As you all probably realise by now, I love Mexico. So this blog may come as a surprise to some because I have a pet hate (pet peeve for my US readers) that drives me mad about this wonderful country and it is probably not what you think. My pet hate is walking behind slow meandering people on narrow Mexican sidewalks. There, it is out, I have said it! I have been wanting to write this blog for a while but I never knew how to frame it, but suddenly “me cayo el veinte” (the penny dropped); it is about unwritten rules. You see I grew up in a country where unwritten rules abound. We drive on the left, so we walk on the left, yet everyone knows that going down an escalator you stand on the right, right? We would never walk in “threes” along a narrow street. God forbid someone in more of a hurry should want to get past and we should stop them! Growing up in London, I was always in a hurry, even when I wasn’t in a hurry. I would tut at tourists who meandered along, enjoying the sights as I zigzagged around them to get to wherever I was going early, to show the person I was meeting how important they were to me (another unwritten rule) and in the meantime, I would not stop for even a moment to enjoy my city; after all, I lived there and I knew what it looked like, didn’t I?
In Mexico there are no such sidewalk rules that I can see and certainly in Oaxaca the idea of rushing to get somewhere is a rare one. Families will wander along in lines of 5 making it impossible for anyone to get past. The same families will stop suddenly to chat and discuss where they are headed next, to review a menu, to greet someone they know who is walking down the street. When walking towards people, I find that a group won’t go into single file to let someone pass, like they would in London, but will carry on straight towards them, still chatting to each other, almost unaware of anyone else. And I have to admit it makes me mad. I huff and I puff and I walk on the road to get past people and when I am with friends I can’t concentrate on conversations because all I can hear is my internal monologue of annoyance at how people “just don’t know how to walk down the street” or “have no concern for anyone else” or simply “how in the world am I going to overtake”.
Then there is the concept of just walking for the sake of it, “dar una vuelta” Mexican’s call it, essentially meaning, just going for a wander. I still don’t quite get it. Something in me wants to walk fast to make the most of the exercise or to put a reward at the end like coffee or ice cream or beer, as if just walking and enjoying that is not reward enough in itself. My boyfriend is forever saying “Do you mind if we slow down” and I try, I really do!
Well now, they say that writing is therapeutic because in just writing this down I have realised the issue, I am far too focused on the arrival and not enjoying the journey. Maybe the meandering walkers who I have cursed so often have something on me, the ability to enjoy the moment, the ability to concentrate on their loved ones rather than concerning themselves in the possibility that some crazy Londoner might be getting all worked up because she just needs to get to her destination two minutes quicker? Perhaps I am being too romantic but I have a feeling that if I concerned myself in enjoying the view or the conversation, rather than in reaching my destination, I might just not notice my little pet hate anymore.
Right, I do hope you’ll excuse me, I’m just headed out for a wander…
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, CNN Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR and The Independent among others . Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Instagram and Twitter.
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I don’t know how long you’ve been in Mexico – but you’ve realized one thing for sure – your internal ‘get there’ clock is on a faster pace than Mexico’s. If you think streets are annoying try going shopping at one of the larger super markets. The whole family comes and meanders around in a aisle clogging mob. Since ‘big box’ stores are relatively new to Mexico and most people hardly frequent them – it’s like going to Disneylandia. Amazing and delightful and full of so much stuff. Shopping?
Oh maybe. I learned to just walk go around them when I was in a hurry….but like you certainly couldn’t imagine walking behind them. I’m going too fast. I don’t get annoyed anymore, why spoil my already wonderful day in Oaxaca.
You are so right, why ruin a beautiful day!
I had to laugh when I read your blogpost this morning. I almost wrote a similar post on mine last weekend when I was plagued by drivers and walkers who just couldn’t seem to figure out where they wanted to go. Only problem is this was in California, not Mexico. Must be a universal affliction 🙂
Hahaha this made me laugh a lot. I guess you are right, it happens world wide!
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Ha! Funny. I grew up in Mexico City, and I am definitely a slow walker. My husband, an American, is the opposite. We constantly “argue” about it. I want to go slow and he want to go fast. I have made the excuse that I am tiny (he’s about a foot taller than me) and my steps are half the size as his so I have to walk twice as fast than him to walk along his side. But his post made me realize that maybe it is in my roots to walk slow as well. It was extra funny because I lived in London for a year, and I seem to have adapted well to the “unwritten rules” there, so I totally get what you’re saying.
Haha glad you liked it! I love that you blame it on your size! Brilliant! Thanks for reading my blogs and glad you enjoy them! 🙂