Surprise surprise, When abroad other cultures have different ideas of courtesy and manners. In Mexico, here are 5 common courtesy tips for Mexico that will go a loooooong way. It is important to know that you are in a country with a different cultural background, set of values, manners, and laws. You should never expect a foreign country to accept your values and customs when you completely disregard theirs.
1 It is always important to learn a few words and phrases in Spanish when traveling to Mexico. Hello, goodbye, thank you, and sorry are a great start, I don’t speak Spanish is also uber handy. If you are forgetful like me, then a cheat sheet in your pocket or on your smartphone is ideal. The locals will appreciate your efforts and will help you learn more rather than laugh at you. In my opinion learning a language through immersion teaches you the quickest.
2 Yo mamma jokes in Mexico will probably get you a left hook to the eye. Mexicans cherish mothers, their own and everyone else’s. Mothers are kept in high regard for their sacrifices to the well being of their families. Speaking badly of a mother whether it’s a joke or not wins you absolutely no brownie points.
3 Mexico has a rich cultural heritage and the majority of people are close to their religious beliefs. If you enter any type of church, cathedral or religious site building there are a few things to know; It is a sign of disrespect to wear a hat or sunglasses into any of these buildings.
Once inside it is extremely rude to be loud or obnoxious, especially when people are praying or services are being carried out.
Always ask permission to take pics or video inside the buildings. Different religions have different rules for this and it is best to know if you’re being rude. I have found that most places don’t mind you using your cameras if you make a small donation to the church.
Watch your tongue, many people, including myself, routinely swear in conversation without much thought of how it is perceived, although you are in a country that speaks a different language, I bet the majority of non-English speakers still know what the swear words are.
4 Don’t raise your voice in a conversation. I have seen many tourists get frustrated when trying to talk to locals that don’t know English. They repeat themselves over and over, getting louder, and a bit more frantic every time they say the same thing. The people are not deaf or stupid, they do not understand your language. It’s not up to them to learn a different language to make you comfortable, but rather the opposite, you should be learning the language of the country you’re in to make YOU comfortable. By not smiling, raising your voice and repeating yourself you seem arrogant or angry to the local and they will do their best to politely sluff you off. Don’t get flustered, try some hand gestures to get your point across. Perhaps your bad ass Pictionary skills from your youth would come in handy now. Have some fun with them and keep yourself calm and smiling. Manners and courtesy will get you much farther than being stressed and angry.
5 Greetings are more formal in Mexico. When meeting men, shake their hands, when meeting women for the first time it is the same. However, the second time you meet a woman it is customary to give a small kiss on the cheek, More of a cheek to cheek air kiss. When meeting people it’s customary to have a catch up chat before getting down to business. Asking how the family is doing is a great start to any conversation. Showing you care and are interested in your Mexican friends’ life builds lasting friendships. Don’t be rude by being that person who skips the pleasantries, and being direct and to the point with everything.
Really this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to social customs in Mexico. I will go more in depth in future posts on common courtesy in Mexico but this is a great start for any rookie side street travelers. Need more tips, check out my dos and don’ts for Mexican travel.