Mexico City: The Cultural Codes and Etiquette

BY Dimitri Voulg

Mexico City: The Cultural Codes and Etiquette


Mexico is not “cheap”

First up, language. You can get by speaking English almost everywhere. However, it’s perceived as a semi-cynical display of privilege –particularly when it's your first language. Some English speakers pick up Spanish after a couple months, others don’t learn it even after a few years of moving. The latter come across as disrespectful as it implies disregard, pretentiousness, and a lack of interest for the culture.

Now onto partying. For many, coming to Mexico City will include nights of drinking and partying. Three things to consider: as mentioned earlier, mezcal is not to be shot, when toasting, look people in the eyes, and, last but not least, loud conversations in the streets in the middle of the night are not pleasant for anybody. Be mindful of your neighbours, and keep the volume of your voice down.

When it comes to clothes, there are virtually no rules. Just remember: sure, you’re in Mexico but you are not at the beach, so don’t dress as if you are. The average chilango (a person from CDMX), will be conservative with their fashion. That said, some people are very stylish. Some clubs – especially in Polanco, Roma, and Condesa – will not allow shorts or sneakers. Beware, as this signifies they might be classist, sexist, homophobic, and/or racist. An example? They may not let solo males go inside. Don’t worry, you can stay away from those clubs as there are enough inclusive spaces in town.

Remember, even though prices may be more accessible for those visiting from wealthier countries, telling a local “Mexico is cheap”, when the average college graduate makes just a little more than the minimum wage in countries like the US, is utterly impolite. Don’t do it. Mexico is not cheap, Mexico is oppressed.

PDA. Do it! Some people are amazed by the amount of it on the streets. From queer people holding hands, to office workers making out at a park during lunch break, you may see every expression of love in the streets.

Time is relative in Mexican culture. Thus, the normalisation of unpunctuality. Depending on the person, the concept of “on time” can mean a 15-minute delay, and being “a little tardy” may actually mean one hour late. It’s a terrible habit that people struggle with every day, even with services or work-related matters. Your patience will be appreciated!