The Little Differences

Mexico is a very different country from the UK. It’s not really fair to compare the two, looking for ‘better’ and ‘worse’ aspects given the historical, cultural and industrial starting points of either nation. But you tend to look anyway. Mexico has a nicer climate. The UK has better food. But the Mexicans know how to cook it properly, and know how to enjoy eating it. Britons have more cash. Mexicans have improvisational skills that would stagger the average Brit. Etc.

There are similarities too. The more I learn about Mexican law, I realise how the legislators of the two nations think along much the same lines. But once the laws have been enacted, the similarities end. It’s not that all Mexicans ignore the law, or that all Britons obey it blindly. But nonetheless there is a large gulf between the two peoples in how the law should be viewed.

Some people have claimed that Mexicans reluctance to treat the law as anything other than a flexible set of guidelines which are observed on a voluntary basis, to be simply a cultural thing. That’s a load of bollocks if you ask me.  People have been getting away with breaking, bending and plain corrupting the law for so long that a state of hardcore apathy has set in. Another oft posted/spoken/written point made, is that there is no hope of change in a country where you can’t even get the population to obey the traffic lights. I’ve also noticed that a lot of those who complain about ‘how things are’ in Mexico are the same people who are responsible for ‘how things are’ in Mexico.

If this sounds like I’m having a bit of a pop at my adopted homeland, well…I am. It’s more than just a little annoying to see the idiocy that goes on on the roads. Drivers driving and eating tacos, women drivers speeding down busy roads whilst using a teaspoon to curl their eyelashes. Drink driving seems to be as much a national sport as bull fighting or football. There is no social stigma attached to it whatsoever. Seatbelts are ornaments. Lights may or may not work, and tyres may or may not actually have some tread left on them. I could go on and on. I haven’t even mentioned the use of the car horn yet…

I refuse to take part. Just because other people wish to behave like idiots, doesn’t mean I have to join in. I politely decline to be one of thirteen passengers in a seven seat car. I will usually decline a ride with someone who has been drinking, or take the wheel myself. But it turns out there is a social stigma at work. Being ‘awkward’ is frowned upon. I’ve even been told that I think I’m ‘special’. Actually, I’m just not an idiot. And have no desire to end the night with my body parts being scraped off tarmac. Thanks very much…

I came across the video below on another blog. It’s from the UK, and typical of the sort of public safety ads that run there. The social stigma in the UK points in the right direction. I did think, briefly, that these sort of ads should be run in Mexico. Maybe things would change then. But it occured to me that most Mexicans have seen these ads, close up, in full technicolour, on a road near them. Multiple times. I’ve seen several dead bodies in the aftermath of a moment of road stupidity. They shrug. Take another swig. Step back on the pedal. And now I find I share the general state of apathy that has existed for so long here.

16 Comments

  • Again, just a matter of replacing the word "Mexico" with "Peru".
    Anyway, we all know who to blame for this Latin American nuttiness. There's a little corner of Europe with all too many similarities…

      • Balls are just about starting to get rolling here too. Plenty of opportunity for everything to be stopped in its tracks, but once the cultural change ball gets going hopefully it will be an unstoppable force.

        It's a pity everything started going backwards here since the 60s. The 60s were great, 50s better, 40s Lima was little different from 40s [insert any N.American city]. In the centuries before, Peru was one of the world's wealthiest and most developed countries. Peru went backwards while everyone else went forwards. Of course though, Peru was never very good with equality.

        Which way did Mexico go? Sideways and round and round? 😐

  • It seems to me that the readiness of UK citizens to obey and respect the law hangs by a thread and shouldn't be taken for granted. When I moved to a certain county I was shocked by the number of drivers with a complete inability to stay within white lines, often swerving or crusing down the middle of 2 lanes, women who really do do their make-up in the rear view mirror on their way to work, 50% of drivers are also using a mobile phone, 90% of drivers ignore the speed limit and I've stopped counting how many times I've seen cars and lorries run red lights.

    If there's no enforcement there is no law.

    • The last line of your reply is the key. And bad as some parts of the UK may seem, they just don't come close to what you'll see in Mexico. I'd show the deaths per capita of Mexico and the UK as a comparison, but the Mexican authorities only measure the deaths on highways. So basically the figures for Mexico City go unrecorded.

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  • I agree with everything you said (and hope you don’t fall in despair in this anguish city of extremes)–but is the food really better in the UK?

    • Oh yes it is. Really. By far. But I should be more specific. It's the ingredients you see. But not just that. I did mention that Mexicans know how to cook the stuff better. And I should add that most Brits can't operate a microwave properly.

      British beef is superb. Not even in the most expensive, fancy and recommended Argentine restaurant in DF, have I come across meat as wonderful as a fillet steak bought from my local Dorset butcher. Scottish salmon is unbeatable. Our cheeses are in my opinion the finest in the world, superior even to French cheeses. British beer is, well….real beer. And what wouldn't I do for a beautiful slice of Blood Cake with a fried egg on top! In fact we Brits rule the roost on offal in Europe… 🙂

      British food has a bad rep. The problem, I believe, lies with the British people, rather than the ingredients or recipes. Far too reliant on continuously serving up boring roast dinners, and utterly resistant to the idea that dining should be an event. And by dining, I don't mean the occasional visit to a restaurant, but the everyday sitting down to eat you lunch and dinner.

      Eating seems to be an inconvenience to most Brits. Something that gets in the way of more important things, like work, sleep and….well, anything else really.

      I recommend watching Anthony Bourdain in the UK.

    • Escape….sooner or later, I will. I should think I'd be back in London by 2012 at the very latest. The Olympics and the Queens Diamond Jubilee. Not that I care much about the queen one way or the other. But I'm sure there'll be an extra public holiday or two thrown into the calendar. Wouldn't want to miss a couple of paid days off.

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