Mexican behavior for gringos: A short primer

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Dean & Yoly Hughson

There are many positive things about the US and her people. Having traveled widely, including Communist countries, I have seen what can happen when there is neither freedom nor even the ability to have dreams, because the country is under a bad government. The United States is a country rich in many ways.

For those who don’t know, Mexico too, is a rich country. Not rich in money perhaps, but rich in her culture and the way her people are taught to behave. Allow me to give you some examples of situations and what the normal US response would be and the normal Mexican response.

Grandma is ill and needs more care than she can get at her home. What would happen to her?

  • US approach – Nursing home or extended care center. Infrequent visits by family members
  • Mexican approach– The oldest daughter takes her into her home and abuela is surrounded by her grandchildren and extended family. She will be taken care of with dignity and love.

A car dies and can’t be restarted. The owner of the car is not sure what to do.

  • US approach – People will honk at the car. Some people may take the time to use their cellular phone to call the police or a tow truck.
  • Mexican approach – Men, even if dressed for church, will get out of their cars and help push the car to the side of the road. Someone will be sent to find the local ‘maestro’ who knows how to fix cars.

A church needs to be repainted but the parish is poor.

  • US approach – A fund raising letter will go out and appeals will be made to raise the funds to paint the church.
  • Mexican approach – The people of the church will paint it themselves.

A young man doesn’t know how to tell the woman of his dreams that he loves her.

US approach – The young man will go to his therapist and talk about this impasse in his life, his options, and perhaps ask his beloved to accompany him to his therapist’s office.

Mexican approach  – The young man will drink a few tequilas with his friends, take a guitar and go to the window of his beloved’s house and sing of his love and dreams for his intended.

A family has many close friends and has dinners with them. How will the kids act?

  • US approach – The children will be sat at a table away from the family so as not to bother everyone with loud noise or inappropriate manners.
  • Mexican approach – The children will sit with the family. They will call the friends of the family ‘ Tío“, meaning uncle, and ” Tía“, meaning aunt. These family friends will not think twice of helping the child learn manners if they need help at the table or in public. Many times the children aren’t even sure if the tío or tía is a blood relative or not and don’t really care.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all Mexican approaches are superior to the US. Here are a few more situations to help you further understand the differences between the two cultures.

Someone has dumped trash on the side of the road and it is very messy and ugly.

  • US approach – You call the sanitation service and they come out and clean it up and will ticket the person who did it, if they are known.
  • Mexican approach – Someone will light it on fire and then more people will start dumping there and you have a problem.

A company makes a sale which will be exported. The paperwork will be handled as follows:

  • US approach – Someone will fill out the necessary forms correctly in 1 day, and the order will be shipped.
  • Mexican approach – One person will do the forms, then give them to a superior to approve.
    The government office will tell the person that the forms cannot be approved.
    A boss of the company will have to call a friend in the government to get the people motivated.
    Finally the form will arrive 7-10 days later.
    Then the steamship company will announce that there is a strike.

The doctor says you need a medication for your headache. He writes a script and you go to the pharmacy and ask for it.

  • US approach – You go to the pharmacy and get the medication with written information on how to use it.
  • Mexican approach
    – You go to the pharmacy and they don’t have the medication. It will take a couple of days to get it, but why not try this medication? It worked for my cousin once.

The President of your country is rumored to be having an affair. What does your News say?

  • US Approach – Complete details of the alleged affair are printed daily throughout the country with analysis, predictions, implications and editorials. Pictures of the people involved and even videotapes may be shown.
  • Mexican approach – Nothing ever shows up in the newspapers. Some bold comedians on TV may do some satire about it, but most of the information you get is from your wife’s cousin who knows the President’s maid (and besides, nobody really cares anyway).

In many ways, Mexico’s best exports are its people and culture. Gringos who have fallen under its spell, like myself, understand that Mexico is not perfect, but in affairs of the heart and family they have much to teach we English speaking Northerners. Accepting differences and showing respect for Mexican ways is a good approach, and will make you a welcome guest in the country as well as its homes. You may even be named ” tío” and have some new well-mannered children in your life.

Published or Updated on: June 1, 1998 by Dean & Yoly Hughson © 1998
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