The Expat Etiquette

I came across this today, I thought I would share.  If any of you are considering being expats in Mexico, you might want to check this out and take heed.  I got this chart from the Playa Times,


A lot of expats and tourists that come to Mahahual do not practice this Expat Etiquette much, and I see it every day.  It is Saturday morning, no football, nothing much to do, so today I will break down some these etiquette rules with some examples that I have seen.

“Don’t Assume Your Country is Better”  I have heard this a lot during my time in Mahahual and Mexico.  Expats who sit around and complain about how much better things are in the USA, than here in Mahahual.  They complain about the Mexicans who live here, (but excuse me this is their country, we are just guests), look down on Mexicans, and other things about life here.  They complain internet is slow sometimes, well we are in middle of jungle, and internet costs about $20 usd a month, compared to $100-$200 usd a month in the USA.  I have come to realize some people just complain about everything, whether they are in the USA or Mahahual.

Sure I will admit, there are a lot of things better in the USA than Mahahual for me.  More choices of places to eat, air conditioning everywhere, sports, and other luxuries are some of the things I think are better in the USA, but I don’t sit around and bitch about it, I make due.  I am here because I want to be, not because I am hiding out somewhere for the winter.  So sometimes I want to ask people, “If everything is better in the USA?  Then what in the hell are you doing in Mahahual”?

“Learn some Spanish”  Try to learn some Spanish, it is not that hard.  Here in Mahahual you can get by without knowing a single word of Spanish, I know expats here, that have not learned hardly any Spanish at all, and they come here every year.  It is just common courtesy to try to learn the language of the country you are living in.  That is why Belize is so popular with a lot of expats from the USA, everything is in English there, and spoken everywhere.

Here in Mahahual you can get by, because of tourism almost everybody speaks English.  I will admit my Spanish is not the greatest in the world, but I get by, and try to talk Spanish as much as I can to the locals here out of respect.  I attempt sometimes in Spanish, and then they reply in English, but I think they respect my effort to try to speak the language.  I had a young attractive Mexican woman the other day ask me how come that after living here five years in Mahahual, I did not speak perfect Spanish.  I thought for a second, and then I asked her how long had she been living and working in Mahahual.  She told me almost five years.  I then asked her, “Well how come, your English is not better, you can barely speak English, my Spanish is better than your English, You work serving tourists from the USA everyday.”  She just smiled and got my point.

True story, I was in a car with a woman from Texas down here looking for a place to stay.  I knew some Mexican friends of mine who might have a place for her to stay on the beach. We all piled in a SUV to drive down the south beach road.  It was me and her, three Mexican women, and a Mexican guy, people who I have known a long time.  Well as were driving down the road, all the Mexicans in the car were having a good time and talking in Spanish.  The woman from Texas turns to me and asks me why they were speaking Spanish, and not English since she was in the car.  I told her she was in Mexico, people speak Spanish here.  She then told me she knew that the Mexican guy spoke English, why didn’t everybody speak English since she was in the car, so she could understand. I then told her with that attitude she will not make last long in Mahahual.  She did not make it thirty days before she returned home.

So my point is, if you come to Mahahual, at least try to attempt to speak some Spanish. That will go a long way here.

“Broaden Your Social Circle”  Now this is one I don’t quite understand.  We have a lot of expats here that just socialize and hang out with other expats, God forbid, they have any social contact with Mexicans, besides being waited on.  We have several groups of expats like that here in Mahahual, they only hang out or eat at certain restaurants, and only keep together in their social circle.  I even have people who come to Mahahual off of my blog that end up doing that.  I don’t understand why people would travel 2,000 miles from the USA, and hang out with the same kind of people they hung out with in the USA.  I guess I am different, I like meeting new and different people every day.

We have expats here that live behind walls, and hardly have any contact with the local population.  Me, I am different, I live, work, and eat among Mexicans.  The place I am staying now, K’ay Kook hotel, I am the only “Gringo” staying here, among all the Mexican tour and port workers.  I like that, if I am going to live in Mexico, I am going to live in Mexico with Mexicans, not isolated with a bunch of expats behind a wall somewhere.

I pretty much know all the local Mexicans in town, and they know me.  Everywhere I go on my bike every day, the local Mexicans shout out greetings to me.  I pretty much shop and eat at the same places every day and week, and they are all owned and run by local Mexicans here.  They are nice to me, and talk to me all the time, and are very friendly towards me, much more than some of the expats here.  But that is another story for the near future.  So my social circle in Mexico is almost all local Mexicans, with some European, Canadian, and USA expats thrown in, but the majority of my contact is with Mexicans.  I was the same way when I lived in Belize, I hung out and had social contact with the local Belizeans much more than the expats there.

So if you really want to experience life in Mahahual, expand your social circle from more than just sitting at a bar with expats, and get out and meet some local Mexicans, you will learn a lot, and broaden your horizons. I learn and experience something new and different every day from the local Mexican and Europeans here, much more than I could get from the local USA expats.

“Involve Yourself in Finding Solutions”  We do have some expats here that practice this, they volunteer, do animal clinics, and there is even an expat woman’s group or club here.  A good way to get involved in Mahahual is through some of these groups.  There is a young lady from Canada who has started a turtle conservation project here.  Also recently a recycling and keep plastic straws off the beaches project has been started by expats here.  So if you want to get involved, there are numerous things you can do if you are an expat in Mahahual.

“Broaden Your Horizons”  Don’t just go eat or drink at businesses owned by people from the USA, if you are from the USA.  There is one expat woman here, who goes around and brags that she will only eat at two restaurants owned by local people from the USA, and she will not eat at a local Mexican establishment here.  Me, I eat every day from one of the local places that owned by either Mexicans, Europeans, or Italians.  In fact, my favorite place at the moment is a nice little place hidden between my laundry and the Crazy Lobster.  They have good food there, and the girls are from Oaxaca, and they have a unique take on Mexican food there.

So if you want to broaden your horizons here, quit just hanging out at the local establishments with the other local expats, there are a lot of interesting people in Mexico.

“Do Your Homework” My advice is to learn as much as you can about the people and culture of Mexico.  I try to include a lot about Mexico and the culture on this blog to help people more understand living here.  Life is different and unique here.  The best advice I can give you is say hello or greet everyone you come in contact with in Mahahual.  I used to be bad about that, not greeting the locals every day.  Well several older local Mexican women set me straight on that, now I am “Buenas Dias, Buenas Noche” to every local Mexican I see now, even the little kids.  Mexicans are very cordial and polite, so get used to saying greetings, or kissing women on the cheek, wherever you go.

So I hope these Expat Etiquette tips will help some of you out if you are thinking of living or retiring in Mahahual.  If you don’t like my Expat Etiquette tips, or disagree with them, there is always Belize.

Thanks for reading,

Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina


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