Cultural variances in odd spots

I’VE LONG NOTICED the occasional cultural difference where you wouldn’t normally expect it — in the medical community. Isn’t Science Settled? No, it’s not.

An interesting example popped up in my life this week.

New ImageYesterday, I received a minor dental surgery, two stitches. Before leaving the dentist’s office, he gave me instructions, one of which was to avoid dairy products for three days. No milk, no cheese, no yogurt, no nada.

This struck me as odd, but I decided to obey orders, so last night, instead of my usual small bowl of cereal and milk before bed, I downed a croissant with orange marmalade.

Pretty tasty.

But this morning, I decided to do a little online sleuthing because I like my bedtime cereal and milk, and I eat it again for Second Breakfast.

I typed into my search engine (DuckDuckGo, never Google), “What foods should be avoided after dental surgery?” I phrased the question in English, so I received U.S. medical websites. I read three of them, and nowhere did it say to avoid dairy products. On the contrary, yogurt was one of the recommendations.

I then typed the same question in Spanish, so I got Mexican medical websites. The very first one told me to avoid all dairy products. So what’s happening here? Cultural differences is what. I’ve decided to be a Gringo and enjoy my cereal and milk.

Tossing coins from the carriage

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THERE ARE NO two abutting nations on earth more different than the United States and Mexico.

They are not just economically different, the two nations embrace very different mindsets, which include different priorities.

On happiness scales, and you see such things in the news on occasion, Mexico usually ranks higher than the United States. This does not surprise me at all. I’m happier here too.

Mexicans live differently than Gringos in a million ways, some voluntarily, some not so voluntarily. The average Mexican earns far less than the average American. In spite of this, the overwhelming majority of Mexicans have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food in the tummies and cell phones in their pockets.

They’re doing okay, thank you.

Many Mexicans live the way Americans lived a century ago, but without the cell phones, of course. Did Americans in the early 20th century lack food, shelter, clothing, the necessities of life? Most did not. Most Mexicans in 2019 do not either.

The Mexican lifestyle is simply different than that above the Rio Bravo.

Having said that, let me add that Mexico has a significant middle class whose lifestyle is not all that different from the American middle class. This is no Third World nation.

Now to my gripe:

Americans come down here, either visiting or even living here full or part-time, and they see a country of woebegone, downtrodden, “oh, so friendly” people. Their hearts go pity-patty. Oh, these poor, poor people, look how they live. Gringos morph into “help” mode, and this expresses itself by their tossing cash around like drunken sailors.

This makes them feel very good about themselves.

I know how Mexicans react to this, but just to be sure I asked my child bride for an honest reaction, and she responded thusly:

Pensamos que son mensos y no saben el valor del dinero.

“We think they are stupid and don’t know the value of money.”

This often flagrant overpaying manifests itself in various ways. There is the colossal overtipping.  And there is the extreme overpaying for work done.

Why is this a bad thing? After all, Mexicans are “unfortunate” and need all the help we can provide, poor babies. Aside from the inherent paternalism, it tells Mexicans that Gringos are foolish spendthrifts and easily separated from their riches. This results in Gringos being routinely overcharged, and that affects all of us who live here.

My advice: Tip like Mexicans tip, which is normally 10 percent. I go up to 15 percent if the service is above average. If a tradesman does work for you, the price he quotes is what he considers fair even if it seems paltry by the mindset you’ve imported from above the border. Pay him what he asks. If you think the work was superlative in some way, give him a bonus, which should not be a staggering increase of 100 to 500 percent.

Yes, Gringos down here actually do that. They should not. This is a different world with different standards and price structures. Mexicans live by these standards, and so should you. They will take your money with a smile, but they won’t think better of you.

They’ll think you’re menso. El valor del dinero is different than what it is up north. Mexicans get alone fine without your charity. They’re already happier than you.

Reconnecting with old compadres

RECENTLY I OPENED a Facebook page in my real name. I’ve been in and out of Facebook for years, mostly out. It can be a useful and fun tool, but its primary value for me is to see what folks I once knew are doing these days.

(Few, if any, are having anywhere near the fun I’m having.)

Many of these reconnections have been with people I worked with in the newspaper world. I have been saddened by this.

While it is common knowledge that those in the media are flaming leftists, for some reason I have been surprised — shouldn’t have been — to see that my old compadres are firmly in that category.

Their FB posts are unrelenting Trump Hate. Luckily, I decided before reentering the FB world that I would not touch politics. I failed in that resolve only once so far, and that was a link to a story about Trump’s hand in getting the first black woman promoted to Marine Corps general.

Nary a one of my former coworkers responded to that one. Of course, it flies in the face of what they all “know,” that Trump is a vile racist.

There is no evidence of his being a racist, of course. Quite the contrary. But all of those suffering from what has been dubbed Trump Derangement Syndrome know without a doubt he’s a racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe, just a crude man in general. Like the racist charge, there is no evidence of any of this.

On the crudity issue, they base their opinions on that famous recording of Trump in a locker room in which he referred to grabbing, well, you know. The fact that Bill Clinton got a BJ in the Oval Office from an intern slattern is ignored.

None of the sex business bothers me at all. Men in high places have always used that power to attract very willing women. It’s human nature.

As the French politician Marine Le Pen has noted, There is no more Right or Left. There are only Globalists and Nationalists. I think that is correct, and much of the anti-Trump hysteria comes from his belief in national borders and the need to protect them.

Living in another nation with a drastically different culture opens one’s eyes to the fact that cultures can be stunningly incompatible. There are two points to be made. One is that differences are good and interesting, so trying to blur the lines is bad. Do we really want a one-world culture? Secondly, some cultures are inferior. Do those in positive cultures want to poison themselves?

The classic, modern example, of course, is Western Europe’s opening its borders to Mohammedans, something Europe is coming to regret in a grand way due to the Mohammedan culture’s being all the things that leftists loathe.

Logic is not their strong suit.

And assimilation is not Mohammedans’ strong suit, to state it mildly.

I read FB posts of my former compadres, reeking of Trump loathing, but I see no reasons stated. They simply believe it because everyone they know believes it. Group-Think. They have tasted the Kool-Aid, and it is savory.

Unlike so many on both Right and Left, I do not “hate” people who disagree with me on political matters. With some exceptions, I believe them to be simply naive and misinformed, primarily of human nature and history.

I wish everyone reacted in the same way to differences of opinion. So I wish all my former coworkers the best, that one day they will see the beauty of Trump’s brashness, and that he’s a breath of fresh air in the Oval Office.

Among his many positives is that he supports Israel — unlike his lamentable predecessor — the sole nation in the Mideast where women walk free, unmasked, unmutilated and unstoned.

He ain’t perfect, but he isn’t Hillary. Thank the Goddess for favors bestowed.

Nikki_Haley_official_photoOne day, the United States will get a woman president. May she be like Margaret Thatcher or Nikki Haley (left) whose maiden name was Nimrata Randhawa. How on earth did that xenophobe Trump install Nimrata in the United Nations?

Did it slip his mind that he’s a sexist xenophobe?

* * * *

(The Moon has a new look. I hope you find it appealing. Aside from the header photo, it’s really not all that different.)

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.