How to Speak Like a Mexican: 8 Days a Week

There are 7 days in a week. I can prove it:

  1. Sunday
  2. Monday
  3. Tuesday
  4. Wednesday
  5. Thursday
  6. Friday
  7. Saturday

I can even prove it in Spanish:

  1. Domingo
  2. Lunes
  3. Martes
  4. Miércoles
  5. Jueves
  6. Viernes
  7. Sábado

And yet, in Mexico they typically refer to a week as “8 days”. Guess how long 2 weeks is in Mexico? 15 days.

Wrong, isn’t it? Well, maybe not.

Let’s say you’re talking to your friend Pepe on a Sunday, and you decide to get together again on the following Sunday. In English, we would say, “next Sunday” or “a week from today”. In Mexico, however, they might say “domingo en 8 días” (Sunday 8 days from now).

Turns out that in Mexico, they count the current day as well.

So if you’re planning coffee with Pepe 1 week from today (a Sunday), you would count the following days:

  1. Sunday (today)
  2. Monday
  3. Tuesday
  4. Wednesday
  5. Thursday
  6. Friday
  7. Saturday
  8. Sunday (the day you want to hang out with Pepe)

So next time a Mexican tells you they’ll see you in 8 days, they mean they’ll see you this day next week!

My Mexican Friends Were Right All Along

I tried sushi for the first time about 5 years ago, and it was love at first bite.

In Mexico, sushi is served with two kinds of soy sauce:

  1. Soy sauce with lime
  2. Soy sauce with jalapeño

I have always been enamoured with the lime soy sauce. (Seriously, don’t even try to give me sushi with regular soy sauce. It’s kinda gross.) The jalapeño soy sauce, however… not so much. I always thought, “Jalapeño soy sauce? What’s wrong with Mexicans?”

Then I started ordering a sushi roll that came with a side of chipotle mayo. HEAVEN. DIVINE. That little kick of spice was just perfect. Just the lime soy sauce was no longer enough to satisfy my weekly sushi binges. I NEEDED spicy with my sushi.

Then yesterday, I realized I had evolved to this:

My new-found need for spicy sushi has now led me to actually using the jalapeño soy sauce I used to make fun of Mexicans for. (bonus points if there’s chipotle mayo AND jalapeño soy sauce)

I’m becoming one of them. This should automatically qualify me for Mexican citizenship.

Somebody slap me when I start putting ketchup and worcestershire sauce on my pizza.

Need more proof I’m turning Mexican? Check these out:

 

What We’ve Been Up To

I know I’ve been writing a ton about our little adventures over the past few months, but I haven’t talked much about the day-to-day lately. With Tulum vacations and hanging out on Cancun beaches, what have we been doing between our mini vacations?

This semester, Jorge got a teaching job at a Cancun high school. He’s teaching calculus, geometry and physics, and he seems to really love it. I’ve seen him tutor his cousins before, so I knew teaching was really his thing. It’s fun to hear him talk about his students (he has over 40 students in each class. Yikes!) and to see him grading papers and making lesson plans at home. So proud!

For a few years, my goal has been to get enough freelance writing work so I can quit my day job and work from home. As much as I like my office job, it’s my dream to be able to go on tours, on vacation, etc (and write about it!) without having to limit myself to my vacation days. In the past few months I’ve gotten a few new freelance jobs, and it looks like I might be very close to my goal. Unfortunately, right now this means that I’m working 4 jobs!! I get home from work and continue working on the computer every evening. It’s been tiring, but I still enjoy it. Writing about being on vacation isn’t so bad!

A few weeks ago I also got to meet a blogger who I’ve known online for 3 years! Ang (of Football, Sushi and the Pursuit of Happiness) was staying at a Cancun resort with her fiance Steve. We got lunch at Fish Fritanga, which I hadn’t tried before but it was amazing, then went to Plaza La Isla to walk around and have some drinks.

The dogs have been pretty good, too. My idea of relaxation is being able to hang out at home with these lovely ladies…

Konan caught sleeping in our bed

Dolly with the puppy dog eyes

Suki in her favorite sleeping spot... on my purse

We also went to Cozumel over the weekend for Carnaval, and we got to snorkel with starfish! Pics to come. 🙂

Expat Life: Do You Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture?

