We have lived in Mexico for thirteen and a half years. I have learned a lot living here, and these lessons have made me a better person. Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed.
I am more patient.
You get a lot of chances to practice patience living here. When driving, you’ll often wait behind someone unloading furniture – or grandma – or stopping to say hello to a friend. The thumb and first finger motion means “un ratito” or “just a second” so go ahead and put your car in neutral and chill out while you wait. You might wait behind the garbage truck where hardworking guys run up and down collecting bags from car roofs, hanging on telephone poles and beside front doors. You might wait while the water delivery guys run water bottles in and put them in the water stand in their client’s kitchen. You’ll get used to it and I find it feels good. And when they start moving again there is always a friendly wave.
I am more giving.
When I lived in the US people I didn’t know only came to the door during election season or when religious people were out looking for new worshipers. Or Amazon delivery people, of course. Here we are often called to the front door to give directions, donate to the alcoholic home, buy fruit, vegetables, or bread as well as local women who need help feeding their babies. People here live a very simple life and small setbacks like even losing a day’s work can make it hard to feed the family. Even a small amount can make a difference. I feel every day how lucky I am and I always give, and without judgement.
I give more personally.
This is a continuation of the paragraph above. I would never just toss a coin in a cup or a hat or whatever here. I always give a smile and a kind word and give them a coin or a bill in a gesture of respect. I’m sure you’ve seen videos of how respectfully people in Asia treat the giving of a business card with a little bow? That’s kind of what I do. It feels so much more respectful.
I want less.
This is a bit laughable actually because I really have everything I want and am very comfortable. But I am aware of the difference between want and need and don’t overdo it. Even when I travel (remember that?) to the US I go into Target or somewhere like that and am totally overwhelmed. I grab all kinds of things I think I want and then end up putting most of it back. It just seems so excessive. When you live among people who don’t have much it makes you think about your own consumption.
I admire children.
Spend an hour or so watching Mexican children playing and you will really be inspired. They have fun with the smallest things, and can play even with a plastic bottle “ball” or just laugh and race around and chase each other for hours. One kid with a bike will usually share with everyone.
People are so enterprising.
People think up some very innovating businesses. The gal across from me who had a hair salon saw her business go down when covid started so she converted her space into a papeleria (stationery store) and cyber (internet store). Makes total sense during the pandemic as all the kids here are doing school online and often households only have a cell phone for all the kids to share. Her place was very busy during Christmas with wrapping paper and gifts and now most evenings she sells waffles out front on the sidewalk. That’s just one example.
People love their families.
Holidays aren’t Hallmark Holidays here – although plenty of gifts are given of course – but people really spend time with each other. That’s one reason I believe that Mexico has been so hard hit during the pandemic. The idea of not spending those important days with each other is not in their world view. Mothers especially are important. I once had a bit of an altercation with a young man blocking our driveway with his car and with his music on super loud. I finally said to him “Would you do this to your mother or grandmother? I am an old lady in my house just like them! He swaggered a bit but then turned off the music and moved his car and we parted friends.
People must save face.
I have learned you will get nowhere in Mexico if you try to make someone apologize or “rub their face in it” when they mess up. People close down when confronted, and the sooner you realize this the easier it will be. Really, no one wants to have their bad behavior discussed, so using the third person or passive voice will get you lots further. Try saying “Oh No! The paint drops are on the floor” instead of “Why weren’t you careful, you spilled paint on my floor” and see how much better the response is.
It’s nice to take the time.
When I’m out walking about the neighborhood doing errands, I love all the little moments. Of course we all greet each other as we pass but if you happen to pass someone you know, of course you put down your bags and have a moment to chat. When you walk into a shop we always greet the people there or ask permission to enter since some places are small and can only hold a few people in these Covid days. These little moments of connection are really important in life, I cherish them all. It’s all part of belonging somewhere and I know I belong here.
I’m less judgmental.
I hope I have never done this very much but living here has made me more thoughtful and more generous with my thoughts. Workers sitting on the curb drinking beer in the late afternoon? Have you ever watched these guys work, hauling buckets of cement all day up several levels using ladders? Of course they were dreaming of that beer all day! Someone wearing shoes that are way too big? That’s all they have. Young girls with several children around them? Those kids may be her siblings or they may be hers, either way she is doing her best in a hard situation.
I could go on and on. But the truth is that I’m a better person for living here. I can’t imagine living anywhere other than Mexico. What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments.
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