“Bridging The Gap”
By Marilyn Thielking
The immortal Rudyard Kipling once wrote, in describing the huge chasm that existed between the culture of his own country and that of India, “East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet.” Had Kipling amended this to read, “South is south, and North is north, and only occasionally do the two ever meet,” he might well have been writing about Mexico and the U.S./Canada.
Mexican culture is both vastly older and substantially different from that of its two northern neighbors. What gringos living in Mexico have to realize is that the Mexicans are not going to change. Hence, if any semblance of harmony is to be achieved, it is this country´s guests, and not its hosts, who have to change. Here are several suggestions that might help make the transition less traumatic:
1. Learn Spanish/2. Slow your walking pace/3. Patronize your local store. 4. Learn the names of your neighbors, your grocer, and every Mexican you see on a regular basis/5. Greet everyone you pass on the street/6. Drive carefully. Children use the street as a playground/7. Learn all you can about Mexican culture, values and history/8. Share your own by example rather than instruction.
9. Learn Spanish!/10. Practice patience daily/11. Always have a back-up plan/12. Volunteer for work with charitable organizations/13. Don´t refer to “Mexicans” as if they are all alike/14. Begin conversations with Mexicans by inquiring about their family/15. Offer rides to pedestrians, particularly those carrying packages or accompanied by small children.
16. Avoid excessive complaining about late-night music. Accept the higher noise quotient as part of the “Paradise Package”/17. Give yourself plenty of lead time, so that the “Manana Syndrome” does not totally unwire you/18. LEARN SPANISH!
Finally, keep in mind the advice that could well be the Mexican motto: “Start slow and then taper off.” For one thing, you’ll live longer!