Monday, March 4, 2024

My weekend in Las Vegas reminded me why I love living in Mexico

To me, going to Las Vegas is a masterclass in observing human behavior. I don’t like to gamble, but was meeting some family there for a long weekend, so I took advantage of the time to do some introspection.

I enjoy observing and learning from different people, and Las Vegas gives one a lot of material to study!

I understand that the city is about as far from typical as you can get, but it is a fascinating cross-section of humanity. People of all ethnic backgrounds, ages and socio-economic levels enjoying the same few miles of hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, stores, and of course, casinos.

Spending a few days there reinforced a few important things to me about my life in Mexico:

I feel much less temptation to buy things in Mexico than I do in the United States

The marketing has become so damn good in the US that it is increasingly hard not to want to buy things. Sales, promotions, campaigns, free delivery, easy parking, perfect product placement, easy return policies, great availability and variety all make it too hard to resist buying things in the U.S.

In Mexico, in most places we have much less of that consumerist pressure. There are very few sales, product selection is more limited, returns are not easy, the marketing and sales efforts are not omnipresent and perfectly crafted, delivery is not yet as good, and we rarely have easy parking! As a result, I find that I buy significantly less “stuff” in Mexico. It’s just not as fun or convenient or tempting — and I think that’s a good thing!

I eat a lot less food in Mexico

Similar to the products in stores mentioned above, the temptation to eat frequently and much bigger quantities is much higher in the United States. The parking at restaurants is often easy, there are unlimited refills of soft drinks, portions are beyond huge, seating is plentiful, and the service is fast and efficient. In Mexico, it’s usually totally different.

Many restaurants in our town don’t have parking and some don’t even have many seats to sit in. I think that eating a taco while standing up might even improve the taste! Free refills? No way! Fast service at most places? Forget about it! Portions tend to be much more reasonable. Rarely am I hard-sold appetizers or drinks or desserts in Mexico. You just order what you want and that’s it. I am not good at saying “no” to these upsold items (as I suspect is the case with many people), so I am happy to not have the pressure to consume more.

I eat a lot healthier in Mexico

I am finding that it is increasingly hard to find the combination of reasonably priced AND healthy food in the US.  You can find healthy, but it is often very expensive.  You can find cheap, but it is often not at all healthy.  It makes for a frustrating dilemma.  In Mexico, most days and most meals I eat are relatively inexpensive and very healthy – and I must say that results in a very satisfying combination.  I can’t stress enough how great it feels to have access to affordable and healthy food on a daily basis – its life changing!

My daily carbon footprint is dramatically less in Mexico than in the U.S.

I spend so much time in the car and driving in the United States — as many people do. Of course in most cities in the US, there is little choice and it’s made very easy to drive everywhere. The convenience of driving in the US is unparalleled, with great infrastructure, quick drive-throughs, ample parking everywhere, and long open hours at most places — but that ultimately results in a lot of time in the car and on the road. Many places in Mexico — as they are in many parts of the world — were built around the ability to walk to do many of the daily activities you need to do and as a result (or consequence), driving and spending time in the car is often much less common. I understand that this is not the case in many parts of Mexico’s growing mega-cities.

The amount of garbage I generate in the United States on a daily basis is significantly higher

We ordered some food at a restaurant in Las Vegas and they brought it to us in Styrofoam containers and a plastic bag — to eat inside the restaurant! I have no idea why. On a separate occasion, in a bar I ordered a soft drink and it was brought to me in a disposable plastic cup, inside the bar! One morning my wife and I had breakfast at a coffee shop that resulted in a huge amount of trash. The coffee shop we go to in our Mexican town has reusable cups and plates, resulting in essentially zero trash. Most places in Mexico have mandatory reusable bags in grocery stores — they simply don’t have plastic bags available. I find that in the U.S. in most places you still see very, very few people using them. The packaging on many food products in the U.S. is a landfill-filling nightmare of plastic. In Mexico, we often have to wash and disinfect our fruits and vegetables (which of course isn’t as convenient), but they come without disposable packaging.

The pressure I feel to “keep up with the Joneses” is significantly lower in Mexico 

Many parts of Mexico — not all of course, as it’s changing here as well — still aren’t as overrun with the consumption and personal appearance pressures so common in the United States. In general, I find less judgement in Mexico, of one’s home, car, clothes, brand of handbag, brand of shoes, body features, etc. Many people just don’t seem to care as much about these things — for themselves or for you!

I don’t watch nearly as much sports on TV in Mexico — and I don’t miss it 

I have always been a typical fan of televised sports, both college and professional, but I find that — once again — in Mexico the general lack of televisions everywhere makes it less likely to be watching games.

In the United States, there is hardly a restaurant anymore that doesn’t have TVs in every corner showing random games. The other day in a pizza place having dinner with my parents we ended up watching a random college women’s softball game between two teams we knew nothing about. Why, you might ask? Because there were so many TVs playing the game it was pretty much impossible not to watch. As a result, we communicated with each other a lot less as we found ourselves staring at the multitude of screens throughout the dinner.

I smile a lot more in Mexico

I find that people in the United States don’t make as much eye contact as (I think) they used to. Is it just me who has noticed this? Very few people greet you when you walk by with a “good morning” or “good evening”.

In Mexico, I find myself smiling a lot throughout the day. There still seems to be a level of joy and friendliness and happiness that I seem to have a harder time finding these days in the United States. The random acts of kindness are also something I find very common here.

I am not in any way saying that Mexico is perfect, and most definitely not saying that the United States is a bad place. However, I am increasingly aware as someone who has lived and experienced both countries how our surroundings shape who we are, and I enjoy how living in Mexico is changing my wife and me. Our recent trip to Las Vegas further confirmed to us how grateful and fortunate we are to be in Mexico right now.

Travis Bembenek is the CEO of Mexico News Daily and has been living, working or playing in Mexico for over 27 years.

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