I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen foreigners come to Mexico and do things where I thought “¡Noooo! ¡No lo hagas! ¡No!” (Noooo! Don’t do that!) So, if you’re planning to come to Mexico to travel or to live, listen up!
There are things you shouldn’t do because they’re dangerous… Other things you shouldn’t do out of respect for the locals… and some things because you’re in Mexico and things just work differently here!!!
So, to make sure YOU don’t make these mistakes and you stay safe, make friends, and have the best possible experience when visiting Mexico, in this video, I, Paulisima, Spring Spanish teacher, will give you the top 7 things to avoid when coming to el país más bonito del mundo, qué es México, ¡y todo el mundo lo sabe! (the most beautiful country, that is, Mexico, and everyone knows that!)
1. Don’t try living as if you were in a Narcos Episode
Don’t buy drugs! Don’t talk in public about people you’ve heard of in the famous Netflix originals! The stupid War on Drugs has ravaged my country and well… You don’t need to hear it from me, tienes sentido común (you have common sense), you know that terrible things can happen. Stay out of trouble and be safe!
2. Don’t be afraid of the water… ish
¡Esto es shocking hasta para mis compatriotas! (This one is shocking even for my fellow Mexicans!)
Did you know that in more than 96% of the cities of Mexico tap water is potable? (Yeah, drinking water)…
To ensure the quality of tap water once it is stored in each house, it is essential to keep the water tanks and cisterns very clean. For greater peace of mind, one could add a disinfectant solution or boil it.
Now, here’s the problem. Can you make sure people have kept their “water tanks and cisterns very clean”? No! Do you want to go through the trouble of boiling water every time? No!
¿La solución? Comprar agua embotellada. No es lo más amigable con el medioambiente, pero es lo que hacen la gran mayoría de los mexicanos. (The solution? Buying bottled water. It’s not the most environmentally friendly, but that’s what most Mexicans do.)
Yo no; yo tengo un filtro en mi tap. (Not me, I have a filter on my tap.)
3. No tires nada en la taza en un baño público (Don’t flush anything into public toilets)
Blame it on the old pipes… While at home or in a hotel, you can dispose of stuff directly into the toilet, but in Mexico, when nature calls in a public toilet, probablemente vas a notar que al lado de la taza del baño (you will probably notice that next to the toilet) there will be a container, and probably a sign asking you to put your dirty toilet paper in it!
Sign: No tires papel en la taza (Don’t throw toilet paper into the toilet)
This is very common not only in Mexico and Latin America, but I’ve also seen it in other countries of the global south… But you know what? Whatever we don’t have in a 100% efficient water management system, we make up in paisajes bellísimos, comida celestial y, francamente, la gente más hermosa de este planeta (beautiful landscapes, heavenly food, and, frankly, the loveliest people on this planet!)
4. No te quedes sin cambio (Don’t run out of change)
Cash is a precious commodity! And you’re gonna need a lot when in Mexico because you’ll have to tip every person that renders a service to you regardless how small or unasked for it was!
Also, some of the best deals either in food or general merchandise can be found in informal commerce donde no aceptan tarjetas, solamente efectivo (where they don’t take cards, cash only).
5. Don’t expect people to speak English, ¡usa tu español!
While in major tourist towns (like my beloved Cancun) a lot of us do speak English, as a rule, please do learn a few Spanish basics.
Learn how to introduce yourself, ask for directions, order in a restaurant… and you’re in luck because here, at the Spring Spanish YouTube channel, we have all the videos you’ll need to learn the Spanish chunks to survive a trip to a Spanish-speaking country.
Chunks? Yes, premade phrases or word combinations that native speakers use all the time, and you can just copy and paste into your memory, so you don’t have to translate in your head or get entangled in grammar nightmares.
6. Don’t expect local food to fit your idea of Mexican food
I get it! There’s amazing Mexican food back in California, New York, or whichever place you come from, but you’re not there anymore…
Yep! You’re now in México, where cumin doesn’t go in every dish, where chimichangas would make us go .. chimi-qué? Mexico, where we don’t have “hard shell” tacos, but tacos dorados, mijo, ¡tacos dorados! (deep-fried tacos, my son, deep-fried tacos!)
Also, in Mexico, each state has its own cuisine. Regional foods are to die for, I promise! This means you won’t find, let’s say, burritos everywhere in Mexico, they're very specific to the north and Jalisco, I think. And good luck finding a burrito in Yucatán or Tlaxcala… actually, good luck even finding Tlaxcala… it’s so tiny!
Recuerda el punto anterior (Remember the previous point) and brush off your Spanish to make sure you can mingle with the locals! They are the key to the best food in Mexico… so, make friends!!
So, go ¡apúrate! (learn Spanish to make friends, hurry up!)
7. Don’t disrespect the country in any way!
Even if the local friends you just made are critique y critique a México; y, especialmente, a su gobierno (criticizing and criticizing Mexico and, especially, its government), we Mexicans are a weird brand of nationalist!
We can get very sensitive about strangers saying bad stuff about our food, our legendary singers, our people, our way of doing things….
So, act cool when you see children drinking coffee, people fighting over flower arrangements in a wedding, and fervent displays of religiosity… Play it cool… and comment only to say something positive!
Obviously, don’t damage our monuments, don’t pee in public, don’t give the finger to a religious image… Just don't!
ALERT! You’re still here even if I already said point number 7! You’re amazing, thank you very much. You’ve won a little extra cultural quirk about Mexico…
Did you know that Mexicans bring alcohol to children’s parties? Yeah, that’s the most normal thing in the world for us… And there are more weird Mexican habits like that!