In retrospect, LA was a bad idea.

So, my time in México has nearly come to an end, and, although I’m ashamed to say it, I’m going to be honest: I can’t wait.  Well, most of the time I can’t wait – I’ve got a lot to look forward to over the next few weeks but only travelling.  The long and short of it is, I’ve had enough of Guadalajara.

All this time, I’ve been wondering about the elusive “culture shock” which I was expecting to experience at the beginning of last semester, but I’m only now learning that it does exist and this is what it feels like.  My friend sent me this definition, which explains an awful lot:

Culture Shock refers to the feelings of discomfort experienced as a person adjusts to a new culture. It is caused by having to cope with many new and unfamiliar situations and traditions. Newcomers feel helpless because they cannot understand all the new things they experience. However, understanding the stages of culture shock –and knowing that it is only temporary– can help newcomers make the transition.
There are four stages of culture shock, although the length of time each stage lasts will differ for each person. The first stage is the honeymoon stage. During this time, when you first enter a new culture, everything is interesting and exciting. You are curious about the new culture and eager to learn. Everything seems interesting, the people are friendly, the food is delicious, and you are eager to explore your new surroundings. However, after some time, the distress stage begins. The newcomer starts to feel uncomfortable and unhappy in the new culture. Everything seems very difficult: shopping, getting around, and making friends all seem confusing. You may begin to feel homesick and want to return home. Feelings of anger and sadness are common, and you may be overwhelmed by small problems. However, these feelings are only temporary. Gradually, the newcomer becomes more comfortable in the culture and enters the recovery stage. The new customs seem clearer, and everyday interactions are easier. You begin to enjoy the new culture once more. Finally, the stability stage begins. Life becomes more normal, and your sense of humor returns, you may not like everything about the new culture, but it doesn’t make you so unhappy. You begin to feel at home in the new culture.

She’s actually become my best friend here this term because we both feel exactly the same way about almost everything (I didn’t know her that well last term, but even then I said we were virtually the same person, we have soooo much in common) but anyway, what really seemed to trigger our rejection of a lot of mexican customs which we thought we were used to was the impulsive decision to spend the Easter holiday in Los Ángeles.  Suddenly, we were able to do all the things we can’t do in México!  Suddenly, we didn’t have people staring at us every time we left the house.  Suddenly, we fitted in.

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I hadn’t really felt like I didn’t fit in until we came back to Guadalajara and realised that there are actually a lot of things that I just can’t get used to, and so many people that can’t seem to get used to me – I’m now noticing that yes, everyone is staring at me, and for the record, I know I’m white, everyone can stop calling me “guerita” now!  I’m just tired of some of the realities of life in Guadalajara, things that I take for granted at home: knowing that there will be running water when I go for a shower, being able to go to a supermarket and buy whatever I want (not just mexican food!), and the number one thing that I just can not get my head around here: being able to go into the university library with my bag.

But, I don’t want this post to be too negative.  There are still a lot of things I love and will really miss about living here – if I could combine the two, I would!

Things I miss about home

University: I’m about to sound like a huge geek, but I miss Cardiff Uni.  As in, the actual buildings, the library, the surrounding.  CUCSH is ugly and I actually really hate the library: is it too much to ask that the books are in some sort of logical arrangement?

Quiet!: Everything in México is 100x louder than probably anywhere else in the world.  Cars, buses, music, people: sometimes (often) I just want everything and everyone to ssshhh, especially at 2am when someone’s beeping their horn for no apparent reason.

Water: Always having running, drinkable water is so much easier than sometimes being able to shower and wash your clothes and always having to buy 20 litre bottles to drink from.

Punctuality: Nobody has time to wait 45 minutes for the teacher to show up, and it just wouldn’t happen in the UK – I definitely miss the 15 minute rule.

International food: In Guadalajara, it is possible to find some foreign foods, but not much and it’s not easy.  Supermarkets basically sell rice, beans, meat and mexican sauces.  I know you’d expect mexican food in méxico but I didn’t think it would be quite so limited.

My hairdryer: I’ll admit, to begin with I was all, ‘it’s great being natural and not have to care how I look!” but I’ve done a 180: I want to wear nice clothes and do my hair and look how I want to look.  True, I could spend my remaining money on clothes and hair products if it was that important, but I can stick it out for another 3 months.

Proper exercise: I went to the gym quite a lot in first semester but now that the weather is so hot, it’s impossible.  There also isn’t a great gym nearby, or many swimming pools, or places to run outdoors, so I’m looking forward to getting back in shape.

And most of all, I miss beans on toast.  México has beans, but not baked beans, it has cheese, but not cheddar cheese, and it has bread, but, well, not good bread.

Things I will miss about México

Lessons: The one way in which UdeG beats Cardiff is the choice of optional modules.  I had a really hard time choosing out of the hundreds, and am always disappointed when I get the list of options from Cardiff: choose 5 out of 7? No problem, I suppose.

Friendly people: That said, it’s really nice that people talk to me and remember things I’ve told them.  It’s been really easy to make friends here and I genuinely like the people.  It’s lovely to go into a café and they remember your name and what you ordered the next time you’re there.

Travelling: México is big, and travelling is cheap.  It’s easy to go away for a weekend and wherever you go it will likely be completely different to where you came from.

Beaches: Following on from travelling, I live 4 hours away from some amazing beaches (4 hours seems like a lot, but on Mexican time it’s not much) and the weather is virtually always beach-weather.

Mexican food: It might take a while, but at some point I’m going to get a craving for tamales and gorditas but not be able to get them anywhere.  Then I’ll be sorry I got so annoyed with the loudspeakers advertising “tamales de carne a cinco cincuenta”

Fruit: Mango. Papaya. Prickly pear. Guava. Avocado. Mamey. Coconut. Pomegranate. And all the fruit you can potentially get at home but would never be able to afford.  All cost next to nothing here, and that is something I definitely take advantage of and don’t take for granted.

Learning about the culture and history of México: I’ve pretty much always said that I’m not interested in most history, but really interested in ancient history, especially pre-hispanic culture, and the more I actually learn and see for myself, the more interesting it gets.

I did buy beans in LA, though.

Basically, I’m looking forward to being able to be 100% myself again and have the facilities to do whatever I want.  Maybe I’m just tired because it’s the end of term, or maybe it’s because it’s so nearly time to go home that I can’t help but think of what I’ll do when I get there, but I’m ready for another change – even if it is going back to what I’m used to.

All that said, I don’t for a second regret coming to México, not one bit.  I’ve had a whale of a time, but I’ve also discovered that I don’t want to stay here forever.  I came here to, as cheesy as it sounds, “find myself” and I think I kind of did – I’m still in the midst of a quarter-life crisis (but what 20-something isn’t?) but I’ve definitely learnt a lot and had a lot of time to think.  I stand by that I’ve learnt and experienced more here than I ever would have done in Spain, which was my primary reason for coming here.  But now that I’ve done that, I’m ready to apply all that new knowledge to “real life”.

But first: México City, Chiapas, Cuba, and Quintana Roo!

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