5 Reasons Why Mexico City's Residents Just Don't Care (And It's Awesome)

If you live in the largest city in the world, it's only natural that you develop some kind of coping mechanism. In Mexico City life is chaotic but it functions at a level that you wouldn't expect when 20+ million people are crammed into one space.

I've finally realized that one central and highly useful attitude keeps this urban jungle from descending into total chaos--people just don't care.

It's not as if they don't care about meeting their basic needs, or about their families and friends, or about other important life issues. But the wonderful Mexican attitude of live and let live is specifically applied in ways that, with a shrug and a smile, makes life just that much more bearable. Here are five dictates where this applies:

1. Be Not Angry on Public Transportation

Although the subway system is cheap, reliable, and takes you most anywhere you would want to go, you're still going to have to contend with thousands of other smelly, insistent bodies. And boy are they insistent. At rush hour you'd better be prepared to be pushed, shoved, and otherwise mauled as twenty odd people try to get onto the train with you.

Now if someone got pushed on Toronto's subway you'd better bet that they'd get reamed out. But in Mexico City everyone smiles and laughs as they're grinding their elbows and knees into each other. It's the least fun game ever--who gets to get onto the stinky subway? Not awesome, but the Mexican attitude is that we all need to get onto the subway, who can blame us for trying? I love it.

2. Driveth Like a Maniac and You Will Be Rewarded

I've never seen people so aptly maneuver the snarliest traffic ever all the while doing their make-up or talking on their cell phone. These people are geniuses on the road.

And while you will get honked at and cussed out while driving (unlike on the subway) everything flows amazingly well, given that roads are given to intersect with four or five others with no traffic lights and only ineffectual traffic cops to direct matters. People drive with unbelievable entitlement and dexterity and somehow they get where they need to go. It never ceases to amaze me.

3. Be Not Afraid of Noise

Public noise that would send Torontonians itching to file complaints and get vocal is a total non-event for Chilangos (Mexico City residents). Units in apartment buildings blast salsa at all hours, street organs and ragtag bands patrol public spaces, men with speakers crammed into backpacks roam the subways. And everyone just looks completely non-plussed. If you got angry at every instance of inappropriate noise here you would have a full-time job. So people just chill and save their high blood pressure for their diet of tortas (sandwiches) and tacos.

4. Snack Like You Mean It

Mexicans are serious about snacking. Meat-heavy tacos are a perfect breakfast. Then a torta laden with five types of meat. Then a fresh smoothie for less than two bucks. Then grab an assortment of candies from a subway vendor or even better pork rind or potato chips drenched in hot sauce.

Ice cream is a definite--you need to go to a sundae bar and load it up with goodies. And then there's those delicious Japanese peanuts, or amaranth bars, or chocolate covered raisins that the subway guys sell for dirt cheap. Food--you gots to eat it, after all you live in a city of 20 million. Sometimes a five peso snack is all that's between you and punching somebody in the face, believe me.

5. Excessively Polite

It never ceases to amuse me how formal Mexicans are. You have to kiss people you just meet. People don't say "hi" they say "good morning" or "good night." When you're leaving a restaurant you wish the nearest table "bon appetit" (or buen provecho in Spanish). If you have an appointment you wish the receptionist and everyone else in the room a good afternoon. Ditto people you pass in your apartment building.

This doesn't mean a lack of caring in the traditional sense, of course, it means you care less about yourself as one small angry individual fighting your way through life in the big city. You take the time to be polite because you can (or perhaps because your culture dictates it, whatever). And let me tell you, I don't know what this city would be without its formal culture. A bloodbath? I don't even want to imagine it.

What I really want to say is that Mexico City is not the urban nightmare you imagine it to be (even the BBC gave it props recently). It's fun, it's friendly, and it's fairly well-functioning and I believe part of that is due to a well-oiled system of not caring. It's like the Buddhist principle of letting go, but with more hot sauce.

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