The drop-ins

Here we are! What’s on the stove? Where’s the tequila? Let’s dance!

LIVING IN Mexico can be a challenge. Don’t let anybody fool you with that “it’s magical” hooey.

The pluses outweigh the minuses, of course, but some of those minuses can be maddening, especially to me.

Way up the list is what I call the “Mexican yes,” or as I often say it to my child bride, “el sí mexicano.”

She does not dispute the point.

This refers to the custom of responding positively to pretty much everything. Are you coming tomorrow to fix the faucet? Yes!  Are you coming to lunch tomorrow? Yes! It’s always yes, and it never has any connection to reality whatsoever.

Maybe you’ll come. Maybe you won’t. No telling.

The only exception to this occurs when the positive response is not yes, but no. Are you going to drive my car that I’m loaning you 200 kph over potholes? No!

But, like all Mexicans, I have become accustomed to the “Mexican yes,” knowing that it’s meaningless.

By the way, the “Mexican yes” is just one example of a broader problem, which is rampant lying. This habit stems from trying to make other people feel good on one hand, and avoiding embarrassment to yourself on the other hand.

Mexicans get embarrassed a lot.

Most of the lying falls into the “little white lie” category, the fib. It’s no big thing really, but it becomes a bigger thing due to its being spectacularly widespread.

What all this means is that you often cannot depend on what people say. I am convinced this is a major factor in our not running a First-World economy, which relies on trust.

There is little trust between the Rio Bravo and the Guatemalan border. Probably not south of the Guatemalan border either, but I have never been there, so I don’t know.

I suspect this is not a Mexican thing, but a Latino thing.

But it’s not lying or lack of trust that inspires me today. It’s another Mexican habit that drives me nuts.

It’s the drop-in.

If relatives want to visit, they just do so with no warning whatsoever, and it can happen at any hour of the day or night. And they rarely do so individually or in couples.

Think groups. I call them mobs.

Do they phone first to let you know they’re on their way? Do they wait for an invite? Do they think for a nanosecond that you may be busy with someone or something else? Do they attempt not to come right at a meal time? No.

My wife says this is just part of the culture, and nobody thinks anything of it, including the recipients of the drop-in. Relatives are always welcome. Always!

I very much doubt this. I think the recipients of the drop-in often are faking it to avoid that widespread embarrassment.

We usually end our days the same way. I make a big salad for the two of us. We’re in our PJs, and we sit in our recliners upstairs, eat and watch a movie on Netflix. This rarely varies, and I do not want to hear the doorbell. It will be ignored.

We had been eating our salads for about 45 seconds last Saturday night when my child bride’s phone rang. Here we come! it was said in Spanish, the five relatives driving down from Querétaro.

They were five minutes away. They knew when they left Querétaro hours earlier that they were coming here. They surely knew the day before, but did they let us know? Of course not.

It would have ruined the drop-in!

The five of them sat in our living room for over an hour, shooting the breeze while our salads wilted upstairs. Then they got up and headed downtown at 9 p.m. to “drop in” on other relatives who had no clue they were coming either.

Actually, we got off lucky because they did not decide to spend the night on our floor. The other relatives won that prize.

The drop-in.

Living in Mexico can be a challenge.

33 thoughts on “The drop-ins”

  1. I feel your pain, Felipe. Even here in America my wife’s family (Living up here — originally from Mexico) will drop in with no notice. She is always stuck making mounds of food for them, or we end up going to buy something. It is always a LARGE group. I hate that custom! My wife pretty much says the same thing your wife says, “It is just our custom, try to be gracious and smile.”

    Have a great afternoon, Felipe!

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    1. Mike: I was thinking of you as I wrote this. Were we living in the U.S., and the Mexican kin pulled this nonsense, I almost certainly would ask them to please give us a heads-up. I would do it here too if it weren’t relatively rare. Most of the kinfolk live rather far away, plus they know the sole Gringo in the family is a bit grumpy regarding these matters.

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  2. Writing in Psychology of the Mexican: Culture and Personality, Rogelio Diaz-Guerrero explored the Mexican lie and the Mexican “yes.” In many circumstances, even naturalized Mexicans find it much more socially acceptable to respond to invitations where the host really could care less about who attends with “If I can” or “I’ll try.”

    The drop-ins know perfectly well what your response would be if they’d warned you well in advance that the whole mispocha was on its way. They’re on to a prospective host’s tricks, knowing that the host would’ve high-tailed it out of town if given more than five minutes’ notice.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: Yes, I would have loved to high-tail it, but it would not have been possible due to my wife. High-tailing was not on the table.

      As for the sí mexicano, yes, alas, I find myself now doing that at times too, but never when it potentially would be an inconvenience to the other person. No way, José.

