I was nervous before our first day at the university. Most
of the students would be the age of the team or slightly
older and we were worried that they might be hostile or
indifferent towards us. I soon found that each group of
students challenged my own conventions of social behaviour, and not because they were hostile or indifferent. They
were quick to open up to us and ask us questions about
ourselves. They laughed at the Canadian stereotypes of
uncomfortable, weather-related small talk and were more
interested in talking about themselves or the people they
were in conversation with. We had to be careful not to go
over our allotted time in each class because conversations
were clearly more important to them than any schedule.
In later gatherings at coffee shops, students were quick to
show us what to order. One student even left the café and
came back with roasted corn on the cob — he wanted us
to try the delicious treat from one of the ubiquitous street
vendors. The corn, doused in limejuice and sprinkled with
chilis, was delicious and quickly became one of our favourite snacks along with hot fresh churros covered in cinnamon sugar and filled with chocolate or strawberry sauce.
Throughout my short stay in Mexico I realized that the rest
of North America has a lot to learn from Mexico. When people gather as friends in Mexico that is all they do, whether
they are at home or out the community. There is no expectation that friends are gathering to “do” something. In the
U.S. and Canada, it seems like a party or a movie or shopping is a necessary excuse to get together with friends.
In Mexico, there are no excuses. Friends simply gather to
catch talk about life and family. It surprised me, as a young
man from Canada, how quickly our Mexican friends opened
up to us and how quickly they asked us questions we may
not have been comfortable answering with acquaintances
back home. Family and friends are of the utmost importance in Mexico and they care deeply about learning about
and from one another. Friends are only friends if you get to
know them well and Mexicans have a knack for getting to
know people quite well and quickly. It is a skill we would do
well to strengthen here in Canada.