Hard chips and shell? What is that? Ground beef in your tacos? What? Sweet salsa? Of course now you can find this at some restaurants in Mexico, but these things are not originally from Mexico. Now I like to explore Mexican food in my US travels, mostly because I find it interesting how they cook and serve “so-called Mexican food” in the US.
In Mexico, it is typical to take off as long as you can on a holiday. If the holiday falls on a Thursday, then you of course take Friday off, too. What is the point of coming to work for one day? If possible, take Monday off too, because after partying too much you need the rest. Here in the US, the only Puente is on Thanksgiving weekend (my new favorite holiday) because sometimes, especially if you are in school, you can even take Wednesday off. But if the Fourth of July falls on a Thursday, tough luck, because you will be back to work on Friday, whether you have a hangover or not.
Growing up in Mexico I used get a hamburger on my birthday or some special event, either grilled at home or by going to an American restaurant. When I first came to the US, I learned that eating hamburgers is easily an everyday, not so unique event. Hamburgers quickly lost that special connection I had with them before.
When I moved to the United States, my cousin had given me a bag full of coins that I knew by their monetary value, .25c, .10c, .05c and .01c., but not by name. I had a layover in the Houston airport and I was hungry, so I stopped at the nearest food shop and ordered a hot dog and a Pepsi. I couldn’t understand what the lady at the counter had told me, so I just threw a bunch of coins on the counter. She counted them and told me: “You still need a penny.” I was going crazy — “What is a penny?” The man behind me threw a penny on the counter and the problem seemed fixed. I thanked him as if he had rescued my dog from a well. I was so embarrassed later that week when someone finally explained to me the value of a penny!
I moved to the South and I was expecting it to be glamorous, with shiny lights and a huge highway system. While the ones that I saw in Houston were bigger and shinier than I’ve seen before, everything was certainly not as fancy as I had expected. When I took my second plane from Houston to Little Rock, AR, the plane and the airport were smaller than the ones we have in Cancun.
Growing up in Mexico, all I knew about the map of USA was that Texas and Florida once were once part of Mexico, as well as California. And we definitely knew about NYC from the movies and TV.
When I first left Mexico, some acquaintances were asking me that “If you see my friend, tell her hi! She lives in California”, as if the only place to go when going to the US was LA. Not too long ago, a friend was going on a trip to Asia and had a layover in Atlanta. All my friends were desperately trying to reach me on Facebook and Whatsapp; my traveler friend wanted to hang out since he had to spend some time in Atlanta. I contacted him and said, “I live in Arkansas, and Atlanta is not exactly close.”
Sorry if I offend anyone. But when I told my friends that I was moving to the US, they were jealous — especially my female friends. “You are going to be around all those hotties.” Sorry gals, not all of them look like Ben Affleck!
What I miss are the street vendors and the ability to walk out and buy a cup of fruit or tamales. Unless you are in NYC or Mexican Little Village, street vendors are not to be found — only fast food restaurant, and frankly, it is nowhere near the same experience.
In the US, people are always on the go, and they don’t take the time to get to know the people around them. Sometimes you don’t even get to meet your neighbors, and it is difficult to get help from people that you don’t know. In Mexico it is a different story — even strangers get to be part of the family. And when you greet someone in the US, you might get a “Good morning” greeting a yard away, but in Mexico you get a real hug and one or two kisses on the cheek.
Siesta is very important part of Mexican culture! I miss having that long lunch hour, spent having a quick lunch over a tortilla and then spending most of the time resting my eyes in a hammock or an outdoor plastic string chair.