Mexico is a Western society like the US and Europe, and similar to both of them, its moral constructs are broadly based on Judeo-Christianity. That makes adaptation both easier and more difficult. It is easier because fundamental liberal ideas are not challenged, and the common Classical influence is pervasive, but it can sometimes be more difficult precisely because of the subtlety of the differences.
es, there is a lot of the family-based (as opposed to community-based) social scaffolding that makes it different from the social structure of the individual that operates north of the border. However, the main differences have to do with the way Mexicans are more intuitive about their decisions, the way they see business transactions as opportunities to socialize, and the way they bond. Note that this is a generalization, which obviates the transnational formality of a large segment of the Mexican business population, but it is not a stretch to say that Mexican culture is generally more fun.
If Mexico's contributions in the field of socio-economics were of the same caliber as its cultural contributions to mankind, it would be a world power. Its cultural contributions to humankind in the fields of food (chocolate, tomatoes, and avocados are all Mexican), music, architecture, etc., make it endearing to so many.
The first thing that will strike the newly arrived expatriate in Mexico is the day to day adjustments he or she will have to make. Whether at home or on the street, whether at work or play, expect an emotional roller-coaster full of adventure, and sometimes frustration. The biggest mistake you can make is to rigidly hold on to your old ways and expectations. Mexicans have their own way of doing things. What may seem chaotic at first glance can actually conceal a very subtle and intricate style of interaction.
The human element pervades all aspects of life in Mexico, from simple everyday interaction right up to legal and governmental issues. This can seem daunting to most foreigners who come from countries where the law has become more and more pervasive throughout society, both in the public and in the private domain, often leaving little room for subjective digression. This is not the case in Mexico, where there are certainly very detailed laws concerning all facets of life, but where one can always count on there being a very subjective interpretation of these laws on the part of enforcers, and also on the part of those who live under those laws.
Of course, culture shock need not be so dramatic, nor so shocking. In fact it can be pleasant. Mexican people stand out for their politeness and courtesy. There is almost no social interaction which doesn't begin with a 'good day' and a smile and end with a 'thank you' and a smile. Foreigners are charmed by Mexican culture and the warmth and hospitality of the Mexican people.
Politeness even extends into the grammar of the language, with Mexicans being very fond of using diminutives. However, there's one important detail. A 'yes' doesn't always mean 'yes.’ The first thing many foreigners may find frustrating is the relative ease in which Mexicans can make—and break—commitments. Mexican culture is a culture of non-confrontation, and rather than face a moment's discomfort, most people will choose to make flowery promises which often turn out to be empty ones. This can be very frustrating not only to foreigners but also to Mexicans. Much time can be wasted away, as well as much emotion and energy. Again, the 'human element' comes into the picture, which means comfort and convenience (or inconvenience as the case may be) usually takes precedence over commitment.
We can suggest some further reading to help you deal with culture shock. The book Culture Shock: Mexico by Mark Cramer may be a good start. To gain a background in Mexican history and culture, we suggest Octavio Paz's masterpiece The Labyrinth Of Solitude, and also The Buried Mirror by another great Mexican writer, Carlos Fuentes. For additional introductions to Mexican culture, try The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait Of A People by Patrick Oster, There's A Word For It In Mexico by Boye Lafayette, and NTC's Dictionary Of Cultural Code Words.
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