I Moved To CDMX Two Years Ago, These Are 13 Key Differences In My Day To Day Life
There’s no denying that both Mexican and American cultures have greatly influenced one another. The countries share a 1,954-mile-long border. There is definitely going to be some cultural overlap. However, ask anyone who has spent any amount of time living in both countries, and they’ll quickly be able to mention several key differences that shape a resident’s daily life. Here’s what I have found since living in Mexico for over two years:
In Mexico, there’s a sound for nearly any service you could possible need at any hour of the day or night.
Cities are notoriously noisy chaotic places. They’re filled with the soundtrack of people going about their daily lives, pets jockeying for attention, the sounds of commerce and industry…now imagine these sounds in a Mexican city of more than 20 million people.
Mexico City takes things to a whole other level with a loud noise for pretty much any daily service you may want or need. Looking to get your knives sharpened? There’s a whistle for that. Run out of gas? Listen for the grito of the gas man. Need drinking water for your apartment? Just wait and you’ll hear the water guy screaming “aguaaaaaaaa!” Want a late night coffee and tamal? Or someone to haul away your unwanted garbage or furniture? They all have their own unique alarm, bell, song or grito to get your attention.
In the U.S., our garbage is just collected without much thought to it.
Take the high-pitched hand bell that rings incessantly each day, signaling that the garbage truck has arrived in the neighborhood and it’s time to haul out the trash. In many Mexico City neighborhoods, this is the most common daily sound – so common, many use it as their daily alarm clock because the guys are so punctual. They arrive on your street with the clanging of a cowbell and possibly some yelling and it’s your responsibility to get your garbage out to them before they haul off.
The level of PDA on Mexico City’s streets is off the charts.
They say it’s because so many people live at home with their parents into their 30s, but I was still not prepared for the amount of tongue action (and sometimes way more) that I see in the streets, parks, and restaurants of Mexico City.
Couples in Mexico are really no holds barred when it comes to PDA and although you kind of get used to it, it’s definitely a major change from most cities in the U.S.
If we want to buy in bulk in the U.S., we need to head to Costco or Sam’s Club.
Mexico is perhaps one of the OG destinations for bulk shoppers. Unlike in the U.S., where you need a membership card to get into places like Costco or Sam’s Club, bulk shopping in Mexico is much easier. It’s quite common to see people on metro lugging giant giant tubs of chicharrón or papas or buying entire boxes of candies from stands on the street rather than just one-off candy bars.
You rarely need a prescription for medications in Mexico.
In the U.S., if you want anything more than vitamins or Tylenol you basically need a prescription from a doctor. Not the case in many Mexican farmacias. Many medications are available over the counter and at a fraction of the cost they would be in the U.S.
On the other hand, many doctors in Mexico are also quick to handout antibiotics for pretty much any ailment. Have a sore throat? Antibiotic. Runny nose? Antibiotic. Stubbed toe? Antibiotic. So, don’t always run to the nearest pharmacy and pop them like sweets (even if you’re told to).
Lunch is late, long, and very social.
Okay, so this is pretty common in countries throughout Latin America (and even Europe) but it’s still great that it’s considered normal here to have a lengthy and social lunch break. In Mexico City, I can arrive to a restaurant at 12:30 or 1 pm and the place is empty. But after 2:00, the lunch crowd is large, loud, social, and energetic. And it’s pretty common to enjoy a beer or two before going back to the office.
Farmacias are a one stop shop for medical care: Hola Dr. Simi!
In the U.S., when you’re sick, it’s pretty common to go to your regular doctor or perhaps an urgent care or clinic. In Mexico, most people go to the nearest pharmacy where they have a consultorio. (There are other ways to see a doctor, but this is easily the most common one). They’ll ask you some questions, give a very basic examination, and they’ll write a prescription if necessary.
Corruption and state violence are very real but people aren’t afraid of the police like they are in the U.S.
Growing up in the U.S. amid police brutality and violence, walking around Mexico City can be intimidating for the sheer amount of police and military officers on the streets, most of whom are very heavily armed. But although corruption and state violence is rampant across Mexico, few residents (including myself) in the capital fear for their lives at the hands of police brutality like Black and Brown Americans do back in the U.S.
The sales tax is included in your price! What a novel idea.
I never understood why prices in the U.S. couldn’t simply include the sales tax? Why make things so much more complicated. The price you see should be the price you pay.
In the U.S., you won’t see women-only carriages on public transport.
Although this only applies in the capital, women-only carriages (on the Metrobús and Metro) were introduced in an attempt to cut the rate of sexual harassment and assault on public transport. If you’re a woman (or child) reading this, use them!
The Mexican work day is never ending.
Although much of the media seems to focus on the work-hard culture of the U.S. (especially when compared to the culture of Europeans), it’s actually Mexicans who work the longest hours in the world. The work culture expects one to work really hard, which is demonstrated by how long you stay, or how many days you don’t take off.
Clubbing doesn’t happen until wayyyy late.
None of this showing up to a club at 10 p.m… Mexicans enjoy a precopeo at a friend’s house until it’s actually time to hit the club – which usually isn’t until at least midnight.
The entire concept of an actual cantina: free snacks with your drinks! Yes!!
Sure Mexico isn’t the only country that does this but it’s definitely not common in the U.S.
Have you lived on both sides of the border? What were the major differences you experienced or remember the most?
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