Tossing coins from the carriage


THERE ARE NO two abutting nations on earth more different than the United States and Mexico.

They are not just economically different, the two nations embrace very different mindsets, which include different priorities.

On happiness scales, and you see such things in the news on occasion, Mexico usually ranks higher than the United States. This does not surprise me at all. I’m happier here too.

Mexicans live differently than Gringos in a million ways, some voluntarily, some not so voluntarily. The average Mexican earns far less than the average American. In spite of this, the overwhelming majority of Mexicans have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food in the tummies and cell phones in their pockets.

They’re doing okay, thank you.

Many Mexicans live the way Americans lived a century ago, but without the cell phones, of course. Did Americans in the early 20th century lack food, shelter, clothing, the necessities of life? Most did not. Most Mexicans in 2019 do not either.

The Mexican lifestyle is simply different than that above the Rio Bravo.

Having said that, let me add that Mexico has a significant middle class whose lifestyle is not all that different from the American middle class. This is no Third World nation.

Now to my gripe:

Americans come down here, either visiting or even living here full or part-time, and they see a country of woebegone, downtrodden, “oh, so friendly” people. Their hearts go pity-patty. Oh, these poor, poor people, look how they live. Gringos morph into “help” mode, and this expresses itself by their tossing cash around like drunken sailors.

This makes them feel very good about themselves.

I know how Mexicans react to this, but just to be sure I asked my child bride for an honest reaction, and she responded thusly:

Pensamos que son mensos y no saben el valor del dinero.

“We think they are stupid and don’t know the value of money.”

This often flagrant overpaying manifests itself in various ways. There is the colossal overtipping.  And there is the extreme overpaying for work done.

Why is this a bad thing? After all, Mexicans are “unfortunate” and need all the help we can provide, poor babies. Aside from the inherent paternalism, it tells Mexicans that Gringos are foolish spendthrifts and easily separated from their riches. This results in Gringos being routinely overcharged, and that affects all of us who live here.

My advice: Tip like Mexicans tip, which is normally 10 percent. I go up to 15 percent if the service is above average. If a tradesman does work for you, the price he quotes is what he considers fair even if it seems paltry by the mindset you’ve imported from above the border. Pay him what he asks. If you think the work was superlative in some way, give him a bonus, which should not be a staggering increase of 100 to 500 percent.

Yes, Gringos down here actually do that. They should not. This is a different world with different standards and price structures. Mexicans live by these standards, and so should you. They will take your money with a smile, but they won’t think better of you.

They’ll think you’re menso. El valor del dinero is different than what it is up north. Mexicans get alone fine without your charity. They’re already happier than you.