Kootje Dijkstra | 10 Things I Notice About Mexico
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13 Oct 10 Things I Notice About Mexico

I have been in Cancún for about 1,5 month now, which I have enjoyed very much so far. Though, when talking to some friends I met here, we got to talking about things we missed from our home countries, or things we noticed about our lives in Cancún. As an intern living in Mexico, there are some luxuries I have had to give up while living here, but also things I have had to accept about this country. This led me to writing this post.

1/ MOSQUITOS AND OTHER INSECTS
One of my least favorite things. Mexico is filled with lots of bugs and other insects that you never even knew the existence of. In my kitchen there are a lot of tiny ants that crawl around and in everything. You can not leave any dirty dishes or food on the counter, because within 5 minutes your whole kitchen will be crowded with these little ants. They do not look like the ones I am familiar with (what are those?), but they are kind of the same. Last week we got a cockroach infestation as well, the house got fully fumigated. A lot of cockroaches crawled out of the kitchen cabinets as a result of their attempted escape. So I heard my roommate yelling: aaaah las cucarachas!!
Also, mosquitos!!! Every day I have to spray my repellent, otherwise I will get a full treatment of bites. Especially around my ankles. And unfortunately I scratch all of those mosquito bites, leaving me with little wounds 🙁

2/ TOILET PAPER
In every bathroom I have been in in Cancún, there is a sign that says ‘please do not throw toilet paper in the toilet’. It is because the plumbing and sewing systems can’t handle the paper. Little did I know at first.. my toilet flooded the second week, because I had thrown all the paper in the toilet LIKE I USED TO. But ok, where do I put the paper then? It must be the reason why there are so many bathroom cleaners in restaurants and other public areas.

3/ GROCERY SHOPPING
Don’t get me wrong because I love grocery shopping in The Netherlands, but in Cancún it is like taking a whole day off to go grocery shopping. The stores are not comparable with the ones in the Netherlands or even Europe. It is a huge mall and it is more comparable with an Ikea. You can even buy your whole furniture, TV, couches, sports clothing, beach stuff. There are foodcourts where you can enjoy a full meal while shopping, like pizza, sushi, salads, chicken, churros or just a coffee. I heard about this aspect before, because I knew Cancún only exists for 40 years and it is totally Americanized already, but still.
In Mexico, pay days come twice a month on the 15th and the 30th. Therefore, the grocery stores as Walmart, Chedraui, Costco are totally crowded these days. The lines are crazy, every one is waiting at the ATMs to take all their money at once, because there is a high fee attached on withdrawing money.

4/ CRAZY TRAFFIC
The traffic in Cancun is really crazy. The drivers drive so ridiculously crazy and uncontrolled, it scares me every time. It is probably one of the things I miss the most about my home country: my bike. I had just passed my driving exam before I left to Cancun, so I don’t have that much experience with driving, but still; I hate that I can not move around easily. It is so convenient to take your bike and go wherever you want to, but in Cancun I don’t even have a bike. And if I would have, I would probably never use it anyway because it is too dangerous. The taxi drivers cut each other off every time and they don’t take the highway codes seriously. Luckily, the public transportation is pretty well in Cancun, there even is an app called Buscun. A single trip to whatever place in Cancun is always 8 pesos (=38 cents).

5/ FOOD
I must say, the food in Mexico is realllllyyy good! There are many kinds of typical foods in Mexico, which I must try more to be honest. The first weeks I faced some troubles with the food, because it was a little too heavy and too much for me. Because of the weather I was not able to eat much and had a full stomach soon. Also, I am not used to spicy food at all, so the chiles were a bit of a stumbling point. But now that I have been in Mexico for a little while, I am more used to it. My favorite dishes are the quesadillas of course, the fajitas, pozole, the guacamole (it is delicious EVERYWHERE) and empanadas. Especially the empanadas are delicious, it is some sort of puff pastry with chicken or meat and great spices. It is also very remarkable how much lime the Mexicans put on everything. It comes with literally every dish.