There’s a lot of debate about just how much an expat should integrate into the local culture. During my years in Cancun, I’ve met many expats who hang out almost exclusively with Mexicans. I’ve met even more expats who have mostly expat friends and hardly speak any Spanish. I also know lots of people who fall somewhere in the middle. Some expats criticize others for living in an expat neighborhood, not learning Spanish, not socializing with Mexicans, etc etc etc.

Here’s my personal experience:

When I first came down to Cancun, I went to a Mexican university, had all Mexican friends and lived with Mexican roommates. For 4 years, I watched only Mexican TV (didn’t have enough money for cable), listened to mostly Mexican music and only talked to Mexican friends online (Facebook wasn’t around yet.) I would often miss home and my family, but at no point did I ever really miss the American culture. Still, with nobody around to understand the culture shock I was going through, I was often in a bad mood and sometimes became a little anti-social. There were great memories and my amazing college friends were unfailingly patient with my endless questions, but I often felt kind of alone. Sundays were always especially hard for me because Mexicans spend Sunday with the family… and I had no family here.

University Me with Damayanti, one of my best amigas in college and today 🙂

Soon before I graduated, Facebook became popular and I was once again able to be in touch with my old friends from back in the States. I also discovered celebrity gossip websites. Even though they’re a horrible habit, for some reason I felt that these gossip sites connected me in some small way to my culture.

Amigos Cesar, Pamela, Jhovana and Graduation Me

After I graduated, I began to work a job with a few other native English-speaking expats. They introduced me to some online expat communities and I began blogging. Finally I got cable TV, which in Mexico means lots of American TV shows (with Spanish subtitles, of course). At this stage, I still hold on to many of my Mexican friends and of course now I have a huge Mexican family through my husband Jorge, but lately I’ve become closer to my expat friends. It’s so great to be able to speak in Spanglish, rave about how great it is to live in Cancun and yes, occasionally gripe about things in Mexico that annoy us.

The current Me, hanging out with Mexican amiga Cyndi and Brazilian amiga Nadia

I’ve seen both sides, immersing myself in the culture 100% for 4 years, which allowed me to learn everything I possibly could from the Mexican culture, open up my mind and even take on a few cultural traits that I used to hate but now love. However, after leaning more toward the expat community in the past 3 years, I’ve found friendships where I can be more open about my frustrations and reclaim a bit of my “American-ness” without leaving behind everything I’ve learned.

The new me loves trashy American reality shows, enjoys Mexican banda music, listens to Top 40, eats tortas, only reads books in English, speaks 100% Spanish at home, speaks 100% Spanish at work, speaks Spanglish with her friends and loves to explore Mexico. I’m able to take the best of what I love from both countries and make my life my own.

That’s just my experience, though.

What do you think? Should expats be closer to the Mexican culture or their home culture?

Culture Shock Strikes Again

Even after 7 years in Cancun, I still go through culture shock from time to time (as evidenced in the infamous sheet shopping incident a few months ago). These downswings used to last weeks and weeks when I first moved down here, but now they typically only last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 days.

Today I went to lunch at Plaza Las Americas, downtown Cancun’s main mall. I was already frustrated that the ATM at work was broken (which seems to happen pretty much every payday… convenient) and I didn’t have enough money on me to buy lunch. The salad place at the food court informed me that they only accept cash. This wasn’t surprising, but it did begin a stream of curse words and arguments in my head.

  • “Why don’t most places in Mexico accept cards? They have the technology!”
  • “But wait… even the places that do accept cards always have problems with their machines not working.” (Starbucks, I’m looking at you.)
  • “If I were in the US, they’d let me buy a salad with a card. Heck, I bet they’d even have ATMs that don’t break down every 2 weeks!”
  • “Well now I have to walk aaaaaallll the way to the mall ATM just to get $100 pesos. FML.”
  • “Stupid Mexico with their stupid cash only policies.”

And then a miracle happened.

When I finally got back to the salad place with my cash in hand, the cashier gave me this with my meal:

That’s a free card worth 10 movie tickets at just $39 pesos each! (Just over $3 USD)

They may not accept cards at many places, but I’ll be darned if Mexico doesn’t have much better movie prices than the USA.

God bless you, Mexico.

Mexico vs USA: When to Move Out?

Last night, Jorge and I were talking about a friend of ours who recently moved out of his parents’ house at the age of 25.

  • My thoughts: Ok.
  • Jorge’s thoughts: Well that’s controversial!

