21 Strange Customs You Should Know Before Visiting Mexico
1. The mild sauce might not be mild at all.
We just say it isn’t spicy in comparison to the next one, which might be piquín, habanero or some other chile variety that will burn through your taste buds and all the way down your digestive tract. Even then, go for the mild one.
2. Everything can be turned into a taco.
Most of us think that a dish doesn’t reach it’s full potential until it’s tightly wrapped in a tortilla and topped with our favorite salsa. There’s just one essential requirement for a good taco and that’s a good tortilla!
3. We have an issue with outright negatives.
“Can I bring you anything, some coffee maybe?”… “Ahorita, muchas gracias.”
The literal translation to that answer is something like “In a minute, thank you very much”, but what the speaker -if Mexican- really meant is something like “No”… or maybe “No, thanks.”
4. One caldito is not a little soup…
If there’s one section of our vocabulary that heavily abuses diminutives, that’s the food section. Taquitos, frijolitos, tamalitos and papitas… these words are not making any assumption on the actual serving size of meals. Keep this in mind before asking for another pozolito.
5. And one ratito isn’t a small amount of time…
Or it could be, but don’t get high expectations on that. Ratito (a little while) is an undetermined time unit used by most Mexicans and it always ends up being more than what we originally expected. If you’re being told your vehicle’s spare parts are gonna take “un ratito” before arriving, you’d better start cancelling your plans for the day…
6. Don’t expect huge displays of punctuality…
Arriving fifteen or thirty minutes late to a friendly appointment is still considered “being there on time” for most of us. Just imagine what happens when we’re running really late.
7. We do have public toilets, but they always cost five pesos.
Those five pesos are not just a ticket to your relief, you’ll also be honoured with a couple squares of toilet paper. Yes, literally a couple squares.
8. We put lime on everything.
“It looks like somebody combed you with lime juice”, is a historically accurate expression.
9. We never, ever have change.
And yes, your taxi driver is actually expecting you to find some change at 2am and no, you don’t really have another option. Always keep some coins in your pocket, it’ll spare you a lot of trouble.
10. Public displays of affection are everywhere.
And they can get quite extreme… horizontal even.
11. The first rule about eating tortillas is…
You must not grab the top tortilla!
12. Redheads are used as good luck tokens.
The custom is to pinch the arm of whoever’s next to you every time you see a redhead. It’s kind of a competition and it’s always good to have an excuse to pinch your neighbour.
13. You can’t really exceed on por favor and gracias.
The more, the merrier, right? We’re so very grateful for everything.
14. We don’t know how to pump our own gas.
In Mexico every service station is operated by the same company (Pemex) and they are equipped with a little army of employees that do everything for you, from pumping your gas to cleaning your windshields. There’s no need to get out of the car if you don’t feel like it, so don’t be surprised if your Mexican friend has no idea which side of his car the gas cap is.
15. Don’t trust in walking lines.
Yes, almost every Mexican above 18 has a driver’s license. No, not a single one of us has ever gone through a driving test. Keep that in mind the next time you assume a bunch of cars is gonna stop before you just because there are some walking lines on the road.
16. We love our tianguis.
Going to a traditional tianguis combines the weekly shopping with all the surrealism of Mexican markets. Apart from the things in your shopping list, you could return home with some new pieces of furniture, that Star Wars figurine that was missing from your collection, a plant for your living room or a package of incenses with La Santa Muerte on the cover. Usually, these places are equipped with a very respectable and varied food court. Totally worth exploring!
17. We never sing “Happy Birthday” to anyone.
Before coming to Mexico, please learn a couple verses from Las Mañanitas, just in case.
18. Birthdays are celebrated in family.
Of course that “family” is composed of, at least, fifteen members. And that’s without counting all those people that appear in every celebration, because they’re almost family, and their respective couples and cousins… There’s no such thing as a small party in Mexico.
19. Police in Mexico are always in alert mode.
If you’re being followed by a police car with the lights on, don’t panic, you’re not in the middle of a police pursuit. That’s just the way with police cars in Mexico… always ready for action.
You’re gonna hear this question a lot around Mexico. It’s just a polite version of “what.”
21. We love to show off everything about Mexico.
Why wouldn’t we! There’s no other place like this!