This week I am in Mexico City for my fifth visit. I love This city and always find new ways to deepen my experience. Unfortunately, I do not speak Spanish but on this visit I am finding that I can understand more of what people are saying. I am recognizing that positive attitude is everything when you visit a different culture.
I am aware that I am a foreigner who is demanding a lot from locals because I do not speak Spanish and I expect people to speak to me in English.
I could become frustrated about my lack of Spanish. Instead, I make eye contact wi people and smile at them. Plus, I maintain a light hearted attitude.
My motivation is to one day learn Spanish and maybe even move to Mexico City for a while to teach. The more comfortable i am here, the more I feel like I can assimilate and not stand out.
People here try to communicate with me and understand my needs. They show me empathy. The most generous example is when I was attempting to get to my friend Tesy's yoga class which was in the outskirts. Three taxi drivers in my neighborhood refused to make the journey. The subway allowed me to make a portion of the journey but I missed the class and realized I had to be kind to myself and let go of rushing.
At the destination subway station a taxi driver said he would venture to find our address. He repeatedly viewed the tiny map Tesy drew for me and which I showed him on my iPhone. It was an hour's adventure where he kept stopping the taxi and asking for help. When we finally made it to the area we were surprised by a gated community entrance and the driver had to do his best to explain my needs. However he could only give a general explanation because he and I could not communictate in a common language. When we got passed the guards we drove in circles around this private community and finally I got out and said thank you.
Along the entire journey we laughed at our lack of common language. I think that this positive attitude helped our predicament. I paid him twice the fee for his time and empathy, plus the time it would take him to get back to where he could find a customer. A minute after the driver drove away a guard on a bicycle frantically drove up and said in English, "Americanos, here is the place you are looking for, my name is Fernando, I will get you there." It turns out the yoga studio was a few steps away. How kind of him to help us and thoughtful of our taxi driver to have told the guards of our predicament as he was leaving the compound.
This whole adventure is about developing social skills. The key is listening closely, using hand gestures, making eye contact and being relaxed about the interactions. Also, being comfortable asking for help. Working in as much Spanish as possible is also a plus.