Living abroad can be tough to adjust to. Like I outlined in a recent post, there are many things you have to accept and adapt to, especially in Mexico. Living in another country can also teach you many valuable life lessons. Here are a few I've learned while living in Cancun for 5 years now:
This is a big one! Those who know me know that my patience levels are not the highest. Living in Mexico where things generally take longer than usual (Mexican time, ahorita!), where it's not weird for appointments to be missed or changed, and being late is normal, I've had to learn to go with the flow. I've learned that sometimes schedules don't go as planned and that's ok, that it will work out. The language barrier has also taught me to be patient. It can be overwhelming even with the Spanish I have learned to listen to a foreign language and try to communicate all your wants and needs this way the majority of the time. This requires a unique quality that finally, after 28 years of life I can finally say I have: patience.
2. Stay true to yourself
Not only has living in another country helped me figure out who I really am, it has taught me how to stay true to myself and my beliefs. Living abroad, you sometimes feel that when you find someone from your native land - paisanos as they call them here in Mexico - you have to be friends with them. It's always exciting to find a friend that speaks English when you are surrounded by Spanish speakers, however they're not all meant to be your best friends. Don't get me wrong, I have a lovely group of expat friends here in Cancun, but I have met some people who I just assumed would be a perfect friend for me and they ended up not being a good one at all. I feel that I was a little naive at times here just thinking, "great a girl who is also from the USA, aka my new best friend!" In reality some of my closest friends here are Mexican girls I met when they picked me up here at the airport 5 years ago. The lesson here is to pick and choose your friends wisely because living abroad can help you make friendships that will last a lifetime.
3. Embrace differences
As touched on in one of my previous posts, there are some things about living abroad and in Mexico that can drive anyone a little crazy at times. The best way to persevere through these times are to relax, breathe, and embrace the differences. One of the best things about living away from the United States, is that it's NOT the United States! When I came here years ago, I wanted a change, and a big change is what I got. All the complaints I have about Mexico are a small price to pay for the amazing food, culture, people, beaches, and history I see and learn here everyday. I still have to remind myself of this everyday, but when something goes wrong, take it in stride, and most of all embrace the wonderful differences.
4. Enjoy the ride
The best thing about living abroad is that you learn and see things you would have never gotten a chance to by staying in your home country. This is a beautiful thing. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the setbacks, or missing the comforts of home, that we actually forget to enjoy the ride. I know that years from now I'll be telling my grandchildren all about my years in Mexico and all the crazy and wonderful things that happened to me. For me, living abroad has become a defining moment in my life. It has secured my sense of self and given me tools of acceptance that will be valuable for the rest of my life. Thanks Mexico! You're pretty great.
5. True Patriotism
Don't get me wrong with this one, we ALL know everyone looooves the USA! Amurica! Greatest country in the world ..etc. However, there's a huge difference between the USA and most other countries around the world. As we all know, the USA is the melting pot, with cultures from everywhere. For example, I say I'm mostly Irish (Black Irish to be specific) and a little German. This sounds straight up crazy to everyone else around the world since most of them are from one country with one culture. It is extremely different for me to live in a place where the majority who live here are only Mexican and so are their parents, grandparents, and those before them (With a sprinkle of Mayan & Spanish here and there). I've had people here ask me: What kind of food is super American? What's your favorite American dish? I had to stop and think. Well I love Chinese food, pizza, sushi, meatloaf, chicken patties, and yep Taco Bell. The beauty of the United States is you can get food from any kind of culture. The beauty about Mexico is I've learned what it's like to just grow up being from one country and being extremely patriotic of that country. I love that people here are Mexican and damn proud of it. I must say living here as made me feel a little left out that I didn't grow up with a stronger sense of culture. Tacos, limes, futbol, family, THAT'S Mexican. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that's SO American, except for maybe for something like McDonald's. If you're from Mexico, you defend your country 'til the end, you are loud and proud, you're Mexican. I'm happy to say a little part of me is Mexican now too.
If you haven't already I highly suggest living abroad at some point in your life. You'll definitely learn all these things and more. It may just be the best decision of your life!
Here's a Mexican custom that's yummy: