Short glossary of the politically correct between France and Mexico

In Mexico, we don’t say NO

So, what do we say (if it’s no!)??? Nothing, or we say yes, even if it’s no. I know, it can sound weird. But saying no in Mexico can easily be perceived as an offense, a lack of respect. It’s rude. In France, it is the opposite. If someone doesn’t tell us “no” (but actually he really wanted to mean “no”), then we have the feeling to have been fooled around, we interpret it as a lack of respect and even hypocrisy.

In France, we go to the POINT

It means that we don’t really spend time in creating bounds, especially while doing business. We want to start negotiations fast because we are at work. In Mexico, it’s the contrary: before going further, there’s a need to become more familiar with each other, to know people with who we are dealing. In a certain way, people tend to create friendship even though it can sound “hypocrite” for a French. After all, let’s be honest and admit that it’s impossible that people will become friends in a “French way”. But it’s part of the protocol. Without creating bounds, any negotiation will fail.

In Mexico, forget the POWER RELATIONSHIP

In France, if we are not satisfied with a service, we will easily complain and we will do it openly. We will go straight on, exposing what went wrong in a direct way. This strategy absolutely doesn’t work in Mexico. To the contrary, you have all the chances to make you enemies. If you are too direct in Mexico, people will close themselves and won’t help you out. They react negatively to confrontation. So, what do we do??? Well, I haven’t find the key yet! All what I can say is that you need to keep smiling and being patient. Do I always do it? Well, no, because after all, it makes almost 29 years that I have always been direct. But I try and I think that I am progressing.

In France, we are ON TIME

In France, we are generally on time, even though we apply a 15 minutes margin while visiting friends and family (not at work!!!) In Mexico, don’t be surprised if the friends that you invited arrive two hours late: that’s normal! I think that in a general way, you can expect between 30 minutes and 1 hour late on average. In France, it sounds disrespectful but in Mexico, it doesn’t matter. Personally, I don’t really like to invite at home in Mexico, because of this matter. But here is a clue: if you want your guests to be on time, give him a time 1 hour before you are expecting them!

In Mexico: ONE KISS and a HUG

When you want to say “hi” to your friends and in family, it’s one kiss and a hug! When I arrived in Mexico, I was surprised because in France, body distance is greater than in Mexico and French don’t necessarily like to be touched (ME especially!!!). But in Mexico, it’s the custom. Moreover, in France we do two kisses instead of one. Every time that I go back to France, I need at least two days to get back to the French mold. And then, same thing when I return to Mexico!

In France, no need of JUSTIFICATION if you don’t respond to an INVITATION

In France, if you receive an invitation that you cannot honor for any reason, it’s not a big deal. You can simply answer that no, you won’t be able to go and that’s fine! In Mexico, as I told you, saying no is rude. This is why, a kind of justification will be expected from your part. If you say that you cannot go, you need to say why. Why do I say “a kind”? Well, because I noticed that anyways, people don’t say the truth. Example: someone will tell you that he cannot go because of another commitment (with family or whoever) but he is actually planning to spend a Netflix night at home! In this context, why lying and simply not say that we won’t go without having to justify ourselves? I still have a hard time to get that…

In Mexico, we SHARE FOOD

Imagine that you are in a restaurant in France: you will never start to steal in the plate of your table companion neither ordering plates to put in the center to share with everybody. Each of the people around the table will order his own plate. Well, in Mexico, it’s different! Don’t be surprised if people order dishes “al centro” (which means for everybody, in the center) or if the guy next to you starts to take food in your plate! In Mexico, we SHARE and people are less individualist than in France. The concept of personal distance is also different. But what are the PROS and the CONS? The PROS: it is convivial and warm, and you can taste many different things. The CONS: if you don’t like what has been ordered you are screwed and there’s also a chance that you won’t eat that much (because in Mexico, people eat FAST). It thus happened to me a lot of times to leave a restaurant after having barely eaten which is frustrating at the moment of dividing the bill…

In France, dinner time is SACRED

Eating rhythms vary from a country to another. One example is the dinner which is sacred in France. Why? Because it’s a family time. It’s the moment where all the family can be together and exchange about the day. It’s a time of sharing and well, in France we love eating! But in Mexico, it works differently. The most important eating time is the lunch, around 2-3pm. That’s problematic because not everybody can be available in the afternoon. But some manage to get free from their work, pass for their kids (yes, in Mexico, kids leave school way earlier than in France), eat together and go back to work to end the day really late…Personally, but this is surely because I am used to the French rhythm, I prefer to leave the office around 5pm and not having to go back. My dinner time is SACRED!

In Mexico, we don’t WAIT for the others to start to EAT

In Mexico, in general, as soon as people get their plate they start to eat, without waiting for all the others to have their dish too. In France, that’s impossible. If we do so, we are going to be perceived as really rude. It is possible that your host invites you to start, but if not, you must wait. Moreover, in Mexican restaurants, as soon as you have finished your plate, a waiter will take it, even though the others around the table are still eating. In France it wouldn’t happen, because it is rude to let people eating by themselves…Plates are all removed at the same time. But in Mexico, we don’t like to have an empty/dirty plate in front of us.

In France, hierarchy is not such a BIG DEAL

Hierarchi is more or less important through countries. In France, it is not such a big deal. Your boss will be pretty available even though we are not in a horizontal management neither (as it is the case in northern countries such as Norway or Sweden). In Mexico, it is the contrary: social status matters and CEO don’t exchange with workers: the power distance is high. I am definitely having a hard time with this conception, because according to me we all should be treated equally. But in Mexico, social classes don’t mix. As a matter of fact, the middle class is only emerging.

