I have reached about the halfway point of my stay here in Mexico and I think it’s time I address some of my day to day experiences here. By choosing to come to Mexico I put myself in a position where I have to live in a culture that’s pretty different from my own. While it’s an amazing experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world, it did take a little getting used to.
One of the main differences I have found is how friendly people are here, and how open they are to talking to you and inviting you into their lives. Talking to strangers and making friends wherever you go isn’t just common, but almost expected. People sit out on the street and will talk to you as you walk by, just to wish you a good day. When I first got here I felt a little overwhelmed by all the talking, for one it was in Spanish, but for another this open, welcoming spirit is not as common at home. Now I absolutely love it, there are people on my street who I don’t even know their names but everyday smile and say “buenos dias”! It’s a lovely feeling to know there are people out their who take notice and want to spread a little joy.
Another little thing I had to get used to here is the touching. People are not afraid of physical contact, the most common being the kiss on the cheek. In the states its very weird to give anyone anything more than a handshake if you’ve just met, here however it would seem rude not to reach out and at least press your cheeks together (admittedly this is from the perspective of a girl, most of the men do stick to shaking hands with each other). For the first few days it was a little startling when someone would lean in to kiss me, but it’s one of those habits that are easy to adopt pretty quickly. I think I would like to bring it home with me if I can, there’s something so welcoming and warm that comes with a little bit of human contact, now I just have to see if my friends will go along with me.
Not so much a cultural difference but one of my favorite things about this city (and I will stretch to assume the rest of Mexico, but I can’t confirm as of yet) is their love of food. There is food everywhere you go, and lots and lots and lots of tacos. There are street venders everywhere, and as of yet, I have only had delicious food. There is something so amazing about a culture where eating is seen as more than just a necessary act, and is instead enjoyed and savored.
The last thing I want to touch on in this post is my university. I spend most of my time at school, so it seems important to include some information. The classes here aren’t that different from home, except for the benefit of having small class sizes for all of my classes. On the other hand, the approach to studying here is amazing. I’m specifically referring to the study spaces that have been designed here. They are made to be comfortable and welcoming. The library is full of bean bags and colorful chairs. I have taken more than one nap in there while doing homework, and let me tell you, it makes so much difference in my ability to get things done. I think I’m going to have to petition my home university for some nap spaces of our own.
Having the opportunity to study abroad and be a part of another culture is truly an amazing experience. Sometimes it can be pretty difficult and tiring as I have to navigate a world that is so different from my own, but in the end I think the benefits are more than worth it. I can say, with complete certainty, that I made the right choice in coming here, and has been one of the best decisions of my life. Never let the fear of the unknown hold you back, the world has so much to give that you can’t afford not to take a few risks.