When abroad I often fall into different categories: sometimes I’m a tourist, sometimes I’m a traveler, and often I’m an expat. But, even as an expat I didn’t truly fit into my adopted home right away. Slowly and subtly I started noticing signs that I was becoming part of the local community.
10. I Got Rid of Expectations
When I first moved to Cancun I knew the food, language, and traditions would be different, but I didn’t really realize how much the culture would permeate into everyday life. I unknowingly expected things to be like they are in Canada. It made me frustrated and angry when things didn’t go as I expected or thought they should. Once I learned to get rid of my expectations (justified or not) I started feeling happier and more comfortable.
9. Bugs? What Bugs?
I’m not a fan of bugs. In fact, at home I’m somewhat of an clean freak. But, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that no matter what I do I’m never going to get rid of all the bugs in Mexico. One night, while Jay and I were watching an episode of Criminal Minds in the dark, a huge cockroach fell on to my leg during the most intense part of the show. I screamed and the roach went flying, but I laughed. I guess my OCD has learned to take a vacation while I’m in Mexico and I am able to co-exist with the bugs (well, most of the time).
8. I Started to Get Annoyed With Tourists
It must be exhausting having to repeat the same thing over and over to thousands of tourists everyday. As much as I love travelling and appreciate how important the tourists industry is to Cancun, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with tourists on a daily basis. When Jay and I started avoiding the Hotel Zone during March Break and Reading Week and spent more time at the local beaches, I knew we were starting to act like we lived here.
7. No, I Do Not Need a Taxi
I knew I must look like I belonged when the taxi drivers stopped asking me if I needed a ride. The taxi drivers are all over tourists, especially ones they can take into the high rate zones. I had “no, gracias” on a loop for the first 6 months or more I lived in Cancun. Now I rarely ever get asked if I need a taxi, even when I actually want one!
6. Español, Por Favor
I’m as white as they come and with my fanny pack (I know, I know) I could certainly understand why someone (anyone) would mistake me for a tourist and assume I do not speak Spanish. And while they wouldn’t be completely wrong about the Spanish (I’m learning!), I’m definitely not a tourist. By this point almost everyone I encounter not only speaks to me in Spanish, but assumes I am fluent!
5. I’m Not Lost and People Know It
One day while stopped at a red light on our bike a car pulled up beside us and asked us for directions! This happens on a regular basis now and it makes me a bit proud. We must look like we belong if Mexicans are stopping to ask US for directions!
4. You’re Doing It Wrong
In any country or city there are certain rules and customs that you wont find in any travel guide. When we moved to Cancun lines seriously confused us. We weren’t sure if we were coming or going. One day we got into an argument with a local who legitimately cut in front of us in line. She dismissed us as being ignorant, but one of the other patrons came to our defense and told the woman that we were right! Being defended by a local to a local about proper local etiquette was pretty cool.
3. You Want a Picture of Me?
One day while Jay and I were out on our bike running errands we found ourselves stopped at a red light beside the bus that goes into the hotel zone. We didn’t think much of it until we saw a handful of tourists staring at us out the windows. Then, before I knew what was happening they were taking our picture! I don’t think I’m that exciting, but it was flattering!
2. Things are Exciting Again
When you first move to a new country all the differences are exciting and charming. Then, while trying to navigate all the boring aspects of life (setting up accounts, finding doctors etc.) those differences often become really frustrating. However, I’ve now come back out the other side and (most) of the differences are fun again. I feel like I’ve gone through initiation and now I’m a “real” member of society.
1. People Want To Be Our Friends!
The most exciting new trend I’ve noticed in our lives is that people seem genuinely interested in being our friend. Those around us can sense that we are serious about being here and are making a real effort to learn the language and the culture. The other day we found out that our regular waitress at our favourite breakfast spot speaks English (quite well, actually) but has been only speaking Spanish to us so that we can practice. Pretty awesome!