In Mexico, we don’t say “merde” or “putain” but QUE PEDO, PUTA MADRE o CHIHUAHA

When something annoys you in France, or sucks to say it straight on, we say “merde” or “putain”. That’s definitely not elegant and correct but it’s how it is. In Mexico, don’t try to translate it directly!!! Mexican say “Que pedo” (something which is not to translate directly neither!) o “Puta Madre” o “Chihuaha” (to not say “Chinga tu madre” which is definitely NOT elegant).

In Mexico, you will hear “SI DIOS QUIERE” and “QUE DIOS TE BENDIGA”

The catholic religion is strong in Mexico and it’s really common that people will say “Si Dios quiere” (“If God wants") or “Que Dios te bendiga” (“God bless you”). In France, I never faced that even though I guess that families which are practicing do it.

In Mexico, be patient: “ahorita” doesn’t mean NOW

In France, we like things to be made ASAP (as soon as possible) and we don’t like to wait. We consider that we have no time for that (especially in Paris!). But be careful: showing signs of impatience won’t be well received in Mexico! Globally, Mexican take more time to do things. They obviously don’t have the consciousness of that, because for them it is their normal rhythm. Time perception is something really relative and it is highly culturally bounded. In Mexico, you have to adapt to this “coolness”. Believe me, it COSTS me and there’s not that much to do about it. It’s highly probable that they will tell you “ahorita” but it won’t necessarily mean “now”. “Ahorita” can mean in two days or in two weeks! But things won’t get faster because you simply want it. And the last thing to do is to pressure! In Mexico, people don’t react well to insistence and worst, threats (as I observed it from some foreigners). Breathe, take it easy, smile and things will come when they will come.

In Mexico, “NO PASA NADA”

In Mexico, nothing seems to be grave. Whatever happens, “nothing is happening” to translate it literally. It means that you have to take it easy and stop to worry. The limit? Sometimes, things can be important and matter, but people will keep saying “no pasa nada” and that is frustrating. To the contrary, in France, we will have the tendency to face more frontally the situations and feel more easily concerned. In the end, there is not one way better than the other one and you simply have to adapt to another way of apprehending things.

In France, don’t joke about DEATH

In France, death is something serious and heavy. You will probably tell me: “Yes, because it is!” Well, in Mexico things are a little bit different. Mexican make fun of death and even celebrate their deceased once a year, the 2nd of November. It is the famous Dia de Muertos. It doesn’t mean that they don’t feel sad of having lost someone. But their way of dealing with death is different.


Family in Mexico is everything. It can seem simplistic said like this but it is a reality. Members of a same family remain close to each other and spend a lot of time together, especially on Sundays. There is a bit of that in France: some French families have the custom to have lunch together on Sundays but it is not that common anymore. Distance and independence are stronger in France, and it is a fact that family members don’t live close enough to each other: families are separated geographically (they don’t live in the same city). In Mexico, the family represents one of the strongest value and is central. It has its pros and its cons, I would say. It is great to have support of your family but sometimes it can turn invasive.

In Mexico, ADORE your MOTHER

As the family is strong, the mother is a central figure in Mexico. Many cultures put a lot of emphasis on the maternal figure: Mexican culture is definitely one of them. To be honest, this is something that I still don’t manage to understand totally. I do have respect for my mother, but in Mexico, it is way above the notion of respect. It is as if people were owning a lot to their mother, especially sons. It reminds me South Europe countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal. But it is more in Mexico where you must be present for your mother. And I even don’t speak about the euphory for Mother’s Day. To the contrary, in France, we are more moderated.

In Mexico, if you are a man, SUSTAIN YOUR FAMILY

It is also something complicated for me to understand but men in Mexico have the weight of the full financial responsibility of their family. Some women do work, but they are still a minority. Usually, they take in charge the house, the kids and the household chores. It sounds totally outdated to me and completely archaic. Mexico is for sure changing on this way and more women work now. But it’s slow, the change requires time. And men are still educated with the idea that they are financially responsible of their family. In France, even though there’s still a lot of progress to do regarding gender equality, most of women work and they have a financial responsibility such as men have. Moreover, roles are shared (regarding the house, the children and so on).

I probably said it thousands of times but everything is a question of perspective. Through countries and cultures, customs are different. When you arrive in a new place, as a foreigner, you don’t necessarily know the rules and you need time to measure and understand what is happening around you. For sure, you do mistakes because you simply don’t know. I remember that the man who is now my husband was not giving me much margin of error. He was always trying to correct my attitudes, telling me what to do and what not to do. I had, at certain point, had to put limits because it was simply too much. I arrived at a level where I had the feeling that I was not myself anymore. And this is where the challenge is: how to adapt while keeping your own identity?

After almost 2 years in Mexico, I still don’t have the key. I try to do my best everyday but I slowed down my constant efforts, allowing myself to simply be…myself (even though people don’t always like it).

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A propos

Tout a commencé par un semestre d’étude…cela s’est terminé en déménagement. Moi c’est Hélène, et je me suis installée au Mexique en Juillet 2016, époque à laquelle j’ai débuté le blog. A French in Mexico, c’est l’histoire d’une française (moi) qui vit au Mexique et qui écrit plein de choses sur le voyage et la vie à l’étranger. Je partage ma découverte du pays et de sa culture, mais aussi mon expérience sur la vie d’expatriée, sa richesse, ses challenges et ses difficultés.

Plus d’informations sur mon parcours, ainsi que mes coordonnées de contact, sont disponibles dans la rubrique « A propos ». Bonne lecture à tous!


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