12 Misconceptions about Mexico

Here are a couple of articles I thought I would share today.  These are some things I think people will find very interesting.



12 Misconceptions about Mexico

In the minds of most people, Mexico is usually seen as a beach resort destination or a corrupt narco-state run by drug lords. However, the majority of people don’t know the truth about Mexico, its culture, and its people. Their opinion is based on stereotypes and bad press and because of this they’re scared to go to Mexico. Below I present 12 misconceptions about Mexico – a country that I definitely recommend to both visit and live in.

1 – Mexico’s real name is: United Mexican States
Mexico is divided into 31 states, plus the Federal District. Each state has its own laws, regulations and police, similar to the United States of America. When in a different state from the one you live in, your phone is practically always roaming.

2 – Problems with the name of the capital Angel
Right, the majority of people think that the capital of Mexico is Mexico City. However, that’s only partially true. The actual capital is Distrito Federal (DF) – the Federal District. It can be confusing because the Mexico City metropolitan area lies within DF and parts of the State of Mexico. However, only the inhabitants of DF can say they live in the capital.

3 – Mexican food abroad is not actually Mexican
Everyone seems to love Mexican food, so much so that it was recently classified as an irreplaceable part of the cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. Although, outside of Mexico what people refer to as “Mexican food” is more often than not actually Tex-Mex. For example, in Mexico nobody actually eats burritos Chipotle style or filled with rice (I know that in northern Mexico burritos are popular, however I meant burritos from US fast food chains). Not only that, most authentic Mexican food is not very spicy or hot – it’s actually sour due to the amount of limes (in Spanish simply called lemons).

4 – Mexicans don’t always have dark skin
When my friends look through my photos taken during my stay in Mexico, I often hear ‘he/she doesn’t look Mexican’. Assuming that all Mexicans have dark skin and black hair is a huge mistake as there are plenty of Mexicans that are as white as Northern Europeans. Not only that, in big cities like Mexico City there exist huge communities of Mexicans with Jewish and European roots. [I’m not being racist, it’s nothing bad! I’m simply making a statement referring to the fact that plenty of times people were surprised to see that my Mexican friends resembled Europeans – they simply weren’t aware that anyone from Mexico looks like this]

5 – Mexican Spanish is way different
As mentioned in my previous note on Mexican slang, Mexican Spanish is unique. For example, in Mexico torta doesn’t mean cake, it means sandwich. Also, sope is not soup, but a so-called ‘Mexican pizza’ (of course it’s not an actual pizza, but it is similar to the concept of a pizza – dough, sauce, and toppings).

6 – Mexico is actually safer than most people think
According to US travel advisory board: ‘Mexico City (also known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect. See also the discussion in the section on Estado de Mexico for areas within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area.’
I agree completely. The place is actually safer than some of the big cities in America or even Europe. Of course bad things happen like anywhere else in the world, but in Mexico most homicides happen between the drug gangs, not regular citizens.

7 – Mexico isn’t a third world country

Arcos Bosques
The term ‘third world’ was invented during the Cold War as one of three geo-political divisions of alignment. Countries aligned with the US were considered “first world”, those aligned with the Soviet Union were “second world”, and non-aligned countries were “third world”. Although the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the term “third world” became synonymous with poverty in colloquial speech while the other two terms disappeared. If one were to rank countries by GDP per capita, Mexico lies somewhere between Turkey and Brazil. Like any developed state, it offers plenty of modern hotels, houses and exclusive restaurants. On the other hand, the gap between poor and rich is quite big – while some households have a maid and a driver, most others don’t even have enough to live on.

8 – Mexico isn’t always hot
Mexico is a big country, therefore the weather varies. Some zones are indeed perpetually hot, but in some areas it even snows sometimes. Central Mexico has a high altitude and so temperatures vary throughout the year.

9 – Women in Mexico are more privileged than in other Latin American countries
Despite the stereotype that Mexican women are constantly abused, women in Mexico are actually quite privileged. In Mexico City there are women-only buses and special sections for women on the subway. Maybe for some people this doesn’t seem like much of a privilege, but let me give you the example of Turkey where women in public transport are constantly being abused and nobody is trying to protect them in any way. The Turkish government hasn’t even considered creating a special women-only section. Also, Mexican men are very caballerosos, meaning that they always open the door for women, pick them up before the date/meeting, and usually pay for everything. Funnily enough, according to research conducted in Mexico City in 2013, it turns out that many women actually prefer to use the general section of the subway instead of the women-only one because men kindly give them a seat while other women don’t.

