1. Let’s get to the obvious first…
Cooking! We’ve got the best and most varied cuisine in the whole world and nobody can deny it. If we were to allocate jobs to every single country, Mexico would get to be the chef, but not any kind of chef. Mexico would be that versatile cook that runs a street stall the same as a high-end restaurant and he would never have problems memorizing dozens of ingredients just for one recipe or experimenting with new flavors and creations. He would have a serious tortilla fixation though.
2. Avoiding saying no
Lack of determination or an excess of politeness? Who knows! The point here is that we find it uncomfortable to be in the middle of a situation where a clear negative is required. The funny side of this story is the large amount of linguistic tricks we’ve developed and their effect on people who are not familiar with our ways. There is the ever present “ahorita,” whose most appropriate translation would be “not now and please don’t ask me about later” or the subtle “gracias” (thank you) that so efficiently substitutes a plain and simple NO!
3. Being thankful
I don’t know who owns the world record for the most times the word gracias has been used in a single conversation, but I’ll put my hand in the fire if that person wasn’t Mexican. But yes, I’m also including all those times we say gracias and we really mean no.
4. Suffering every romantic misfortune with all of our hearts!
¡Ay dolor, ya me volviste a dar! (sweet pain, you’re onto me again!) The most popular entries in the Mexican song book have something in common: Their main purpose is to pour lime on the wound. Lime, not salt, because we’re Mexicans.
5. Overloading our surroundings with vibrant colors
You don’t know what you’ve got until you leave Mexico and realize that the color palette in our country is far beyond that of foreign cities. And it’s not just a matter of little towns or pueblitos. Luis Barragán and Ricardo Legorreta are both world-recognized architects that have promoted the use of Mexican colors on contemporary buildings and urban structures. But let’s move past architecture here, just take a walk in a Mexican park and see the colors that surround you on people’s everyday apparel, food, flowers, crafts… Even a single balloon vendor has a visual impact like anything else.
6. Remembering our dearly departed
Our best internationally-known tradition is a simple acknowledgement of our mortality and a homage to all those people who passed through this life before us. Where else can you find a display of tradition similar to Day of the Dead?
7. ¡Regatear! (Haggling)
How much is the less for this? C’mon, gimme something to make up my mind. What if I take another two? This verbal strategy game can go on forever… or until one of the two sides gets tired. A lot of people will think we’re a miserable kind for fighting over a peso with the onion vendors at the market, but this is a tradition that has been present in Mexico for hundreds of years and it’s not gonna go anywhere despite all the efforts of the free market.
8. Celebrating everything as if there were no tomorrow
The typical boda de pueblo (small town wedding) exists even today and it really lasts for three days! But let’s not get right into our biggest and wildest party tradition. In Mexico anything can be a good excuse to go wild and jump into the party wagon. Watching a football game, the mandatory weekly gathering with your friends, family Sundays, birthdays, your nephew’s baptism, your recent break up, your new relationship… And it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is or if you have plans for tomorrow, it’s gonna be a long time before the party’s over.
9. Get all dolled up to go to work
Probably you got little sleep after last night party, but that’s no excuse to show up all shabby to work the next day. We Mexicans spend a lot of time getting ready to work every single morning. All of those girls curling their lashes during their commute and the tons of hair gel spent each year by Mexicans support this claim.
10. Running long distances
The honor goes to a very specific group of Mexicans: the Raramuri people. In more than a few occasions, these guys have showed internationally-renowned athletes the true meaning of endurance… and they don’t need the most recent Nike shoes or some last gen supplement pills to do so. They were just born to run.
11. Worrying about work!
According to the World Health Organization, work-related stress is a big issue in Mexico. Our stress levels are well above those of China and the US, which are typically depicted as heavily stressed societies. Stress related heart conditions are beginning to be a problem in Mexico and the fact that Coke and fried tortillas are both important parts of our diet isn’t making things easier.
12. Chatting with strangers
We always get a little confused when we leave Mexico for the first time and notice that it’s not the norm to go around saying buenos días, buenas tardes, and buen provecho to everyone. Even if you’re not the friendly, outgoing type, in Mexico it’s not uncommon to do small chat with perfect strangers. We go from standard greeting phrases to establishing actual conversations in no time. Don’t tell me that you’ve never gossiped around with the corner shop clerk or with the people around you in the tortillas line!