Since moving to Mexico, I’ve definitely had to adjust to the differences of living in a foreign country. In this post, I’m sharing a few interesting tidbits I’ve learned since moving to Playa del Carmen as an American expat. The following items are just representative of my experience so far and may not necessarily hold true for all parts of Mexico. Here’s 10 things you may not know about living in Mexico.
The tap water is not safe to drink in Mexico. Most commonly people will purchase large bottles of water (called a garrafon) that can be bought at a local convenience store. These can be placed upside down on a dispenser stand in most homes. Water delivery trucks regularly pass through neighborhoods with a loudspeaker to deliver the bottles.
2. You can't flush toilet paper.
The plumbing systems in Mexico are not equipped to flush toilet paper so you have to throw it away in a waste can next to the toilet. You will see signs in most public restrooms warning you not to flush toilet paper or sanitary items. This was probably the biggest adjustment for me coming from the US! Sometimes I still forget.
3. Milk and eggs are not refrigerated.
During my first trips to the grocery store in Mexico, I was very surprised to see that milk and eggs are not refrigerated. Milk comes in a boxed carton and is not refrigerated until after you open it. Apparently the pasteurization process is different which makes it safe not to be refrigerated. I definitely don’t like the taste of the milk to drink on its own, but it tastes okay in cereal or coffee.
4. Cash is the preferred method of payment.
Cash is typically the most preferred method of payment in Mexico. More and more places are starting to accept credit cards but you’ll definitely need cash for taxis, buses, and smaller restaurants. It’s a good idea to always keep at least a small amount of pesos on you in case of emergencies. Most places in Playa del Carmen will also accept USD as payment and offer a set exchange rate.
5. WhatsApp is a way of life.
WhatsApp is the most preferred method of communication in Mexico and nobody sends text messages. WhatsApp is a free messaging app that runs on wifi and you can make voice and video calls as well. Many phone plans include free messaging on WhatsApp, which makes it very popular for international messaging. In addition, many businesses will advertise their Whatsapp number where you can communicate with them quickly and easily.
6. Laundry is done at the lavanderia.
Most homes in Playa del Carmen do not have washers and dryers so the majority of people take their clothes to the lavanderia (laundromat). What’s different is that you drop off your clothes and they will do everything for you – wash, dry, and fold. You can even pay extra to have your delicate items hung dry. The price is measured by the weight of your clothes and it is extremely cheap.
7. Stray dogs and cats are everywhere.
In Playa del Carmen, there is definitely an abundance of stray dogs and cats on the street. When walking around my neighborhood, I normally see stray dogs looking for food as well as cats hiding under parked cars. There are periodic campaigns that travel around Playa del Carmen to spay and neuter street dogs and cats but it is still a problem. Most of them are not aggressive and will just leave you alone.
8. Pedestrians do not have the right of way.
You definitely have to be careful when walking around downtown Playa del Carmen. Even though there are crosswalks, pedestrians still do not have the right of way. Drivers here can be pretty aggressive so you have to be very cautious when crossing the street.
9. Ketchup comes with delivery pizza.
I was very surprised to find several packets of ketchup (catsup) that came along with my delivery pizza. It turns out that ketchup is a common dipping sauce for pizza. Can’t say that I’m a fan! How about some ranch por favor??
10. Mail service is close to impossible.
Mail service is extremely difficult in Mexico and can take a very long time. I don’t even have a mailbox at my apartment building so I wouldn’t trust sending anything to my home. Amazon delivery and online shopping is becoming more popular but the delivery is still unreliable. It’s pretty common to have an item delivered to a local post office or delivery point where you have to go pick up your item.
These are just a few interesting tidbits that I’ve learned since moving to Mexico. Anything surprising? Feel free to comment below!
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