Friday, August 1, 2008

The Most Hated Gringo in the World Report – 12

About nine months into our expat adventure, an adventure that has been marred, to say the least, by the presence of Gringolandians, we begin to get the distinct impression that the vast majority of not only tourists but expats of the American flavor act as though they expect Guanajuato to be just like America.

That observation soon blossomed into the full-blown fact that most Americans who visit or move here expect Mexico in general, not Guanajuato particularly, to be just like America.

I began calling this a Gringolandia Fact after interviewing Mexican nationals in Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Puerto Vallarta. All the nationals with whom we spoke unanimously said that they believed Americans act as though they think and expect that everything in Mexico should work like things work in America.

Some of this works out in seeing Gringas (a female Gringolandian) march up to Mexican woman sitting on the sidewalk feeding her child a torta and lecturing this woman on how she should be feeding her child a bowl of Special K. And, if you tell the Gringa that not only is what the Mexican lady was feeding her child is none of the Gringa's business, but also that the Mexican woman doesn't understand a screechy old Gringa's English, the Gringa will say in hushed tones as though talking about National Security Secrets,

"Oh, she understands English but is pretending she doesn't."

Americans, I am convinced, believe that most sincerely.

Another thing Americans seem to think on a massive scale is that they can jump the border and get a job.

We've heard this over and over again in emails and in forum posts. They announce on the forum they are coming to Mexico, they are going to live in a resort, and be a plumber (or real estate agent or whatever).

"My name is (Name Withheld) and I have a teenaged son. We are moving at the end of the year to Guadalajara. I'm taking plenty of money to not have work for a few years but want to work after a couple of years after knowing the culture and language well!!! Could I make a living being a plumber or repair person there?"

First Mistake Americans Often Make

"I'm taking plenty of money to not have work for a few years…"

This guy might as well put a magnetic sign on his van reading, "Rob me, I have plenty of loot!" Or, put a big neon, billboard sized sign on his casita saying, "I'm rich. Please break in my house and steal from me."

You would be surprised (I'm not) at how many Americans come to Mexico and pull this same act in various forms. They must think that to advertise they have money on the Internet, where no evil demoniac would possibly lurk, is a real safe thing to do.

If this guy will post online where he is moving and that he is coming with bounty for all, then just imagine how long it will take for him to get ripped off in Mexico.

Second Mistake Americans Often Make

"… want to work after a couple of years after knowing the culture and language well!!!"


Highly unlikely.

America has a less than 9% bilingual rate. That has got to be comprised of the foreign population who live there, wouldn't you think?

Of those Americans who attempt learning a second language, less than 4% actually do.

Though admirable, this guy's statement, if coming from a typical American, shows he hasn't a clue how to go about second language acquisition and yet he goes on in the forum post to say,

" I speak fluent work Spanish!"

You can bet the farm on the fact that whenever an American claims second language acquisition fluency that they are NOT fluent in any sense of the word.

Now, I am not being catty here at all. What I am being is hyper-realistic. Americans do this all the time. They think that because they can say a few words in Spanish, as the result of work contact with Border Jumpers, that they are fluent. Out of what kind of frame of reference can an American make such a claim of their language proficiency? They can't. The 4% failure rate in America's second language acquisition speaks for itself.

I acknowledge this guy's desire. However, his work Spanish is never in a million years going to get him through the very formal Spanish needed to obtain an FM3 work visa.

Third Mistake Americans Often Make

Furthermore, he will never, ever be able to work as a plumber. They are plentiful in Mexico and legally he won't be allowed to. You can't do a job Mexicans are qualified to do. You can buy or begin a business and hire Mexican plumbers but work as a plumber? Not on your tool-belt life.

This assumption is all too commonly heard to be a coincidence. I have many Expat, not Fakepat, friends who have begun businesses in Guanajuato. The nightmare in trying to obtain working papers and permits is almost beyond comprehension.

Work Spanish fluency, whatever that means, is not going to guide you through the process.

What should guide you in the desire to live in Mexico is come here not as a cup half full but totally empty.

What you think you know because you've worked with Hispanics who are in America will not serve you at all.

Americans make such a grave error in believing that because they had a Mexican maid or handyman in America and ate at Taco Bell that they have the Mexican culture thing down pat. Americans have trouble understanding their own culture.

How then can they come to Mexico and expect to get along well?

Culture and language? Not a problem. I had a Mexican maid back home and worked with illegals in construction. Two years top! That's all I'll need!

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