Friday, June 4, 2010

Culture Shock

I was planning on writing this entry today anyway, but I received a somewhat pleasant surprise to find in my inbox this morning a 66-page pdf file entitled Welcome to Hermosillo 2010.

Now, I'm sure Natalie is sitting on pins and needles that I might disclose something in that document that isn't meant to be shared, so I'm going to go ahead and disappoint everyone by promising to keep that document almost entirely sealed. Sorry, but there is just too much paranoia right now to take that route.

I was planning on just tipping my hat to the diplomats of yesteryear and how daunting new post assignments must have been to them.

Can't you just imagine being in the foreign service 100 years ago? "Hey Joe Diplomat, we are sending you to Peking in a month. Here is a copy of The Travels of Marco Polo. I hear the duck is great. Good luck."

Just about everyday since October when we learned we would be going to Hermosillo, I've been researching on the Internet what exactly is in store for me. I realize that this kind of information is only so good, but I have to imagine will cut into the culture shock a bit. That, and the fact that Hermosillo is practically a border town with more American culture present than many other posts.

So then I skimmed through the Hermosillo hand guide this morning for an hour or so, and I started getting a little cold feet. The move to Mexico has lacked teeth; it hasn't seemed like this was something we were actually going to do.

The pdf has ushered in some of that realization. The rest probably won't hit me until we are driving through Arizona.

Now this is the part where I'll share just a little of the info that I read today, though in truth, most of what I'm going to include is stuff we've probably all heard before, and this was merely confirmation. All the same, if Natalie and the State Department would kindly close out of this blog and go do something more productive, that would much appreciated.

First, the Mexican police really do suggest bribes in lieu of tickets. Similarly, don't part with your licenses, passports, etc. In fact, don't even drive with your passport in your car; rather, keep a copy.

While it is better not to drink local tap, Hermosillo is better than most of Mexico in that you can wash dishes with it. I've been practicing not drinking water when we go out to restaurants. "Would you like a glass of water, too?" "No thanks. I'm moving to Mexico. I'm trying to quit."

The heat is scary. The locals say Hermosillo has nine months of winter and three months of hell. But still, for those inclined to feel cold (read as, my wife), they suggest space heaters for winter nights.

Mexican schedules are intimidating. They start the day "early" though that makes sense because it is so hot. By the way, the guide considers starting the work day at 8 a.m. as early. When I did work, that is when my work day started, so I don't think of 8 a.m. as early. But then things get interesting. Morning runs til 1-2 p.m. followed by the biggest meal of the day. Dinner is at 9 p.m., which isn't that weird for the East Coast when we are eating out, but we usually eat our dinner at home around 6 p.m. Going out at night means you better be able to sleep in or be able to operate on less sleep because it will run into the early morning hours.

All not too bad, but as you start adding little differences here and there, and maybe a few larger ones like language, and culture shock is on the horizon. And a lot of heat.


  1. It's Friday and that means that the State Department Weekly Roundup is up and you're on it! Check it out here:

    If I used your blog and photo and you want one or both of them removed, please let me know!

  2. Living in Mexico for a few months now, I've learned a few things:

    1. Don't ever pay the cop. The tickets are normally less expensive than what the cop is asking for. If they know you are part of the consulate and you pay them, it's means to attack all the other consulate people. MOST of the time, once you ask for the ticket instead of paying him off, they will let you go ticket free due to frustration!

    2. You will still get a little bit of the water when you go out because of ice, unless you ask for no ice. :) The first two weeks we had stomach issues off and on, but we've been fine since.

    3. With the Mexicans eating so late, that leaves the restaurants open for you. We go out to eat around 6-630 and have the entire restaurant and staff to ourselves. IT'S WONDERFUL!!

    I think you might have a little bit of culture shock in the beginning, but you will end up loving Mexico! The security issues will always be there, but overall Mexico is a cool place!!!

  3. ROTFL over this one:

    "I've been practicing not drinking water when we go out to restaurants. "Would you like a glass of water, too?" "No thanks. I'm moving to Mexico. I'm trying to quit.""

    HYSTERICAL. You are such a funny guy!

  4. I'm with Kolbi, excellent line!

  5. I had some thoughts the other day about having this job even 50 years ago. Without the internet to do research, to buy those items from netgrocer, amazon, and all the other amazing websites that deliver whatever you need/want. You showed up to post, you brought what you could think of, and if you didn't have it, you didn't have it. Amazing. I have a lot of respect for those who have gone before.

    The water here in Tijuana isn't as bad either, however, we do not drink it, but we do brush our teeth with it, have ice in our drinks, wash dishes, etc. We have not had any problems.
    A little hint, sometimes housing doesn't have any toilet paper when you arrive to post. And handsoap I would have some just in case. (Although, you might have an good sponser that will think of that, and other things you might need your first day in country)