Thursday, April 26, 2012

Standing out and fitting in in Mexico City

I am not gonna lie. When we first started talking about moving to Mexico City, way back before our first daughter was even a twinkle in our eyes I ASSumed I would stand out, at least a little.

Give me credit, besides a couple of other really white, English speaking countries (Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland) , my experience abroad was mainly 6 short weeks spent in Nairobi, Kenya. And there, it was no question of standing out or blending in, as my good friend and I discovered. :) People yelled "mzungu!" everywhere we went, although usually in a friendly manner.

Please don't get me wrong, I knew Mexico City is an international hodge podge of cultures, ethnicities, people. I didnt think it would be like Kenya, but I kinda assumed it would be similar to how it was for immigrants where I was from back home - with my American accent and pale skin, I assumed people would know I wasnt from Mexico.

For the most part? As long as I don't say anything, I don't think people even bat an eyelash. With my American accent, people look a little curious, and sometimes ask where I am from or if I speak English. Im dying to be fluent enough to answer with a straight face " No, Im from here. Why do you ask? Been a chilanga my whole life."

What I have observed makes me look like I don't quite belong here :

-Babywearing, especially carrying my almost one year old or 2.5 year old on my back, in a long wrap.

-My curly hair more than my skin color or lightish hair. There are indeed people here with curly hair, but it isnt the same texture or as curly as mine is. I have had several people ask if it is permed (which was also a question asked oen in the States) Now, there are plenty of people in Mexico with curlier hair than mine, but I am told thats further south. I wonder if thats another ASSumption on the behalf of my inlaws, since they told me that people in Veracruz have curly hair because they are bien negritos.

-My height. I know, I know.... "assumptions" .... But this one is so true. Being only 5'10 , I never felt freakishly tall in the US. Here in Mexico City however..... Well.

-Fashion. Mexico City is a huge city. I imagine it is the same difference as fashion in my hometown back in the states and fashion in New York City, or LA. Either way, I wont be awarded any fashion awards as I am not hip enough to wear high top tennies with skinny jeans, not loca enough to wear a cocktail dress everyday, or not (coughcough) aged enough to wear an apron over my clothes all day and out at the market.

-Manners. I know you may be thinking "but doesn't everyone saluda everyone there? I thought manners were a big part of Mexican culture?!" . Let me tell you from experience.... Saluda all you want, but if you bump into my stoller (with my baby in it) or knock into my two year old walking next to me ONE MORE TIME..... Well, we may have to call the American Embassy because I may get into trouble. People don't even say "excuse me" , or "coming through" or ANYTHING! I haven't seen anyone help a pregnant lady, offer their seat to an elderly person, or kindly smile when a child is walking without paying attention. I helped an elderly woman today, who was walking with a cane and trying to seperate two carts at the grocery store. I looked up as I walked away and FOUR people were staring at me like I lost my mind! FOUR.

-Smiling at everyone you make eye contact with is apparently not the norm. What can I say? Its the Midwestern in me :)

In sum... I think when my Spanish is better, my kids are way older, and I start slammin into people while they are walking, I may fit in more. Until them I'll just be the giant, smiling, mild mannered American who helps your grandma cross the street with a babe on my back and a toddler in my hand. Not such a bad way to be, if you ask me.


  1. Mexico City sounds like Monterrey!!! I hate the part about manners, people here will say hello to each other and then start talking about the person as soon as he/ she walsk a way. I can't stand the hypocrissy!! Miguel keeps telling me welcome to the real Mexico but, I have been here too many times to believe this happens every where. I think it is just in the cities. I ahve dealt with hipocrissy in the small towns but, not as bad.

    1. Oh yeah, people are (like in the States) sooo two faced sometimes. I really worry what my inlaws REALLY think of me, because of what they say about their other daughter in law when she isnt around. And it isnt things like " did you see her hair the other day?" or " she could loose a few pounds" ... Its stuff worse (if you ask me ) like "she wont last long" or "she only wanta mijo for his money" or "she isnt worth anything" or "I hope my son never marries here". (they are not technically dating nor living together) . But to her face they are sweet as pie! Ugh.

    2. Whoopa, worded that wrong. The other "daughter in law" is not tecnically married to my BIL, but has been dating him for 8 YEARS. They dont live together.

      I do want to specify, that doesnt make their relationship any less valid. My "husband" and I arent married yet either, but he (and everyone) calls me his wife, while people here make sure to differentiate that the other "daughter in law" is still nly his "girlfriend" . Its weird here - once you live together or have kids, you can be called "married" , but dating for 8 years counts for nothing? Strange.

  2. This is one reason I am glad we are in a smaller town. Most people around us know eachother and are very polite except for the drivers who have no curtesy, but a bad part is the staring. It is like while they are driving by they will stare at you like they are trying to figure out who you are, until they are not able to see you anymore. It drive me crazy, sometimes I feel like asking them if they want to take a photo with them.

    1. Ha,Lisa! I actually said the other day to my hubby "take a picture , it lasts longer!" about an entire busload ofpeople that were staring. Its like we have three heads or something!

      Glad to hear the manners are better in small towns.

  3. Newsflash Mami: you were more polite, friendly and helpful than everyone around you when you lived stateside too! If being a babywearing lady spreading love wherever she goes makes you stick out then keep on keeping on. That's why I love you!

    1. Keep on keeping on! Thats right!

      Did I tell you about the grandma at Sams Club who I taught how to use her rebozo better? She was using it tied behind her back, in a regular knot that couldnt be tughtend or adjusted. She also couldnt tie it herslef. I taught her the slip know, and how to adjut the top, middle and bottom rails so her frandaon would be comfy and secure.

      You dont need to speak the language to teach babywearing classes!

  4. Your dark hair must help, because I'm pale with light brown hair, and I get stared at a TON in Puebla. It drives me crazy. Oh, and I'm only 5'5, and I feel like a giant in Mexico, too!

  5. Oh wow! I never thought of any of this happening. When I went to visit my hubby's familia in MX (it was a small town) everyone was soooooooo NICE! (maybe they were different behind my back, who knows... but if they were, glad I didn't know about it, well I take that back.... I think there may have been one sister that had some not so nice things to say after I left) Maybe it is the city life making people unfriendlier! How could anyone not help a little old lady?!? I agree with the comment above. Keep on keepin on!!!