Short of tacos and other stereotypes, I honestly didn't know what to expect when moving to Mexico. I'd heard of cheap prices, delicious food and extra freedom but to an American who hasn't necessarily experienced all of that before, it's somewhat hard to imagine. What do we mean by more freedom? What's every day life even like here? I've decided to make a list of things to expect when moving to Mexico for anyone who was like me, desperate for something better at any cost. These are things I wish someone would have told me, as it would have made life here make a lot more sense right off the bat. These are things about life in Acapulco that might rub the American the wrong way at first, but once you understand these things life is a lot nicer and easier.
1) It's almost always a holiday: If there's one thing that Mexican's are good at, it's finding a reason to celebrate. From Children's Day in April (a day similar to Mother's/Father's day, but to show appreciation for the kid and the inner child, how cool!) to anyone's birthday, there's always a reason to celebrate. So don't be surprised at music all day and all night and sometimes nearly city wide parties at certain times of the year. They play as hard as they work here, which I honestly respect at this point.
2) Sunday's are a day of rest: So don't expect your landlord to answer your calls or the maintinence guy to come. I've called the water guy on a Sunday before to have him tell me he'd call me the next day, because it was sunday. Sometimes individuals, like my neighbor for example, take a different day of rest, but there's generally one per week for everyone. This is a day where they hang out in hammocks, drink beer and spend time with family or working on their cars or houses.
3) Expect higher pitched prices, for gringos only: Due to skin color sadly, and general gringo behavior, more often than not a Mexican will quote you a price for something that can be two or three times higher than what a local will pay. This isn't something to get angry at, just something to use to your advantage. I generally offer half of what someone tells me something is for most of the time, save for businesses like hardware stores and the like. Anything clothes related or something like that will get me trying to negociate. Worst case scenario they refuse, and it's probably something I didn't actually need in the first place. So if a guy on the beach offers you sunglasses for 200 pesos, offer 100.
4) Expect Sales People to Flock: Also because of skin color and gringo behavior, expect sales people to flock to you. These will be anything from people selling food, advertising restaurants, selling hats you name it. Many Americans who come here get really put off by this, but you should just learn to say no politely and do so. I've never had a Mexican get upset by me saying no, although some will try again in an attempt to get me to say yes. Stern but polite no-s will do you good here.
5) La Hora Latina: This is to refer to the latina time phenomenon. Lateness is not something to get upset about here, it's honestly expected and excused. If you've got plans with a mexican (or someone who's lived her awhile and adjusted) and it doesn't happen, don't think of it as a rude act or a disrespect to you. There's almost always a reason for it and it's so common it's expected. Almost everytime I ask my friend Gustavo what's up, he tells me he's running late, again. I made a joke at his party that I was running late on food because I'm now a Mexican, he just laughed smiled and said "Yes, exactly".
6) Police may try and target you for bribes: It's illegal for the police to harrass tourists here in Acapulco but they sometimes do anyway, especially away from main areas. They understand that American's live in a police state where they actually listen to the cops and they often try to use that to their advantage. Regardless of what they want, I tell them to leave me alone. If they don't, we find a way to leave ourselves. Sometimes this starts a chase, but it always ends fairly quickly and mildly. So when a cop threatens to take you to jail or tow your car for not complying, tell him to fuck off and leave you alone. This is only within Acapulco city limits, Diamante which is where the conference is does not hold quite the same freedoms, so consider that. We aren't so apt to run from the cops over there, because they are actually allowed to chase you. In Aca, if their superiors hear about a police chase after a gringo there will be issues, from my understanding.
7) Many services are audible: Everything from trash to purfied water has a talking vehicle announcing it's presence. We know when everything from tortillas to butane is coming up our hill just by the sound. Mexican's pay attention to this and this is how many services are handles here. This is generally a pretty nice system, save for when construction with jackhammers is going on. Then all you can hear is construction, which makes paying attention to the services a bit difficult.
Above is a photo taken by someone this past New Years eve, during the crazy firework display.
8) Building projects that would be illegal in the states: It's almost a daily occurance where I see a building or business here and think "That would be so illegal back home". For example, Paradise Dance club down the coastera has a bungee jumping station. I'm pretty sure there's something similar at the children's El Rollo waterpark on the coastera. Certain building shapes and styles that would be considered too edgy or too modern for the US. It's just different and it makes everything here incredibly visually entertaining.
9) Super Cheap Alcohol: I expected booze to be cheap, but not quite this cheap. A bottle of alcohol that'd usually cost 50 bucks in the states can cost 10 here for literally the same brand. It's available everywhere 24 hours a day thanks to Oxxo, which makes for a very free society in that regard. Also the drinking age is 18, so if you're under 21 you can buy whatever you want, usually without ID. I've bought lots of alcohol here, and I've never been asked once for identification. Locals assume that as a foreigner regardless of how young you look, if you're alone in Acapulco you're old enough to drink and smoke.
