10 Mexican Habits I Lost When I Moved to the USA

acapulco mexico 15 de septiembre
Mexico’s Independence Day and mariachis in the background.

I was born and raised in Mexico City. I lived there for 18 years of my life before I moved abroad for the first time to London. Currently, I have been living in the US for over 5 years now (plus a few months in India in between), so some of my Mexicans habits have definitely changed over time to adapt to this country. 

1. Saying “salud!” (or “Bless you!”)

In Mexico, no matter where you are when you sneeze there will always be someone, stranger or not, to tell you “salud!” which literally translates to “health!” but technically means “Bless you!”.

During my first while here in the US I was almost upset when I would sneeze and no one would say “Bless you!”, I almost found it rude. Later, I got used to it and even stopped saying it myself and sometimes even forget to say it when I take my trips back to Mexico.

2. Kissing and hugging

In Mexico, greeting someone with a kiss (basically touching cheeks and making an air kiss sound) and/or a hug is very common. You even greet strangers this way when it is in a casual environment such as the strangers being friends of your friends, or meeting your girlfriend’s family. You wouldn’t kiss or hug say your job interviewer or a doctor you met for the first time.

Here in the US, I would never even think of approaching someone to greet them with an air kiss. I’m also reluctant to hug anybody, and hand shaking still feels weird to me when meeting people in casual environments.

3. Being late

Esmeralda
image source

Mexicans are infamously late most of the time. I’m not sure if it’s just Mexico City or the whole country, but even though we mostly blame it on the traffic, I definitely think traffic should take the blame at least 80%. We also somehow always have something to do last-minute.  If you are invited to a gathering and they tell you to be there at 3:30pm, the hosts will expect you to arrive at 4 – 4:30pm. It is also common to tell your most unpunctual friends a different earlier time; amongst a group of friends there are always a couple that are always the most late.

Here in the US, being on time becomes really stressful because Americans hate unpunctuality and even after just 5 minutes of lateness they will start to wonder where you are and exponentially start getting upset. I find that I am way more stressed out getting to places here than in Mexico. I wasn’t even known for my unpunctuality in Mexico, and I find it quite stressful here. I wish people would relax more about it.

4. Taking my time 

Zigzag leggings in the streets of Mexico City
Strolling in the streets of Mexico City

Mexicans enjoy taking their time; we don’t live rushed all the time like they do here in the US. I have three major examples I have experienced:

1. At a restaurant where we love taking our time eating, drinking, chatting and very importantly eating dessert. The waiter will never rush you to leave or bring your check before you ask for it.

Here in the US, I often feel rushed at restaurants, like they want me to leave just so they can sit more people and make more money. I don’t like that they bring you your check before you ask for it and sometimes even before you are done eating! Many times I have wanted to order dessert but couldn’t because the check was already on the table.

Dining in Opulence
“La Casa de los Azulejos” restaurant in Mexico City by Michael Rael

2. At cashier registers in grocery/convenience stores. I never even noticed that people behind me were impatiently waiting for me to pay. I would have never noticed that I apparently take forever to take out my wallet and pay while others are waiting until it was brought to my attention by my American husband. He explained that I need to be ready to pay and not take my time because people behind me and the cashier person get frustrated. I hate that I have to now consciously always try to hurry up to pay, have my money out even before the total is told to me and put my things away quickly.

3. While walking on the streets I think us Mexicans are infamous about really taking our time, walking slow and blocking the way because we are busy chatting with each other. For the longest time I found myself almost running to play catch up with my walking husband. Over time I have developed a faster walking pace but my short height still doesn’t help since my steps are like half the size than everybody’s.

5. Eating schedule

homemade mexican food in mexico
Homemade Mexican lunch, Enchiladas, rice and beans. image source

In Mexico the biggest meal of the day is lunch not dinner and lunch happens around 3:30pm, with dinner coming around 8pm as a light fare. Dessert and coffee after lunch is very common.

Here in the US, the eating schedule looks something like 8am breakfast, 1pm lunch and 6pm dinner.

I like the Mexican schedule way better and I have tried to adapt it here but I can’t seem to be able to make it work. I don’t like having the heaviest meal to be the last one because it messes with sleep, and I usually crave dessert after my heaviest meal which here in the US ends up looking like me having chocolate, cookies or ice cream at around 8pm in bed watching tv. This really negatively affects my sleep and overall energy.

6. Partying/Drinking

Gin Gin Bar, Roma, Mexico City image source

In Mexico, I used to go out with friends to a bar, a house party or a club every single weekend. Weekends are loved by everyone but especially beloved by Mexicans because it means time to unwind. Going out till 3am is common on the weekends.

Here in the US, my partying consists of either going out for dinner + drinks and a movie (and being back before 10pm), or staying at home and watching a movie.

My drinking habits changed too. In Mexico I would never drink at home or during the weekdays. Here it seems that having a drink at home after work or in the evening is very common. We often have wine in the house and often drink some during any day of the week, but the amounts I drink are still less compared to weekend drinking in Mexico.

7. Being aggressive behind the wheel

Traffic congestion
image source

In Mexico City, traffic is pretty insane and you can’t play too nice; you gotta be a bit aggressive if you want to move. Running lights is kinda common and yellow light doesn’t mean “slow down”, it means “hurry up before it turns red”, although not technically.

