mexican etiquette
September 8, 2008 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Social dos and don'ts in Mexico?

I'm look for a list of tips and tricks to help in understanding Mexican etiquette. I've now moved to Xalapa and I find myself encountering little etiquette problems that I've never encountered before. Could you give me some pointers on what is acceptable and what would be weird/offensive here? As an example, I just found out that it is kinda rude to ask for eggs as 'huevos', and instead one should ask for 'blancillos', (so as to not challenge the shopkeeper's masculinity).
posted by dhruva to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, tiene huevos? is such a double-entendre that it's a cliche.

Thinking about shopping... I always have trouble remembering not to put money down on the counter. It's rude, apparently, to let money touch the surface (it's like you're 'throwing it away' I have been told), and it must only be transferred from your hand to the cashier's (and back, in the case of cambio.)

I'll try to remember more...
posted by rokusan at 1:24 PM on September 8, 2008

Best answer: Don't use estúpido with children. It's a grosería, not just bad Spanish (as my high school teacher had led me to believe).

Even if you can't remember the name of what you're asking someone for, saying "Dame la... la... la cosa" will get snickers, as it sounds dirty, rather than getting someone to give you what you want.

Don't do the "son las dos menos cuarto" deal for telling time. Say "es la una cuarenta y cinco". The former makes you sound stuffy.

"Disculpe" for a somewhat informal "excuse me" or "sorry." "Lo siento" is reserved for serious situations (like when you would say "I'm sorry for your loss").

(Some of these you may know; they were all surprises to me, even though I thought my Spanish was very good)

There are some others that I'm sure I'll remember later. Those are just the ones that got me comments from my Mexican roommates.
posted by olinerd at 1:26 PM on September 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

You are expected to bribe pretty much every policeman you come across. Thats just the way it works.

Dont try and bribe the Federales, even for a simple checkpoint where your headlights are out (for example). Seriously. Bad idea. Trust me on this. Those guys dont turn their head for anything less than a drug lords monthy income.
posted by elendil71 at 2:02 PM on September 8, 2008

Response by poster: elendil71: see this.
posted by dhruva at 2:17 PM on September 8, 2008

In most places in Mexico, you shouldn't try to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Instead, place it in the wastebasket provided.
posted by parilous at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2008

Best answer: Some possibly helpful links and tips:

Cross Cultural tips and etiquette

Cyborlinks tips

Business Etiquette in Mexico

ExpatFinder links and more
posted by nickyskye at 3:22 PM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

elendil71: see this.

Hey, not condoning it. Just sayin'. I've been there many many times and I have never ever not had to part with some cash, sometimes to the point of having it being explicitly demanded by the constabulary. So my options are either being harrassed for hours or parting with $50. No brainer. I didnt mean the comment as a slight to anyone, just a cultural reality. In India and other countries, they call it baksheesh, and its as common as dropping by the market for produce in the morning.

When in Rome....
posted by elendil71 at 4:23 PM on September 8, 2008

Best answer: The huevos/blanquillos thing is not to be taken seriously. Most likely whoever told you that was trying to start a conversation or to bring up something funny to talk about. Mexicans love that sort of stuff and most of them will love to be provided with the chance of telling you that indeed, they do have balls (huevos, in the pun).

You can even use that sort of stuff to break ice most of the time. You can say something like "¿disculpe, tiene huevos?...and then say"bueno, blanquillos, para no ofender" or something like that. People are more likely to go along with it than to be offended.

Xalapa is a lovely town, jarochos are lovely, festive and very open people and the town has a steady flow of outsiders due in part to the University and some of the people that go to Veracruz to learn son jarocho, (or even theatre troupes or groups of artists that settle there seasonally). So the xalapeños are used to see people with different habits, and love it. It's a great place to be. You said you moved there. Are you going to be there indefinitely?
posted by micayetoca at 4:24 PM on September 8, 2008

Response by poster: I'm here to stay (hopefully), but knowing me, I'll probably have to uproot myself in three or four years :)
posted by dhruva at 4:40 PM on September 8, 2008

I had the French version of this book, and I found it to be very useful.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:52 PM on September 8, 2008

Sort of offtopic: Ah, I totally missed where you are. I did some really fun whitewater rafting in Jalapa (Xalapa, whatever), with Rio Actopan. I totally recommend it! Also go to Michoacan for the butterflies in December. It is amazing.
posted by olinerd at 5:06 PM on September 8, 2008

Best answer: Mexico is a very large and varied country, so most of the stuff you're getting above may only apply to the region where it was learned.

In Mexico City, for example, you will never hear the word "blanquillos" or be looked at oddly for placing money on the counter.

Olinerd's language tips are pretty accurate, but no one would take offence at a foreigner making such insignificant mistakes. "Dame la cosa" made me smile.

You were right in disputing elendil71's take on bribing. Please don't do it. Ever. If you are stopped, ask for the reason and for your ticket. If the policeman stalls and takes up your time, dial 060 -our version of 911- and ask for help.

Placing toilet paper in a wastebasket??? No. Never. Under no circumstances are you to do that. Flush it down as you would anywhere else.

The Business Etiquette guide linked to by nickyskye is surprisingly accurate, if a little stiff in places, and it does offer one golden phrase you should take to heart: "Even an attempt to communicate with broken Spanish will be warmly appreciated and seen as a sign of interest and respect."

The fact that you're trying and you care about this is more than enough to get by. You'll pick up the local quirks soon enough.

Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions or need anything else. Good luck.
posted by Cobalt at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2008

The "Shave and a haircut" ditty is considered means " Chinga tu madre (Fuck your mother)".
posted by brujita at 7:19 AM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks y'all, I'm sure that my settling in period will be easier now...
posted by dhruva at 7:50 AM on September 9, 2008

« Older Resources for growing a home business   |   Blogs on the art and science of Googling Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.