The download

September 1, 2010

As I visited family in the US, I frequently noticed how foreign things felt.

People are too freaking polite! Good grief, people!  Quit waving each other access to the intersection and just GO!  I didn’t even rent a car this trip so I barely drove at all – but I still found myself flabbergasted at how SLOW people drive – and how SLOW they turn (ever hear of hand over hand?) and how LONG they stop at a stop sign.  Especially if there is a car ANYWHERE within view.  Sheesh!

Everyone is solo! Most cars are occupied by one person.  Certainly most motorcycles.  And NEVER. EVER. do you see two MEN on a motorcycle.  And nothing fun like people on bicycles or motorcycles carrying surfboards or extension ladders.  And NO MOTOS of course with the little juice stand or coco stand or hotdog stand on the front buzzing along at 15 mph.

What gas company clutter! For a country that likes things neat and tidy, there are too many gas stations, all different colors and layouts and prices.  What a mess!  And yes, please, I would like them to pump it for me, and I am happy to give them a 10 peso tip!

Unload my own cart?  What a pain! I love coming out of the grocery store and being greeted by a guy who says a pleasant hello and helps me unload my groceries and returns my cart.  He even helps me (Viene, Viene) with a whistle and a wave get out of my parking space without incident.  And yes, I don’t mind giving him a little tip!

Wow, lots of fancy cars but also lots of dirty ones! Here in Mazatlán you have to try hard to have a dirty car.  Our block has Cuautémoc taking care of us but it is easy to get a car wash for 30 pesos while you run an errand.  No time for that?  Pull up to a stoplight and get your window washed.  I say No Thanks to waiting in line for hours on Saturday at the old automated car wash.

Friendly greetings everywhere?  Or nowhere? Mazatlán has a population of about 400,000 but it mostly feels like a small town.  People smile a lot.  Say hello a lot.  Are friendly in general.  I did have some friendly stranger interactions while I was NOB but mostly people pass on by without looking at you or greeting you.  One day the grandkids, my daughter-in-law and I sat on a curb outside of the mall waiting for my son to pick us up.  People passing behind us on the sidewalk ignored us totally.  That would never happen in Mazatlán, and it felt very weird.

There’s lots of fancy stuff! And yes, I like some of it.  But some of it just seemed strange, and all of it – too expensive.  I think I am just totally not in the zone of six dollar coffee and six roma tomatoes for $2.99.  It was a pleasure to go shopping yesterday and buy my normal stuff and be happy.  (Of course I did bring back from the US three fancy dark chocolate bars!)

Lots of rules, and lots of people obeying them! Bikes this lane!  Use these bags to pick up after your dog and put it here!  No dogs here.  No parking there.  No entrance. You know what I mean.  We probably have as many rules here in Mazatlán but the signs are missing or the lane marker is worn or whatever!  NOB everyone is wearing a helmet, and biking or skating in the lane provided and obeying the rules and making sure everyone else obeys the rules, too.  I think I am becoming a bit of an anarchist in my old age – I really don’t want to be told what to do as long as I don’t hurt anyone else!

Where’s the friendly banter? Here and there I felt a flicker of happiness as someone made a friendly comment while waiting in line or something, but often I felt like I was Customer #507 instead of Smiling Gray Haired Lady in a Mexican Blouse.  At least there’s no more “Paper or Plastic” questions as you are expected to bring your own bags most everywhere.

What about a relaxing meal? My family laughed at my surprise during one meal in a restaurant where the waiter interrupted our animated conversation twice for no reason and then brought the check before we had half finished!

I’m not a total grump, though! I ate blueberries and garden burgers galore.  I wore pants! (You would understand this if you had spent a summer in Mazatlán’s heat) I went to Target and stocked up on things that are elusive in México – iron on patches, tylenol PM, quiche pans and a pizza peel. I had wonderful time with my family and have my fingers and toes crossed for them to all come for a visit here very soon!


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I'm Nancy, a US expat living in Mazatlán, México.

