Whenever you travel to a new place, you have to be very careful with what you say to avoid accidentally offending the people around you. As a foreigner in Guadalajara, I quite frequently say things that I think are totally normal, but turn out to be quite shocking! Here’s a few examples of phrases to avoid to keep from offending* the locals.
*Not to be taken seriously, nobody is really going to take offence.
“I’m bored” is a phrase that just doesn’t make sense here. In a city with so many interesting and exciting things going on, how can you be bored? There is always, always something to do: you can take free dance classes in the centre, go walking or horse riding in Bosque los Colomos, see art exhibitions at Instituto Cabañas or plays and concerts at the Teatro Degollado.
“Qué es la FIL?”
If you travel to Guadalajara at the end of the year, you will inevitably find many people extremely excited about the FIL (Feria Internacional del Libro.) The international book fair takes place at the end of November/beginning of December. People will be very surprised if you ask “What is the FIL?” and even more surprised if you confess to not going to it!
“No tengo hambre”
“I’m not hungry” will quickly disappear from your vocabulary when you come to Guadalajara. For a start, it’s hard to resist all the delicious local food, so you will be tempted to try everything even if you’re already full to bursting. Secondly, local people love to eat and will expect you to, too!
“No me gustan las tortas ahogadas”
Speaking of local food, “I don’t like tortas ahogadas” is something you should never admit. Guadalajara’s specialty sandwich is not the easiest thing to eat, but it tastes amazing, especially when made with love in the city of its creation.
“Una quesadilla sin queso, por favor”
Quesadillas are a hot debate in Mexico. In Guadalajara quesadillas are, by definition, griddled tortillas filled with meat, beans, vegetables and cheese. This is in contrast to Mexico City, where cheese is optional. If you’re wondering why it’s so strange to ask for “a quesadilla without cheese,” it’s because “cheese” in Spanish is “queso.”
“Porque comen tanto chile?”
Asking, “why do you eat so much chili?” is like asking someone from Guadalajara why they breathe oxygen. Spice is the way of life. You don’t necessarily have to like chili as much as the locals, but don’t question their love for it.
Helpful tip #1: “Eso no pica”/”This isn’t spicy” is always a lie. Always.
Helpful tip #2: Be careful with sweets: they’re usually chili flavoured.
“Arriba al América!”
Maybe you don’t care at all about football, but in Guadalajara, everybody else does. To say “arriba al América” is to show support for the rival team, based in Mexico City. You would be much safer supporting (or pretending to support) one of Guadalajara’s clubs, Chivas or Atlas.
“Quiero dormir temprano”
You can say, “I want to get an early night,” as long as you are aware that “an early night,” could mean midnight or 1am. People in Guadalajara don’t seem to need eight hours of sleep each night. Meals, conversations and, of course, parties, often last until the early hours, and work and school can start as early as 7am. Sleep is for the weak.
“La vida nocturna aquí no es bueno”
Speaking of sleep deprivation, something you will never find yourself saying is that “Guadalajara has no night life.” The city centre alone has night-time activities to suit anyone, from nightclubs playing latin rhythms where you can learn and practice latin dancing, to theatres, operas, cinemas, restaurants and house parties.
“No soy tu amigo/a”
People in Guadalajara talk to each other a lot, and strangers will often approach you with various questions, offers and comments. More often than not, they will get your attention by using the word “amigo/a.” Even if you have never seen this person before in your life, you should never point out that “I’m not your friend.” It will break their heart.
When you come from a different culture, people are bound to think your opinions are a bit strange. The most important thing is to have good intentions, be respectful and live and learn!
Top image of Guadalajara: Flickr/Luis Camargo.