Traveling in Mexico is fun except for a few minor details. Like for instance, you have no idea what anyone is saying to you. And you imagine that the parts of the conversations you don’t understand are something they will laugh about with their friends for many years to come:
Me: How much is this T shirt?
Vendor: The T shirts which we are happy to sell to fat asshole gringo pigs like yourself for twice their real value are only 1200 pesos.
Of course, the only part of it that I can understand is “1200 pesos“. That’s why they are always smiling so much.
The truth is that you don’t need to know Spanish because everyone you interact with can get by in passable English anyway. So they wait patiently while you butcher their language and then ask you what you want in English.
There are many cultural things to learn in Mexico that are not mentioned in any of the guide books. (Actually, I haven’t read any guide books, but I’m sure some things would not be mentioned in them.)
For example, hotels in Mexico use the Mexican towel system.
You have to sign out towels like books in a library and if you don’t return them to the front desk by 8 PM they charge your room the full cost of the factory that made the towels in the first place.
A lot of travelers are worried about the drug dealers, kidnappers, and other criminals who run the country, especially in the border cities. Such fears are silly. One good Texan can quite easily kick the collective asses of an entire gang of Mexican gangsters, and they are very seldom brave enough to hassle us. If you are accosted by a thug or criminal type, just flat out tell him something like:
“Pardone, monseur, but Ich bin ein Texan and you best keipen der fuchen mitzengrabbers offenhousen!”
The most interesting part of being in Mexico is the way you are viewed as a gigantic dollar bill with arms and legs.
If you walk within 500 yards of any commercial establishment you are sure to be immediately assaulted with offers to sell you something, feed you something or do some unspecified thing to your body. “Here, amigo, we have the biggest lobsters in town and a place is waiting for you at the best table in the restaurant where our waiter will massage your back and serve you the best tequila for only 5,000 pesos.”
Many merchants have perfected their lines over the years. My favorite was at a jewelry store in Nuevo Progreso:
Two men leaped up from their chairs with open arms and shouted in a loud voice. “Ah welcome, welcome… We have been waiting patiently for you, Se?or!”
No one ever says this in real life. “Where the hell have you been” is the usual line. But here in Mexico, I am the Messiah come at last!
So I responded in a grande way, “Yes, yes, I have been waiting for you too. At last we are all here together. Now we can sit with our muchachos in a chalupa with our lumbago and drink a sombrero!”
I don’t want to be the ugly American. But no matter what you do you seem to fall into the role anyway. So you are tempted to give up.
“No, gracias.” you say repeatedly without eye contact each time you are asked to look at or buy something.
I’m sure if I were in a car accident and the ambulance attendants came to help me I would say “No gracias” and be left for dead by the side of the road.
I can’t say I’d blame them.