The one Mexico travel fail more serious than being the token tourist aimlessly wandering the streets of Mexico City? Being the “Ugly American” when you travel to 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 because the Mexican culture is so welcoming but some travelers majorly lack self-awareness and come across as bulls in proverbial china shops.
Whether it’s your first or 100th time traveling to Mexico, it never hurts to brush up on our essential Mexico travel tips before you take off.
Here are ways you may be coming across as an Ugly American:
You Judge Everything Through Your USA Lens
The most common sign you’re being an Ugly American is that you expect everything to be exactly the same in Mexico as it is in the United States.
Be it the water pressure, the mattress sizes, the quality (or presence) of air conditioning, the speed of restaurant service, or the dinner time (FYI 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 a foreign country and not the other way around so check your all-USA, all day routine.
You Lean Into Clichés
If we’re sure of anything in this day and age, it’s that cultural appropriation is never okay. Meaning 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 warrant 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 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 rules that surprise our guests who travel to Mexico are that walking (or driving) with an open container is illegal and that you can 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 the Day Of The Dead, the various superstitions, or the common practice of spiritual cleansing — can seem “strange” or “foreign” to travelers.
Rather than write off a custom you don’t know, ask around and learn about it because those very customs are one of the many things that 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.
If you happen to see something you’re not used to when you travel to Mexico — be it 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 a moot point trying to speak Spanish.
You Don’t Use Your Inside Voice
Yes, this is common sense but using your inside voice can be forgotten when you’re having a good time. Mexicans 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 expat friend who lives in Mexico City told us her Uber rating dropped when she moved there 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 Think Everything Should Be Cheaper
Sure, the exchange rate has historically favored the dollar and there are parts of Mexico where you can still travel at a great value. Just don’t assume that is the case everywhere.
There are some regions, like Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta, that are more popular with foreign travelers so prices will be higher thanks to demand. There are other places that are popular among Mexico’s upper class — San Miguel de Allende or Valle de Guadalupe – so they mostly offer high-end lodging and luxury experiences.
And then, of course, there are times of the year when festivals or holidays like Day Of The Dead, Guelaguetza, Carnival, Semana Santa, or Las Posadas occur and when prices in general go up.
You Try To Pay In Dollars
True, there are parts of the country (say, along the US-Mexico border) where you may be able to pay in US dollars — just don’t assume that’s always the case across the country.
You Call Yourself “American”
Speaking of, Ugly Americans, 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 you are 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!
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Photo Credit: Camila Cordeiro