You know what I hate? Stereotypes! Pero ¿sabes lo que odio aún más? (But you know what I hate even more?) Fitting into one!
Stereotypes are ridiculous! There are 120 million Mexicans, so there’s gotta be plenty of us que no llegan tarde nunca (who never arrive late), who don’t put drops of lime juice on everything…
I’m sure they are out there… BUT I’ve yet to meet one!
So, yes, los mexicanos (Mexicans) are aware of the reputation that precedes us… But this article is gonna go deeper… deeper into 8 weird things that me and my people are so used to that we don’t even notice how weird they are to others anymore… esas cosas raras que contribuyen a que México sea el país más bonito del mundo (those little weird things that make Mexico the most beautiful country in the world).
You will also learn essential Spanish chunks that represent each of the cultural quirks that I will present. More about what chunks are and how they can ease your way into fluency later on in the article…
The weird classics
Let’s start with 3 Mexican classics:
1) Putting lime on everything (Seriously, people, on everything!)
Yeah, we do “ruin” fruits with hot sauce and liters of lime juice and we don’t apologize for it.
2) Never saying a direct no
We don’t say “no, thank you” to the vendor and walk away… Oh no! We smile and say:
“Para la próxima” (Next time, or literally, “for the next”)
When you offer someone a drink and they don’t want it, a lot of Mexicans will not say “No, thank you!”, instead:
“Ahorita, gracias” (In a moment, thank you)
…which leads to the next one…
3) Did you hear: “Ahorita” (Not little now)?
Ahorita, the infamous Mexican unit of time that means both right chunking now and three hours, a day, or never.
En el mismo ejemplo (in the same example)
- ¿Quieres una cerveza? (Do you want a beer?)
- Ahorita, gracias (Shortly, thank you!)
What the chunk?! Like, do you want the drink or do you want me to ask you later? You don’t want it now, but you will within a few minutes?
But if you want to sound and act like a real Mexican, you have to learn this chunk by heart. It’ll help you in so many situations! Like this one:
- Imagínate (Imagine!)
You’re eating popcorn, you don’t put hot sauce nor squeeze a lime on it… Here comes your Mexican friend with a bottle of Valentina sauce and a lime:
¿Qué dices? (What do you say?) “Ahorita, gracias” (Shortly, thank you!)
Literalmente, “Coca-Cola como agua sagrada” (They literally told me “Coca-Cola like holy water”) My dear friend, Mexicans drink, on average, more than 700 cups of Coke a year — nearly twice what people drink in the US. This is a serious problem!
In fact, so acute is the problem that in January 2014, Mexico introduced a national 10% tax on every liter of sugar-sweetened drinks. A sugar tax, mi gente!
I have to say that Coca-Cola is such a big part of Mexican culture since… let’s say… the 60s… I can’t imagine having certain Mexican dishes without pairing them with:
Next time you’re out for drinks or dinner, use the following chunk to sound like a local: ¡Bien fría! ¡Una Coca bien fría! (An ice-cold Coke), as in…
- Unos taquitos al pastor y una coca bien fría (Shepherd-style tacos and an ice-cold Coke)
5) Paying 5 pesos for a public toilet
If you’re traveling around Mexico you’re probably going to visit some rural areas. You’re going to need lots of 5-peso penies to pay for your access to a public toilet.
There will be no toilet paper inside the individual stalls, so make sure you grab the piece of toilet paper that the person in charge is going to give you.
This chunk might be useful if they’re being stingy with the toilet paper:
- ¿Me da un poco más, por favor? (Can I get a little bit more, please?)
You’ll also find yourself having to pay 5 pesos to use a bathroom when you’re road tripping and have to stop for gas. That’s right! Way too many gas stations in Mexico don’t offer a free bathroom! But they have other perks…
6) Not pumping your own gas
In Mexico, there are filling station attendants, who for a customary tip will fill up your tank, clean your windshields and check tire pressure! All of this without you having to get out of your car.
7) Public displays of affection.
See, in Mexico, despite whatever Hollywood wants you to believe, we don’t live in a constant party nor in a state of complete chaos…
Actually, we’re pretty conservative as a society! That’s why for a lot of foreigners living in Mexico, it’s kind of funny that we’re very strict when it comes to things like not drinking in public spaces, but we’re super okay with couples all over each other on every bench in every park!
Las demostraciones públicas de afecto (PDA) are very common!
I don’t know what to say. We like kissing?
8) Vendors never have change
And I’m not only talking about stalls or street food vendors… This happens with taxi drivers and properly established vendors as well. Last time it happened… Well, never mind…
If you’re in a small establishment and you’re going to pay with a 200-pesos bill or a 500-pesos bill, you might find it extremely useful to learn the following chunk:
- ¿Sí tendrá cambio de _____? (Do you have change for a ____ bill?) —and here is where you say the kind of bill that you will use to pay.
- ¿Sí tendrá cambio de 200?
- ¿Sí tendrá cambio de 500?
Free Spanish Chunking Training
¡Muy bien! Now you are aware of a few cultural quirks about my beloved Mexico and the Spanish chunks that you need to face them. Let me know in the comments if these are things you have seen in Mexico or if there’s something like it in your own country…
Now that you know about weird Mexican cultural quirks, you must learn about typical Mexican food…