It’s Monday, marking the beginning of my last week in Mexico. I fly back to the UK on Thursday and arrive early on Friday morning! It still doesn’t quite feel real to be leaving after a year and half of living and working here, living with my boyfriend and his family, and experiencing the ups and downs of “real life” (as opposed to student life) in Guadalajara.
Both times I have lived in Mexico have been important learning experiences. Both times have been very different and very difficult in their own ways, but I don’t regret anything, even though this time around, living here definitely hasn’t been easy or particularly enjoyable. I’m a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and I think I needed to have this experience in order to make better decisions for myself and to get a step closer to the life I really want. (I still don’t know exactly what that is, but at least I’ve kind of got an idea of what the next step will be, and I’ve ruled out Mexico as a ‘future forever home.’)
Firstly, I’ve learnt that trying to freelance full-time just does not work for me. I’m not good, at all, at disciplining myself, even when making a living depends on it. I suppose I should have known this sooner, but somehow, I thought that if I had nothing else to do, I’d somehow get myself into gear and build a habit of writing non-stop. What I actually learnt is, I’m much more productive when I have something that makes me get out of bed, something that prevents me from just watching Netflix all day. I’ve realised that I don’t write any less, even when I’m working full-time. In these 5 months since I quit my teaching job, I’ve missed the social aspect of going to work – although I don’t miss that job at all, so my time in Mexico has also taught me that I’m probably not going to pursue a career as a teacher. I did find, though, that I’m good at teaching and I love working with kids, so whilst it’s not in my plan at least for a few years, it’s an option for if absolutely nothing else works out.
Anyway, this post wasn’t supposed to be about everything I’ve learnt about myself from living in Mexico, so I won’t go on too much about the little life philosophies I’ve picked up. I will write about just one more thing, though – I’ve learnt a whooooole lot about privilege. I’ve realised that I’m extremely lucky to have been born in England and even though the UK government is horrible, my nationality has made my life really quite easy. I was able to get a good education easily. I went to university without thinking too much about how I was going to afford it. Yes, I have a lot of debt, but does it affect my daily life in any way? No. I was also able to travel to Mexico with no questions asked. I got my teaching job within a week, the visa process was simple, and I’ve never been grilled on entry about why I’m there or what I’m doing. I imagine it would be equally easy for me to travel, work, or even study in most countries. I never had to work so hard and jump through so many hoops, like my boyfriend is doing now, just to set foot in another country.
That’s the good news, though – even though I’ll be travelling alone now, Mario will (almost definitely) be joining me to study his Master’s Degree in Manchester in September! Of course, there is still a lot of paperwork to do and an English exam to pass, but knowing him, now he’s got his eye on the prize, nothing will stop him. (He also needs to raise a lot of money by the way. If you want to help him out (if you believe in love!!!!) he is campaigning with FundMyTravel to try and make a dent in the tuition fees – here’s the link if you can and want to donate.)
I will probably write a post in the future about family life in Mexico, because it’s so different from in England. Living here has made me appreciate my family 100 times more and realise just how lucky I am that they have always been able to provide for me, but at the same time, they taught me to be independent.
ANYWAY, I’m going to start writing my actual post, now, if anyone is still reading after that loooong introduction!
Yes, living in Mexico as a Brit has been hard, but I’ve also had so many positive experiences and there is so much I love about this country. Mexico will always be my second home, even though now, I’m ready to go home-home. Here are some of the many things I will miss when I get back to the UK.
Mexican food: It shouldn’t come as any surprise that food makes the top of this list. Tacos al pastor, tortas ahogadas, elotes, rajas con queso, tamales, pozole, gorditas…and of course, Mexican coffee. I will also miss the huge variety of cheap, juicy, flavourful fresh fruit. I mean, I know we have pineapples and avocados in the UK, but they’re just. not. the. same.
Sunshine: Although I hear the UK is actually enjoying a pretty gorgeous summer at the moment, I will miss the consistency of Mexican weather. Something I really dislike about England is not only the windy, rainy, cold weather that dominates the majority of the year, but the ever-changing nature that makes it almost impossible to dress appropriately. Whilst it might be raining and thundering when you set off in the morning, you will regret that jumper, coat and boots when it suddenly gets sunny and 20°C.