In the USA, most people move out of their parents’ house when they get a steady job after high school. Others go off to college, live there for 4 years, then move their leftover stuff out of their parents’ house when they get a job after graduating. If anyone is still living with their parents after age 23 or 24, it’s most likely because for whatever reason, they can’t afford to live on their own (not uncommon in today’s economy).

In Mexico, things are quite different. People are much more dependent on their families. Mexicans typically don’t move out of their parents’ home until one of three things happens:

  • They decide to study in another part of the country (somewhat rare)
  • They get a job in another part of the country
  • They get married

Universities in Mexico don’t typically have dorms or any kind of on-site living facilities, so most Mexicans choose to go to school somewhere close to the house they grew up in. I had a few friends in college here in Cancun who were living with roommates since they came from another state, but most of my university classmates were still at their parents’ house. I also know several Mexicans who have gotten 2 or 3 college degrees, all while living at home. Once, a 25-year-old friend even told me, “I’m thinking about moving into my own place, but my mother would be heartbroken. She’d wonder where she went wrong!”

Even now at age 26, the vast majority of my Mexican friends still live with their parents. I do know a few newlywed couples who live in their own home, and Jorge of course moved out of his parents’ house when we got married (although we almost moved into my in-laws’ upstairs apartment to save money).

Jorge with his family 🙂

Personally this is a cultural aspect that still boggles my mind. As someone who grew up in a culture where you finish school then get the heck out, it’s hard to comprehend why someone would want to put their independence on hold until they get married. Obviously the Mexican system works quite well, so I can’t criticize it, and I can’t say there’s anything wrong about it (sometimes I even wish I could live rent-free) … I just don’t understand it on a personal level because I was surrounded by something completely different growing up.

It’s common for me to have strong personality clashes with my Mexican friends, and lately I’ve formed stronger friendships with other expats (Canadians, Brazilians, Americans, Brits, Australians, etc). I sometimes wonder if it’s because my expat friends and I been living independently for so many years (7 years for me), while most of my Mexican friends still live at home and have a different, more family-oriented mindset. Or maybe it’s some other cultural difference.

Since the day I moved here and to this very day 7 years later, the most common question I get asked by Mexicans I meet is, “And your parents were ok with you moving away? What did they say?”

Weekend Recap

My weekend was pretty average, but lots of fun! Here’s the rundown:

Friday Night

Jorge and I finished watching Game of Thrones season 1.

It’s a good series, but they really cut back on the important battle scenes. (and by “cut back on”, I mean “cut out entirely”)  It’s fun to watch, but I’m liking the books a lot better. Isn’t that always the case?

Saturday

Saturday morning was work, work, work. Blaaaaah!

Saturday afternoon, Jorge and I went with our friends Damayanti and Leo to one of our fave downtown Cancun restaurants: Muellecito. They have an outdoor terrace with a palapa roof that I looove, and the food (mostly Mexican seafood) is amazing.

I'm obsessed with their free shots of "caldo de camaron"... shrimp broth. Spicy and delicious!

They always serve chips with numerous sauces (tamarindo, chipotle, etc etc). Since I'm *still* on a diet, I limited myself to 2 chips with chipotle mayo.

My lunch! Shrimp burger, yum 🙂 Again, thanks to the diet, I had to give all my fries to Jorge. However, I can tell you from past experience that they are delicious.

In the early evening, we drove around with Damayanti and Leo while they ran some errands, then we put my diet resolve to the test even further with a trip to Peter Piper Pizza, which is pretty much exactly the same as Chuck E Cheese. (We’re so exciting on Saturday nights.) We received possibly the worst service I’ve ever gotten in my life (they even ran out of pizza sauce at one point…), but it was still a fun time with friends.

Sunday

At 8:30 am Sunday morning I got a text message from Nadia saying “Wanna go for a run right now?” Since I still had awhile before church, I said sure, and we met up at the park at 9. We ran/walked 2 laps around the park (4 kilometers total), and we even saw a 5-foot snake cross the path right in front of us! Scary…

I had to cut our run short to go to church. I’m lucky my church is casual because I showed up in sweaty running clothes, but nobody seemed to mind. Still, if I ever run that early on a Sunday, I’ll make sure to bring clothes to change into next time!

Sunday afternoon I did nothing. I had some lunch, took a nap on the couch, watched some Animal Planet and played with the dogs.

Suki also had a relaxing Sunday afternoon, it would seem.

When Jorge got home from work in the evening, we showed up late to his little cousin Sofia’s birthday party. We spent an hour eating cake (or veggies, for me) and having a laugh with Jorge’s parents.

