Top Tips for a Cambio in Mexico
Mexico is a destination known for its delicious food and colourful culture. Our Business Developer Tiziana spent a year working as a TEFL teacher in Mexico. If anyone knows how to make the most of your time on a cambio in Mexico, it’s her! Here she shares some inside tips on how to get an immersive cultural experience.
Tacos, fajitas, siesta, sun, colourful clothes, refreshing beer (tequila!) and gorgeous beaches. Isn’t this the way you all picture Mexico? It was the case for me – until I actually moved there! While these are some typical traits of what is the biggest country in Central America, trust me, there is so much more to Mexico than this. And knowing how even more amazing it is may really give you a desire to take your backpack and jump on a plane.
I can assure you no Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico will ever do justice to its delicious typical dishes. For instance, did you know that classical tacos are only made of a round tortilla made with corn flour with a diameter of around 12cm, minced meat, and cilantro and lime? Forget about cheese, peppers, chicken or a huge white flour tortilla!
There is also a very popular type of taco called tacos de barbacoa, with lamb meat in a folded tortilla, and deep fried. I could mention dozens more such as the ceviche, a mix of raw seafood marinated in lime, salt, onions and cilantro – very refreshing! There’s the well known guacamole, made of 4 ingredients only: smashed avocado, chopped tomatoes, onions, and lime. And the menudo, a soup made with beef stomach in broth with a red chilli pepper base.
Guacamole ingredients. Image Credit: Costin
Beer is definitely known to be one of the highlights of Mexico. Who hasn’t sipped a Corona at some point in their lives? But have you heard of michelada before? I bet very few of you have! And I have to admit, when I first saw it, I didn’t find it super appealing. It’s beer mixed with Worchester sauce, chilli, lime and ketchup. After the first one, I literally fell in love with this unusual mix. And I strongly recommend that everyone try it.
Micheladas. Image Credit: Heidi De Vries
Another drink I loved is called agua de orchata, a very refreshing water made with rice milk and fruit chunks. I remember having a huge glass of it after my lunch break and enjoying it under the warm sun.
Mexican people are among the most enjoyable people I’ve ever come across. As simple as that. They clearly like to smile, in a genuine way. I don’t think I ever saw a fake smile in Mexico. They are interested in your story, in what brought you to their country, and just speaking with them can fill you with a sense of extreme fulfilment. After a year spent with those people, I can say that they are very good listeners. And you should definitely spend some of your time with locals to experience Mexico at its best.
Image Credit: Scott Clark
The Local Culture
Mexico has plenty of places to party! From Cancun to Playa del Carmen and the beautiful Yucatan. We often happen to think of places like this when we picture Mexico. However, if you want to experience the real culture without getting lost in a huge metropolis, my favourite city is called Oaxaca. The local market is gorgeous and lots of craftwork made by locals can be bought for cheap prices. Not to mention the “Mexican pizza”, a version of the classic pizza made with a toasted tortilla base, bean spread and Oaxaca cheese strips… simply delicious!
Tiziana’s favourite city, Oaxaca. Image Credit: 16:9clue
The Mexican version of Spanish is loads of fun! As an Italian native speaker with no prior knowledge of Spanish, I expected it to take a big effort, quite a good amount of time and even a bit of frustration before actually being able to be understood and understand the locals. However, I have to say that Mexican Spanish is a different story. The pronunciation is much easier than European Spanish (all those “S’s” where you have to put your tongue behind your front teeth do not exist in Central America!) and many words just sound funny, like “Chamarra” (= jacket) or “churritos” (= some kind of chips you often eat with lime and chilli). Last but not least, you can replace the words you don’t know with English ones, or even invent them. Mexican people don’t mind, they will just smile and try to help you figure out what the word is that you had in mind!
Yes, that’s the right word, in Mexico there are some jungle areas as well. I was lucky enough to meet someone who suggested I change my itinerary to see a famous town called Palenque in the Chiapas region. And that’s how I ended up sleeping in a lovely bungalow and waking up to the sound of water and parrots.
Palenque. Image Credit: Arian Zwegers
If you are planning on visiting Mexico, make sure you plan your trip well enough to make the most of your experience, know as many locals as you can, try as many typical dishes as you can and see much more than the usual tourist places.
We agree with Tiziana! On a cambio, you’ll be staying with locals and will have many opportunities to try out these experiences. We have a large number of Hosts in Mexico waiting to invite you to experience their country in exchange for you sharing your language or skill with them. You can even host a native Spanish speaker to help you brush up on your language skills before you travel!
COVER IMAGE CREDIT: Kevin
About the Author: Tiziana Volpe is GoCambio’s Business Developer and Italy Country Manager. Born and raised in Genova, Tiziana has been travelling since the age of twelve and has lived in seven different countries in the last seven years. After a year spent in Mexico as an English teacher, Tiziana has decided that the place she calls “home” is Ireland. She plans to explore more of the world but for now she’s using her passion for business and her knowledge of four languages to help GoCambio grow and succeed, day by day! You can connect with Tiziana on Twitter or LinkedIn.