet you on the street, even if they don’t know you. Having spent a summer in Russia, I really, really appreciate this.
Sunday is family day. Forget trying to get friends together on Sunday. This day is dedicated to seeing Mom, Dad, cousins, aunts, uncles…. And the city closes down the main thoroughfare, Carranza, just for walking.
Buy stock in Spandex If you like tight clothing on women, this is the place to be. However, I find that if you don’t look good naked, you probably won’t look good in Spandex. The only country with a higher obesity rate than the USA is Mexico. Just sayin’.
Need attention? Beggars and sales people on the street are aggressive. They will follow you for a block or more, regardless of how many times you say no.
Snacking There are levels of snacks in Mexico. Small snacks, like popcorn and chips, are referred to as botanas. Heavier snacks are antojitos, which include tacos, pozole (a soup with hominy and meat) and enchiladas.
Lento, por favor Based on my personal, non-scientific survey, it’s impossible to speak Spanish slowly. People simply have to speak it rapidly. It didn’t matter how often I asked politely for people to speak slowly, the locals responded to me in rapid fire Spanish.
Mexican kitchens/cocincas There’s usually no hot water from the faucet in a Mexican kitchen. I hate this. People simply rinsed plates under running water. They may or may not use soap. This never seemed to clean things to me, one of the money reasons I didn’t use the shared kitchen in the board houses. The cuisine in the home is cooked entirely on the stovetop, so few kitchens have ovens. They may have a stove, but the oven section will be dismantled and used to store pots and pans. Breads and cakes are purchased at the local panderia, not cooked at home. Tortillas are cheap and fresh in every neighborhood and sold at a separate shop.
More Plumbing Homes have a water pump and storage tank on the roof. Sometimes the pump works automatically to pump city water to the holding tank, but most private homes aren’t automatic. When no water comes out of the faucet, you have to turn on the pump. Yes, this usually happens in the middle of a shower.
It’s like a package of Crayola crayons Things are just more colorful here. Houses, clothing and decorations are multicolored. Windows in old buildings have colored glass panels. It’s lovely.
Hold the salt….and pepper There’s seldom salt and pepper on the table at home or in a restaurant. Instead, you squeeze half a lime (here they are called lemons/limons) to add a salty flavor and salsa for spice.
It’s just spicier here Popcorn (palomitas) and chips are served with a squeeze of fresh lime and hot sauce. Even the local coffee (cafe de olla) has a bit of cinnamon and hot pepper.
There’s almost no recycling.
Junk food is easy a little too easy to get There are neighborhood shops, often 2 per block. They don’t carry much, mostly snack foods, chips, candy and soda. They may have milk and beer. Occasionally they will also have liquor behind the counter, but almost never wine. These are tiny, usually one small room. Larger convenience stores are located every 3-4 blocks. These are usually a chain store, especially OXXO or Circle K. Actual grocery stores are much farther apart.