6/ THE PEOPLE
The people in Cancun are a bit strange sometimes. It depends a little on where you are, but in some places the people are very rude, pushy and curt. On the streets, the men are kind and say something like ‘hola buen día’, but the women don’t say hi at all.. which I don’t quite understand though. Likewise in shops and on beaches, they can give you an arrogant and supercilious look.
However, I have been in Tulum and Playa del Carmen as well, where I liked the people much more! They were so kind and friendly, were interested about you and your story. Oh and the taxi drivers are ALWAYS happy, I talk a lot with them to practice my Spanish. A regular conversation always starts with:

Taxidriver: Hola chica, buen día! Qué tal?
Me: Hola! Muy buen gracias, el gimnasio YEK por favor, vivo cerca de Sol de Mayab, sabes esto?
Taxidriver: Si, por supuesto! Tienes ojos muy bonitos, estos son claro verde. Eres americana?
Me: No, soy holandesa! Vivo en Cancún por cinco meses, para hacer mis prácticas.
Taxidriver: AAAAH! En serio?!?!

Apparently it is not very common to have a Dutch -American looking- girl with green eyes in your cab, so they start a whole conversation about the red light district and how they have always wanted to go there one day. Ok.

7/ CORRUPTION
Wow. The cops in Mexico are obviously so corrupt! Which I already knew of course, but to experience it with your own eyes is still a little bit bizar sometimes. A few weeks ago, we were in Tulum with some friends. We went to this Full Moon Party and on our way to the Papaya Playa Project, we were pulled over by the police. Made totally sense, because we were in a 5 pax car with 7, and we had drunk some beers already. Well, with four persons in the back and three in the front, we got pulled over and one of our friends had to step out to explain what we were doing. They said they had seen me and Larissa on the side of the road and decided to take us with them to the party!! So the policeman took a look inside the car, said: ‘Hola buenas noches!’, asked for 200 pesos and we were good to go, hahaha!! In the Netherlands we would get a huge ticket.

8/ VIOLENCE
I could write down that I have faced a violence act already, a shooting in a shifty neighborhood (I was at home luckily). And that a friend of mine has seen a body on the streets. And that a person was killed by a crocodile in the Nichupté Lagoon.. but my grandma reads my posts and I don’t want her to worry.
But you know, this could happen everywhere in the world, so I am far from scared actually, I am fine grandma 😉

9/ HOMELESS DOGS AND CATS
Although Cancún is a pretty modern city, there still are a lot of homeless dogs in the small districts. Just in an ordinary residential, you see dogs in the parks or in the streets. I think it is very unfortunate and I feel sorry for it, but the locals warn a lot about the diseases the dogs carry with them, so you can not pet the stray animals 🙁

10/ LIVING AN EASY LIFE
Another thing I had a bit of a hard time with in the first weeks, was the time perception. And yes, this I knew as well before coming to Mexico. But you have to get used to it pretty soon, otherwise your life will be way too stressful. It started with my first day of work, I was expected at the office at 8.30 am to meet my coworkers and my boss Teo. He told me in advance that he would be present around 8.30. AROUND. Hahaha little did I know that ‘around’ could also mean 2/3/4/5/6 hours later, or even not at all. He showed up around 10 am, which was actually pretty quick. I always try to stay very dedicated to my planning and I make lists and schedules for everything, so the first weeks it was hard to go in this flow we are in at the office.

On Friday, we went out for lunch with the boss and the coworkers, where I finally got to talking about this. They told me it is common for EVERYTHING to not take into account time perception. For example, whenever you need a person to fix the internet in your office, you are fucked, because you could make an appointment, but you KNOW the person won’t show up at the appointed time. Instead of worrying about how you can’t do your job when you don’t have internet connection, you make sure you have a back up internet connection IN ADVANCE. So whenever one of your internet connections is down, you are like: ‘Oh ok fine, just pick the other one. In the mean time I will call a fixer, which can take months, but that’s fine because we have the back-up.’

My boss Teo told me, the Mexican and hispanic people are so much more content with their lifestyle. We all know they are much poorer than we are in Europe, but they are happy with it and actually feel so rich with what they own; a house, kids, a lovely partner, money to feed their kids. Realizing you can’t always get what you want, makes it a lot more easier to enjoy life with what you DO have and be a contented person.
So at this point, I can proudly say that I have not had any stress yet. It is just simply not worth the time to stress about things that will never happen in a given time anyway. Finding your own way through this kind of situations is way more worth it.  I can assure, it makes your life a lot more easier 🙂

Well this was it! There will probably be a lot more things I am going to notice in the upcoming months, but this is it for now 🙂

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