Observations on Daily Life II

My second set of observations on expat culture here in Mexico may have as much to do with being retired from Washington DC as anything else. Let me explain.

Washington DC may be the nation’s capital, but it is also the “type A” capital of the world. The DC metro area is full of very highly educated, very dedicated professionals set on making a difference. Everybody is in a big hurry, and few people suffer fools lightly, if at all. Making policy is the name of the game, and it is a competitive business.  There is a degree of insularity which resembles that of a company town, but in the big-city way that New York is a company town for fashion and business, or LA is one for entertainment.

In social situations in DC, I found it generally took about a minute for the “what do you do?” question to come up. Being at a social event was like speed-dating: 30 seconds to make a determination whether the stranger you just met was important or interesting enough to talk to. Even people who retired in the region tended to keep “in the game.” Former officials kept their titles, and were understood to be waiting the next round of administration changes to get back “in the game.”

People really seemed to identify who they were with what they do/did. (Note: I am told by friends from NY and LA it is the same there…sigh)

Fast forward to retirement and move 2400 miles southwest.

This picture has nothing to do with this topic, but I liked the view of Ajijic

Here, I know how many kids/grandkids people have, where they have traveled, what pets they have, or where their favorite seafood restaurant is. At most, I hear something like I was a teacher, or a banker, but rarely any details. There are a few folks who take “border promotions,” meaning they now claim a more prestigious job title than they actually had.  But in general, nobody cares. Partly that’s because what you used to be is irrelevant to your identity as an expat. Partly it is because our (collective) circumstances are so different, what we each have the most in-common is our commitment to live the expat lifestyle. That first conversation between new expat friends is inevitably about something you like to do.

Unlike the increasing trend in the States to live among like-minded people, expats end up being thrown together socially, if not literally.  If you live in a gated community, there might be some less mixing, but the property costs may be low enough that it is still not as extreme as NOB. If you live out among the locals, you’ll quickly notice that most properties have a high wall, and behind that could be an enormous hacienda or a series of tents, all in the same neighborhood!

Out socially, expats do tend to flock to certain restaurants and bars, but not segregated in any way. As an expat, you’ll acquire friends from all political stripes, from anarchist-to-nationalist. You’ll meet libertines, libertarians, librarians and Rotarians. While most of these folks have settled views that aren’t amenable to change, the fact we are all strangers-in-a-strange-land makes everyone just a little more accepting. Oh, if you want a debate, you can get one on any topic, but there’s a sense that you don’t push arguments too far here: no sense “harshing the mellow” in paradise.

I would like to think being among the Mexican people has something to do with it, too. They are among the most easy-going, friendly, and welcoming people on the planet, and that has to rub off on the expats. Even with all the vitriol during and after the recent US election, which offended the Mexican people’s pride, I have not heard a harsh word directed at the expats. As one local told me, “we (Mexicans) are used to crazy people in charge, you gringos not so much.”

 

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