From my friend Ana Paula, who is French-Portuguese.
- How long have you been in Puebla?
I have been living in Puebla since June 2007.
2. Why did you decide to move here?
The first time I came to Puebla was for a student exchange program with the university UPAEP (Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla). It was my first time in Mexico. I decided to study in Puebla because it was well located and I could move and travel very easily throughout the country. I met a lot of people, among them my current boyfriend. Long distance relationships are difficult, therefore one year following the student exchange program I came back to Puebla and decided to stay.
3. What are you doing now?
I am a French teacher at a private high school in Puebla
4. What do you find difficult about living here?
Although you live for a long time in a foreign country, you always feel that there are cultural differences between your culture and the culture of the new country. I think I am well adapted to Mexico, but there are still some difficult things about living here such as: machismo, the lack of entrepreneurship or initiative, the fear to express their ideas or opinions, the lack of solidarity at work, the importance of the appearances and overwhelming superficiality (overall in the “Poblana” society), the slowness of administrative processes and in the day to day life style.
5. What do you really like about it?
I love Mexicans for their happiness and their great generosity (“mi casa es tu casa”= “my home is your home). They have strong bonds with their family. They do not feel as stressed as European people. They enjoy their life fully. I love the Mexican folklore and admire the pride they feel to be Mexicans. I think Puebla is a wonderful city for its colonial and colorful architecture and its perfect climate.
6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here?
Prepare your arrival:
– Get contacts (for a job,to find a place to live, etc)
– Gather information on Mexican culture and lifestyle
– Be open-minded and patient to understand Mexican culture
7. Favorite food here?
Tacos, ‘esquites’ (Mexican snack of grains of corn which are boiled in salted water. It is served in small cups and topped with lime juice, chile powder, salt and mayonnaise) and ‘chiles rellenos’ (green chiles stuffed with cheese).
8. Favorite drink?
Mezcal (beverage made from the maguey plant or ‘Agave’)
9. Favorite activity?
I love walking in the colonial downtown and through several parks of the city.
10. Favorite place?
In Puebla: Puebla, Atlixco, Cuetzalan
In Mexico: Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mayan Riviera, Chiapas
11. Favorite holiday?
I love the syncretism of the Day of Dead between Spanish and pre-Hispanic cultures and Mexican traditions for Christmas holiday.
I read Sober Señorita’s “11 Things You Must Accept Living as an Expat in Mexico“and, like many of her commenters, I agreed with some things and disagreed with others. While her 11 Things list is true for her experiences in Cancun, I thought I’d make my own version for my experiences in Puebla. Here goes:
1. The banks: This is probably my biggest pet peeve. The banks are full of fees, arrogance, incompetency, and inefficiency. You can do a lot of things online, but if you have to go to the bank for anything other than to make a simple deposit, expect to spend one to two hours being shuttled between different unhelpful employees and ridiculously long lines.
2. Lines: Lines here are aggressive. If you want to get something, you need to be willing to sacrifice personal space (get as close to the person in front of you as possible, or risk being skipped) and to practice your shouting. Not rude shouting, but shouting to get the vendor’s attention when you’re, say, in a big crowd in the market and everyone and their mother wants to buy something from the same person. I’ve gotten so used to these tactics that once, when I was visiting the US, I accidentally skipped a bunch of people at the post office because I just assumed they weren’t actually in the line. There was too much space between them!
3. Traffic and pedestrians: A friend who drives in New York once told me, “You just have to be prepared for drivers to do anything.” And that’s exactly the way it is here. As a pedestrian, you need to be extra careful about crossing streets. Always make sure the driver sees you and is going to stop, and never cross a light that isn’t red. Be particularly vigilant about buses and taxis (buses are, sadly, known for mowing down pedestrians, even the ones waiting at the bus stop). A good rule to follow is “When in Rome, do as the Romans” and cross the street when (several, not just the daredevils) local people cross.
4. Every service making tons of noise: the jingle from the gas truck, the whistles from the garbage men, the shouts from the water delivery men, the flute of the knife sharpener. Anyone who has a service to offer in your neighborhood will announce it with some sort of sound. And when you’re dying to take a shower but you’re all out of gas for your water heater, you’ll be at your door like a bloodhound, honing in on anything that sounds remotely like the gas song. There’s even a cumbia featuring the shouts from the people who buy used things: “Se Compran Colchones” (“Mattresses Bought Here”).
5. Parties: Expect to get home right at dawn, or, worst case, at lunch time the next day. I’ve even been to weddings that have “Breakfast at 6am” listed on their menu.
6. Gas and water: Oh, how I long for the days when I never ran out of gas or water. Houses here have “cisternas,” a huge collection tank for water, and you need to use a “bomba,” or pump, to get it up on your roof so it can flow back down into your pipes. If your cisterna’s out of water, you’ll need to call a “pipa,” which is a giant truck that delivers water. And if your bomba’s broken, then you’ll need to call the plumber. I don’t usually have water problems, but what drives me nuts is the gas (for your stove and water heater). It follows Murphy’s Law: You’re at home all day and the gas truck goes by a million times, and you think, nah, I have plenty. And then the next morning before work, your water heater refuses to turn on, your stove rejects your attempts to light it, and you’re screwed because you won’t be back home until the gas service has stopped running for the day. Go figure.
7. Eating times: At first, it’s weird to eat lunch at 2pm (or even later) and dinner between 8 and 10pm. But then you get used to it and it all seems to make more sense. Just bring snacks for the long periods between meals.
8. Cake: So moist, so wrong. Some people love “tres leches” cake, which is soaked in milk, but I do not. I’ll take a regular ole vanilla cake with no milk seeping from it like an overly soaked sponge, please.
9. Informality: In the beginning, it might drive you nuts how people invite you everywhere and confirm all plans, and then never show up for anything. After a few months, you’ll start doing that yourself! Not everyone is perpetually late or flakey, and you’ll have friends that will get mad at you if you are. But if someone leaves you waiting for him/her without warning, don’t get too mad. It’s just a different social scene.
10. The metric system: If you live in a country that doesn’t use the Metric System (ahem, the US), then you’ll need to adjust to asking for food by the quarter kilo or measuring distances by the kilometer. It’s not difficult to adapt. Just don’t make the mistake that I did and ask for a kilo (2 lbs) of jalapeños at the market when you really only need two or three peppers. Or, do make that mistake and then you’ll learn the metric system really quickly!
11. The little stores: My friend Emma moved to Chile last year and wrote about how conflicted she felt about having to go to different little stores for everything she needed. In the beginning, it can be overwhelming to have to stop by the carnicería (butcher shop), verdulería (fruits and veggies shop), panadería (bakery), farmacia (pharmacy), abarrotes (general groceries, often dried or preserved), expendio de pan (bread that’s near or past its expiration date and therefore on sale)… Of course, we do have Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, and infinite chains of Mexican grocery stores, but the fact is, they’re expensive, and the produce they sell isn’t usually fresh. By going to all the little places, you not only get to know the people who sell you their products, but you also get ripe fruit, fresh bread, and better prices. Another option is the market, which will often have most of what a grocery store has, just separated into different stalls.
And there you have it. These are the eleven things that I had the most difficulty adjusting to, or still have problems with today. What’s on your list?
The Battle of 5 de Mayo took place here in Puebla. The French tried to capture the city, but were repulsed by the motley forces of General Ignacio Zaragoza. This battle had nothing to do with Mexican Independence, nor is it a day of drinking and debauchery! Here it is celebrated with a month-long fair at the Forts, and a parade the day-of. Most school kids participate in the parade and they have the day off, while the rest of us have a normal workday, since it’s not a federal holiday.