      To my Mexican kin, I am known to be notoriously blunt.

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      1. Do they ever refer to you as “enojón” for not being thrilled about such things? I’ve had friends there call me that for objecting to some of the behavior you write about.

        Saludos,

        KG

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        1. Kim: Being significantly older than they are and a Gringo to boot, all of the kin treat me quite deferentially. I don’t think, even after 15 years, that they really know what to make of me. But I use my “foreignness” to my advantage as an excuse, and it works well. My wife uses it too for the same reason. So no, they do not refer to me as enojón or sangrón (at least to my face), for that matter, though my wife employs the latter on occasion.

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  3. Oh, the stories I could tell with Mexican friends. All of a sudden there they are at the front gate all piled into a pickup truck laughing and enjoying life! Bless them … guess I still have a lot to learn about not being so uptight. Have had it happen over the holidays and one is almost in their PJs and bingo! there they are … claro que si.

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    1. Peggy: My wife and I have gone back and forth over this, especially after the drop-in in question. I say it is rude. She says it’s just part of the culture here. I respond that it’s both. I do not think that the definition of courtesy is connected to any specific nation or culture. Here is my definition of courtesy, and I maintain that it’s universal: It’s putting the comfort, convenience and wishes of others at the forefront even if it conflicts with your own comfort, convenience and wishes at times.

      To offer a very simple example. A gentleman holds the door open for a lady. He is putting her ahead of him in more than physical distance. That is courtesy. When you ignore the comfort, convenience and wishes of others, you are selfish and rude.

      Rudeness is part of the Mexican culture. You see it everywhere. The unannounced drop-in is one example. How difficult would it have been for our relatives to phone us that morning to say they were on the way? We could have arranged our activities around the information, making it much more convenient and comfortable for us. That never entered their minds. It was all about them.

      Other examples abound. Say you are standing at a store counter to ask a question or purchase something. A Mexican will walk in, push her way in ahead of you, and start asking her own question. Waiting one’s turn is not even thought of. That’s the classic butt-in. Rudeness on the highway is common. You’re barreling down a two-lane highway, and someone roars up behind. There is oncoming traffic, so passing is impossible. Does the Mexican wait? No he blinks his lights or honks his horn because he wants you to veer off onto the shoulder, so he does not have to wait. It’s always about them.

      It’s rudeness. It’s rampant. It’s me first, you later, Bub.

      I don’t think that finding this objectionable means you are uptight. I think a large percentage of the Gringos who move down here try to make excuses for the rudeness instead of just saying flat out what it is. Rudeness. Selfishness. Lack of consideration for others.

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      1. I have known two guys who actually do that; however, they were NOB. Reactions were mixed.
        Your comments apply here in TX to the Hispanic population in many ways.

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  4. The “answer-lie Mexicano” is right on. Mexicans love to give you an answer to your question, even if it’s not right. There is always a chance it, or some part of it, might be. In 2000 we were visiting Guanajuato. I parked my big, American-plated Suburban in an unmarked space across the street from the hotel for the night. In the morning there was a ticket on the windshield. I was about to tear it up and drive off when I noticed the license plate missing. During the course of the next two hours I search for them. Each person I stopped and asked where to go had an answer. And they were all different. Eventually the trail got closer until, viola! Recovery. Each answer had a element of accuracy. The locations were all in Mexico, all in Guanajuato, and all at government offices of some kind or other. But I sure did walk a lot of kilometers.

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    1. Carlos: Nobody wants to say I have no clue whatsoever, so they tell you something, anything. Saying you don’t know is embarrassing, and we’re always embarrassed at something or other. No surprise that the car plates were removed. That’s how they get you. Just a ticket would rarely work. Even Mexicans would ignore it.

      Once in Mexico City, I parked unwittingly on a no-parking street. The plates were not removed. The car was towed to the pound instead. We went to the pound, prepared to pay up. Both of our cars are registered in my wife’s name, even though she drives hers, and I drive mine. We were driving mine. They asked to see her driver’s license due to the car being registered to her, even though she was not the driver. Her license, unbeknownst to her, was expired. We could not pick up the car till she had a valid driver’s license. So off we went to get a driver’s license, which was fairly easy to do and relatively nearby. And thank God this did not happen on the weekend.

      That was about a decade ago and during a relatively brief period when the Mexico City government was issuing licenses with no expiration date! And that’s what she got, and that’s what she still has today, a DL that never expires. Lucky gal.

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  5. In Honduras it is “the smile.” Hondurans will always give you a big smile, even as they sift through a putrid garbage dump in search of anything of value. I am convinced they would smile if you slit their throat (or they yours).