10 – Cancun or Baja California don’t represent Mexico as a whole
Tourists usually only know about two Mexican locations: Cancun and Baja California. However, those places don’t represent the whole country at all if you visit them as a tourist in the so-called ‘zona Hotelera‘. Both places are very ‘Americanized’ – everyone speaks English and things are expensive. However, outside of the big resorts, these places are not very nice. Mexicans usually go to different resort towns such as Acapulco, Playa del Carmen, Huatulco, and many others.roma norte

11 – Mexicans don’t celebrate 5 de Mayo. Independence Day is on 15 of September
Mexico declared independence on September 27th 1821, but the beginning of the independence war was Sept 16th 1810 – the day that’s celebrated as independence day. Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican independence day, it only commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862 when Mexico won against the French army and it’s pretty much only celebrated in Puebla and by Mexican immigrants in the United States.

12 – Mexico is in North America
A comment under the post reminded me that I often correct people when it comes to the geographical location of Mexico. People usually think that since Mexico is a part of Latin America it is located in South America or Central America. Mexico is actually a part of North America, along with the USA and Canada.


14 Fun Facts about Mexico You Might Not Have Known

1 – Cacti don’t grow everywhere
That’s right – cacti simply don’t grow everywhere in Mexico, like for instance in the middle of the road in Mexico City. To be honest it’s kind of hard to find them in big cities, unless you visit a northern part of the country or go to a desert. However, finding a cactus (called nopal) to eat is pretty easy if you like tacos… and tasty.cactus

2 – Street food is the best
I’d compare Mexico to Asia in the sense of food. The best tacos are those that one can buy from street stalls, not a posh restaurant.

3 – Mexicans dress very well to work
Mexican dress code is very strict, that’s why you can see men wearing suits even when they’re driving a bus. People do care how you dress, so if you’re interviewing with a Mexican company no matter how good you are you should remember to dress nicely.

4 – Phone numbers are complicated
For instance, let’s say my cell-phone number in Mexico was 55 59 89 51 56. Now, if you’re calling or texting from another cell phone you dial this exact number. If you call from a local phone you need to add (0-44) before the number. If you text from a foreign cell-phone you need to add (+52), however if you want to call from a foreign number you need to add (+52 1).

5 – Tampons are a sensitive topic
Tampons are still a novelty in Mexico, even tho a lot of people tend to argue that saying this makes Mexico look bad. A lot of people have either not heard about them at all or are scared to use them claiming they aren’t very hygienic. Obviously, there are some tampons available at the supermarket, but if you’re used to American standards they would seem awful to you. Moreover my friend and I got stopped for 30 min, because the police didn’t know what tampons are and had to check what do we use them for.
[After reading your comments I see it’s a sensitive topic. One way or another there’s nothing bad in using tampons or not, it’s just different.] 

6 – You shouldn’t throw toilet paper in the toiletpaper
Mexico isn’t different than other places in Central America in this sense. You should throw toilet paper in a bin, not in a toilet bowl. Not surprisingly, many Latin Americans abroad have trouble adjusting to flushing toilet paper down the toilet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but none of the hostels I’ve stayed in around Mexico allowed me to flush down toilet paper.

7 – Local police pretends to check drivers
In Mexico the majority of people just drive away after a few drinks. It’s not a surprise when the police simply stops a car and asks the driver: ‘Have you been drinking?’. When you answer ‘no’, you’re free to go.

8 – Corona beer isn’t very popular and considered good
In Mexico, Corona is considered a bad beer. I’m not saying people don’t drink it at all, but it’s not a no.1 Mexican beer. It’s similar to the situation in Australia where only a few people drink Foster’s and Holland where not so many people like Heineken. If someone does order a Corona in Mexico, it definitely won’t be served with a lime on the top of the bottle.

9 – There are many words for corn
When it comes to the meaning of words that describe corn Mexico is like the North Pole and the words for snow. However the corn in general is called maiz, but there are various words for corn in different forms.
[You were asking which ones, so there we go: elotes, panizo, millo, nixtamal. Compare it to English: CORN]

10 – In 2008 the Mexican city of Torreon imposed fines for putting on make-up or shaving with an electric razor while driving
Clearly, there were too many accidents on the road.

11 – Mexican children do not receive presents on Christmas Day
Don’t worry, kids do receive gifts, and they might even get them twice. The bigger celebration, however, is on the day of Three Kings on January 6th.

pollitos12 – You can buy colorful poultry
In Mexico you can purchase unusual, at least for foreigners, pets. I personally had a duckling (don’t worry, it wasn’t blue or pink, I had a normal cute duckling), but people often keep chickens in regular apartments. Moreover, some bigger street markets also offer colorful dyed birds – what’s not a good thing, but you can see plenty of those at different markets.

13 – Mexicans are the 2nd fattest nation in the world
A lot of Mexicans are huge – over 70% of all Mexicans are overweight, what makes the country the 2nd most obese nation. After all tacos are very tasty. [It’s a joke about tacos, don’t get offended.]

14 – Mexico City sinks 10 inches every year
I guess that’s what you get when you build city on a big lake. However, don’t take this too seriously, the city is more than just fine and there’s no need to worry.


Thanks for reading,

Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

One thought on “12 Misconceptions about Mexico

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