The one travel sin more serious than being the token tourist aimlessly wandering the streets of Mexico City? Being the “Ugly American” in Mexico.
The majority of us adventure for all the right reasons, but our recent flight from Los Cabos proved there are some who go full-on “Ugly American” when they travel to Mexico. We don’t know if it’s the tequila or the fact that the Mexican culture is so welcoming, but some travelers heading to Mexico majorly lack self-awareness and come across as bulls in a China shop.
Whether it's your first time traveling to Mexico or your 100th adventure, it never hurts to brush up on your etiquette before you takeoff.
Here are ways you may be coming across as an Ugly American when you travel to Mexico:
You Judge Everything Through Your American Lens
One of the most common signs you’re an Ugly American when you travel to Mexico? You expect everything to be exactly the same as it is in the United States. Be it the water pressure, the mattress sizes, the quality (or lack) of air conditioning, the speed of restaurant service, the dinner time (hint: it's usually much later in Mexico), some of the things you may consider "standard" are not necessarily so.
Our advice? Remember you are the one visiting Mexico so check your all-USA, all day routine.
You Lean Into Cliches
If we're sure of anything in this day and age it's that cultural appropriation is never okay. In other words, just because you see sombreros, ponchos, or tees with cliched phrases for sale doesn’t mean you should buy them. And they certainly don't warrent an Insta post with a caption in senseless Spanish.
You Treat The Country Like A Nonstop Happy Hour
We agree: a weekend beachside Mexico with a quality margarita in hand is always a good idea. Unfortunately, some people take the partying to an extreme and make their trip an all-out booze fest. While Mexico is indeed a festive place, you should know they have some pretty strict laws about drinking.
A few of those laws that surprise our guests who travel to Mexico with us? That walking (or driving) with an open container is illegal and that you can very much get arrested for public drunkness.
And Mock “Strange” Customs
One thing we adore about the Mexican culture is how cultural traditions are alive and well in everyday life. However, some of those traditions — say celebrating Day Of The Dead or doing spiritual cleansing — can seem "strange" to travelers.
Rather than write off a custom you don't know, ask around and learn about it because those very customs are what make Mexico so very unique.
You Stay Within Your Comfort Zone
Travel is all about exploring the new and different so we encourage you to get out of your comfort zone as often as possible, So, if you happen to see something you’re not used to when you travel to Mexico -- be chapulines aka grasshoppers on tacos or the milky fermented drink that is pulque -- we say don’t knock it but rather try it!
You Don’t Try To Speak Spanish
If you’re going to travel all the way to Mexico you might as well attempt to speak some Spanish. Even if your language skills are limited, locals will appreciate your efforts to speak the language. There is, however, a caveat: if you’re staying at a resort, the employees likely speak near-perfect English so it may be impossible to speak Spanish.
You Don’t Use Your Inside Voice
Yes, this is common sense but using your inside voice can be forgetton when you’re having a good time. Keep in mind Mexicans also love having a good time, so there are opportunities — at a bar, a soccer match, or out dancing — where you can be loud and boistorous. We're just suggesting you take a cue from those around you and keep your voice down when others are doing the same.
You Don’t Chat With People
Our friend who lives in Mexico City told us her Uber rating was dropping and she couldn’t figure out why. It turns out she wasn’t greeting the drivers after getting picked up and it came across as bad manners. The good news? The minute she started her rides with a simple “hola¿cómo estás?” her rating went right back up.
So, whether you’re waiting in a line or grabbing a ride with a taxi driver, do your best to attempt a bit of chitchat.
You Try To Pay In Dollars
True, there are parts of the world (say, along the border in Mexico) where you can most certainly pay in US dollars — just don’t assume that’s always the case across all of Mexico.
You Call Yourself "American"
Speaking of, Ugly American, the very term "American" can actually be an issue. You see, in some parts of Mexico (and in fact a good deal of Central and South America), stating you're American, rather than saying your from the United States, is seen as haughty and politically incorrect. The thinking is that it implies that only the United States is be considered America, and that the rest of the countries in the Americas are not worthy of being mentioned.
Any other tips you’ve learned when you travel to Mexico? Let us know in the comments below!
Need help planning your next Mexico trip? We specialize in just that! Read about our concierge and itinerary planning services, send us an email at email@example.com, or fill out this quick survey and we'll get right back to you!
Connect With Salt & Wind
- Travel on our next Salt & Wind trip or have us help plan your next vacation!
- Shop our Mexico store for travel-inspired gifts
- Stay in the know and sign up for our newsletter
- Join the Salt & Wind Facebook Group for food and travel advice
More Mexico on Salt & Wind
- Travel With Us To Mexico City
- Fiesta Forever With Our Best Margarita Recipes
- The Everyday Foods That Originated In Mexico
Photo Credit: Camila Cordeiro