the reality of head-on culture clashes

the reality of head-on culture clashes

I arrived here as prepared as I could, having physically selected all the right things and having mentally prepared for all the things that would inevitably go wrong. While I didn’t do a bad job in my preparations, I also did not do a good job in covering as many bases as I’d liked to have.

During my first few years here, the one thing I didn’t prepare for, mostly because it never (ever) crossed my mind to do so, was the jealousy aspect of many locals. I eventually learned it was all about the reality of a head-on culture clash.

Even though I didn’t grow up in a supportive traditional family environment, I still managed to graduate high school and university some years later. By the time I’d finished all that, I was ready to earn real money and start a life, which I did.

I landed a job (that I kept for 10 years) that afforded me nice things like fewer letters from the student loan collection agency and eventually a car and global travel. By this time, I’m in my mid-30s and hardly had time for dating let-alone marriage and kids.

Independence, financial freedom and singledom were all common cultural choices among my friends and the truth is, I was never interested in marriage and kids.

I had a full social life, numerous hobbies, a job that kept me afloat and most importantly, I relished the freedom my chosen lifestyle gave me. When I moved to Mexico, it quickly became evident how my cultural choices had an impact on the way my neighbors acted toward me.

They hated me.

I was snubbed and referred to as the girl who lived in a big house alone without a husband or children. In their eyes, I was also jobless. I was called barren, rich and lazy, (what I later learned to be) common adjectives from locals who have issues with foreigners.

The truth is I lived in an old leaky house with a massive cockroach problem in the center of the city. It was cheap, within my limited budget, and located well for someone without a car. They didn’t see me often not because I slept all day, but because I worked a lot online from the non-leaking corner of my small rented house.

Their non-discrete hate for me was infectious and caused me a great deal of discomfort. I eventually moved from Cancun, but unfortunately, had the same experience in the next town.

This time, I had slightly thicker skin. When neighbor acquaintances would tell me that so-and-so refers to you as barren or the neighbor in number blah-blah house thinks something is wrong because you don’t have a husband, I simply shrugged and walked away.

I had learned they disliked me because I was living the life they secretly wanted. They married because they thought it would solve a whole bunch of problems. They got pregnant young or were unable to financially support themselves (lack of education, experience, will?) and they made different choices.

While they were having kids, I was killing myself to get through school, after which, I worked my ass off to pay back the loans and create a life for myself. But no one here cared about that.

Those cultural clashes were something I continued to deal with by saying and doing nothing, a strategy that turned out to be very effective.

Since the bad-mouthers never made an effort to get to know me, I never made an effort to correct them. I just let them ramble with a smile.

Not only did that embarrass them, it made them dislike me even more. Mexicans are a very confrontational people, so when I did not react (correct them or defend myself), they realized I knew what they were saying but didn’t care about their opinions.

Being gossiped about may not strike you as unusual, but here, some take things a step further. They do not lose sleep over vandalizing your property, stealing from you (justified in that you can afford it and they cannot) and even reporting you to immigration for fictitious instances.

Since I legally live and work in Mexico, I’ve never feared them. Instead of wasting my energy on allowing them to get to me, I always held my head high knowing that deep down, the only thing they truly want is to be someone else.