Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Mexican "No"

There is no shortage of guests in Mexico, even for just watching soccer.
There is a joke about ex-pats that Mexicans will never ever say "no." Like many stereotypes behind a joke, it signals a tendency rather than a rule.

Mexicans value personal relationships much more than Americans. This means that Mexicans take things more personal. Sometimes, an American can seem too rough or rude to a Mexican, while the Mexican can seem too sensitive or thin-skinned to an American.

Another example is criticism at work. Americans tend to separate their work from their persons, but Mexicans do not. Thus, criticism of one's performance in public is much more embarrassing to a Mexican than to an American. Obviously, like with everything, there are exceptions.

At the extreme, saying "no" directly can be seen by some Mexicans as a mild insult. It may sound weird to Americans but when a Mexican says "yes" when they mean "no," it's because he doesn't want to insult you. To him, it's like if you are offering a gift, and then he insults you by rejecting it.

So, how do you know if a "yes" is a "yes" or a "no"? It takes practice. Here are a few tips.

Understand that it's a stereotype. Mexicans come in all types. And a person is an individual first, and a Mexican second. Also, it's a cultural thing and complaining about it is not going to go away.

When it comes to real important things, Mexicans have no problem saying "no." For example, a doctor or a potential employer will not be afraid to say "no" in a professional setting.

On the other hand, Mexicans have no problem saying "yes" to invitations to parties or get-togethers, when they know fully well they're not going. In Mexico, this isn't considered rude. On the contrary, it is the responsibility of the host to adjust for people not showing up, or showing up with an extra guest or two. At the very least, assume that a Mexican will show up with a friend, spouse, or romantic interest. Mexicans typically prepare extra food, just in case, which often gives them an excuse for a second, smaller reunion the next day, called the "recalentado," literally,  the "re-heating" (of the food).

If someone who has lived in Mexico for a while was present at the time, ask him or her later if that "yes" was a "no." Over time, you will learn who keeps his word and who doesn't.

You'll eventually memorize some "code phrases." For example, "I'll see" means "maybe" and "I'll do everything humanly possible to be there" means "no."

Living in Mexico is a different experience, and you may find some Mexican traits that you do not agree with. I guess you could always avoid it by staying in a gated ex-pat community, but then you'd miss out on many of the great aspects that living in Mexico offers.

Want to know more? Read about how Americans aren't looking forward to retirement age anymore.


Robert Ervin is a freelancer who writes about healthcare, medical tourism, and living in Mexico.

If you're considering traveling to Mexico for healthcare or retiring in Mexico, you may want to  get yourself a copy of The English's Speaker's Guide to Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico in order to find a good doctor or hospital in the main towns and cities of Mexico, or The English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, to understand how the Mexican healthcare system works.

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