I’ve been living in Saltillo for a year and a half now-that’s hard to believe! On the one hand, I feel like I’m becoming more Mexican everyday. On the other hand, I feel I’m clashing more and more against Mexican culture. It’s a paradox that will probably exist inside of me for as long as I live here.
This post includes some of my observations lately on what it’s like to live in Mexico as an American.
On Shopping: Most Saltillenses that I know (that are financially able) go to the US to go shopping. I knew this before I moved here, but didn’t really understand why. Nor did I understand why Carlos used to go shopping crazy when he came to Austin to visit me. Surely there’s good stores in Saltillo, I thought. The quality of Mexican stores can’t be that bad, I scoffed. Well, now I know the truth-shopping in Saltillo sucks. There isn’t much middle ground. There’s stores with mid-range prices that are actually way over-priced because the quality is bad, or there’s boutique-like stores with good-quality clothes at ridiculously high prices.
There’s a total of 1 store at the mall in Saltillo that has prices I can afford and that, in my opinion, makes good quality clothes. When the want arises for a new item here in Saltillo, I always go to that store first. If they don’t have the item, I then consider if I’m gonna buy a cheap version of the item even if it won’t last. I usually don’t, but instead add the item to my list of what I’m gonna buy the next time I visit the US.
On Food: Now that Carlos and I live together, I feel a little more pressure to cook “Mexican” food. I know how to make beans now, and what I call “the Mexican vegetables” (onions, tomatoes, and avacado) make at least one daily appearance in our diets. Some sort of chile (usually jalapeno) makes something like an every-other-day appearance. Tortillas are the household staple.
Sometimes I’m convinced that Mexicans as a whole eat healthier than Americans, but just as often I’m convinced it’s the opposite. Mexican children may eat more vegetables and fruit than American children, but they also eat a lot of junk food. It’s safe to say that chips are an obsession here, and sodas are very, very popular. I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve eaten more chips and sodas here in the last 1.5 years than I probably did in the last 10 years in the US, just because they’re the snack of choice at every party or get-together. When you’re not being served dinner till 11 at a party, can you really blame me for eating a few chips to tide me over?
On Pop Culture: I wouldn’t say I was the most versed person when it comes to pop culture, but I also wasn’t living under a rock when I lived in the US. I’ve liked People magazine for a long time. I listened to Kiss FM. I went to the movies and paid for Netflix. However, I am definitely a few steps behind most Mexicans when it comes to American pop culture references. I have a theory that American pop culture references that Mexicans make might be slightly more popular among Mexicans than they have ever been in the US. Who knows, but it makes me feel better. Some examples:
- Probably 3 people have welcomed me to get-togethers here by saying, “Welcome to the jungle!” and then started cracking up. I just learned in the last month that it’s the name of a Guns N’ Roses song (just googled it to confirm I had the band right…), but I’m still lost as to how that exactly relates to welcoming me to a party? Help would be appreciated.
- There was apparently a movie made a few years ago called “Kick-a**” (I still can’t bring myself to type cuss words). When the sequel came out here last year and everyone was freaking out about going to see it, I admitted to never seeing or even hearing of part 1. That admission was met by shocked stares and gasps of disbelief. I still haven’t seen either movies, if you’re wondering.
- I know that I’m probably in the minority of my generation of Americans that have never seen Austin Powers, but I also don’t hear anyone referencing it regularly. I’ve heard several Mexicans reference “Mini-Me” from Austin Powers (just googled to confirm I had the name right, again). As in, “So and so looks like Mini-Me from Austin Powers!” or “He reminds me of Mini-Me!” Umm, what does that mean? The person is short? They’re bald??
On Parties: I’m going to be blunt and say that American parties/get-togethers (or at least the ones I usually went to) can be boring. On Carlos’ birthday a few months ago, we had a party for him at our house. We told everyone it started at 7 so that they would actually get there at 8 or 8:30. I guess you could say that I’ve adjusted to this, because I was still getting ready and shocked when the first guests arrived at 7:45. We ate dinner, listened to music, and just talked. I finally went to bed at 2, and Carlos stayed up till 5 AM chatting with the last guests.
I think that one reason why American parties are more boring is that they don’t last long enough for people to start to feel comfortable. Sometimes it takes me at least a couple of hours to start to feel comfortable at a get-together. At a party here, I usually start to feel comfortable by midnight or 1. That still leaves a couple of hours for me to enjoy the party feeling completely like myself.
Growing up, I was also taught to never “overstay your welcome.” That could be another reason why Americans linger less at parties. But as a host, isn’t it the ultimate compliment is your guests want to stay longer? Shouldn’t guests give that satisfaction to their hosts more often?
This should go without saying but I don’t think either American nor Mexican culture is superior. They are very different, and it’s interesting to observe how I react to those differences by living in Mexico but having American culture ingrained in the core of who I am. Thanks for reading my ongoing observations!