6 Things to Consider Before Your Trip to Mexico
Traveling is an incredible privilege that also comes with a large responsibility. When we visit other areas of the world, we automatically become ambassadors of our own countries. Sometimes we have the best intentions to communicate with people across cultures, yet end up accidentally offending someone. Here are six different things that could be offensive while traveling in Mexico.
This phrase refers to all Mexican citizens or people who identify with Mexican culture as being late, unorganized, lazy. It is a common stereotype for people to categorize Mexicans as being notoriously late, never on time, and always off schedule. As a visitor in a different country it is important to keep in mind how this phrase might offend someone. Generalizing all Mexicans as running on an inefficient time schedule can inadvertently reinforces unfair stereotypes of laziness or disorganization.
“Everything is so cheap in Mexico”
To international travelers, yes this can hold true. On a global scale, the peso is of lower value, making foreign currencies more flexible (longevity of the monetary value). But claiming that Mexico is cheap, is purely subjective and specific to our own personal financial situations. To someone, $20 pesos for two tacos might not be much, but to someone else it could be quite expensive. Being cautious of how we speak about money is always important when traveling amongst people of different socioeconomic standards than yourself.
Ever heard a tourist say, “They sell it for less at the other store” when trying to cut the best deal? Bargaining prices can be very common at a local market, but without a polite attitude it can be disrespectful. It is natural to want to get the best bang for your buck, but it is always important to be aware of your tone. Threatening to take our business elsewhere to find a better price can perpetuate a dangerous power dynamic between the tourist and the vendor. On one hand, the tourist is capitalizing on their ability to choose where their money goes, holding the majority of the power; on the other hand, the vendor feels obligated to please the tourist. In order to stop reinforcing this uneven exchange, it is key to be courteous. If a vendor is selling their good at a high price, ask inquisitive questions, such as “Where is this product from?” “Is this made by hand?” “What is the value of this good?”. Always keep in mind that people are working to make a living- we never know someone’s story until you listen. Be open and ask respectful and thought provoking questions.
It’s natural for us as humans to want to give. Giving can make us feel good inside and it makes us feel connected to a cause bigger than ourselves. However, the ways in which we give need to be strategic and well thought out. Through giving, we could be indirectly forcing our own beliefs and ideas about what someone needs. People have different standards of living, some value a more upscale lifestyle and others are happy to just get by on the basic necessities. Often times when visiting a new place we aren’t fully aware of the needs of the community. We should try to catch ourselves when we make assumptions about what local people may or may not need. Instead of guessing or assuming, research and contact local organizations and ask them what you can do to support them. Researching about the ways in which you can contribute and impact the community can be extremely beneficial. By doing so, you can provide resources local people and organizations can utilize in a productive and sustainable way. Bringing an open mind and attentive ears could be the only things needed.
Traveling poses some incredible photo ops. Documenting our trip can be a great way to remember unique and exciting experiences. With that being said, photography should be approached carefully. Often, travelers take photos of local people without asking for permission or for any details of the other person, where they are from, their background, their names, etc. This can be very disrespectful and could lead people to think you are making a spectacle of them. Use the same common courtesy that we would in our own hometown. Make sure to ask for permission and include the details the person wants shared if you are posting the photo on social media. Do they want their name shared? If so, how is it spelled? Being thoughtful and putting ourselves in their shoes can go a long way. Remember to have consent before snapping a picture, and keep in mind that people are in their full right to say no!
In Mexican culture, it’s common to greet complete strangers, and smiles and “hellos” are very important. It’s normal to feel a connection with someone if we speak the same language. But when traveling, we will meet people who don’t speak our own language and we will need to make an extra effort to connect with them. Be sure to make eye contact and acknowledge of the other person’s presence. It’s easy for us to speak directly to someone translating the conversation instead of speaking to the person you are trying to communicate with. When asking a question, focus on speaking DIRECTLY with the person, holding eye contact the entire time and using words like ‘Do you’ instead of ‘Does she/he’. These small changes have the capacity to create a big difference in our cross cultural connections.
Whether we identify as a vacationer, regular visitor, or resident in Mexico, we all have the responsibility to practice empathy and respect while experiencing a different part of the world. As ambassadors of our own countries and cities, we have an opportunity to not only positively represent our native roots, but also to reflect our best selves. With these tips, we can be more responsible and respectful travelers. Buen Viaje!