Minding your Manners in Mexico

Being polite is the best thing you can do in Mexico to ensure good service and to also undo those nasty rumors that Canadians and Americans are generally rude and want everything “right now!”

In our time here we have learned a few tips that have made our lives easier while living and traveling in Mexico. As with all countries, making the effort to be polite will always work in your favor. Mexicans are very friendly people and are more than willing to assist you with whatever you need. However, being demanding, disrespectful and causing a scene are all great ways to not only lose whatever help you might have received but also furthers the unfortunate stereotype that all foreigners are impolite.

Some things to keep in mind when you explore Mexico:

  • Always Greet People First
    Always greet whomever you want to speak to with “Buenos Dias” (Good morning), “Buenas Tardes” (Good Afternoon) or “Buenas Noches” (Good Evening). It is customary to greet staff when you enter a store and to acknowledge them on your way out. If you launch into a tirade about what you want without a proper greeting you can expect mediocre service–Mexicans find this type of behavior extremely rude.
  • Shake Hands and Pucker Up
    Like some European countries it is customary to shake hands (for men) or kiss cheeks (this only applies to women) whenever you greet your Mexican friends. Men usually shake hands, though the Baja has some local handshakes which have a few flashy add-ons. Women are not included in the fancy handshakes — I asked a gentleman why he didn’t high-five me and he look absolutely appalled that I would even consider it. So ladies, get ready to kiss a lot of cheeks. Surprisingly, for a culture full of machismo, bone-crushing handshakes are considered impolite, a light grip is more than adequate.
  • Remember to Ask for the Bill
    Tom and I sat for ages in a café waiting for the server to realize we were ready to go. We finally asked for “la cuenta” (the bill) and quickly left the restaurant complaining of the poor service. A friend of ours enlightened us to the fact that it is considered rude to bring the bill to the table if it has not yet been requested. Instead of rushing you out of the restaurant, the servers give you time to relax and enjoy your meal, quite a change from Canada where the staff tend to push you out the door so they can serve more customers. Whenever you are ready to leave just nicely ask for the bill.
  • Address People Using their Titles
    Titles are a huge deal in Mexico. “Señor”, “Señora” and “Señorita” all show respect and it is best to use them until the person you are speaking with indicates otherwise. Education is highly regarded and it is a good idea to address people by these titles as well, “Doctor(a)”, “Ingeniero” (engineer) and “Profesor(a)” (professor)) are some titles you may come across. If you are a university grad you can always introduce yourself as “Licenciado(a)” in formal situations.
  • Say Adios to your Personal Bubble
    Mexicans tend to stand close when they are talking to you. This can take some getting used to but whatever you do try not to step back, it is considered offensive and gives the impression that you don’t want to be near that person.

  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Overall, the best thing you can do in Mexico is to be respectful to everyone. From taxi drivers to business executives you need to make sure you treat everyone graciously. Those travelers who make the effort to be courteous and polite will experience better service, lots of smiles and a much better reception when traveling in Mexico.

“No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.

Hair Around the World

Hair Around the WorldLet’s take a moment to touch on personal spaces. I’m not the type of person to throw a punch or lunge out at another individual if they get within a certain range of my personal bubble, but it shocks me how comfortable people are at poking, prodding and sticking their hands where they just don’t belong. Sometimes people ask permission, but for the most part others just plop their hands down where they have no business being. Don’t tell me its never happened to you! Okay, let me just get to the point here – I have an afro and unless you’re my hairdresser you shouldn’t be patting my hair. Yes, it’s soft and fluffy looking and all those other things, but please don’t paw at my head! Sure -I’m down for letting a bright-eyed young Romanian child who has probably seen few African-Americans or Africans in their lifetime experiment with touching my funny looking hair, but some of you Americans know better!

Breathe, sigh, relax. Now that I’m done ranting I saw this cool little children’s book called Hair Around the World and in my own personal opinion I think a book like this should be read by adults as well. These are cultural jewels and reads at their finest. The book highlights children’s hairstyles from all over the world including places like Ghana and India. It also helps in letting children see how others live their lives in different parts of the globe. I say pick up the book, understand what’s going on in the world of hair and then think about some of the hairstyles seen here in the states. Oh, and don’t feel as if someone is going to curse you for wanting to understand the differences in texture and style, but just remember the bubble and to ask before touching.

The book can be purchased at Oxfam Publishing.