There are many rules regarding driving, and they're crucial to life and limb. There are many rules regarding driving, and they're crucial to the preservation of life and limb.

Life in MX has its own specific set of rules

An important one is if you accomplish just one thing in a day, you were successful

Throughout my long and tumultuous life I have acquired a set of rules to govern my actions as I stumble towards my uncertain future.


For instance, early in life I learned never to shoot pool or play poker with anyone nicknamed after a city or state. Another hard and fast rule for me is to never trust a man with a comb over; the tendency to deceive is eminently transparent.

Also, never pursue a relationship with someone whose problems are greater than your own; life is hard enough already. Always remember life is reality and television isn’t.

And there are more, but you get the idea. Be that as it may, moving to a completely different culture has required some additional guidelines. So now I would like to share some of the rules I have adapted to my life here in Mexico.

As in life, the rules are multilayered; there are overall rules and rules for specific activities. An extremely important overall rule for a sagacious life in Mexico is that if you accomplish only one thing in a day, the day is to be considered a success.

This is especially true if you are dealing with any type of Mexican bureaucracy. I find this rule extremely important, because a person’s mental health can be severely impacted by the unrealistic expectations one can have about life in this culture.

Another unequivocal rule that is requisite for personal sanity in this country: always remember the only thing which is assured for the average expat is bewilderment. There are degrees of bewilderment which range from overwhelmingly stupefied, to subtly humorous.


All expats have their own stories about bewildering episodes of life in Mexico; it’s an unavoidable part of the adventure.

The specific activity of driving has many guidelines, most of which are crucial to the preservation of life and limb. If the vehicle in front of you swings to the right, it means it is about to make a left turn. And vice versa.

When you see a set of hazard lights blinking, it frequently indicates the driver is about to execute an incautious or reckless action that could be hazardous to all within range.

Now here is where its gets tricky: if you see a right or left-turn signal be aware that it’s most likely the blinking hazard lights, with one bulb out. All the vehicles on the road larger and heavier than yours have an implied right of way, especially the buses, so drive accordingly.

All intersections are ambush zones, with calamitous probabilities descending from all sides. Mexican road signs can often be obsolete or misleading, and street names can change without warning. Given a little time, all those who drive in this country will have a long list of their own road rules.

Shopping is an activity we do on almost a daily basis, and has its own criteria. If you see something you think you might want to buy, do it now, it may never be available again.

Never assume that the same items will be available where you last purchased them. Prices for similar or even identical items at different stores can possess disparities in price that are mind numbing; so shop around.

Just because an item carries a familiar brand name doesn’t mean it’s not a clever, or not so clever, counterfeit. Always shop with pesos to avoid getting burned by an unfair exchange rate.

An ATM at a bank is less likely to eat your card or steal your money than those situated outside of banks. Learn to count your change backwards.

Restaurants also have their own set of rules by which the vigilant Anglo should abide. Avoid eating in a place where you are the only patron. Always check the menu as well as the prices before you take a seat. If you have waited longer than 30 minutes before a waiter has come to your table, it’s time to find another restaurant.

Beware of deep-fried sushi. Always check the charges and the math on the bill; creative accounting is common in this country. Never let your credit card out of your sight when paying your bill.

Spicy means seriously hot, seriously. Any eatery with a gratuity built into the price of the meal should be avoided. Besides being a calculated rip-off it’s in defiance of Mexican law. Be cautious with seafood if you are more than a day’s drive from the ocean.

Given the vast number of people who have their hands out in this country, you need to know upon whom to bestow the benevolence of your largess. My rule of thumb is anyone missing one or more limbs, or missing their eyesight, should always get something.

Those who display the effects of debilitating diseases obviously need the kindness of others to survive. However, the people who have perfected the anima of the woefully downtrodden, and who constantly shuffle through the tourist areas, are suspicious at best; tactical discretion advised.

The last rule of life in Mexico is the most important of all: never miss an opportunity to have a good time. The denizens of this country endeavor to celebrate all manner of historic or commemorative events.

Mexico observes 43 holidays each year and some last several days, many have fireworks and almost all include the consumption of adult beverages.

Throw in sunsets and birthdays (yours, friends, dead presidents, British nobility) and hardly a day will go by without an excuse to kick back and reflect on how fortuitous we are to be here at this place in time and not in the frozen wastelands of the far north.

Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at

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  • K. Chris C.

    First rule of doing business in Mexico, as client or otherwise, is that every word is a lie unless time and experience have produced a relationship of trust, and even then… Now I know what a “contextual culture” really is–it means act as if standing in a minefield.

    For those flummoxed about the Mexican culture and the behavior of Mexicans, understand that Mexicans have never had an era of Liberty like Americans had for 130 or so years. Mexicans have, for their entire cultural existence, had to contend with one authoritarian and bureaucratic tyranny after another. They and their culture have adapted in such a way as to manage a life while living under and with the bloodsuckers.

    I saw a similar adaptation in my escaped East German friends while living in West Germany during the 80s.

