One of the first things you may notice when traveling outside your home country is the way people behave. These are known as cultural differences between countries. Although we can’t judge an entire country for a behavior experienced in a small part of it, there are some cultural aspects that are part of every nation.
Mexico is recognized for its cultural richness, vastly ecosystems and its very warm and welcoming people.
Being one of the biggest nations in the world and having so much worth seeing and experiencing, Mexico has become a worldwide touristic destination welcoming millions of tourists a year. Tourism is one of the pillars of Mexico’s economy.
Mexico is a welcoming country, its culture is part of what most people look for when they visit the country. Part of its culture is the way that Mexicans live and behave, these differences between tourists and locals are what we call cultural differences.
Some cultural differences will make sense to you and others won’t, depending on where you come from or how much you know about Mexico. The important thing is to understand how things work in Mexico.
Cultural Differences in the Riviera Maya
It is a well-known topic that Mexicans are a much more relaxed country, their time schedules are not as strict as they might be in other places, but they work just fine.
It is important to remark that this sense of time applies mostly to individuals. Schedules for flights or any type or transportation, movies, tours, open/close hours etc. work on schedule… most of the time.
When it comes to timing, the relaxed Mexican culture might drive some people crazy and wondering how they manage to do anything. Truth is Mexicans like to live a relaxed life; and if you think about it, relaxation is what most travelers are looking for in Mexico.
Now combine their relaxed sense of time with the Caribbean and you find the perfect place to forget about strict city schedules and rush hours.
Live and let live
Using the relaxed card again, Mexicans really have a relaxed culture. When in some countries people are used to call the police to call off the neighbors’ party, or calling parents if kids are being loud outside or basically calling attention on anything that might annoy them, Mexicans just relax and let them enjoy, as it might be a special day, or they are having a great time.
This type of behavior might infuriate people who tend to worry about everything, but Mexicans just turn their attention to things like this when they become a real problem, otherwise just live and let live.
One goodbye is not enough
Mexicans are warm people, that is a fact. They love to talk loudly and laugh a lot so it comes to no surprise that saying goodbye to them its not easy.
Usually a Mexican might say bye and keep talking sending regards to your friends and family and then the conversations keeps going. Then they can say goodbye again and something else might come up and the conversation extends a bit more.
This is very usual, mostly if your Mexican friend or acquaintance is very fond of you, so take it as a good sign.
Yes! Mexicans are friendly and the world loves it!
Mexico is well known for being a friendly country. Despite everything in the news, the common Mexican is a friendly person, open to help anyone in need, especially if you are a tourist.
If you are a traveler and ask for directions people in Mexico will really try to help you, even if they don’t speak your language, they will try to point and translate as much as they can or they’ll call another Mexican friend for help.
It is important to note that in Riviera Maya, the locals come from an indigenous tribe descendant of the Mayan culture; their culture is very different from the northern part of México. They might look a bit more reserved and/or cold, but mostly they are introverts.
You can read more about locals here.
When it comes to services and tips, there is a variation depending on the country you are in. For example, tipping in Italy is not very common but in the US it is a big deal.
The difference is that in some countries like Mexico, the wages paid to waiters, bartenders and hosts are very low, so most of their income comes from the tips they receive.
In Riviera Maya, a big part of the working class belongs to the restaurant industry so they depend mostly of tips.
Some other people that rely on tips as their major income are supermarket baggers, parking lot assistants, bellboys, and maybe the taxi driver if he assists you with your bags.
The water thingy
Yes, you must have heard about this before: “Don’t drink the Mexican Water” and truth is you shouldn’t, but here is why.
Mexico has a different type of water system, meaning that the water coming directly from the sink is not drinkable, not because it is polluted, but because of the amount of minerals in it.
This kind of makes sense as no drinkable water is used to flush the toilets or to do the laundry. The drinkable water comes from a jug of purified water; some properties have a filtering system.
Nope, never leave voicemails to a Mexican, your message will be completely lost. Voicemails were never a thing in México; before smartphones people would call until someone picked up or otherwise they’ll callback later.
In present time Mexicans prefer to text before calling. Text is the first approach of communication unless the matters are urgent. This leaves the voicemail out of game and it kind of makes sense; a message will most likely be seen before a voicemail and if something is very urgent Mexicans will call again, and again and….again.
Wishing everyone a nice meal
If you have been to Mexico you might have heard the phrase: “Buen Provecho” or just “Provecho”. This is a Mexican way to say “Bon Appetite” to anyone that is eating.
For example if you are at a brunch in a restaurant and the dishes come in, everyone will say to each other “Provecho”. This custom applies to anyone you might encounter eating, for example if you encounter a group of friends eating in a restaurant you say it to the group; or maybe a store clerk eating his lunch.
This expression is just a polite gesture to acknowledge that the person is eating and to wish he or she a nice meal.
Most of the prices in the Riviera Maya are in dollars, this makes it easy to every tourist form different countries to exchange the rate to their currency.
Sometimes it is unclear if the prices are in dollars or in pesos but with the exchange rate so different you can usually figure it out.
The Mexican schedule works as most American schedules do, Sunday is the official day off for almost everyone. This means it is also the busiest day at the beaches, the malls, movie theaters, etc.
In the case of services, most Mexicans get paid twice a month, on the 1st and 15th. So this translates on busy ATMs, banks, grocery stores, etc.
Most Mexicans do not earn enough to have a savings account so they usually live by the month; this means that most of their payments and purchases are made around paydays.
Is it spicy?
This is a fascinating topic for everyone traveling to Mexico. The spices are what make most of the important dishes in the country, a taco can’t be eaten without salsa, it would be a Mexican sin.
So how to know if the sauce is spicy or not, well the first you could do is to ask, answers could be: “Si Pica” or “No Pica” which is easy to understand but your spicy and anyone else’s spicy limits are different. Maybe the waiter said No Pica because he considers it is not spicy, but you might end up crying and drinking a gallon of water.
The truth is that in order to know if the sauce is really not spicy you’ll have to try a small drop before adding it to your tacos. Sounds adventurous but what’s wrong with a little Mexican adventure? It would be a nice story to tell your friends and family.
Whether you are just passing by, staying for a couple of months or moving in, this are some thing you should know about the Mexican culture, some of them are worth admiring and some can be irritating for any foreigner, but in the end life in Mexico is beautiful, relaxed and warm. The Mexican Caribbean is a place to relax and people here will make sure you have a great time. Truth is we all need a Mexican friend in our lives.