Sunday, July 21, 2024

When Mexico makes you grumpy

Life in Mexico can be pretty great, but sometimes little, nagging, annoying things can get on top of you. A couple of weeks ago, I went to eat with a friend of mine, a fellow foreigner. It had been a while, and we were looking forward to catching up.

But the circumstances were bumpy, Mexico-style.

First, there was the question of parking: all tiny, hard-to-get-to spaces. The valet was available, but, my friend explained he was very against someone else driving his car. Successfully parked at last, we finally went in.

Mexico: The land of minorly annoying things

A tiny valet parking in Guanajuato city
Parking in Mexico  especially in Guanajuato city — can be a challenge at times. (ISSEG)

In the cafe at last, the the chairs we were led to wound up being too small for comfort. No matter — we moved to a booth. Then the lunch special was not valid that day. After that, it turned out we needed silverware. By the time the waiter brought out my friend’s soup with his main dish, he’d had it.

“Don’t you think it’s silly to bring out both of these dishes at the same time when the soup should clearly come first?” he snapped.

The waiter didn’t know how to respond, and was almost certainly not paid enough to mount a defense, anyway.

When the grouchy bug bites

Here’s one thing the lifestyle guides don’t always tell you: it’s easy to get grouchy in Mexico.

Oh, let me count the ways!

Pipa distributing drinking water in Toluca
Sometimes, your water will go out. Sometimes it might be your power. Learn to roll with the punches and life will go so much smoother. (Crisanta Espinosa Aguilar/Cuartoscuro))

The electricity, and/or water, and/or internet go out (or all three at once, if you’re particularly unlucky). That happens, of course, but here they keep charging you as if there’d been no break in service at all.

You get excited about trying something on the menu, but the restaurant doesn’t actually have it right then (this happens a lot). Then they don’t have the next thing you want to try, either.

Nobody has change, even for relatively small bills, pretty much ever. Good luck breaking that 500, my friend.

The bathrooms are super tiny and the toilets don’t always flush.

No matter how much you prepare, you’re going to need other documents for your trámite. You’ll definitely have to leave to get them and return another day.

And when you’re grouchy, it’s extra easy to be…not the nicest person. Where does that get us? Grouchy and scowled at, that’s where. “What’s that guy’s problem?” people might think.

Learning to take it easy (for real)

A few weeks ago, Travis Bembenek (Mexico News Daily’s co-owner) wrote about the “Mexican stress test.” In it, he detailed some of the many ways that, if you’re already having a kind of frustrating day, can get you even more frustrated. This particular case had to do with the loss of power. But it can be anything, really.

Most of these opportunities for exasperation result from unmet expectations. Why won’t things or people simply work the way they’re supposed to? We could get mad every hour of every day if we wanted to.

Anyone can be an asshole. But boy, does it stick out when you’re in a country where most people fall over themselves to be polite and accommodating.

So the most urgent question for us is this: how can we adjust our expectations instead of freaking out like we love to do?

Most people tend to describe themselves as easygoing, go-with-the-flow kinds of people. “Walking the walk,” of course, is a different story.

Even though they’re pay-to-use, public toilets sometimes leave something (a lot) to be desired. (Mario Nulo/Cuartoscuro)

The first step, I believe, is to prepare yourself. People are not going to do things the way you think they should be done. They’re just not.

So keep that in mind, and see how others respond to the same types of setbacks; you might pick up some good tips.

Remember, too, that getting all worked up doesn’t usually accomplish anything, especially here. Mexicans will often say, “He who angers, loses.” In a lot of ways that’s true. You not only “lose” your own cool, but people who could help you are much less likely to help you if you’re rude and huffy about it.

Expressing your anger to strangers is like trying to ram into someone with your parking break on. It’s not going to happen, and it will frustrate you even more.

When we finished our meal, a trickster god had another surprise in store for us: there was a car blocking our exit. A Mexican driver would have pulled out front and made their escape. But my friend didn’t feel confident about avoiding a bump with another car in the tiny space.

So, after a derisive “of course” laugh, I got out and politely asked the valet to move it. After a few minutes, he did, and we dislodged ourselves.

No doubt you’ve experienced some annoying things in Mexico too — have I missed any?

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, sarahedevries.substack.com.

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