Summary: Cultural Differences

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(Tip: NOB = North of Border, ie: US or Canada)


In Mexico, family ranks very highly in terms of importance. This differs greatly from what most NOB’s are used to. It’s both a refreshing throwback to our childhood memories and a cultural shock at the same time. Elders are respected and cared for. Children listen to their parents. Important events involve the whole family. Men are still largely considered the leaders of the families and women take a secondary role. For some NOB’s this is difficult and thought provoking, but it’s really just a lag in evolution. Mexican families seem to be slowly changing as ours did over the years, but they are about 50 years behind (if you can call it that).

Some things that we consider priorities are just not on the radar of the average Mexican. Time is one of the things that demonstrates this quite well. Most NOB’s are caught up in being punctual, rushing through their lives trying to get everything done in a short time, whereas Mexicans take a different view. Meeting someone for the first, or even the hundredth time, involves deliberately taking time to ask about family, health, and other cordialities before moving on to the business at hand. To not do this is considered rude. Appointments are often nothing more than a loose suggestion.

There are many religions practiced in Mexico but the majority is Catholicism. There are also many others and there are entire cultures that have survived the centuries, such as the Mayans. Regardless of the religion practiced, Mexicans tend to embrace it dearly.

Mexicans have to endure a lot of hardships and the sanitary facilities are just one of them. Some expats express absolute horror at the state of bathrooms in Mexico. Lack of toilet seats or paper are common. Water shortages lead to toilets being flushed only once at the end of the day, or you may even find yourself squatting in a cardboard shack with nothing more than a bucket of sawdust to “flush” with. In a country where hardships are so common, Mexicans take this in stride like they do everything else.

Another demonstration of Mexico being behind is the attitude toward trash. At first glance it may seem that Mexico is a dirty place, littered with trash, and in some respects it is. The mantra of “reduce, re-use, recycle” that we had burned into our memories is just not here yet. Lacking facilities and services, many Mexicans don’t think twice about dropping their trash on an otherwise pristine beach or tossing it out the car window. This is changing, as it did NOB, but it takes many years and a couple of generations to change a mindset. Until then, if you want to enjoy Mexico you have to learn to look beyond it.