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Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Mexico

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Mexico can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Mexico?

What are the most common clichés about life in Mexico in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,

Priscilla

In the 8 years since moving to Mexico from the US, I've met countless expats who assumed they'd "pick up" Spanish while living here, with a few months of local classes. It seems most people don't know that it takes a lot of time and effort (e.g. homework, practice) to learn another language. When they realize this, many give up and never master more than the most basic Spanish. My advice would be to start even before you move here. Most of us know years in advance before taking the big step of moving to another country. Use this time to start learning and practicing.

Before coming I Mexico, I had no cliché. In general, I am not influenced by "cliché" neither misconceptions. But I didn't expect that people could be so nice and that I would have the feeling of being "at home". Used t travel in other parts of the world, when I left temporally Mexico in  early september it was the first time I was "not so happy" to come back in France.

fdinolfo :

In the 8 years since moving to Mexico from the US, I've met countless expats who assumed they'd "pick up" Spanish while living here, with a few months of local classes. It seems most people don't know that it takes a lot of time and effort (e.g. homework, practice) to learn another language. When they realize this, many give up and never master more than the most basic Spanish. My advice would be to start even before you move here. Most of us know years in advance before taking the big step of moving to another country. Use this time to start learning and practicing.

i've been here 5 years as of July, and i agree that practice is a major factor in learning Spanish, But I do not feel you can really learn the Spanish as spoken here in the U.S. For one thing you are taught to use words that are actually not commonly used here.  Some of the things that are taught are rude. The other problem is Spanish is not cut and dried, there are many dialects. I have seen the same problem with Spanish speaking people trying to learn English. They usually just give up period.

One thing that is not a cliche is the Mexican sense of time.  The only thing you can be sure of is that it's so variable, expect surprises.  Doctors do try to stick to their schedule but walk-ins may take priority, depending.

If you're not so young and you don't have time or resources for a year or two full immersion,  do as much as you can, staying with a family for a week to a month.  I've been dealing in Spanish since 1962, of and on and in spurts.  I don't and never will hear Spanish as fast as they speak it.  In the last 8 years, I tried to tune my ear for colloquialisms that are common.  they vary by region, so there's no comprehensive list.  I get by and that's about all I can say.

A final thought, like that Marine who had trouble;e over a rifle in Tijuana, don't ever get yourself in a situation where the police may take interest in you.  Not even to stop and help at an auto accident.  Nothing might go wrong, but why take a chance?

"You gonna die!" I actually feel safer here in Mexico than in some places in the US.

Gene1023 :

"You gonna die!" I actually feel safer here in Mexico than in some places in the US.

Yes, the Mexican Government screws with Residente Premanentes much less than the US government screws with its citizens.

Still, it doesn't hurt to keep a low profile.

okay

I have to respectfully disagree with Travellight. I attended Spanish Meetups and used online language tools and became an intermediate speaker before arriving to Mexico. With Skype, you can practice every day with a native speaker from the country of your choice.   Although slang and some words are different, to speak properly all you need is Spanish. Spanish is one language, just like English is.

My misconceptions had to do with how religious and conservative I expected Mexicans to be. I don't find my Mexican contemporaries here much different from my American friends  in what they believe in. Their values are pretty much the same, I don't feel any real cultural divide.

kerryinmexico :

I have to respectfully disagree with Travellight. I attended Spanish Meetups and used online language tools and became an intermediate speaker before arriving to Mexico. With Skype, you can practice every day with a native speaker from the country of your choice.   Although slang and some words are different, to speak properly all you need is Spanish. Spanish is one language, just like English is.

Actually I was referencing formal Spanish training prior to  coming to Mexico. No mention was made of SKYPE or on line tools. Both could be useful because they involve more real communication. I was talking about formal classes where they teach you to  say Yo at the beginning of every sentence and que if you have a question.
It was the person (fdinolfo) that i was responding to who felt formal training was better than on line tools. I took Spanish in high school but have learned Spanish in Mexico and Peru by actually speaking it. What ever works is what I think. So you will have to respectfully disagree with her.

The most difficult for me is/was to hear fast enough.  I still have to hone in on keywords and ask for more explanation when I know I didn't understand.  Whatever tools you use, you can evaluate your progress and try other methods available.

After 50 years, off and on, my Spanish may not get any better but a recent 5 day hospital stay indicates i can get by if I'm not too proud to ask for explanation of anything I don't get the first time around.

Totally agree that the Spanish I learned in the US was different from what we speak here. But having learned it there, it was very easy to modify it once I came here, much easier than starting from scratch. Took months rather than years. In any case, they're still mutually intelligible.

Definitely and this goes for France as well!
Here on most lines I can take the last metro while in france you can be attacked ....any time. I don't even mean the suburbian lines like RER or bus lines!

I heard the Champs-Elysees became unsafe, here no problem to walk by night on Paseo de la Reforma.

PS: typical: in Mexico City (at least) everybody mays his public transport ticket.

Small details may catch you if you don't maintain complete awareness of where you are.
I was given an appointment with an internist a $7.50USD taxi ride away from home.
I was also told come one day before for blood work.
The day before, I figure, what the heck I'll go around lunchtime and have a nice lunch nearby.
Well, typical of some Mexican towns, they close for 3 hours for lunch.
After having my lunch there was still 2 hours wait.
I called and found out the hours they were open for lab work and could I have it done the same day as the appointment?  If I get there by 10AM, it'd be OK.
I'll get there Monday as soon as they open, have breakfast after the blood is drawn, sign up for Costco, take in a movie, do some shopping and got to my appointment.

The small lapse in awareness cost $15.  Minor in the scheme of things.

All our "what the hecks" can surely cause minor irritations.   Thank you for this important lesson... in finding out clinic hours of operation, lunch closures, etc.   In essence, good communication BEFORE arrival!

That's a start, but be aware that appointment at 11 is not a fixed appointment. It's a time you must be there but not a time they will see you necessarily. I ran into that again and again with Hacienda appointments. You arrive to get a seat to wait with others. They give you a number, and you sit.

travellight :

That's a start, but be aware that appointment at 11 is not a fixed appointment. It's a time you must be there but not a time they will see you necessarily. I ran into that again and again with Hacienda appointments. You arrive to get a seat to wait with others. They give you a number, and you sit.

That's not necessarily different than the US.  DMV, SSA, IRS any number of other government bureaucracies.  Doctors' appointments vary all over creation in the US.

In doctors' and dentists' offices here an walk-in in pain can take priority over people with appointments.  Also treue in the US.

I have never sat as much as I have had to sit and wait here. Part of the problem is communication via email is more of a concept than a reality. For the most part you must physically go to the place and get in line. Email pretty much goes unanswered. That is whats different about the U.S. vs Mexico.
I understand that and live with that as a given. All of my communication with the U.S. is on-line or in email. I can not do that here. Yes I can check my Mexican bank account on line, it's not simple but I can do it.

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