10) Gas Prices are High: Due to the super regulated gasoline market prices are pretty regulated. The government is in the process of privatizing it which has partially raised the price from 13-14 pesos up to about 15-16 pesos, which has caused nationwide protest. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but it really breaks the bank for collectivo drivers and others that depended on that steady price for their livelihood. We expected prices to drop once we crossed the border but the prices were actually higher here than in California, which is saying something.
11) Food is different: And I'm not just talking tacos, here. Try and get rid of expectations when you order food here, because it's rarely what you expect. Sometimes, like in the case of burgers, the changes are for the better. I'm talking the addition of ham, hot dog and pinapple to a burger, which I consider revolutionary. Sometimes, like with pizza, they aren't. Mexican's are known to put hot dogs on pizza, which already is pretty different from what you're going to be used to in the states. Pizza commonly found here is drastically different from the states. I find it amusing because even the locals admit the pizza sucks. As far as I know, if you want good pizza like you're used to in the states, you're going to have to hire me to make it for you.
12) Ants, Mosquitos, Cockroaches, Oh my: Acapulco is subtropical in climate. While it doesn't have as much wildlife as a place like Oaxaca, it certainly has way more than I'm used to. The three I listed above are the most common you'll deal with in terms of pests. Acapulco is the home of biting ants, so assume any ants are going to attack you and give you a rash, because they probably will. Just pay attention and it shouldn't be an issue. I honestly didn't even encounter the ants until I moved up the hill, but mosquitos will be an issue unless you live high up in a building.
13) Locals will make jokes: Especially if you don't speak spanish, locals will poke fun at you. It lessens over time as you get more familiar and the locals become more familiar with you, but they like to jokes. Mexican culture is very honest and literal, which brings me to my next point.
14) Mexicans are brutally honest: If you're fat, expect at least one Mexican to bring attention to it, even if they're just using it to identify you, for example, the crazy fat gringo(not saying this is the case, it's just a real life example I've seen here haha). If you've got a bad sunburn, they might joke and say you look like a dog's chorizo, that is his penis(also another real life example, much to the annoyance of our british friend). Our Mexican friend Gustavo get's called a guero(identifying term for white guy, generally with blue eyes but not always) at the market because he's got a habit of bringing gringos to the market with him. They aren't being insulting, they're just pretty honest. It's not rude to call someone fat here. If someone gets offended, its on them to lose the weight and thus the title.
15) Taxis/Collectivos will always assume you need a ride: This can be helpful when you first get here. It almost seems like there's always a ride when you need it which is nice. It can get a bit annoying though when you aren't actually looking for a taxi. They'll stop and drive slow next to you, beeping and yelling taxi sometimes. Just tell them no and they'll leave you alone, if you don't need a ride.
16) English is not super common: Don't expect there to be an english speaker at every restaurant or business. Many Mexicans speak the basics but few go beyond that. I've met my share of locals who speak english, but I've also met a lot more mexican's that don't, so consider that.
17) USD isn't accepted everywhere: And the places it is will price gouge you, so it's best to get rid of USD and switch to pesos immediately. Most businesses will refuse the USD, as many don't want to deal with the hassle of exchanging the dollars for pesos.
18)Construction is constant: One of the things I love most about Acapulco is the fact that things are always changing here. Construction is always going on either privately or not. For example, one of the castle like properties on my hill has had people breaking up boulders with jackhammers to build into a property wall as we speak. Down the hill, you'll see a building being constructed by hand by a group of Mexicans. Across the city, I see the huge shell of a building that wasn't there when I moved here and has been built by hand out of concrete without trucks or mixers.
19) Not all food products available in the states are available here: A few I can think of off hand are Mountain Dew, Red Vines licorice candy (or any twizzlers, super rope or soft fruity licorice product). I've not found spices like cardamom or nutmeg as of yet. Sour cream as you know it doesn't exist here, it's called crema and it's a different product. So if you've got anything you consider a must, ask me if I've seen it! I'll let you know either way, as I wish someone had provided that service to me.
20) Chickens, everywhere: Even on the beach you'll find live chickens, which are nearly as common as dogs, especially in a neighborhood like mine. So don't be surprised if you're walking around and you come in contact with chickens, there aren't really free range rules here so it's a bit of a free for all in that regard.
A photo taken by someone on the beach, shows how many people flocked to the shore for fireworks on New Years eve this year. I watched it from above.
I know there's more but this is a good start. If you've got any questions about life here, just comment below and I'll answer to the best of my ability. I'd like to be a source of truthful information on the reality of life situation here. Things are awesome, but they're definately different and that needs to be considered by anyone coming here. The more you know, the less culture shock you'll experience when you arrive!
Thanks for reading!