|Over the many years of watching gringos come and go down here in Baja, both tourists and ex-pats alike, I think the biggest issue I see is how much is taken for granted. We assume so much. And often are so surprised.
I faced it myself when I first moved down here. I continue to run into things that make me scratch my head or cock an eyebrow. Coming from the U.S. or other countries, we just assume certain things are “a given.”
Like water. . .
You turn on the tap and water comes out. Usually, as much as you want. Here in Mexico, that’s not always so. If you ever see the big plastic black tanks on top of people’s homes and businesses, those are water storage units. Water only comes several times a week. At a trickle. Only at certain times of the day.
If you run out, you run out until they turn on the main source again. Sometimes they don’t have enough water to send. Sometimes, the water doesn’t get turned on. You have to deal with it. Sometimes you have to hire a truck to bring you water, like our restaurant, if there’s no water, it’s hard to run a restaurant.
At hotels you just use as much water as you want, but most tourists don’t realize that the water is actually coming many times for a storage tank at the hotel that has to be filled by a truck almost daily.
Like mail. . .
How often do you see a Mexican mail box? Yes, there’s a post office, but most folks don’t know where it is. You never see anyone delivering mail. When you have a bill, often the company hires a guy on a bike to drive around and toss the mail at your house or business.
If it lands under the car or in a bush, too bad. You’re still responsible for paying the bill. Also, most folks will line up for hours at the cable, phone or electric company to pay their bills. They don’t send them in the mail. (But then again..most folks don’t have checking accounts either!)
If you do send by mail, it can take days or weeks for arrival!
Like phones. . .
Simple. You get a phone. You pay the bill. You should have phone service, right? NOT. Many parts of Baja and Mexico are still pretty remote. Phone service is spotty or non-existent. Even in major metro areas, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get a signal.
Correspondingly, we are used to pretty much being able to resolve anything with a phone call. If you pick up the phone to call for help, a service, information, or any of the myriad things, it doesn’t mean anything. It just means your phone works. It doesn’t mean you are any closer to resolving your issue. Prepare to be put on hold…forever! Or the department you want is not available. Or no longer exists. Or the line simply goes dead!
Like Service. . .
We often make jokes about the cable guy or the washing machine guy taking all day to make a home visit back in the U.S. 10 a.m. could mean 3 p.m.
That would be “express” service in Mexico. They’ll get there when they get there. It’s just the way it is. Best thing is to get used to it!
There’s a general rule that if you’re told “manana” (tomorrow) three times, it’s best to find someone else.
Also, don’t assume they’ll have the part either…(see the next section). Usually it means, checking out the problem and then coming back…”manana!”
Like Repairs. . .
North of the border, something is busted…your car…a light switch…the air-conditioner…a TV…something in the garden…the sink or toilet…
You call someone or run to Home Depot or Walmart. Another wrong assumption. In the Mexican version of Murphy’s law, the more you need the thing (like a stopped up toilet or your car) the greater the likelihood, no one will have your part or it has to be ordered from someplace else. Which is further complicated because remember…no mail service!
Like Traffic. . .
We make fun of drivers in Mexico. But, you do NOT need to take a driving test to get a license in Mexico. You need to take a blood test! Yes, that’s right. You take a blood test and you then take the results to the Mexican DMV. Vampires or people with strange driving diseases are not allowed to get a license. Whether you know the rules of the road are irrelevant. If your blood is red and you can touch the peddles and brakes, you’re good to go.
And speaking of good-to-go…don’t assume anyone stops at stop signs…signals when they turn…stays in their lanes…has headlights or break lights...knows how to read…or can see above the dashboard! Things that we normally assume are a given when we drive elsewhere!
That being said, there seems to be fewer traffic accidents because people drive defensively and everyone drives the same!
How often I get asked, “Where do we go for real Mexican food? We want to eat where the locals eat!” The assumption is that they want the authentic version of a Mexican chain restaurant like we see in the state. Enchiladas…Tacos…Margaritas…chips and salsa. Surely, there must be one on every street corner!
Actually, places that have that kind of fare are “Americanized” Mexican restaurants. And, usually if you find a restaurant like that, you’ll usually find tourists and gringos there also thinking they’re eating “real Mexican food.”
Go where you see the locals eat and you’ll find seafood places…beef places…tacos stands…hot dog carts (yes hot dog carts unlike any you have ever experienced!)…You won’t be disappointed!
Just remember…the overall rule in Mexico…if you want it fast, it probably won’t happen. Lower your expectations. It’s really part of the lifestyle. So, just go with the flow!