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  6. You, sir, are a rude American. If you don’t believe me, then ask your wife. She is obviously a refined family-oriented member of society. You are “A Gringo Grosero.” (That’s what I am. I even had a social club where five or six Ameri-kanos would meet every weekend.) We were once invited to a dinner in the “Provinces” (on the farm so to speak). They served pozole, which I really like, but this time the meat in it was hog jowls (Nothing is thrown away in Mejico Majico.) and it had red hair bristles still on it. I whispered to my wife, I cannot eat this. She said It will be grosero, and the host will be offended if you don’t. I said: Well, they had better brace themselves to be offended. My wife is more diplomatic. She invented an excuse that the doctor said I couldn’t eat pork meat, and I was exempted from the ordeal. Anyway quite often, Doctors in Mexico do tell you not to eat pork. I asked one why, and he said wounds are surgical operations, and heal more slowly. (That is an unconfirmed theory that may or may not be true. There are many things that linger from the Aztec Era). So from one Gringo Grosero to another, I say: SALUD!

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    1. Señor Mystic: Great feedback. Thanks. Grosero indeed. There surely is plenty of rudeness in this fair land, but it ain’t me committing it. Loved the hairy pozole yarn. Reminds me of a Christmas fiesta we had here at the Hacienda only about a year after we moved in, long before I managed to convince my wife and, by extension, the family that the Hacienda was off-limits for their late-night hootenannies. One fellow provided the sustenance, which was a cooked sheep of some sort. It was all swimming in a very murky brown soup. The huge tub was sitting on the floor of the kitchen where we diners just ladled portions into bowls. The tub’s contents looked like something that had been dredged from the Black Lagoon. I was leaning over to get my second helping when up from the grim depths floated, previously unseen by me, an entire sheep’s head staring at me with dead, literally, eyes. I passed on the second helping and went straight to bed. They were still going at it.

      As for the no-pork crap you hear from doctors, yes, I’ve been told that too on numerous occasions. I cannot imagine there is any scientific basis for it. You can eat beef, but not pork. Right.

      You hear and see lots of strange stuff south of the Rio Bravo. But you know that.

      “Salud” back at you, señor.

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  7. Another thought: about the Mexican yes and fixing a faucet or whatever.

    A Mexican saying (dicho): Never pay the piper before he plays his tune. Also, the Mystics Rule: Once the sun goes down I do not answer the doorbell unless the ringer has called first.

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    1. Señor Mystic: Correct. Paying in full here before a job is done is good way to never see the job get done. And we too don’t answer the doorbell after dark. If only my wife had not had her phone turned on that evening. I always turn mine off between 7-8 p.m.

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  8. Jeje. Married to a Latina you also marry the family too. The worse thing for me is when I was sick, too many visits because they were helping her take care of me. But in reality it was an excuse to visit and BS.

    Someone who is not married to a Latina family could not understand.

    You are spot on, as usual!

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    1. Tancho: Easy for you to jeje, old fellow, because all of your Latino kin are far away in Honduras and, I think, in the United States. Mine have far easier access. And yeah, I am spot on, as usual, if I do say so myself.

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  9. I find that the Mexican “yes” applies in particular to directions. Whenever I have to ask for directions (which I try to minimize) I always ask at least two unconnected people. If the answer is the same, I figure it’s correct. If not, then I ask a third or fourth until I can get some kind of agreement.

    Otherwise I could end up WAAAAAY off track. This works pretty well, so I recommend it.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where there are no pedestrians to ask directions of.

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    1. Kim: When asking questions about almost anything, it’s best not to offer options in the question. For instance, you should not ask, Is Calle Main down that way? That’s way too easy to answer with a yes. It’s better to ask, Where is Calle Main? That cannot be answered with yes or no.

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  10. Hola, Felipe.

    Back from the bush to civilization for 5 days and then back until September. My wife and I spent part of our honeymoon (grueling 51-week trip) in India 30 years ago and came to the same conclusions as you have about Mexicans. It is always better to ask “which way to the hospital” rather than “is this the way to the hospital.” With the latter you’ll always get a yes no matter which way you point. Hope your summer is going well. I’ll try to catch up on your previous posts as we’ve been sans internet for over a month. Some folks wouldn’t survive that. Cheers 🙂

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    1. Brent: Came up for a few gulps of air, eh? But I gotta wonder: You honeymooned for a year? And a grueling one at that? Interesting.

      I could easily go without the internet for a month. Might even be fun. Enjoy your brief return to civilization, señor.

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      1. To qualify, the ‘honeymoon’ was about 2 weeks on a Thailand beach. The other 49 weeks were more like travelling mainly in India and Nepal. No internet back then. It was great but I don’t think we shall repeat it. The whole trip cost $12,000 including round the world tickets.

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