Sunday, 18 May 2008

On being a 外国人... in ¿メキシコ?

We interrupt our regular daily sporadic denpa programming to bring you this slice-of-life bulletin.

Every once in a while, my company sends me down to our Mexican branch for random jobs, more often than not training new employees. I'm usually the goto guy for these situations, seeing as how I can speak English (you be the judge) and sé hablar un poco de Español tambièn. Plus, while I wouldn't want to live my whole life there, I absolutely love the country. In return, Mexicans love me back... I hope? As you can tell from the title (being a foreigner in Mexico), I'm going to share some of my experiences there. I read a lot of blogs and one of my RSS reader sections is dedicated to foreigners living in Japan. It actually seems like a requirement to entering the country:

- Japanese Customs officer: "Maa, I see from your Passport that you're American"
- Budding young JET enthusiast: "Yes sir, I'm here to teach English"
- JCO: "Do you swear to God, Buddha and Allah that you will record every single one of your conversations and bizarre situations on a blog?"
- BYJE: "Way ahead of you, sir" *types furiously*

One of the most popular (and controversial) subject about foreigners living in Japan is the Gaijin Effect. This unwritten law entails that each and every foreigner will encounter a situation where their mere "foreigness" will allow them to easily get out of a pinch, get preferential treatment or simply free stuff. Much has also been said about how trendy Japanese girls will "hop" from one foreigner to another, collecting them like a bunch of handbags.

Well, the same could be said of Mexico, really. If you stay off the beaten, Americanized path, you'll encounter some people who, either out of admiration or confusion, will let you off the hook if you forget to feed a parking meter or skip a traffic light (oh wait, traffic lights mean NOTHING in Mexico). Por ejemplo, I was in this old-school arcade and I really wanted to play The House Of The Dead (who wouldn't? game is so rad) Now I couldn't wrap my head around their weird key-operated system (in my days we just plopped quarters in) The poor clerk didn't speak a word of English and I just couldn't understand what he was trying to say. Lo and behold, he produced a red key from his pocket and pointed to the HOTD machine. "Free", he managed to say. Needless to say, I really enjoyed my time there.

Much like Japanese girls are seemingly instantly attracted to "exotic" foreigners (to the dismay of their parents), so are Mexican girls (NOT to the dismay of their parents). It's no secret that the quality of life in Mexico is much lower than what I am used to, it being a former third-world country and all. I have the feeling most women are taught at a young age that foreign men equate a better life. So, it is not uncommon to have girls flock to you if you are of the male persuasion, because lesbianism still isn't well established in religion-heavy Mexico. Just when I was playing said HOTD, a couple of ladies massed around me, praising my zombie-shooting skills and giggling to each other... so much so that it threw me off my game, so perhaps they were actually making fun of me as I racked up the Game Over screens? It could also be that Mexican ladies are just warm-hearted, not COLD-BLOODED like most North American women... so all the power to them.

Whenever I hit a new area, one of my top priorities is to go on a game rush. I am an avid game collector and I love to find new treasure spots wherever I go. But Mexico is definitely one of the worst places for this particular hobby. I remember that in the nineties, Nintendo shifted SNES cart production to Mexico, that's when they started making the "slimmer" carts that you could pull out without hitting the eject button. So I wrongfully assumed that SNES carts would be plentiful in Mexican used electronic stores. Save for some rare games bought in Texas, I will come home nearly empty-handed, what a disappointing game rush! But the kicker was when I saw some of the prices for new games. Super Mario Galaxy, for example, sold for a delirious 880 pesos. That's nearly $85 US!! Most crappy PSP and NDS games were at the 5-600 pesos mark, too. And the ESA wonders why people pirate games so much down there...

Finally, Mexican people are also very proud of their diverse meals. They eat a lot... it was not uncommon for me to skip on the day's fifth meal because I was about to blow up. Plus all that eating before going to bed isn't good for acid reflux, much less the fact that EVERYTHING comes with a double dose of the good ole spice of death. I took part in a burrito eating contest, only to drop out after two, because these things were huge and my company pays to work, not drift off to sleep during the day. For that reason, Mexicans get into work real early, 6AM at the most. Anyway, if you are a picky eater, either you will have to make some compromises or stick to Denny's and Mc Donald's. Much like Japan has various meals based around ika (squid), Mexico has a plethora of meals that feature some American-disdained animal parts, such as tripitas (fried beef or chicken tripes) and burritos with shredded beef tongue.

Contrary to the USA, getting into Mexico is a simple affair. I usually go in on a FMN visa, but I may as well not stop and declare myself because they couldn't care less. Not that I recommend doing this! At the El Paso/Juàrez crossing, getting into Mexico, visa and all, is a simple 5 minute affair. There are currently tons of ESL jobs available, and while you won't make a killing, you'll make more than enough to get by and accumulate valuable life experience at the same time. Compare that to the implosion of Japanese ESL schools such as Nova and the high cost of life in Japan, second thoughts will start to creep in. But if ESL is not your thing, don't worry. Mexico is rapidly becoming more and more industrialized each day, meaning everyone has an opportunity. That's it for now, if you have any questions, I'll try my best to field them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not saying anything bad about us. I'm mexican btw. :D. And yes, why does the ESRB wonders why we pirate stuff so much. I mean IT COST like $85 Freaking US dollars. For a used game. :(. I mean that's half your paycheck for some people.