I have been receiving so many calls and emails about how things are done here and everyday life that I have decided to start a series on everyday life and customs in the Yucatan. Please feel free to ask questions and I will answer them in future posts.
Most of us that have been to Mexico on vacation envision ourselves there, living the good life, laying on the beach with a frosty cocktail in hand while someone is cleaning our home and watering our tropical plants for us. Those of us that live here have a name for those dreams, Margarita Madness! Yes we do live in a beautiful, tranquil paradise, yes we can hear and smell the ocean, go for beach walks, pickup shells and starfish and dine out on fresh seafood or half of what it costs back home. Yes, real estate and taxes here are a fraction of what we are used to paying, but it is not all Utopia. It takes a special person to be able to pickup and move to a different country. If it were easy, everyone would do it! I have put together some thoughts that I have on the subject, mostly in response to questions that I get from our real estate and property/construction management clients. Others are just observations from Doug, our friends and myself.
First of all you are not in your native country, you are a guest in someone else's. No one here really cares what you had or how you did things back home. Whether you have alot of money or not doesn't impress the locals or the expats here. The bank doesn't care, the electric company doesn't care and most people you meet don't care. What matters here are a smile and a nice polite, positive attitude.
Second this is a totally different culture; the local people are not going to change just because you showed up. They are going to continue to do things the same way that they have always done them. They don't have the most up-to-date tools and machinery, most of them don't even have cars. They are happy working with the same tools that they have always used and done a good job with. They know how to do it their way and it works for them. They are kind and generous to a fault, willing to share whatever they have to offer from their simple lifestyle. They quietly laugh among themselves at the gringos that come here flaunting their money and aspirations of changing the whole state of the Yucatan. The Mayan people are known to be great builders, look at the Mayan Ruins, Chichen Itza is one of the new seven wonders of the world. They built it all without our gringo advice. They are also artists and farmers, gentle kind people. Ask them for advice on how to grow your garden. To this day they continue to work wonders without all the fancy gadgets that we use. If you want them to build something for you or fix something for you, be specific in what you want, leave them alone and they will do a great job for you. Start micromanaging them and they will politely quit and go somewhere that their talents are appreciated.
Next, Spanish is the native language here, not English. Lea trn to say a few things in Spanish and it is so appreciated. Start with the basics, please and thank you, this is a polite country please respect that. How many times back home did we make comments, "If they're gonna live in my country they need to speak English." The same applies here in reverse, my Spanish is horrible but I can make myself understood and I'm learning more all the time. When you initate a conversation here it is customary to start of with How are you, how is the family, would you like something to drink, it's a nice day isn't it? Don't just start off with "This is what I want you to do today," it just isn't polite. Don't worry about your Spanish skills, try to learn a little everyday, people love to help you with it. Then just get out there and try!
The Yucatan isn't for everyone, if you are a Type A personality, impatient, demanding, a whiner or crybaby and complainer or if you expect it to be just like where you came from but cheaper, you proably won't make it here, if you do you won't be happy!
Everything moves at a slower pace, thats why we moved here, right? We don't pay ou local bills online; we actually go to the phone company, stand in line and pay it in person, same with the electric company and satellite TV. They have implemented online bill paying but I have been trying to figure it out (it's in Spanish, duh!) for a few months and have decided that it's just easier to go in person. Paying bills can take the better part of the day, prepare yourself mentally, put on a big smile and just get it done. You can always relax with a cocktail once you've finished!
I guess that it all goes back to the old adage of having to give something to get something. Give your new life a chance, come here with a great attitude, try to learn something new everyday and remember this is Mexico! You are not in Kansas anymore Toto! I love living in the Yucatan, I never want to leave it: in my heart I'm living the American Dream in Mexico!
Another reason I love it here, I can grow orchids in my front yard!