Camila and Sofia "smiling" for the camera

Jorge, his parents and some close family friends 🙂

How was your weekend?

No Fun Weekend

I tell you what… I am not looking forward to this weekend. We’ve been to the beach 4 Sundays in a row, and this weekend will not be nearly as exciting. Jorge’s work schedule has been changed, and he’ll be working the graveyard shift tonight and Saturday night. Hopefully that means we’ll get to spend some time together Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but it will be on a somewhat tight schedule, which I hate. That’s the bad part of living in a tourist destination like Cancun: work schedules can be ridiculous.

Sunday morning is the 5K I’ve been training for, and I’m kinda dreading it. Training hasn’t been going as planned. Yesterday I was supposed to run 20 minutes, but I only ran… well, let’s just say nowhere close to 20 minutes. Today after work, I’m going to try again. At any rate I’ve done 5K several times at the park, just never running more than half of it. I will be fine, if slow.

The Mexico vs Brazil men’s soccer gold medal match is tomorrow morning, though! I’ll try to catch some of it, even though I’ll be at the office.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Religion in a Bicultural Marriage

I grew up in a pretty conservative Presbyterian church in Virginia. Jorge grew up in a Catholic church in Cancun. Both of our families had/have leading roles in our respective churches, so religion played an important part in both of our lives growing up.

When we were dating, there were several times when I wanted to discuss religion to find out exactly what Jorge’s beliefs were and how they lined up with mine. Anyone who has lived in Mexico knows that this is like pulling teeth. Even though Mexicans are admirably firm in their beliefs and principles, there’s still a cultural barrier that prevents them from talking about it. The Mexican culture doesn’t like to talk about anything that could lead to conflict, including religion and politics. (This is starting to change a little bit with our generation, internet and social media, but that’s a post for another day.) If you bring up religion or politics at a gathering, Mexicans will usually close up a bit… or maybe Americans are just a little too open. I guess it depends on who you ask. 😉

After several years, Jorge and I were slowly but surely beginning to discover that despite our different upbringings, our core beliefs were exactly the same.

Once we got engaged, I had some very good conversations with Jorge, his parents and my parents as we planned what our wedding would look like. In the Catholic religion (at least here in Mexico), you need to be married under the Catholic church. We couldn’t do that in our case because I’m not Catholic. Jorge might have been able to get some sort of permission to marry me under his church anyway, but I have some disagreements with the Catholic faith that prevented me from having a Catholic-approved marriage under good conscience.

With a little (not a lot) of pressure from both sides of the family, Jorge and I compromised. We had an outdoor religious ceremony at our wedding, but we made a point to combine wedding traditions from Protestant and Catholic faiths so that everyone involved would feel comfortable. My uncle John (who performed the ceremony) even had a talk with my in-laws beforehand, which helped to ease a lot of their concerns a few days in advance. We received many compliments from both sides of the family on how beautiful the ceremony was, so it was a huge success thanks mostly to my uncle.

Jorge with his mom holding the "lazo" at our wedding

For awhile after we got married, neither of us were going to church. I don’t have any good excuse for this. Sunday is my only day off and I love to sleep in, so I was always too lazy to find something. Last December, after seeing several online friends mention an English-speaking church here in Cancun, I decided it was time to rebuild my relationship with God and began attending. This non-denominational Protestant church is small but with a great community atmosphere and excellent sermons.

Jorge and I had decided long ago to try to look around for a church that made us both happy, and he agreed to go with me once his job started to give him Sundays off 2 months ago. He seems to really like it, and we’ve been together a few times.

At our "legal" wedding ceremony (different from the religious one)

That’s where we stand now. Time will tell if Jorge continues to like our current church or if he wants to explore more options later on. If we were in the US, there would be tons of options that could offer us a more solid compromise… maybe an Episcopalian church or some sort of Unitarian church. Here in Cancun, however, we’re limited to mostly Catholic churches and only a few Protestant options. We also go to his church when we’re in the neighborhood or on special family occasions. I really like the church he grew up in, but again certain beliefs prevent me from ever officially joining.

Our talks about church used to get a little tense and end in hurt feelings. Even though our beliefs about God line up, we both have different ideas of what a church should look like and what religious traditions should include, but I feel like things are beginning to fall into place after 5 years. Now that we’ve both seen that there are churches out there that we both like, we have more hope for the future.

Do you and your significant other have the same religious beliefs? What compromises have you made?