Good morning friends,
As I’m sitting here at my desk at school this morning I’m procrastinating from filling out student reports for Friday’s parent teacher conferences and checking facebook. My friend Amanda and her husband Derik are living in S. Korea right now and I L-O-V-E to read her blog. She is so creative and makes the coolest stuff! Plus, she’s a great writer. (if I knew how to add her link I’d totally add it, but you can see her website at the bottom of the post) Anyway, she recently wrote a post about being an expat. It was so interesting. She inspired me to write a new post.
Over spring break I went home to visit my family and finish planing my wedding. While I was home people kept asking me what it was like living in Mexico. And all I could think was, “well, it’s just different, but also the same as the States as well.” I wasn’t really sure how to put it into words. I mean, Mexico isn’t all thaaaaaaat different from the U.S. Of course there are cultural differences and the scenery is a bit different but over all, I don’t know that Mexico and the U.S. actually differ all that much. And to be honest, I don’t really pay that much attention, so when people do ask me I’m caught off guard and I feel silly because I can’t give a good answer. So, friends, those of you who wonder and were unsatisfied with my answer over Christmas and Spring break here is my post (mostly) about the differences and similarities of Mexico and the U.S.
In Mexico the culture is VERY different from our U.S. culture. For starters the kids actually respect their elders. Shocking right? I didn’t really realize how big of a difference this was until I went and visited our (adorable) pen pals that we’ve been writing to all year. They were great, but they were just different when it came to respect. Parents here DEMAND respect, and it is understood that you respect all others who are older than you. The school handbook states “any student who is showing lack of respect will immediately be given a discipline form with the maximum amount of points taken off, -3 ” (students get a behavior grade here, each discipline form has a certain amount of points taken off). It’s crazy, and wonderful. I rarely have my students argue with me, you don’t EVER hear of a child talking back to a parent. In fact, another teacher here was reading a book to her class, and in the book the teenage girl has some serious attitude (imagine that!) and she was talking back to her mom… this teacher looked up from the book, and her students had a look of pure shock on their face. She asked what was wrong, and they asked if this girl was really talking to her mom like that. When she said yes, they gasped in disbelief.
Another cultural difference is the driving. Oh lordy, the difference is incredible. For starters, stop signs are optional, running a red light is normal and cops have their lights flashing all the time. You know you are being pulled over if they flip on the siren. Along with cops you have bribery at it’s finest. If they think you might even possibly be breaking some sort of law (even if you aren’t) they will pull you over and give you a bogus ticket unless you pay them. I am PRAYING that I never get pulled over. It makes me sick to think about getting a stupid ticket for something and the cop making it a crazy fine unless I pay him. Crazy. Anyway… the roads here are a total joke too. They make zero sense. Last night was a perfect example. I was meeting Josh for dinner and the restaurant I needed to get to was on the other side of the road. There was a stop light, so I get in the left lane thinking I can turn there. Nope. I needed to be on the other side of the road (the right side, on the little side road that runs along the main road) and get in THAT left turning lane. How does this make ANY sense? I mean, come on. Maybe I’m not making a clear picture, but I promise, it’s totally ridiculous. The roads are also unmarked, thank goodness for a 1/2 way decent phone GPS. And during rush hour, the shoulder of the road becomes a whole new lane. And “road rage/aggressive driving” takes on a whole new meaning. I”m willing to bet Chicago and NYC drivers look like pansies compared to Mexican drivers, especially in rush hour. Guys, it’s crazy driving down here. I’m so grateful that I get to drive Josh’s truck. At least I’m bigger so if I get hit I’ll be safer 🙂
Women LOVE to dress up here. Especially here in Guadalajara. Going to the mall is an event. Better not show up in a t-shirt and flip flops or you might get a funny look. Better to show up in a pair of nice(r) jeans, a cute top and a pair of HIGH heels. I didn’t believe it till I saw it. I’ve made the mistake of going in flops and t-shirt a time or two.. I shudder at the memory 🙂 I think when most people think of Mexico clothing they think of the typical Mexican dresses and maybe slightly mismatched, because we think of Mexico as being super poor (at least I did). In the smaller towns this is typical, but in a big city like Guadalajara, people dress in “normal” clothes.
Population and City life
People think that I live in this itty bitty poor town that is struggling.. that is so far from the truth. GDL has a population of over 4 million people. It’s the 2nd biggest city in Mexico. We have a few really nice malls (I can’t afford to shop there) and some SWEET movie theaters. Josh and I LOVE to go to the movies on Tuesday nights. They offer a buy 1 get 1 free ticket at any of the theaters as long as you have the special card. We go to the VIP theater, complete with reclining chairs (think leather lazy boy) with waiter service in the theater. Order it at your seat and they bring it to you. It. Is. A-w-e-s-o-m-e. The city is big, and offers a variety of things to do that you could do in any major city in the U.S. shopping, night clubs, delicious restaurants etc. Its great. And truly, not that different from a U.S. city. You can find a lot of “american” stores and restaurants here. Walmart, Auto Zone, Best Buy, Office Max, Starbucks, Applebees etc… sadly, no Target *sigh*
Mexican? Of course. The BEST taco’s you’ll ever find are down here. They aren’t taco’s like what we make/order in the states though. They are little open faced tacos with meat, cilantro, and whatever else you want on it. But they are small. You really need 4 or 5 before you feel satisfied. Burritos? Not so much, although I just learned about a burrito place that Josh and I will be checking out ASAP 🙂 But as mentioned in the city life, we have typical American places too. Chili’s, Applebee’s, Outback, McDonalds, Burger King, Krispy Kream, DQ, etc.. Oh and seafood. DELICIOUS seafood. We love to go out and get an order of ceviche . So, so good. And SO cheap!
I think those are the main things. Of course there are other differences and similarities, but in general I don’t think Mexico, or at least GDL is that much different from the states. Obviously, when we go to the little towns its different, much poorer and whatnot, but in general there isn’t that much difference. It’s a big city, typical violence, typical restaurants, etc. Just a little more dirty than the U.S. Oh and, you can’t always flush the t.p. down the toilet (it smells lovely in the bathrooms as you can imagine) And yes, I feel safe here. No I don’t see/hear about the drug stuff as much as you do in the states. Of course it happens, I know that. I know (or strongly suspect) that there are parents involved here at school, but it’s not as intense as the U.S. media makes it seem.
Well friends, I think that’s about it. I have grown to love this country even when I’m frustrated with the driving and the “Mexican time” and the lack of being able to find exactly what I want all the time, but I love the culture and the people. Now, if I could only grasp the language I’d be a-ok 🙂 Have a great day friends and if you think about it, say a prayer for Friday’s Parent Teacher conferences..
Oh! And here is Amanda’s super awesome blog. Happy reading 🙂 http://livinginanotherlanguage.com/