Expat Adventures Part II: So you think you can… telephone?

My very favourite student M. left me. Not because I am such a terrible teacher, or so he says (although he consistently referred to my classes as “German curse” instead of “course”), but because he moved to Germany to be with his German wife.

The poor guy really had to pay for falling in love with a German lady. Literally. First, he had to learn German in order to pass a German test for his visa. Once he had moved to Germany, he then had to attend an integration course of 645 classes!

Moving to Mexico is a lot easier. However, if there were integration classes there are a few points I think they should cover, like e.g.:

  • The various kinds of chili peppers. So your eyes won’t pop out because you thought it a good idea to take a big spoonful of salsa habanera.
  • How to bribe a policeman.
  • How to kill a scorpion.
  • Tequila tasting.
  • How to increase resistance to non-stop mariachi music for hours. Might come in handy if you decide to spend some time in the delivery room of a local hospital.
  • Differences between tacos, tortillas & friends.
  • Basic knowledge of (Mexican) Spanish. For those expats who have been living here for years and still don’t speak a single sentence are just unbearable.
  • How to make a phone call.

Say what? – Yes, how to make a phone call.

My son is a lot smarter than me in that he uses his cell phone only.

My son is a lot smarter than me in that he uses his cell phone only.

I never understand how people here do it, and whenever I bring up the subject it causes hysterical giggles from everybody. The best thing is to not use a landline phone at all, because if you do you need to use a whole lot of prefixes that are not required if you use a mobile phone. But if you are a little old fashioned and belong to a generation that’s still used to using landline phones (“Oh, I’d rather use landline, mobile is far too expensive!” Sounds familiar? Welcome to the club…), and if you have just moved to Mexico, this is for you:

Long distance call landline to landline: 01 + area code + phone number

Long distance call landline to mobile: 045 + area code + phone number

Local call landline to mobile: 044 + area code + phone number

Local call landline to landline: no prefix, no area code

Since you cannot tell from the number whether it’s a mobile or landline phone, smart people always point out which is which. But if you don’t know what number you were given, you just have to try the different prefixes. That’s no big drama, but again it shows that Mexico is not on your side if you are in a hurry.

And if you want somebody from outside Mexico to call your Mexican cell phone, make sure they dial a 01 between country code and area code. This doesn’t apply for your landline phone. See, it’s a good thing to have a landline phone, even if only for incoming calls from abroad.

On second thought, using a banana might be just as effective.






Souvenirs, Souvenirs

In case you didn’t know: Playa del Carmen is a metropolis. And like any other metropolis, we, too, have a 5th Avenue that is our main shopping area, only that we call it Quinta Avenida. Which is a good thing for not everybody fancies getting spat on by people trying to pronounce “fifth”.

Lately, this area has changed a lot. We got a somewhat fancy new mall with stores like “ALDO”, “Forever 21”, “The Body Shop” and whatnot. All of a sudden, we also got MAC, BOSS, ZARA, and Armani Exchange, so we do not have to drive to Cancun all the time we want to shop something other than beach wear or souvenirs.

Look at that! Those are refrigerator magnets mostly. Almost a work of art.

Look at that! Those are refrigerator magnets mostly. Almost a work of art.

Already, I heard people complain about Playa losing its charms. Well, I am not so convinced it was the least bit charming before with nothing around but touristy knickknacks and beer bars for miles. Luckily, though, for those people who consider this kind of shopping experience desirable, they will still find what they are looking for.

Last week my in-laws were visiting and during our many strolls I came up with a list of what I’d consider the most worthwhile souvenirs (apart from a large variety of STDs and party drugs that you can both get on every corner if you are interested… just sayin’…):

1. T-Shirts with silly messages. Always a big trend. See, what I found:

I pooped today. - Really?

I pooped today. – Really?


“May I suggest the sausage?” – How terribly polite. I also like the numbered stuff, like “Bitch 1 – 4”. It’s a good thing to let people know what they are dealing with.

P1050705 2. Bracelets with your name. Always comes in handy when you had too much tequila.

3. Temporary tattoos. So venturesome.

4. Hair braids. Honestly, who doesn’t look good with those? Around the corner, there is a family business of hair braiders. In the evenings, I can see how they are checking each other for head lice. Sounds promising, right?


Hair braids, tattoos, bracelets – what more could you wish for?

5. And my absolute favourite: Wrestling masks. I actually see people buying those and I cannot help but wonder: Do they use those in the bedroom? Or when driving too fast so nobody can prove it was them? Or is Playa just THE holiday destination for wrestlers?

In this case, these are also suitable for children, but they were the only ones I found that were displayed on dummies. I was actually tempted to get a spiderman mask for my godson... yes, yes, I admit it!

In this case, these are also suitable for children, but they were the only ones I found that were displayed on dummies. I was actually tempted to get a spiderman mask for my godson… yes, yes, I admit it!

Have you ever bought some silly souvenirs? Do you like getting souvenirs? 