    For those whose sensibilities have been ruffled by my comment, be assured that Mexicans have nothing to be ashamed of. We Americans do, as we should and do know better than to let the US tyranny take our Liberty. Not only permitted the taking of our Liberty, but also the acquiescing to the terrorizing and murdering of much of the rest of the world in our name–Shame, shame!

    An American citizen, not US subject.

    • EstebanCardenas

      The offense is rather on you, as you display such ignorance of our history… you should expand your reading beyond Breitbart and the like…

    • EstebanCardenas

      First you refer 130 years of “liberty” in the US, and then close with remarks on “US tyranny”… contradictory; imbecile

  • Güerito

    “An ATM at a bank is less likely to eat your card or steal your money than those situated outside of banks.”

    In my experience, the ATM’s at Mexican banks are located outside the bank. Come to think of it, I think that’s universal…

    • I’m sure the writer is referring to ATMs in supermarkets, free-standing ATMs, that sort of thing.

  • Always shop with pesos? Anyone who does not should be bound, gagged and tossed unceremoniously over the border.

  • EstebanCardenas

    “An important one is if you accomplish just one thing in a day, you were successful”

    I am a Mexican, and you Mr. Kellogg, are a liar.

    Mazatlan is Mexico, but Mexico is much more than Mazatlan.

    That being said, I am certain that most Mazatlecos accomplish several things a day.

    I you think so low of us and our culture, you should go back to your country. Now you can benefit from having a bigot as president.

  • I’ll add another restaurant hint. If there’s one or more people on the sidewalk trying to convince you to enter their establishment, avoid it like the plague. If you don’t, two things are guaranteed to happen:
    1. The place will be over-priced.
    2. At some point during your dining experience, your waitress will disappear for a half hour or so, in order to chat with a friend of hers on her cell phone about something-or-other.

  • Lou Kreinheder

    I ;Like your comments on life in Mexico. Some are spot on, like dealing with the government here. A full day might
    not be enough time to get new plates on your new car for instance UNLESS you get to the office right at opening, Then you get to watch the workers eat their carry out breakfast (which they go buy AFTER getting to work). Some things were a bit exaggerated, some by a lot, others by very little. Some things in your article might be a mistake but not a lie

  • Henry Wilson

    you are “successful” in mexico if you are a foreigner and manage to get through the day without being ripped off by some grifter business owner, manager, or employee.

  • MortimerSnerd

    …have been here for a while, on and off…mostly on. A few tricks to not get ripped off…
    1. Do not look like you have a lot of money, avoid any form of bling at all costs, especially, designer clothes, rings, jewelry and fancy watches.
    2. Look like a grub and do not look like a gringo tourist swaggering around the streets with a silly camera swinging from your neck.
    3. Learn some Spanish; especially numbers and how the money works. Use exact change and carry small bills wherever possible.
    4. NEVER EVER count your ATM money at or near the cajero, if it’s wrong count, you can’t do anything there anyway, grab and stuff money and card into pocket, leave quickly and wait till you have a moment of privacy.
    5. If possible travel or be with a Spanish speaking friend if you are buying something substantial.
    6. Do not use credit cards, unlike NOB they are not necessary here and you do incur a penalty of +3% on the currency exchange.
    7. Ladies, do not carry an ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ huge purse, leave it at home or it will soon be gone, ripped from your grasp by a grab n run..
    8. Blend in and get a tan… and look like a local.
    9. Never carry or flash large amounts of cash. Take just what you need for the outing.
    10. Take nothing you can’t afford to lose to the beach, especially that $800 IPhone that sings and dances for you.
    11. Finally… speaking of getting ripped off…leave that expensive NOB ‘plan phone’ with it’s super expensive minutes and roaming fees at home. Buy a $20 TelCel burner phone, then buy the $10/month amigo talk all you want to anywhere sin fronteira sure won’t regret that purchase.

  • Kherry McKay

    This is clever writing, and of course what’s best about it is its psychological savvy, how that’s interwoven with the practical suggestions for living in Mexico. I think one of this writer’s earlier columns said it well too: a friend of his told him, “If you let it, Mexico will kill you,” or words to that effect. I go back to this idea often, learning to relax and let things go. As I read comments here, I’m struck by the jadedness and hypertension I detect in some. Sometimes, I’ve found the same people in Mexico who might have wanted to rip me off are just as likely become friends if I treat them well, i.e., not as a superior gringo. Treating a Mexican right means maintaining a gentle sense of humor, attempting to speak Spanish, and honoring all that is entailed in the word ‘Mexican.’ Dog-eat-dog business practices are practiced everywhere in the world, or at least the developing world, and not just in Mexico. Haggling is par for the course. One time I gently nicked a car when I was backing up out of a parking lot in Villahermosa. The driver was a man. This guy’s wife got out and started screaming at me. The man got out, and he and I peered at the tiny nick on the back of his car, as if we were looking silently at a flea on the back of a bald priest’s head. I said I was sorry. He smiled. His wife stopped yelling, looking at me with surprise. We all went to dinner later and had a good time, and I’ve stayed in touch with the guy. Be gentle, people. Most Mexicans fear being taken advantage, thought of as dumb. If you treat all with respect, most will warm up to you. Thank you, B.K., for your insigtful prose.