1. Waiting patiently in line to be attended
When I go to a butcher’s to buy a pound of beef and there are five people who arrived earlier, I used to patiently wait for my turn. And if a line didn’t exist because the customers were spread all over, I tried to memorize every single face in order to respect the rule.
Well, not in Mexico. My first few months of living in Puebla were full of wasted hours and silent cursing while people were pushing their way until there was nobody left to be attended. Soon I realized that if I wanted to immerse myself to Mexican culture without losing my nerves every time I was buying some fruit in a local market, I had to forget about the manners my mother had taught me. Now I no longer apply the policy ‘first come, first served’ but rather ‘come, served, gone’.
2. Buying thoughtful birthday gifts
When I was young I would get anxiety about buying birthday presents. I hated gifts that had been bought the very last day in the store next to my house and that lacked a clear expression of a profound analysis of my birthday wishes, and I wasn’t keen on buying ones that lacked personal touch, either.
Fortunately Mexicans are much more practical about this kind of stuff. The minute I get the invitation I know what I’m going to buy. If the party is for children, I take a dress or a toy. Any kind. Most people just go to Walmart, head to children’s department and grab the first cheap thing they see.
Sure, the poor kid will end up with four blankets, three balls and some ugly shirts, but at least his parents already have presents for the next birthday. If it’s my adult friend celebrating a birthday, I don’t need to worry about buying much of anything. I take booze and some snacks. Simple as that.
3. Arriving somewhere absurdly late
Being late in Slovenia meant arriving to school two minutes after the beginning of classes, or barely catching the train, or arriving breathless to a press conference while the speaker was still walking to the podium, or having to apologize to my friends because they’d already arrived at the cafe and ordered a coffee. I felt deeply embarrassed every time I arrived more than two minutes late.
In Mexico time is a relative thing. A concert is scheduled at 8pm, but at this hour the crew is probably only arranging the stage. If I have an appointment with a friend at 3pm, more than likely she’s still taking a shower at this hour. All semi-formal and informal events have a leeway of approximately one hour. I’ve learned the hard way that being punctual in Mexico will just piss me off when no one else shows up punctually, so now I just don’t really care about the time.
4. Respecting traffic rules
When I turned 19 I decided it was time to get my driver’s license. I took theory classes, passed the exam, took driving classes, failed because I “should have used my rear-view mirror more often”, took another ten hours of driving classes and finally got the license. Since then my driving had been almost impeccable.
Until I moved to Mexico.
It took me one year to gather enough courage to even get behind the wheel. The first drive was a disaster – I almost had a close encounter with three cars because they ran a red light, I overlooked various speed bumps, fell into two enormous potholes and was accompanied by a constant horn sound for driving so slowly. Two years later I drive like a true Mexican – I drive way too fast, green, yellow and red mean all the same, all the lanes are fast lanes and I never use indicators.
5. Cleaning my own house
Dedicating the whole weekend to scrubbing, ironing and vacuuming had always been a part of my Slovenian identity. When the former tenants left my current place in Mexico, I wanted to fire the cleaning lady, Doña Gemma. I wasn’t comfortable of having a stranger see my mess and dirt. But that decision would make her lose income that she counts on to maintain her family. I got over my insecurities, Doña Gemma has a job and I no longer have to worry about cleaning.
6. Saving stray animals
I used to be a hopeless case regarding saving stray animals. Every few months I brought home a cat that I’d found on the street all skinny, dirty and most likely with at least one disease. I would put on a sad face or shed some tears and beg my mom to let me keep it.
Here in Mexico it’s impossible to do that. There’s so many stray animals that my house would be filled with them in two days if I tried to continue with my mission. Sometimes I try to give them some food, but mostly they are so afraid of people that they run away as soon as I reach out my hand. I’ve learned to let them go by and not have it break my heart every time.
7. Using crosswalks
Years ago I crossed a street some 20 meters from a crosswalk and a policeman wrote me a fine. Lucky for me I am saved from this nonsense in Mexico where crosswalks are almost as rare as seeing stars on a cloudy night.
8. Not having medicine at home
It’s a real pain in the ass if you live in a small Slovenian town, get a fever at 8pm and don’t have a medicine to lower the temperature. You have to go to emergency room for some stupid pills to get through the night because the pharmacy closed two hours ago.
Drugstores in Mexico are a whole other thing. I never have to go too far to find one and they are open all night so I can afford the luxury of having your medicine cabinet totally empty.
Bonus: I can buy ham, cheese and bread for dinner while waiting to be attended to.
9. Eating heavy food late at night
Eating heavy food like red meat, greasy snacks and a lot of carbohydrates and sugar late at night generally isn’t a very healthy idea.
If I’d propose that idea to Mexicans they’d laugh at me. Eating tacos well after 10pm is like a national sport. People start to gather at steaming carts. Tortillas get stuffed with meat, more meat and a lot of extra spicy chili sauce. To balance it they drink a bottle of Coke. When finished they burp loudly, pat their stomach, go straight home and sleep like a baby.
10. Freaking out if I forget my umbrella and it starts to rain
Rainy season here lasts from May to November. The day usually starts with sun and around noon it gets pretty hot. Around 5pm comes some clouds, the sky becomes darker and suddenly it’s pouring. It’s actually all rather predictable. Nevertheless, I rarely see umbrellas in Mexico. The rain normally stops 30 minutes late, so most people prefer to just wait inside until it ends.