Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gringas Are Smelly

My Gringa-ness makes people feel uncomfortable. I couldn't think of a good way to begin this post so there you have it.
When we go to fiestas here there's always family or friends that we know and then about 30 OTHER people that we don't know. And I, singlehandedly with my pale English speaking self have a magical ability to make those 30 other people feel really uncomfortable. Plus the host, because none of their friends will speak or have a good time until I vacate the premesis.

I'm a nice person, friendly, smile-y and everything but there's something about my Gringa-ness that just .....FREAKS strangers out here. Is it a cultural thing I don't know about?

Yesterday we were invited to a birthday party at our friends house. When we showed up there were about 12 people outside eating and having a good time but when we came and I sat down the party went silent. *chirp chirp* *crickets* People sitting on either side of me stared straight ahead and all conversation stopped. Some people have the grace to go to another area of the party but the others just stay and try and not stare at me.

This ALWAYS happens!

After a while, another car load of about 10 people showed up and they didn't even want to come in the gate of the house, they stayed outside and STARED in my direction and then away, like "OMFG, the devil is in there!" The host had to drag them in and make them sit down. Nobody shook my hand but there were at least a few polite "Buenas Noches." People ate in silence.

I usually try to start conversation with someone and normaly get one word responses or strained grunts.

If the host is really great they'll talk to me and maybe tell a joke about me to the crowd and help me to say something to kind of break the glass a bit and then people will at least find a way to party among one another and do their best to pretend that I'm not there. A lot of sideways stares.

Sometimes, to my relief, a person will get brave and ask me what in the world I'm doing in Mexico or where I'm from. Those questions usually lead to a big group Q & A where they ask me all sorts of crazy stuff about the U.S. or my past life, but at least then they TALK to me. After one of those they'll even include me in the party and I'm always thankful for the curious person.

I've noticed that strangers in general aren't too talky-talky here like they are in the U.S. so I know it's not JUST because I'm a Gringa, but I know it makes it worse. Back home you can strike up a conversation with a lady in line in the store by saying "OMG, I LOVE your shoes!" and 20 minutes later you're in the parking lot still taling and soon to be best friends. HERE if you say you like something another person has or is wearing they look at you like you have two heads and may bite them at any moment. With both heads.

I don't know WHY strangers aren't friendly with one another here and I don't know why Gringa-strangers are even more freaky. Back home if a foreign person came to a party we would MAUL them with questions and attention.

I often wonder if there's a key, a magical IN that I don't know about in these situations that would help. Like, a phrase I could say or handshake. I thought my babies would get me in the in-crowd but turns out it's a no-go.

Someday maybe we'll just know enough people that I won't BE a stranger anymore or maybe I'll just get used to being an Elephant with Leprosy hanging around in the room. But for now, I'm gonna REALLY appreciate the new friends I'm making at work and the family of my husband.

Ugly Elephant
*** Years later update***  Yeas have gone by and I'm still smelly, but not nearly as much.  I've found that there is no magical "in" and folks still don't like me to compliment them on their earrings or shoes - BUT - but it get's better.  The more Spanish I learn the friendlier people become because they're not nervous about the language barrier.  I'm able to say Mexican jokes and little phrases these days that help set people at ease.  And I've found that a smile continues to go a long way. It get's better. <3 nbsp="" p="">

13 comments:

rubireyes said...

This post really strikes home to me. I have gotten to the point where I would rather stay home. My husband asks me if that makes me feel lonely, but the truth is I feel less lonely home alone than in a room full of people who won't talk to me. I have a feeling you might be the 1st person I have come across that can understand that.

Gringa-n-Mexico said...

I too want to stay home sometimes Rubi! My husband doesn't get it though and won't go without me, which would get us in trouble because then we'd be that jerk couple that never goes to anything that we get invited to. He always says that they'll be offended if I don't go and he does. And maybe they would, but maybe they'd be relieved too? Who knows, I'm just glad you get it. Hugs to us!

Zoe said...

Hmmm. That is weird as I have never found that to be the case in Mazatlan. Maybe because so many gringos and Mexicans get together for various things, street parties, baby showers, etc. Mexicans, I have found, love to start conversations with you in line, on buses,at the grocery.That is just MY experience. Yours does not sound like a hoppin' good time and I'm sure makes you want to pull out your mirror to see if that booger managed to work itself out of your nose, or horns have grown out of your head.

America said...

Do you live in a small town or a none tourist town? When I've gone to see family we don't get that kind of reaction but then again we're not blond haired, blue eyed guerritos :)

gringationcancun said...

In Cancun I have the exact opposite experience. Whenever I go to Mexican parties, people always talk to me and ask me questions.

It might just be a regional thing (they're used to foreigners in Cancun), but are you saying hi to everyone when you arrive at a party? When I first moved to Mexico I didn't know you had to "saludar" to everyone in the room, and it caused some tension. If you don't "saludar de beso", they think you're either being rude, anti-social or high-and-mighty... so they won't talk to you because they think that you don't want to talk to them.

Now I know that when you arrive at a party in Mexico, you have to go around and "saludar de beso" with EVERYONE, which is a great icebreaker even if it makes you uncomfortable at first.

Suki said...

Gah, I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN! It's exactly the same sitting here "being Indian In Paris". Grr... I'm not sure why the hell this place is called the city of dreams (in India anyway), but I sure could use a few human traits in the robots that live here!

It might not always be a dead conversation stopper (even though I'm pretty damn fluent in French), but I always end up noticing the white people talking to each other and leaving the rest out. Often anyone who isn't from Europe or the US just gets bloody left out.
Not saying it's better in India - everyone in trains ends up staring at foreigners like they're white elephants - but being on the receiving end kinda sucks!

Gringa-n-Mexico said...

Suki - Awww :) I have friends who've been to Paris and they say the people there are JUST PLAIN RUDE. So, you just enjoy the food and soak up all that education and ignore their asses. ;) I hope you find some good friends though! :)

Kristin Valdiviezo said...

My best advice and what I do no matter how shy I feel walking in to a party with a bunch of people I do not know is greet everyone (the slight handshake for the men and a kiss on the cheek for the women). Not gonna lie but it works every time. I think sometimes people are just scared and don't know how to approach you. Like "does she speak Spanish?" I think it goes both ways, we may think they are rude and they may think we are lol... Just greet everyone as if it has been a while since you saw them!

Kristin Valdiviezo said...

Just read gringationcancun post...that is exactly what I was meaning as well! Beat me to it :)

PuertoVallartaGirl said...

well, I believe in visualization: warning, spiritual kookiness, but i have these problems too from time to time. It comes and goes, and its not just for me in Mexico, it also happens in the US. I have found that if I do affirmations to myself that everyone loves me. and I feel accepting inside myself towards other people that the world is a mirror of what is inside myself. But I guess that depends on what you believe...

The other thing I was thinking was... could it have anything to do with the particular climate at the border and kidnappings etc.....

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Your blog is fascinating. You really need to write a book!

Crystal said...

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Barb said...

Hey, chica. You showered yet or are you still smelly? *grin* Miss your posts.