I have almost completed my third week in Mexico. I love it here! Let me begin with a little bit about the environment and activities outside the workplace.
I live a bit far from the American Chamber of Commerce, so I struggle with the bus rides every day. It’s not that the distance bothers me, rather the inconsistency of the buses. Believe me, we will all be grateful for the King County Metro if we experienced the transportation system here. Despite its tardiness, it’s rather a fun ride. In the evening, clowns, guitarists, singers, and whatever other talent imaginable hop on the bus and perform circus acts, sing songs, and play their instruments. It’s just another form of asking for donations as we often see on the streets of Downtown Seattle. In terms of speed limit: There is none. And I would caution you when crossing the streets because the vehicles have the right of way.
I live with a very nice family near downtown Guadalajara. My host mom cooks so I have been eating all kinds of Mexican food, which is delicious. Breakfast is a bit different, however. Generally, in the states, our breakfast consists of milk, cereal, coffee, etc. Something sweet. I eat quesadillas, omelettes, beans, etc. Dinner is usually very light and we eat around 9:30pm. I think host families are incredibly useful for exposure to the language, culture, and are a great support system. I did not once feel alone or lost because I always have a family to come home to who also helps me with finding bus routes, shopping centers, etc. However, because of the difficulty of going to and from work, I have found a house to rent a room only four blocks away from work. I will be moving in one week.
It’s super different. I see less difinition in terms of structure here. Allow me to explain: For one, I did not bring a watch, a calander, or a map (not on purpose, I just didn’t think about it). My cell phone doesn’t work here, and I have limited internet access outside of work. Yet, I don’t find these things necessary here. People here don’t function based on the hour. They function based on activity. It’s alleviating to live at my own pace. Of course, part of it is due to the fact that my only responsibilities are to show up for work everyday.
Here in Guadalajara, the people are very friendly, unlike Mexico city, when I went this past weekend. Guadalajara is clean, slightly humid, almost no pollution, and compared to Mexico city, is more conservative. Since written schedules are limited, I often find that by asking around, I can get to wherever place I need to go. It is true, however, that I need to ask a couple people before being sure of a location., as everyone provides a slightly different version of direction.
Regarding culture shock. I haven’t felt much of a culture shock arriving here. I think that’s because I entered mexico with the mentality of blending in, living like the Mexicans do, dressing like them, etc. I prepared myself for the unexpected and kept an open mind. That’s how adjusting has been so easy. I have a feeling, however, that returning home to the U.S. will present a greater culture shock than arriving to Mexico.
It’s great. Unlike any other job I have had, I feel no pressure to compete with anyone else. I am given projects to work on, and in the meantime, I have time to chat with co-workers and check my email/facebook. Here at the American Chamber, we are fourteen employees. Everyone is very close to one another and we work in an energetic environment where we take 30 min breafast breaks, one hour lunches, and ten minute cigarette breaks (I don’t smoke). The pace of work is much slower. This results in less efficiency, however, it causes for more durability. We don’t leave the workplace exhausted and ready for the weekend to arrive. Since lunch is eaten so late, around 2:30, we still have time after work to go shopping, spend time with friends, etc, before we return home for dinner. I could say that work is considered as part of the day, not the whole day itself. Most everyone arrives at 9:15, however, will stay until 5:30 or 5:45 to finish working. I would like to know how many people in the U.S. willingly stay five minutes after work.
The rumors are true. In order to be given more tasks, I need to develop my social relationships. This was quite easy for me, despite the difficulty of communicating in Spanish perfectly. I often ask my co-workers to repeat what they say, and sometimes it takes me a couple tries to get my sentence out. Nevertheless, my advice is to speak up. Talk as much as you can, and you will be amazed at how well you can understand and speak in such short time.