BY TRAVIS BEMBENEK
It isn’t easy to live in a country other than the one we are born and raised in.
Some countries make it easier, while others make it so their immigrants rarely, if ever, truly feel welcome.
Think of how many immigrants live in an adopted country in constant fear of discrimination, racism, police harassment, or violence. Of course, some countries have programs and resources available to help immigrants or foreign residents, but that does not necessarily mean that life is easy or welcoming for them.
Many of us feel frustrated at certain processes or requirements of living in Mexico. But imagine an immigrant trying to navigate the Department of Motor Vehicles in the United States. Imagine a foreigner trying to figure out how to pay their taxes with the IRS. Imagine trying to navigate buying health insurance in America.
Many of us feel frustrated with the residency process in Mexico but speak to an immigrant to the U.S. about their residency/citizenship process for some perspective. I have immigrant friends in Europe who marvel at the resources available to them (like free healthcare, free childcare, free language classes), while at the same time living with a constant sense of racism towards them.
I am not trying to put down any particular country or claim that Mexico is perfect. But I think those of us foreigners living or spending significant time in this country should feel gratitude.
My personal experience in Mexico has been of people who are very welcoming of the foreign population. Of course, as the numbers of us in parts of the country continue to rise, certain issues and problems are created, but in general, the Mexican population welcomes us with open arms. I’ll share a few examples. Think of how many times you have seen a Mexican try to speak English when we struggle in Spanish. Just yesterday at a restaurant a Mexican thanked me for speaking Spanish to the staff. It wasn’t a condescending comment about some of us not speaking Spanish, but just a thank you.
Mexicans don’t charge us money to enter their places of worship but rather welcome us to enter and attend. Mexicans try to help us navigate their country and be accommodating with our sometimes clumsy questions and actions.
The local international school near our home is having a “typical Thanksgiving dinner” for the school lunch in which kids are encouraged to dress formally in a sign of respect for the holiday. A few weeks ago, during a Day of the Dead message given by a Catholic priest in our town square, time was also given for a local Jewish Rabbi to speak.
Life is not easy anywhere. There are always challenges and frustrations with bureaucracy and overly complicated processes. Mexico most certainly has its share. But I think Mexico has something special that helps us foreigners.
Mexico teaches us patience. Mexico teaches us humility. Mexico teaches us to respect elders. Mexico teaches us about the importance of community. Mexicans welcome us with a smile and a sense of humor. Mexicans teach us the importance of (loud) music and dancing in our lives. Mexico’s community, climate, food, and culture make us feel fortunate to be here and be able to enjoy it all with the locals.
Travis Bembenek is the CEO of Mexico News Daily and has been living, working or playing in Mexico for over 27 years.