Here in the US I’m scared of going a little bit over the speed limit and I will never ever run a red light. I have to admit I often don’t come to a complete stop at stop signs if I see no cars and still speed.

Oh and honking! I almost forgot. Honking is pretty essential in Mexico, unlike in India where I feel they have their hands taped to the honk, in Mexico it serves the purpose honking of to let someone know they’re about to hit you, honking at someone who aggressively cuts in front of you, or honking at jerk driving behaviour. I don’t think I have ever used the honk in the US because I am terrified of it since no one honks, but there are a few occasions where I have wanted to.

8. Valet parking

Burger King valet parking image source

Because finding parking spots in Mexico City can be a bit of a drag, using valet parking is very common. Even casual establishments like taquerias will have valet parking depending on the location. It’s also more affordable and worth it.

Here in the US I have used valet parking like once or twice. Oh and don’t get me started on parking fees, they are so expensive here! Compared to parking prices in Mexico, it makes me mad.

9. Dessert

Tres leches cake with mango
Pastel de tres leches con mango (Three milks cake with mango) source

As already mentioned, dessert is an important meal for Mexicans; we have a sweet tooth, some more than others. It is common for any restaurant to offer a good selection of desserts. I find it kind of hard sometimes to find decent desserts in many restaurants here in the US.

10. Lime on everything

Cute straws and limonadas at
Cute straws and limonadas at “La Lorena” Restaurant in Mexico City

Limes are a great food. They go with everything, or at least us Mexicans think so. It is common to see sliced limes in most dishes. We put lime on tacos, meat, fish, fruit, candy, chips, popcorn, raw vegetables, soup, beer, mayo… So good. Also, pretty much every restaurant offers fresh “limonada” (lime lemonade), which is usually my drink of choice.  I definitely miss my limonada when eating out in the US.

In the US, I hate to say I rarely buy limes because they are pricey and somehow don’t go well with everything here. I buy more lemons.

What are some of your habits that changed when you moved to another country?

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29 thoughts on “10 Mexican Habits I Lost When I Moved to the USA

  1. I just moved TO Mexico from US and I’m originally from Ukraine. I would agree with the article that almost everyone is LATE OR DOESN’T SHOW UP at all here… Pretty sweet and warm people, just really flaky and can be inconsiderate.
    Health culture is not there (yet), at least in Tijuana. Large organic food stores are non existent. Nevertheless, restaurants offer much better menu, service and for a fraction of the American cost.
    Girl’s night out with bar hopping and nightclubs is a very unsafe thing to do according to most locals. Daytime lounging is safe though.

  2. I just sneezed in a room full of mexicans and nobody said “bless you” or “salud.” One women gave me a dirty look though. I found this article because I was questioning if its in the culture to say bless you, because in America everyone says bless you to me.

  3. That is an interesting look at two cultures that are next to each other, and intermingle with each other. I think the importance of time is something all Americans could benefit from. Punctuality and impatience are a big part of our culture.

        1. About the USA the thing that bugs me the most is probably the obsession with work and money, people live for that and because of it, it causes so many problems. They are never satisfied with life, they are always in a rush, and they are greedy. Because of this work ethic it’s true Americans are great at what they do and are the best in many things in the world, but I would still prefer them to chill out a little hehe.
          About Mexico, I would like to get rid of the corruption which is an infinite entanglement and wouldn’t even know where to start. Policemen take bribes out of pure necessity to provide for their families. I would also like the city to be cleaner and of course way less traffic and pollution that comes with it. Now I realize that those things aren’t necessarily a cultural thing but right now I can’t think of anything cultural I would change.

  4. Great observations! When I first started working in Mexico City, I hated waiting for restaurants to open for lunch – my day started very early and I was starving by noon. I got used to it with time. And I have happily exported back to Gringolandia the custom of lime on everything. Everything. The “kissing hello” custom doesn’t bother me, but it did take some getting used to.

  5. Lmao! Ok I gotta say I love the kissing chipmunks, sooo adorable (even if it’s photoshop), but the lime meme of someone literally putting lime on EVERYTHING had me laugh out loud, like for a long time 🙂 I swear I was Mexican in my past lives because I have the same “take-my-time” attitude. I laughed so hard at being rushed at the cash register…it’s soooo true. Even here in Canada there’s zero patience at cash registers. Thanks for the laughs!!

    1. Haha I love it! I’m glad I could cause you a few laughs. I really had no idea people were impatient at cash registers and probably would have never noticed if it wasn’t for my husband telling me because it’s not like people tell you to hurry or anything, they just sulk in their increasing impatience.
      Actually, I don’t think the photo of those prairie dogs is photoshop. 🙂

      1. oh haha prairie dogs, of course! And I’m so glad it’s not photo-shopped because it’s just precioso la foto 🙂

  6. Funny to read about the different habits between Mexico and the US. I think Canada and Norway are a bit too similar, haven’t noticed any major changes to my behavior except from the polite small talk you have to get used to here. The ‘how are you’ every time you pass someone in the hall way, by the coffee machine (even if you already met them 5 times before that day…) And they definitely say ‘bless you’ here! All the time:) Canadians are so polite:)

  7. This post made me smile. The things you mentioned we the things i found so weird when I moved here. Nat still can’t find a mayonnaise here that DOESN’T have lime and I still cannot walk as slow as a Mexican! I’m constantly overtaking people in the street.

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