18 Comments
    1. Excellent observations Nancy! I think dog poop on the sidewalk just keeps you more observant and aware! Things are so safe and clean NOB that you can just walk around in a big fog….where no one says “buenas dias”…and certainly those unique “life sights” (extension ladders on a moto) are non-existent! I’ll take Mazatlan anyday!

    1. What about the annoying habit of everyone being so time obsessed? Or all the good used stuff being thrown away?

      I completely understand, I feel the same way when I’m back in the US. Take the good with the bad, but ultimately can’t wait to get back to Mexico. Enjoy your time there. 🙂

    1. Great comments, Nancy! Everyone needs that reality check of a trip back to the States (or Canada) to not take for granted all the stuff we love about living here. It is great to visit and catch up with everyone, but wonderful to be in Maz!

    1. We skipped our trip North this year, instead, the North came to us. Love your post, and your layout!

    1. I like the fact that here you are responsible for your own actions, (stupid and otherwise) for the most part, and the consequences are yours…not an attorney’s. You are so right about the openness of people here. If I ask a question in a market, that person will either answer it or find someone for me who can. Such a sweet life.

    1. *Note to Mary: “I think dog poop on the sidewalk just keeps you more observant and aware!” You ARE kidding, right?

      Nancy: I gotta disagree with you. Don’t be offended. I just want to point out another person’s take on Mexico and I hope you don’t delete my comments.

      1. I’d rather someone wave me thru than to get hit.

      2. Do you really enjoy seeing the danger when someone is carrying something unwieldy on a bike? And 2 men on a motorcycle is gay. Have you ever owned a Harley?

      3. It’s called competition. And it’s healthy.

      4. Do you actually need some old guy to help you back out of a parking space? What in the world did you do when you lived in Washington? And what grocery store did you ever go to in Washington that the clerk didn’t ask you if you needed help getting your groceries to your car?

      5. No dirty cars in Maz? Have you ever been to a smaller town in Mexico and seen that every car is dirty and there is no water to waste on washing cars? And what happens when the windshield washers won’t take no for an answer and they jump on your car at the stoplight and hassle you or pull your wipers out from the window so you can’t see and make you have to stop to put the wipers down? It’s not hospitality, it’s work.

      6. Who sits on the curb outside of a mall? People passing behind you probably thought you were homeless.

      7. Expensive is in the eye of the beholder. Mexican electricity is very expensive – and only because one can use a lot in the initial billing period and then be penalized for successive billing periods even after restricting usage.

      8. Maybe the Smiling Gary Haired Lady in a Mexican Blouse had an attitude and no one wanted to speak to her. Or maybe they thought you spoke Spanish.

      9. All over Mexico restaurants close early or don’t have most of the items on their menu. Including beer. Nice.

      10. What the hell is a pizza peel anyway??

    1. “I think I am becoming a bit of an anarchist in my old age – I really don’t want to be told what to do as long as I don’t hurt anyone else!” I really, really love this sentiment, even though I can’t (yet) relate. I think I am a thirty-year-old rule lover and in this stage of my life I want the, not so much the excess, but the order and structure of NOB life. I want to see you write a Baby Boomer Anarchist Cookbook!

    1. Hey Nancy, I’m with you. The last time I was back in the U.S. was in 2006 and I wanted to say to everyone, “What’s wrong with you people? Relax, slow down a bit and enjoy life.” When my brother and his wife and my sister came down to visit me recently I felt like they were revolving at 78rpm and I was doing only 33. The U.S. is great. I feel very comfortable living next to a democratic country with a 300 ship navy and 11 carrier groups (just in case) but in the end I like living in Mexico much better. By the way, did you bring back any of those Polish style Kosher dill pickles?

      1. Mary, Hope you’re having a good summer! We’re seeing very little poop here in Maz lately, but you still need to watch your step around town!

        Leah, I had a great time, the only thing that is hard about living in Mexico is missing family. Although some of them I actually see with about the same frequency as when I lived there!

        Kathi, You’re so right! Everyone should take a moment to appreciate where they live!

        Elliott, Glad you like the layout… and maybe I’ll skip next year and see if I can get everyone to come here!

