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.