02 May Dating in Mexico
Ahh dating, the socio-cultural phenomenon that is our mating dance. If there was ever a rule book, it was probably a lie, seeing as to how dating is as ever-changing as the culture we come from. We have a hard enough time trying to figure out the expectations and desires of someone within our own timezone, imagine trying to date outside of it. Maybe we’ve never thought about it until we had to, but if you’re an expat that’s gone out on dates or been “courted” in Mexico, you might have already figured out a few differences. While no nation is a monolith and Mexico is absolutely rich in cultural differences, here’s a few things you may notice if you’re dating in Mexico.
Getting Lost in Translation
Unless you’re a smooth talkin’ cool cat, chances are you find flirting to be flustering and awkward at times. Add a second language to that, and you’ve got quite a romantic comedy in the making. Terms of endearment can also sound strange when outside their native language. For example, calling someone else your orange half might not quite make sense in English, but “media naranja” is a common way to refer to someone who’s your partner.
The use of diminutives in Spanish is also quite popular, as a way to make things sound more cute. This usually happens with nouns, and may also happen with your name. For example, if your name is Michael or Ana, you might get a name change to Miguelito or Anita. Placing a “ito” or “ita” at the end of a word makes it sound smaller and therefore “cuter” even though it is in fact making the word longer.
Or you might get confused if someone calls you a “mamacita” which might sound like mommy, but is more like “hot stuff”. While English is a very pragmatic language, Spanish is one of the romance languages for a reason, and flirting can be incredibly poetic, so if you’re practicing your Spanish, don’t forget to explore past the verb tenses and into the diminutives.
A Religious Matter
While not every family in Mexico is a practicing Catholic, according to a study in 2018, more than half of Mexican citizens attend church on a semi regular basis. And though it may not mean they regularly attend Sunday Mass, important holidays such as Easter and Christmas are usually accompanied by religious ceremonies.
The Virgin Mary, more specifically La Virgen de Guadalupe, is a revered symbol in Mexico worn on clothing and carried around in street processions as a holy figure and celebrated at festivals with food and costumes. If you’re dating someone and happen to be with them during one of these holidays, you might be privy to how Mexicans practice their religion. Depending on whether you yourself are a devout Catholic, other religion, or not, this might be something to keep in mind.
Speaking of religion, the combination of Catholic family values coupled with the community-based approaches of Mexico’s long standing indigenous ancestry make it so that Mexican families are tight knit. To begin with, unlike the USA, children are not expected to leave the home at 18, nor is it uncommon for adults to still live close to their parents once they do move out. Additionally, the nucleus family doesn’t necessarily end with the parents and children, but will generally also include grandparents, uncles and aunts, and of course, cousins. Furthermore, it is customary for Mexicans to know and socialize with their neighbors, and it is part of the culture to greet each other in the streets and stop for chit chat with the vendors who sell your produce.
“Mi casa es su casa” is not just a Spanish phrase we might learn at school, but the very backbone of Mexican culture. In Mexico, “meeting the parents” doesn’t quite mean the same thing as say, in the USA. And coming to a family dinner might look differently depending on where you come from as well. One thing for sure, it’s bound to be enriching.
In 2023 there is a lot of discussion regarding how we perform gender roles and cultural nuance is fundamental for our consideration. In Mexico, there are socio-political movements reshaping the culture to a more equal society, however, many of the traditional gender roles remain. Some ways that we might see traditional gender roles played out in dating are for example many men still open doors for women, pull out seats, and more notably will walk on the street side of the sidewalk, “protecting” the woman from oncoming cars. Women are also generally caretakers, and while many Mexican women have successful careers, some while also being mothers, the image of the independent, self-sufficient, possibly childless woman who “doesn’t need a man” is still an archetype that some Mexican men find challenging regardless of that woman’s nationality.
Of course even though these are experiences that many people share, they are not symbolic of what to expect as context may vary among age groups, class groups, towns, and most importantly within each individual human being. Being sensitive to other people’s context and working on communication is bound to go well despite cultural and linguistic barriers, and exploring love language cross-cultures can be a deeply gratifying and profound experience.