        Zoe, Thanks for the comment. I don’t think people have easier lives here but they sure seem happier and more open, don’t they?

        Fatboy, Wow! Where did all that crankiness come from? I’m not going to discuss each of your points but you sound like someone who should live in the US for sure. Maybe you need to eat a big sandwich so you won’t be so grumpy? (And… just so you know two men on a motorcycle isn’t GAY, it’s helping a pal get somewhere…)

        Jillian, Aw, that is nice to hear! I could have fun on a cookbook – I don’t know anyone who cooks like I do! I think you’re right about stages in life, I am so over seeing pursed mouth disapproval and frowny people in my life. Seems I have less of it in Mexico than I ever have before.

        Bob, I totally understand the 78 rpm – 33 rpm comment! True, true. Of course I am retired so maybe I revolve at 15 rpm?

    1. The waitstaff at some restaurants make their money by getting the folks out fast. It’s called “turn and burn”/ Very annoying. I usually let them know I know what they are doing.

    1. I loved this post! Target has pizza peels? too cool. I sold mine in a garage sale when we moved, should of kept it! Do they have pizza stones too? The stone is probably too heavy for my suitcase, a saltillo tile will probably work just as well now that I think of it.
      I like the wide streets and polite drivers NOB, but where my kids live it’s mostly traffic lights not stops signs.
      Who sits on curbs? I do, there and on planters, I’m middle aged and get tired.
      Everyone likes different stuff, I can’t wait to see what strikes me when I go NOB this year.
      regards,
      Theresa

    1. I am starting to think about my planned trip north next month. I want to see my family, but I’m always ready to return to the pace and color of life in Mexico. Being so far from my family is the biggest downside to being an expat.

      I’m glad to hear I can get a pizza peel from Target. They have great kitchen gadgets.

      Kathleen

    1. Bravo, Nancy. You handled fatboy with dignity and a whole lot more patience and class than he deserved. Good job!
      Carrie

    1. Great observations. I have seen some of them myself. Even though I have been back in Oregon for almost five months, some of the same things still strike me as a bit disconcerting. I will be ready to be back in Mexico — in just two more months.

    1. I am a little of both. When I was up in the states last week I did notice a lot of the same things you are referring to. Although- I am from Oregon and we are FAMOUS for our waving. It does seem a bit over kill but I do like that one.

      The one that does drive me crazy is the speed in which people eat. Here in Tulum the meals take a long time to fix. but That is okay with me because they are making right then – just for me. Not a huge vat made that morning. Food should be enjoyed. Then again- as a former diner waitress- it depends on where you are. If I waited to drop my check at the end I would have never been tipped jaja. It seems general practice here in Mexico to not bring the check until it is asked for. I like that. I am glad that you are back.

      I do love that so much of my needs are delivered via truck- bike or tricycalo. And the many people picking up work and money at the various stores is great. I am happy to pay/tip someone for helping me. After living in SF for so many years with a very sever homeless problem- I am so annoyed at people that just ask me to GIVE them my money. I mean- I bust my butt for $1.50 tip and you want me to just HAND it over to you. No Thanks. But the guy who stands outside the law school and sells hand drawn book markers for a $1- I will happily give him $5.

      1. Susan, I should have realized – turn and burn! Funny.

        Theresa, Target has pizza peels and much more! I think it’s funny that you say you’ll do without a pizza stone – I talk myself out of buying stuff all the time when I’m NOB. And sitting on a curb? Why not? It was a beautiful day and the only benches were indoors.

        Cooking in Mexico, The peel just fit exactly on top of my clothes in my suitcase. I always wonder what customs thinks when I go through on my way back. This time I even brought vegetarian sausages packed in a cold bag in my suitcase!

        Michael, Nice to hear yours, too. When are you coming back?

        Carrie, Thanks. Took a bit of willpower!

        Steve, Two months, wow. I couldn’t do it!

        Mindy, I’m with you on the speed of eating. I think waiters are much more “professional” here in Mexico, always scanning the area to see if someone needs something but not pushy and asking too often. It seems whenever I want something I can usually look up at catch a waiter’s eye.

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