Salsa Dancing: …and the variety of options for a cheap, fun, sociable evening or night out. I will miss the friendliness of Mexican people and the number of events that make it so easy to meet people. One of my favourite activities here in Guadalajara is the free salsa class that is on every Monday on Avenida Chapultepec. I have also enjoyed going to language tandem events and getting to know people from all over Mexico, and all over the world.
Friendly people: Ever since I first arrived in Guadalajara, I have been made to feel so at home and welcomed. People have always been so friendly, helpful and warm, even when my Spanish wasn’t great, people often went out of their way to help me. I feel like it’s possible to make a friend pretty much anywhere, as the way of life almost demands conversation with people with whom you cross paths.
Travel opportunities: I will definitely miss living in such a geographically diverse country. Mexico has everything – some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, mountains, cosmopolitan cities and traditional, indigenous towns, and I think Guadalajara has some of the best of everything. It’s a big city with modern, urban districts, but it also has the historic centre. It’s just a few hours’ drive from the beach, and it has huge, green parks and forests right in the centre. Guadalajara is known for being a hub for Mexican culture and has been an amazing place to be immersed in heritage and tradition, whilst being connected to the rest of the country. I’m grateful that I have had the chance to travel to so many different parts of Mexico.
And now, the things I will not miss. I’m trying not to be too negative here, but there are some things I just can not reconcile with about the Mexican way of life.
Sharing. Everything. : As selfish as it might sound, I’m looking forward to my stuff being mine. From my personal experience and from what friends have told me, it’s quite normal in a Mexican household for everything to be much more communal than I’m used to, and than I like. I like to have clear boundaries concerning what is mine, that I have bought for myself or what is my personal space, and what is free-for-all. I don’t mind sharing my clothes if you ask, but my food had better be in the fridge when I want it and yeah, I’m not going to be happy if someone slept in my room and left it a mess when I was away for the weekend.
Sweating: I know I said I like the weather here, and for the most part, I do, but it seems like the summers are getting progressively hotter each year (thanks, global warming.) Sometimes, the heat is just a bit too uncomfortable and tiring, and I will not miss sweating buckets any time anyone or anything touches me.
Bugs: Mosquitos. Flies. Spiders. These big, long-legged, flying monsters that I don’t even know what they are. Most of all, cockroaches. They are all fine outside, but Mexican houses tend to have open areas or parts that aren’t covered by windows or roofs, so insects getting inside is inevitable. Also, I’ve never had the misfortune of encountering a scorpion, but it’s been one of my greatest fears about living here.
Noise: The excessive noise is actually something that bothered me even when I was a student here. I’ve never liked unnecessary shouting, but living in Mexico, it’s something you just have to get used to. Except I can’t get used to it. Please, please just shut up. This goes for people, vehicles, those horrific contraptions that are for grilling elotes, and those cars that drive around playing advertisements through a megaphone.
Lack of organisation: …and lack of efficiency. I don’t mean it to be too critical, but if anyone were to ask me (and they do ask me), what is the thing I like least about living in Mexico, it’s this. I feel like so much time is wasted waiting around for things and for people, things that could just be done are never just done without lots of talking, discussing, pointless planning, and often involving people who have nothing to do with the case in point. It’s like that workplace annoyance that everyone is familiar with, ‘the meeting that could have been an email,’ but multiple times a day, in all areas of life. I guess if you have grown up with this, it’s okay and it works for you, but coming from England where ‘time is money,’ I don’t even want to get used to this.
I hope none of these points sound too mean. It would never be my intention to criticise another culture and the way they do things or to imply that another culture is wrong, there are just some things that clash with my own personality, which has a lot to do with my own culture. The time and place also play a part here – how I felt about some of these points was different when I was a student, but they don’t work for me here and now.
Wow, this post ended up being much longer than I expected and I still feel like I have a lot to say. Let me say one more time, the last thing I ever want to do is cast a negative shadow on Mexico or on my experience here, or to sound ungrateful for any of the opportunities this country and its people have given me, or how they have treated me. I would honestly recommend travelling to Mexico to anyone, but those staying for a long period of time should be prepared for culture shock. I truly feel that anyone can benefit from experiencing Mexican culture – it is eye-opening, giving you a new perspective on your way of living, and has taught me a lot about how to treat other people.
Thank you so much for reading this long, heavy post! Wish me luck on my next adventure!
Featured Image from iMagazine