Mexico City was once described by a friend of mine as being ‘an extreme sport’ and in many ways those few words encapsulate it well. Whilst it is not anything like a world city on the scale of London, it simply doesn’t need to be, and I wouldn’t want it to be really. It has an aura all of its own. Mexico City is a crazy, unhinged, yet calm and positive place. A place of poverty, and of riches, with the various echelons of social classes and strong divides that come with it. It is often ugly, yet strikingly beautiful too. Chaotic, pedestrian unfriendly, fun, and many more things besides.
The People: Of course like anywhere in the world (except Belgium which is too boring to have variation) the people vary, there is the mix of odious, criminal, corrupt, and these characters famously abound in the City. However there is a diametric opposite in abundance too. One thing that should strike the tourist (tourists in Mexico City! Good luck) is the overwhelming positivity and amiability of just so many ordinary folk. Many have an immediate approachability, and an attitude of warmth and friendliness. Many have a welcome familiarity, with an attitude of ‘mi casa su casa’, whether they really mean it or not.
This brings me to another point. Many Mexicans love to be positive to the point of absolute naivety. Don’t get me wrong I love them for it but god it could drive a Brit mad at times. Never be surprised if a Mexican considers the very improbable to be very likely, it’s simply inbuilt to many. It’s very endearing. Certainly many lack the ingrained world weariness and cynicism that we Brits and often many Europeans possess. This is of course all generalisations, but many will find that there is a distinct difference of aura at times inherent in the culture.
Oh and be prepared to hand over your mobile phone number every 5 minutes, but be prepared to have only 1% of those people ever ring you. They didn’t do it disingenuously you understand; the intention is always a positive.
With this in mind Let us take a look at a short list of things you will come to notice after a while.
1. What the hell is in that bin? It ain’t cash…
You realise many people throw toilet paper in the bin not the toilet.
Yes you read that right. You actually read that right. You’ve been in Mexico long enough? Then you know you read that right. When you first see the sign that exclaims:
Please do not discard the toilet paper in the toilet.
Where the hell am i supposed to put it then! Then you realise the bin beside is full of it, complete with all manner of…matter. This can’t be right you tell yourself, after all it isn’t everywhere in Mexico City you see it or do it, or is it? Alas it isn’t a joke. There is method to this effluent madness and it involves a poor sewer system not designed for everyone to be doing what you should be doing; flushing it down the toilet. God knows what would happen if the entire population flushed at once. We’d be swimming in it. Now things may have changed since 6 years ago and it wasn’t everywhere but still. Yes they apparently sell toilet paper that is flushable but should you have to buy especially flushable paper?
If you love animals like me, or come from a Nation of animal lovers who take the whole pet thing seriously it can be quite shocking to see cats and dogs roaming the streets and wandering the parks. I mean call me wrong but either the owner is invisible (dogs often still have the lead on) or those doggies are walking themselves. Hey I said to my friend, look all different types of dogs running together, where are the owners. Gravely he looked at me and with a small sense of wryness:
They don’t have owners Zenith, they are free now. Look at them aren’t they’re so happy.
Now don’t for one minute think im suggesting that Mexicans hate domesticated animals, or that they all treat them badly, quite the contrary. There did however seem to be a casual way for some to discard, and for the authorities to pick up these animals. I am not saying it was enormously common, just not anywhere near as rare as the UK for example. Humans are not just for christmas I guess.
3. Not enough change!
Oh god. Please please do not ask me AGAIN if I have the exact damn change. YOU SHOULD HAVE MONEY IN YOUR TILL. Alas one thing you may want to get used to is drug/convenience stores (we call them corner shops or newsagents in the UK), small businesses, restaurants (the lesser ones) and even Taxi and bus drivers not having enough damn change in their coffers when you make a transaction. I got used to knowing that look in a girl/guys face and the inevitable:
‘i’ll just run across the road for 10 minutes and find some money from some other place that doesn’t have enough change probably’.
I know where the money goes though, they must eat it. That’s it, they eat it. Either that or it’s a security thing. Maybe the money is chocolate and melts? YOU DECIDE!
4. Roses are red, Apple juice is red?!
This isn’t a criticism at all, but I thought i’d throw it in anyway. One thing that i’ve always got used to is apple juice always being green despite is having the full plethora of apples and colours. Mexico City red; either red apples or different colourings and preservatives. Either way it’s apple juice I presume so drink away.
5. DON’T DRINK THE WATER OR YOU MIGHT CATCH DEATH DISEASE!
You’ll miss drinking out the taps, you’ll miss public fountains. You will get used to people buying water by the truckload and water being left outside premises. You’ll grow used to buying water in the shops. You will wonder how much truth there is to the water containing the plague. Above all you will never take the clean water from your taps in your home country for granted again. On that note if your gas water heater breaks make sure you have a lighter to hand, otherwise it’s cold commando time.
The water is hot again now! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT IN THE SHOWER!
6. Stock up on light bulbs and Nuclear Fusion Portable Reactors.
Electricity. Again this may well have changed due to upgrades over the years but the electricity can be super iffy. I will never take the lights not going out for granted again. Electricity actually can stop people! The infrastructure is old and often the landlords don’t keep up with maintenance or payments. Government officials can also be to blame here. Actually I suspect they have all that missing change and they can flush their paper in their toilets. Why the lightbulbs? Well it was probably just our apartment but they often blew when the electricity went haywire, and then off.
What level are you on Zenith? I’m on the level that wasn’t saved when the ‘leccy’ buggered off.
Obstacles and holes. These are two words you will come to know well. There is always some obstacle or hole or crack to skirt. If you have OCD do not go to Mexico City, you’ll break your mothers back (stepping on a crack). Of course it isn’t like that everywhere, but often you’ll find that it pays not to daydream too much, lest you trip and throw yourself into a group of nacos.
Where shall we place this post? In a sensible planned line and area? Nah stick it in the middle of the pavement, nobody will notice.
Oh and disabled access? Nah, even though you’ll may just need it if you don’t watch out.