How to Behave in Mexico
I have been to Mexico many times and have picked up a few tips based on personal experiences and observations. To maximize your vacation, lower your stress level and enjoy the experience, here are my suggestions.
- Speak the language
That doesn't mean you must become fluent in Spanish...Heaven knows I'm not! But as you are a visitor in their country, remember that a few words or phrases will make for a nice effort to "fit in". If all you can remember are these, you'll do just fine.
Buenos dias "Boo when ohs dee ahs" (Good morning)
Hola "Oh la" (Hi)
Por Favor "Poor Fahv Or" (Please)
Gracias "Grah si ahs" (Thank you)
De nada "Day nah dah" (You're welcome)
Donde esta el bano? "Dohn day es tah el banyo" (Where is the bathroom?)
Cuando es? "Quahn doe es" (How much?)
Habla ingles? "Ah blah ing less" (Do you speak English?)
Hasta luego "Ah sta loo aygo" (See you later)
- DON'T shout
Mexicans are not all deaf. If you ask a question and they don't appear to understand, they still won't understand if you yell it s l o w l y. Break down your question into fewer words and use pantomine if need be, but please don't raise your voice.
- DON'T be insulting
The people of Mexico work very hard and generally provide excellent customer service. Treat them as you would anyone anywhere else.
- DON'T get drunk and obnoxious
I have seen many, MANY Americans decide that 2-for-1 drinks means downing as many Tequilas possible and then proceeding to yell "WHOO HOO!" at the top of their lungs. So if this happens to you and you go stumbling off down some dark alley, don't be surprised when your wallet is gone. And certainly don't blame it on Mexico.
- DO prepare to barter.
Most vendors (and I'm not talking store owners with set prices) expect you to barter. I've spoken to some who say it's almost a disappointment to get their first price. But be polite, smile and you'll likely come to a compromise.
- DO be prepared for the children.
The children of Mexico are charming and oh-so-cute, and there is a group have learned that it's hard for us to turn them down. They may follow you and continue begging for you to look at their merchandise. If you do not want it, you must say firmly, "NO GRACIAS." It's hard but you may find yourself being followed for a loooooong time if you don't. I often take hard candies or small toys to give to the children, but this too can backfire if they tell their friends that the Americana is giving things away. Whatever, I love those kiddos!
- DO use common sense.
Don't flash a wad of cash.
- DON'T wear black socks with sandals.
Okay, this is just a personal pet peeve.
- DO ask permission before taking anyone's picture.
Would you whip out your camera in a park in New York and start snapping photos of people's children? Ask permission. I've taken many wonderful photos of people and depending on the situation will offer a dollar or two as compensation.
- DO try different things.
Mexican food in Mexico isn't your local Taco Bell. Tacos come wrapped in soft tortillas and orange cheese doesn't exist. Burritos are an American invention. You MAY find goat on the menu (and I own pet pygmy goats!) but that doesn't mean you should start making gagging noises and try to tell them it's wrong to serve goat. If you aren't sure what the foods are, ask "Que es?" (What is this?)
- BRING PEPTO BISMOL!
Our systems are used to the bacteria here. Bacteria in other parts of the world are different. Many people think if they get the tummy sickness that they ate something "bad", but in reality, it's USUALLY the fact that your stomach is simply used to something else. I have found that for me, if I drink a spoonful of Pepto every morning I don't get sick. May or may not work for you but I swear by it for me.
- DO or DON'T drink the water.
If you are staying at a resort, likely the water is agua purificado (purified water). No worries. Eat the ice, drink those yummy margaritas. If you are off the beaten track, take bottled water or ask if the water is purified. If you're going to be concerned all the time, set your mind at ease and simply pack your own agua.
Common sense goes a long way in Mexico.