31 Things I Learned Traveling in Mexico

Man passed out in bar

Once upon a time when I was traveling in Europe, a young lady pulled up her shirt and flashed me. At first I thought this was a customary greeting in her country, but I quickly realized it was an effort to distract me so her friend could pickpocket me. Now, when ladies flash me, which happens more than you might think, I put my hand over my pocket in case it is a ruse.

This is one of many things I have learned in my travels. On our recent trip to Mexico, the learning did not stop. Below is a list of things I learned traveling through the great country south of the border.

What I Learned Traveling in Mexico

Food

When ordering a hot dog and they say “con todo?” – with everything, unless you want carrots, salsa, mustard, ketchup, copious amounts of fried onions, creamy cheese and jalapeños, you should not say “si.”

Mexican Hot Dog

Case in point.

When eating chips and salsa, it is always wise to take a tiny amount of salsa on the first chip in order to find out just how fiery hot it is. A full scoop of salsa could lead to disaster and a desperate search for the waiter to bring more beer.

The larger the crowd outside a taco stand the greasier and spicier the taco meet.

You can get a chile relleno taco, which is a chille relleno inside a taco. Mexico is a great country.

If a Mexican says something is spicy, it isn’t a description, but a warning.

There are pork rinds the size of a small cars in the markets.

They don’t eat a lot to cheese in Mexico. Conversely, the average Tex Mex meal is 64% cheese, according to a recent study.

You can buy bacon wrapped hot dogs in quick stops. Dios es mi Amigo.

If you bump into the table of a woman selling fried grasshoppers in the market and some of her product  falls on the floor, she will become very much upset.

Drinking

At every cantina, there is always a local who is passed out drunk. They are not asked to leave or looked down upon. When they wake up, they are served more booze.

Man passed out in bar

You should not try to drink a 300-pound American government official, whose Mexican nickname is El Torro, under the table. I learned this though observation, not participation. On a side note, Obama owes me 100 pesos.

You should not try to drink a 40-year-old Mexican government official under the table, especially if he claims to have been drinking in this very same cantina since he was 12.

When eating at a market and the only beverage options are a dubious jug of water or beer, sometimes you are forced to get drunk at lunch.

Beer is accompanied by more condiments than anywhere else on Earth. You usually get an entire sliced lime, salt, chips and salsa, peanuts fried in chili and garlic and maybe even a soup, which is usually murderously hot. It seems like a nice gesture, but the cynic in me thinks the picante food is there to encourage more beer drinking.

Mezcal, a tequila-like liquor made from the agave cactus, tastes like licking a homeless person who has been doused in gasoline. It burns, tastes of salt and dirt with a smokey finish.

Travel and Culture

Selfie sticks are banned as carry on items on domestic flights and in many museums in Mexico. Yet another reason this is a great country.

Banned Selfie stick

Seeing millions of monarch butterflies at once is kinda neat.

If a one-legged lady in a wheelchair is speeding towards you, get out of the way.

When a sudden rain storm hits, the cotton candy vendor is the first one to run for cover.

Mexico has vibrant indeginous communities all over the country. That makes me happy about our world.

There are communities of blond-haired, blue-eyed mennonites who wear traditional clothes in Chihuahua and Campeche. They stand out like a Mexican wearing a mariachi outfit in a community of blondes.

Buses generally leave when scheduled but arrive on Mexican time. Ironically, the only bus we took that left late was the only one to arrive early. #crazydriver

They sell some really strange man underwear in Mexico City.

Man thong Mexico CIty

Language

My Spanish resides at that magic point where gringoes who don’t speak any Spanish think my Spanish is really good but people who actually speak the language know the truth.

Chinga tu madre is evidently not a very nice thing to say to someone.

Angangueo is really hard to say but not as hard as Teotihuacan.

Maldicion does not mean the f-word. We watched a lot of movies with subtitles. Whenever a person would drop an f-bomb, it was often translated to maldicion, which means cuss word. “Hey you mother cuss word! I am going to blow your cuss word head off with my gun!”

I can’t roll my r’s. I used to think I could.

My English is okay, my Spanish is bad but my Spanglish is poetic.

Personal

After seeing the Day of the Dead festivities, I learned that when I die I want my friends and family to parade through the streets in costume and then come to my grave every November 1, drink copious amounts of mezcal, hire a six-piece mariachi band and dance around my grave all night. If you don’t do this you are not honoring my wishes and do not love me.

Day of the Dead parade

Do this in remembrance of me.

Well, there you have it. Those are the things I learned in Mexico. If I could pass along one pearl of wisdom it would be this: beware the spicy salsa.


What are some valuable lessons you have learned while traveling? 

 

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59 Comments on “31 Things I Learned Traveling in Mexico

  1. Selfie sticks are banned? I am DEFINITELY returning to Mexico.

    What have I learned?
    Don’t leave your change purse sitting on the bus seat when you exit the bus (blog post coming soon).
    The stereotypes of bad American tourists have nothing on the reality of Chinese tour groups.
    When your local friend is wearing a (maldicion)-eating grin on their face and is sticking an item of food at your face, you had better be adventurous in your food habits.

