Everyone who moves to Mexico, except Jennifer Rose (well maybe not, well maybe a sort of Jennifer line), will at some point, be forced to Draw The Line. It is the point where you finally admit you can’t fully assimilate; that point where you say “I can’t do that’. Once drawn you are forced to stand behind that Line and be called an Expat. For others there is no line, only the seriousness of living in Mexico where it is impossible to draw any line because their full time work is living in the moment in Mexico.
For some, the decision to be an Expat is drawn the moment they cross the border into Mexico when the the Line is Drawn.. At no point will this person change anything, that they did at home, even though they are in a foreign country. It might be an urban myth but when Mega opened in San Miguel, it is told that some expats prepared a list for the manager of products they wanted stocked in the store. In fact, only shopping at Mega might be the beginning of drawing the first line.
For others, who are delighted to be in a foreign country, the exploration and adaption to new ways of doing things is a joy. It is almost as if they refuse to Draw The Line or deliberately cross every line they can. Yet the day will come when they are forced to Draw The Line and become an Expat.
Drawing the Shopping Line
Early Line Drawing, for the newbie Expat, begins with Substitution. This is easy as Globalization has placed multinationals Mexico. North American brands have simply changed the label to Spanish, creating comfort with an ethnic twist.
This substitution is easy Canadians who see English and French on all products at home. Although it is rumored that some Anglophone Canadians who come to Mexico, think Spanish is simply French with a new accents over consonants.
While the label may stay the same, the product is given a spanish – corn niblets become Granos de Elote. But pictures ease the transition much like visual signs for drivers in Euope. People looks to the pictures on the cans to get the right substitution. This is an easy one as picture clearly shows
Day by day, these substitutions start to mount up.
New fruits and vegetables are added to the shopping list. New brands of dish washing powder, laundry detergent and soap start to appear in the maid’s pantry. Many expats, look daily in the cupboards to view how assimilated they have become. Bottled water is substituted for tap water. Soon the pantry is looking more and more Mexican and the new arrival feels justifiably proud of how well they are adapting to life in a new country. But really not much has changed except the addition of Spanish Labels for English Labels. No Line has been Drawn – only substitution.
The first test of substitution. is Mexican Brands. They are not substitutions but products made in Mexico for Mexicans. An example is milk in a box that is not in the refrigerator section. Many Expats balk at Milk in a Box even though the rest of the world seems quite prepared to drink milk in a box. It may seem like a silly line but remember, it is called a foregin country for a reason. But this is a rather simple line and does not get at the heart of the Drawing the Line.
It does gets tougher with Mexican toilet paper. Some people Draw The Line at Mexican toilet paper and so begins the transition to Expat. But for others, who wish to assimilate, toilet paper is not a problem. They have not reached the bottom line. But these aren’t really Lines, no leap of faith is required.
Drawing the Fashion Line
For some the bottom line is underwear.
Can they wear this underwear?.
Can they ask for the pole, to retrieve the red flying underwear, that they have seen inthe Tuesday market. Is this the first Line? wearing only only underwear from the US or Canada.
But the advantage of an underwear Line is that you can hide the Line to all but your most intimate friends and keep pretending that you have assimilated.
Staying with the Clothing Line Drawing theme, another line is soon approached – Mexican Clothing.
Mexican women have a unique style such as high heels, jeans and tight clothing. Must you dress like this to assimilate?
Or going further will you buy an outfit like this?
Will you go native?
Will you buy an apron Source: Billie Mercer?
There is something, about putting on this apron, that might indicate you have a crossed a Line but again it is a private choice unless you would wear it to go shopping or preparing lunch for the ladies.
Drawing the Bathroom Line
Sometimes the Line appears quickly and suddenly, summoned by a call of nature and the decision to enter the local Sanitarios.
The simple act of putting 3 pesos, in a steel turnstile and entering into the world of Mexican public bathrooms is a Line some people can not and will not cross nor matter how desperate they are.
But bathrooms present other Lines to cross.
Old plumbing and notes tell you not to put paper into the toilet. This is the ultimate Toilet Line – the number two dilemma.
Do you or do you not put your used toilet paper into a basket beside the toilet?
Or do you flush like the Expats?
Drawing the Eating Line
Would your organic, whole wheat inner child allow you to eat one of these? Could you eat one of these – the Jello line or the food colored Fiesta Cake line?
Or better would you eat something coming out of this pot?
Or could you eat here? Are you wiling to risk Turista?
Drawing the Decorating Line
Folk Art is the decorating choice of Expats. There is some Folk Art no-one would buy. But how far would you go to Assimilate. Would you make your bathroom look like this?
Drawing the Love Line
Another line for some is Sleeping with a Taxi driver lover?
There are Taxis in San Miguel, who don’t come with flowers like this lowers but some come with a very willing driver who will deliver more than groceries.
Drawing the Mexican Lie Line
Would you execute the Mexican Lie? Would you accept an invitation to parties and events that you had absolutely no intention of attending. Would you tell friend what they want to hear even though you would never follow through? Would you assimilate that far?
Where is your Line?
Thanks to Jennifer Rose for her insight into Mexico and to all the people in San Miguel who answered my question – What is Crossing the Line to you.