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There are so many reasons to come and explore Mexico and so many things you can learn from Mexican culture. Mexico has long been romanticized as a wild frontier, full of music, color, art, adventure, honor, tradition, and spirituality. These ideals originate from more than just the beautiful landscapes and world-famous festivals – they come from the hearts of the Mexican people. Below are five specific things that make Mexican culture unique, and five reasons you too will fall in love with the Mexican way of life!
Mexican culture strongly emphasizes the importance of family. The word “familismo” means that the needs of the individual are considered less important than the needs of the family. It is not uncommon for many generations to all live together under one roof! Furthermore, parents sometimes continue to parent long after their child has grown. However, having such a close-knit, loyal family creates an enduring sense of identity, community, and security. The family also provides a huge social circle consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Here in Mazatlan, almost every Sunday is family day. If you go for a walk around the city, you will see hundreds of families hanging out at the beach, walking along the "malecón" (Mazatlan’s 13-mile long boardwalk), or playing ball in the park. Living in Mexico will teach you invaluable lessons on honoring your own family, and if you find yourself missing home, don’t stress–Mexican hospitality will ensure that you end up an honorary member of someone else’s!
Mexico is a land of surprises, and one of the first things you will learn when you get here is how to handle those surprises. Fireworks might go off while a horse crosses the street unattended, you could look up to see a bike stuck in the branches of a tree for no apparent reason, all the while an antique truck drives by carrying an entire mariachi band in the midst of playing a song. The Mexican people are more than okay with this kind of surreal spontaneity, and they know to be ready for anything with a positive attitude and a spirit of ingenuity.
The surprises might be good–like an impromptu dance party at the beach or a late-night taco run. Or they could be not so good–like the tap suddenly shutting off or you having to sidestep an open manhole cover. However, the Mexican people are quick to “roll with” the good surprises while coming up with solutions to the bad ones–they don’t necessarily need someone else to come along and fix the problem. So next time you hear a mariachi band playing in the middle of the night, don’t get mad–either shut the window or start dancing!
Life tends to be simpler in Mexico. The only ingredients you need to make a good time are a friend and a cup of coffee or a group of friends and a soccer ball. This goes for many other countries too, but there is something magnetic about Mexican culture that draws people together no matter the time, place, or activity. You don’t need to tempt people to hang out with the promise of something spectacular–Mexican people know that real fun and genuine laughter comes from the joy of being with the people you love.
Ever heard of the Mexican invite? In Mexico, if someone asks if you want to go out to eat, they often mean they want to pay for you. Generosity is another important part of Mexican culture. It’s not unusual for people to want to treat you, whether you’re long time friends or you just met earlier that day. This kind of generosity blesses and surprises visitors when they see how kind people are regardless of how much or how little they have.
A typical Mexican greeting is a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and it applies to all ages. Mexicans greet each person who enters the room or walks by–even strangers they pass on the street. Instead of simply saying "hola", it’s more polite to be cognizant of the time of day. Saying "buenos días" for good morning, "buenas tardes" for good afternoon, or "buenas noches" for goodnight, is always more personable than just saying hi.
It’s also important to say goodbye to everyone who leaves the room. Goodbyes can be long and drawn out, so they are often said well before the time a person actually plans on leaving. Expect this of your own trip to Mexico–you might plan to return home, but just as you get ready to leave, you suddenly find it’s impossible to say goodbye!
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