1. Shaking hands
In England we generally shake hands when meeting someone for the first time or even just say hi without any physical contact taking place. In Mexico, however, women generally greet people with a kiss. I have gotten so used to this form of greeting that on a recent trip to England I confused everyone, by going in for the kiss, when a simple smile would have sufficed. It caused some pretty awkward situations.
2. Using a knife
Setting the table in England involves placing both a knife and a fork down. In Mexico, however, it is common to just be given a fork to eat with. It took some getting used to at first but now the forgotten knife very rarely makes it to my dinner table.
3. Staying silent on public transport
Eye contact on public transport is pretty unforgivable in England, and striking up a conversation with your neighbour is treated with suspicion and sometimes even fear. In Mexico, however, you often greet all your fellow passengers when getting on a bus and it is not at all uncommon to strike up conversation and share intimate stories or philosophies of life with the person sitting next to you, before reaching your stop and bidding your new best friend a great day.
4. Believing that I won’t get run over
I grew up with the underlying belief that if you step into the road and a car is coming, they will very likely stop for you. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just wander into the road without looking but I did have a genuine feeling of safety crossing the road. This casualness about the roads is something that I lost pretty quickly living in Mexico. Never believe that a car will stop for you here. Car is king and pedestrian must get out of the way…quickly!
5. Being on time or 15 minutes early
Us Brits are pretty punctual, because punctuality to us is a sign of respect for the time of the person we are meeting. Arriving to a business meeting we always know to arrive a little early to demonstrate our reliability. This is a habit, however that I have certainly lost in Mexico. To arrive early would be simply unheard of and to arrive on time unusual to say the least. Whilst I initially found the unpunctuality here difficult, I have to say that I have grown to like the relaxed nature of it. I no longer get that uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when running late, I simply relax knowing I will arrive when I arrive and that will be ok.
6. Buying everything online
In the UK I loved to buy things online. I underestimated the convenience of looking for even the rarest book, or most unusual cooking ingredient and finding it online, to be purchased and delivered to my door. In Mexico, sadly the postal service is so unreliable that buying online is still a pretty untapped resource. If I buy online from abroad I have to pay crazy taxes, that is if the goods ever arrive
7. Bagging my own groceries and filling up my car with petrol
These two things that us English are so used to doing are done for you in Mexico. Someone is waiting at the end of the check out to pack your goods and you just pull up to the petrol station and tell the attendant how much petrol you want and they do it for you without you leaving your car. They will even check your oil and wash your windscreen too sometimes. It took me a while to feel comfortable with both of these, feeling like I could easily do it myself, but now I have got used to being a little lazy.
8. Searching for the sun
In the past any little inch of sun that came out in the sky was sun that I needed to bathe under. On summer holidays, I would be out in the sun in the middle of the day, tanning (read, burning) my sun deprived English skin. After very little time living in Mexico however, I quickly became a sun-avoider. I will seek out the line of shade offered by the edge of a building and will walk in a line behind all the other Mexicans avoiding the glare. And the midday sun? Forget it, I will be safely hiding in my cool, shady apartment thanks very much.
9. Drinking wine
In England wine was my preferred tipple mainly because it was the cheapest option when out drinking with friends. Drinking spirits or cocktails was super pricey and beer never really appealed. When I arrived in Mexico I discovered that despite the country producing some truly delicious wine, wine drinking is not so popular here and it is expensive. Nowadays you are far more likely to find me sipping on a mescal or with a cold beer in my hand.
10. Cooking with an oven
Lots of English cooking involves the use of an oven. Be it a roast dinner, shepherds pie or apple crumble, we love oven-cooked dinners. In most Mexican households however, you will find the oven being used as a cupboard, storing all the pots and pans and sometimes what looks like an oven is actually just a cupboard with no oven functionality inside at all. Oven cooking was a tough habit to break when I first arrived but soon my cooking became all about the frying pan and the comal with no baking to be seen. But oh what I would do for a roast dinner right now…
11. Drinking out of the tap
London tap water isn’t the tastiest but it is not likely to cause you to be sat on the toilet for hours with a bad case of travellers belly. In Mexico, no one drinks from the tap. Instead they buy water in huge 15 litre bottles called garrafones. Initially getting used to buying water like that was pretty strange and I would often forget and fill up a glass with tap water. Now, however, it is the exact opposite, in England drinking straight from the tap feels slightly wrong somehow.
Receive an invitation to a party, a wedding, even a gallery opening in England and you will RSVP as soon as possible. It is the polite thing to do to help the organiser know how many people are coming. In Mexico, however, people rarely RSVP and you will never know quite how many people are going to make it to any event. I quite like not having to RSVP, because it lets you leave your options open to see what you feel like doing on any given day, but it is not so great when you are the one organising the party!