Monday, October 20, 2008

Living in Mexico: People seem happy here

The pursuit of material things, according to the scientists at World Values Survey, is a "happiness suppressant." If that is true, then you've just got to wonder how this affects Americans who have devolved into a material-seeking society.

·At any given time, one fourth of Americans are mildly depressed

·Americans' personal income has increased more than two and a half times over the last fifty years, but their happiness level has remained the same.

·Americans earning more that $10 million annually are only slightly happier than average Americans.

What is so very interesting is that in a country that is touted as the richest in the world so few Americans are happy and, in fact, are depressed. In a country that has so little by comparison, even though it is right next door to America, México's people are happy and content with what they have. You see this immediately even just visiting this country. People here are happy.

In a University of Michigan survey called World Values Surveys, people worked to gather information on the happiest countries in the world. The study spanned some twenty years. What they found was startling.

"World Values Surveys measures the happiness of individuals by two different means. The first is to simply ask them how "happy" they are. The second is to ask them how "happy" they are, and also how "satisfied" they are. The results are then combined to arrive at a measure of their "subjective well-being," a term generally considered synonymous with happiness."

The results looked like this:

1. Nigeria
2. México
3. Venezuela
4. El Salvador
5. Puerto Rico

Do not miss the profundity here. In countries that have so little materially and whose future does not seem very bright in being able to obtain material leaps and bounds, the people are the happiest in the world. México rates #2 and I am not surprised at all.

If smiles on faces, full body greetings complete with kisses, and jovial laughter being heard everywhere instead of the uttering of vile obscenities is any indication of happiness, we didn't need scientific surveys to tell us that México is a happy country. In a society where the people have so little in terms of material wealth, Mexicans are billionaires in happiness. They are apparently a people who know what counts. They understand that "things" are not what makes one happy.

Being with Mexicans is like being with the insufferably happy aunt that though you find tiring, you leave her presence in a much happier frame of mind. Her smiling and laughter become contagious and before you know it your anal-retentive sour puss is transformed if but for a little while. And, when she's absent or passes away, you feel a true loss for the effect she had on you. That, my dear American, is how I feel being in México.

There is an energy here that I do not believe I can live any longer without. For, to go back to the States, ever, is too awful to contemplate. I could not do it. It would destroy my soul. I need the worldview here that just hangs on every street corner, from every balcony, from every store clerk—I could not live again without the effect Mexican happiness has on me.

The appeals are numerous and sometimes deceptive. But, Americans keep flooding into this land wondering and mostly wanting badly for México to be a Promised Land flowing not with milk and honey for the body but for the soul.

This can be a real possibility for the gringo expat. México is here as she's always been.

However, Americans do not leave their pursuit of unfulfilling materialism at the border. When they arrive in Mexico, these middle-class Americans try living way beyond their means. They've fallen into the delusion that you can come to Mexico and live like Kings and Queens with a stable of servants to wait on you hand and foot. And, consequently they fall prey to the identical thing that gave them no satisfaction in the States: Materialism.

On top of all the materialism, you have Americans who mostly WON'T learn Spanish and thus form Gringo Bubbles or Gringolandias to find social stimulation. This ALWAYS devolves into a kind of Social Incest—there is simple no one else with whom you can fellowship who speaks English.

The Gringo's claim to having "loads and loads of Mexican friends" are simply those Mexicans recycled within the Gringolandian group. I believe they are the same Mexicans who the Gringos find to do all their interfacing in a culture with which the Gringos can't communicate or have any social discourse. The Gringos CANNOT have a variety of Mexican friends because of their continual and almost generational refusal to learn the language so they can have more than the Gringolandian Mexican friends.

This, the materialism with the linguistic-caused lack of Mexican friends, adds to the dilemma. A lot of them seem to form binge-drinking events to cope. I've personally seen this in Puerto Vallarta and Guanajuato. Once when I was in Vallarta, this man in his mid-sixties said that he would get drunk tonight at a party we both would be attending. I asked him why and his response, now get this, coming from a man in his 60´s, was "how else can I have fun?"

San Miguel de Allende, Central Mexico's Gringolandia Golden Corridor, has twenty-two 12-Step Group meetings per week. Sixteen of those are Alcoholics Anonymous Groups (we are talking 16 separate AA "groups") and this is to meet the needs of 14,000 Gringos in the city.

I've heard this more than once that the average American retiree is almost guaranteed NOT to have ANY Spanish in his or her repertoire of expat skills. In America there is a whopping 96% failure rate in second language acquisition attempts. This means of all those who try to learn ANY foreign language there is a 4% success rate. Another sources puts the failure rate at 97%. So, it's a fair bet to make that the expat coming from America is NOT going to speak Spanish.

So, there you have an immediate bad mix of living in a foreign country where you cannot talk to the locals, you are forced into this social incestuous situation of only being able to talk with the English speaking expats, you can't go to a social event like the theater or movie unless it is in English, so what are you going to do for fun? Drink!

Moving to Mexico actually makes a lot of sense even in the present horrible economic times Americans are finding themselves.

If you do it right, and "go native", when you move here then you could conceivably do very well. However, you've got to learn Spanish, live like a native, and leave your materialism behind.

And, that all I'm saying.

No comments: