A while back, I answered an email filled with questions by creating a list of tips for living successfully within the prevailing Mexican culture and rules. When I found a copy this week I realized how many of these tips are still pertinent and vital for success.
1. Never make a negative statement about any business person in the presence of two witnesses. On second thought, don’t make negative statements about anyone or any thing – ever. First, a lot more folks understand English than you might suspect. Second, while some laws have eased, libel and slander are still serious, even when the statements are true.
2. Keep all documentation – immigration status, driver’s license, Mexican car insurance, property taxes – clean and clear and paid up to date.
3. Live behind the walls, surrounded by as many Mexican neighbors as possible. Maintain good relationships with the neighbors. It’s a great system of neighborhood watch.
4. Avoid bars or saloons and being out alone late at night. When you’re out, don’t flash jewelry and don’t reveal the cash in your pocket or purse. Be as careful here as in any town or city anywhere in the world.
5. Don’t drive at night. If it just can’t be avoided, keep your wits about you and watch for livestock along the road, moving vehicles without lights and drunk cyclists.
6. Accept the rules and laws of Mexico, just as they are. They don’t have to seem logical or efficient; they are the laws and rules.
7. Never, EVER discuss Mexican politics or participate in any political rally or large public demonstration. Have questions about this point? Consult the Mexican constitution of 1917.
8. Avoid dressing or acting suggestively. This isn’t the beach and it isn’t the place for short shorts, halter tops, tube tops, short skirts, etc. Show respect and wear long pants into churches.
9. Borrow a phrase from AA and learn to accept the things we cannot change – and here that’s nearly everything. Is it hard to decide what can be changed? Almost nothing. Things happen here the way they do because that’s the way it’s been done here for centuries, and much of it is logical – just not north of the border logic. Leave it alone, it works.
10. Relax ... slow down, stop on the sidewalk and talk to people. Take siestas, and sip tequila. Even without our expert help, nearly everything will happen just the way it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to – in spite of our efforts to speed it up.
Consider that your Mexican goal is to complete one errand or task per day. Accepting that attempting to complete a list of five or more items is to invite insanity is the mark of someone who is adapting and accepting this country, and loving the experience of living here, just the way it is.