Including moving there, adjusting to it’s lifestyle and losing a piece of your heart to it’s culture, by an expat from the United States, that’s only been here for six months, so surely that makes them an expert:
A: Adaptable: moving from one culture to another, quickly learn to be adaptable (or at least fake it – whichever is easier for you). If you can’t or don’t – then get comfortable being unhappy – or maybe consider staying where you are.
B: Buy clothes and your favorite beauty products from home and bring them with you: clothes are expensive and you may not be able to find some of your favorite organic, sulfate-free, protein packed, keratin infused, mint shampoo (which would be a disaster in any country, right ladies?).
C: Cockroaches: fear them and before you even come, make sure you bulk-up your quads and practice your stomp-and-run technique so you’ll be prepared to take them on.
D: Drastically different driving conditions; coming from the U.S. I was, and still am, completely amazed at the subpar driving conditions. Prepare to ALWAYS wear your seat belt, stop caring if your car is dirty, dented or scratched, and if you have small children make sure to bring a booster-seat with you. Also, in many parking lots you will need to stop and get a ticket as you drive in, which you will need to make the gate-bar rise up so you can exit. This doesn’t cost any money so I’m not really sure the point, but unless you’ve got a battering ram on the front of your car, don’t lose that ticket.
E: Engage – get out and meet people; I’ve found that Mexicans are very friendly and helpful, and have been a great resource for us foreigners. Don’t obsess on how much you miss your friends and family and start stalking them on Facebook and bugging them on Skype – take that time and energy and get out and meet some locals and make some new friends. So far this subject has been my favorite aspect of being an expat (meeting new people, not missing our peeps back home).
F: Food – it’s amazing and totally worth Montezuma’s Revenge. Be prepared to try authentic Mexican food that has nothing to do with burritos and chimichangas (but stay away from dishes featuring “lengua”). FYI: Taco Bell is NOT Mexican food.
G: Gringo – non-derogatory term used to refer to US citizens. Mostly because the term “American” does not make sense to the rest of the Americans (all those people who live in the two continents named “America”, which is every body from Canada to Argentina), and the word “Estadounidense” (United Statesian) is too long. Folklore says it was generated when the US invaded Mexico, wearing green uniforms, and the people shouted at them “Green Go Home”. With time it lost all derogatory status and was turned into the most common word to refer to any US citizen. Cite: Urban Dictionary
H: Horchata – traditional Mexican drink that I would describe as liquid heaven in a glass.
I: Inglés – Spanish for “English”, as in “hablo inglés“: “I speak English” (assuming you speak English – if you don’t then I doubt you are reading this so let’s move on).
J: Jump Roping – very popular past-time and the school even offers a very popular extracurricular class solely devoted to jumping rope (single bounce, double bounce, double-rope, criss cross, something that looks like that low Russian-like-kicking squat-dance – it’s pretty intense).
K: – The letter “k” is an oddity in Spanish as there are no original Spanish words starting with this letter. Words that begin with k in Spanish and even words that contain the letter k have their origins outside the Spanish-speaking world. Cite Keep this handy info in mind the next time your opponent tries to sneak in a Spanish “k” word into your game of Scrabble – or you ever get on Jeopardy.
L: Lizards – or more scientifically, hemidactylus frenatus – common house geckos. Florida has them too – tiny little lizards that cling to walls and ceilings, are fast and cause no harm to anyone but they are all over the place. They eat insects and are our cats favorite snacks, playthings and squishy sacrificial offerings.
M: Microdyn – everyone knows not to drink the water, but you also have to be careful using it to wash your produce (unless all you eat is processed foods – then you don’t need this, but then again you’ve got much bigger problems). Microdyn is one of many products available that you should use to save yourself from spending a lot of uncomfortable time in the baño.
N: “No hablo español” – and practice saying this with your friendliest, sparkly-whitest smile and widest, twinkly eyes, and raise your voice a little and maybe wring your hands together – trust me, it all helps until you get a better handle on the language.
O: OHHHH [@#%*!@ – insert preferred profanity here]! – and get comfortable yelling it out loud as you will do so constantly while behind a wheel of a car – with or without children present.
P: Patience – you’ll need loads of that to adjust and live here – and I’m not only referencing your need of patience to deal with the world around you – make sure you have patience with yourself. But while you are zen-ing out, be prepared to deal with a much slower-paced way of life.
Q: Querétaro – Querétaro is a small state located about 2.5 hours out of Mexico City – and apparently it’s a nice place to visit in Mexico. See this Eat Live Mexico blog post for more details on this quaint little Mexican town. We’ve never been there, but I was having a really hard time coming up with something for “q” – so there you go.
R: Roll with the punches – understand moving and living in a new culture is very challenging – the good and the bad. You will spend a good amount of time out of your comfort zone while adapting. Learn to roll with the punches or you’ll just get knocked out repeatedly. Take this from someone who has already been K.O’d a few times herself already.
S: Spanish – learn it, at least enough to be respectful (good morning, how are you, please and thank you…) – people are forgiving if you are struggling to communicate in Spanish – but rude is rude in any language. At the very minimum, at least see “N” above.
T: Tequila – forget what you tried in college – Mexico has the best selection of tequila, especially considering it’s exclusively made here (there’s another Jeopardy-tryout tidbit for you). Only buy “100% de agave” tequila, and if you purchase correctly you don’t need to mix it with a bunch of fruit juices – simply sip it with some fresh limes slices. I’ve found it also helps in the aforementioned adaption process…
U: Umbrellas – umbrellas are used here more to block the sun than to block the rain, which freaked me out for awhile at the beginning as I was always thinking there was a imminent storm brewing on the horizon I wasn’t aware of and couldn’t see.
V: Viva Mexico! – phrase shouted during Mexican Independence Day celebrations – September 16th is considered a patriotic holiday, or fiesta patria (literally, Patriot Festival or Civic Festival). This day is marked by parades, patriotic programs, drum and bugle and marching band competitions, and special programs on the national and local media outlets, even concerts.
W: Weather – if you are like us and moving internationally, there’s a very good chance you are moving far away into a totally different climate. Try to think ahead a little and don’t be like me, who shortly have moving here was frantically unpacking box after box of winter coats, wool beanies and mittens (that we’ll never use), looking for our bathing suits and flip flops. Oh, and one last tip about weather conditions here in Mexico: learn how to read the temperature in Celsius, if you don’t already know it. Only five countries in the world use Fahrenheit measurement – and Mexico is not one of them. Electricity is VERY expensive here so you’ll want to learn to use the thermostat in your casa with NASA-like precision.
X: Taxis – stay out of their way, and don’t be alarmed by their constant horn honking – they most likely aren’t honking at you, but to prospective passengers walking on the roads (I’m guessing, I’ve never actually inquired about the honking…I could be wrong – but regardless of the noise, I do know you need to stay out of their way).
Y: Yucatán is a state in the north western part of the Yucatán Peninsula, with its coastline facing the Gulf of Mexico. It’s filled with sandy beaches, underground rivers and cenotes, and is also near a city called Cancun (maybe you’ve heard of it). It’s an amazing place to visit, and if you go we would highly recommend visiting Mayan archaeological site Chichen Itza and the Ik Kil cenote.
Z: Zero – after six months, still have to say that we have seen zero aliens – but hey, that doesn’t mean we don’t keep an eye out for them – keep an open mind no matter where in this world you live.