    And… perhaps I should go underwear shopping in Mexico City.

  2. Wonderful nuggets of wisdom. I suppose it was just to obvious to point out you learned how much you loved visiting our southern neighbor. I checked the translation and NO, that is not a nice thing to say to someone! I’ve been having my husband read your posts, trying to convince him we should go!

    • I did love Mexico. I hesitate to say this because we visited so recently and that makes me a bit biased, but it is probably my new favorite country.

      I am working on a post about La Paz, Mexico. It is the perfect introduction to Mexico. Have him read that one. Good luck with your convincing!

  3. You make me miss Mexico so bad! Upon traveling I have learned that Chinese tourists hold true to being some of the rudest I’ve ever encountered!

      • Sorry to butt in here but I can’t help but comment on the Chinese. They are rude. Period. They don’t have to be tourists, they can be in their own country and yet they are still rude. I don’t know if that is a cultural thing or not. Someone needs to go to China to find out, maybe you Jeff? 😉

  4. Absolutely hilarious, Jeff. OMG, where do I start – pork rinds, man underwear (how did I miss that?), or the beer condiments? I’m thinkin’ you’d give Dave Barry a run for his money with this post. Maybe you need to write a column – “Spanglish for Dummies.” Great post – thanks for the first laugh of the day. ~Terri

  5. I looked up maldicion (not too bad) and that chinga phrase (Oh my!). I learned to be very careful with vocabulary and pronunciation in Spain. I was asking people if I could shoot their children instead of take their photo. No wonder they all looked alarmed in the photos!

  6. Ah yes, my Spanglish is quite poetic too 🙂
    Love the photo of the guy passed out in the bar.
    The underwear is the same as Sacha Baron Cohen’s lime green swimsuit 🙂
    A very entertaining read Jeff. We head down there in 3 days. Can’t wait. Especially since it just snowed! In Vancouver!
    Alison

    • It is nice to meet a fellow Spanglish speaker. I just googled the swimsuit and I need to wash my eyes out.
      I am glad you enjoyed the post. Have a great time in Mexico! I am jealous that you get to spend so much time there.

  7. I love reading your blog, you always make me laugh!
    I’m with ya on the Day of Dead thing. My plan is now a Jazz funeral AND Day of the Dead festivities. May as well go all out.

  8. Hilarious post, I love it. We also have the “day of the dead ” in Brazil, but it is a lot more subdued and most people will visit the cemetery but there is no dancing on graves. I think I prefer the Mexican way😀

    • The Mexican way to celebrate death is healthy, I think. They don’t hold in the emotion, that is for sure. I didn’t realize they did it in Brazil too. Thanks for commenting.

  9. There is always a local dish and a local spirit that will make the trip complete ~ dive in. 🙂 Great post and look forward to new adventures of yours in 2016.

  10. I am quite disappointed about the cheese part. I love my cheese!!! 😉 But at any rate, that “man thong” reminds me of your other post where you had so many different names for that piece of garment. And thanks for the warning about the spicy salsa. I don’t do well with super hot spicy regardless of how many cervezas or tequilas I drink!

  11. I’m with Terri this post is hilarious and from my trips to Mexico I would say quite factual. 🙂

    What have I learned? Keep track of your belongings at all times, blend in, look like you know where you are going and in train stations be careful of those offering help who do not have name badges.

    • Great advice, especially of those offering help who don’t have name badges. In general, people who speak perfect English and hang around train stations are not your friend!

  12. Hilarious! I’m going to share this post with my NZ friend who recently moved from HK to Mexico for work. I believe he will love the beer drinking culture there but he’s already missing his Chinese food hahah!

  13. As always, you crack me up, Jeff! And this is exactly why we need to travel. How else would you learn these incredible life lessons? A Harvard degree doesn’t even come close to a good dose of independent travel in some of the more colorful places on the planet. Well done! 🙂

  14. I loved the mezcal description! It’s pretty accurate lol. As a Mexican I approve your review *thumbs up*

    • Thank you Sarah. I should clarify that 1. I don’t drink liquor and 2. It was free mezcal at the Day of the Dead, but I stand by the taste! It was brutal!

  15. You are my new favorite blog, Jeff! (Btw, I think you are following the wrong blog of mine….Our LIves in the Forest is about retirement years….Older Women, Cheap Travel is about, well, travel!

    As to Mexico, I have learned that if you watched Mexican telenovelas every night, you will know enough specific Spanish to close a drug deal. ¿Estamos, Patron?

    If you don’t walk with your eyes glued to the pavement, you will spend the rest of your visit on crutches.

    Mexican buses are so much better than Greyhound.

    The Zona Rosa in Mexico City is a boring, overpriced, tourist place. Stop being a chickenshit and get out of there.

    • Those are some great tips. I think telenovelas would be a great way to learn the language. I may to start watching them. I’ll check out your other blog. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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