Oh Baby…

Some of you who have been following my blog closely might have guessed already: Our little son has arrived! Needless to say that I am absolutely and utterly smitten with him and could spend days and nights just watching him. Which is a good thing given that he likes to be fed for up to 10 hours per day – he is a veeery slow eater.

Please meet our little sunshine!

Please meet our little sunshine!

BUT this is not a baby blog. So worry not, I won’t go on boring you with details. However, inspiration can be drawn from anything and so I came to think about all those old wives’ tales that I’ve been told ever since I got pregnant.

No matter whether you are pregnant or having a cold, some people just looove to give you advice. They can rattle on and on about what you should and shouldn’t do, and I like to make good use of the time by thinking about something important. E.g. about what’s for dinner. Or my neighbour’s new haircut. My father in-law is a walking medical journal, because he started studying medicine at some point, I believe it was in 1874. According to him, I should have refrained from working out or stretching for the entire duration of my pregnancy.

When my due date had passed, I got a lot of advice from various sources, and I was curious to see how those “remedies” might differ from country to country. So in Germany it is apparently common to walk the stairs up and down and have a glass of red wine (if you intend to do this at the same time, remember not to wear anything white) – that will for sure kick the baby out. A lot of people also recommend eating something spicy. Well, we live in a 2-storey house, so I cannot avoid climbing the stairs, and we do live in Mexico, so food is generally on the spicy side. Those things didn’t seem to speed things up, I didn’t try the red wine option, though, maybe that would have done the trick…

cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and co...

Any excuse is welcome when it comes to enjoying a cup of hot chocolate! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cleaning ladies came up with some Mexican advice: Wear a belt really tight around your belly, right below your rib cage. This way, the baby will be pushed downwards. Sounds charming, doesn’t it? I am not sure whether some babies have lost their feet in this process. Some also recommend having some hot chocolate with cinnamon. I love hot chocolate and drink it on an almost daily basis – no signs of it inducing labour, I can assure you. Apparently, nobody seems to think that it might be a good idea to just stay put and wait for things to proceed at their own speed.

Now that our mini man is here, our cleaning ladies are worried about his well-being because I refuse to follow their advice: Make him wear a golden bracelet to ward off evil energy and hanging a red ball over his crib. The latter is supposed to enhance his eye sight, since staring at something in a far distance will harm his eyes! Frankly, I cannot wait to hear more pieces of wisdom…

How about you? Would you like to share some bizarre home remedies? Or has any of this ever worked for you?

Inspired by a hate mail – amazing but true!

Success. This subject has been on my mind for quite some time.

But let me ask you first: Do you also sometimes get hate mails in response to your posts? While I haven’t received any on my English blog (yet), I did get a couple on my German blog. Which makes me think: Geez, Germans, relax! But no, Germans are not famous for being relaxed, and if I daresay so: apparently also not for having a great sense of humour. OK, OK, I get it, my sense of humour is not for everybody, but that’s life. Very often I read something or see something on TV and think: “Not my cup of tea”, however, I never write those guts hating, fire and brimstone breathing emails. Not only because I am too lazy, but mostly because I just decide to switch off.

Anyway. So this person commented on my post about Mexican driving and how much I loved it. Funny thing, huh? I really meant it this time, but this poor person had probably already been so confused by my sarcasm that he or she burst out in tears. (I somehow believe it was a woman, so let’s stick with “she” to make it easier.)

She claimed that I was scum and didn’t deserve being called a human being, that my writing made her sick and that I should go to hell. Well, nothing special, she probably copied that from some courtroom show – they have some really bad ones in Germany. This whole incident was rather laughable. However, she also got me inspired – and I believe she would really hate that if only she knew!


Poor guy. He is too dumb to find a job. (Photo credit: tim ellis)

She told me that I was too stupid to find a job (funny, I wonder whether she tells this to her children’s teachers as well!) and just spent my husband’s money (nothing wrong with that, is there?) and that I had accomplished nothing in my life and was a total failure. Apart from the fact that it is funny how someone apparently gets to know your whole life by reading a little blog, that got me thinking about accomplishments and success. What is success? What does a successful life look like? Is it all about a career? If so, I would have to say, yes, I have been successful, I have reached every single goal I had set for myself, and I enjoyed (almost) every step of it. But then I gave up my career for my husband who seemed the bigger priority all of a sudden. Now I am not pursuing a career anymore, but I have a job that is fun and keeps me mentally challenged. If someone had asked me 5 years ago whether I was successful, I would have said yes and pointed out my professional achievements. If someone today asked me, I wouldn’t think of my professional life anymore. Priorities in life can change, for me they have. Maybe they will change again in the future, who knows. For me, also the definition of success has changed.

Let me give you two examples:

SUCCESS (magazine)

SUCCESS (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend of mine studied very, very hard, and it paid off. He landed a very well paid job right after university, he has lived in many different countries, and he clearly is well off. However, he claims to be lonely. Although he is very good looking, smart as a whip, funny and (at times) charming, he always tenses up around women. That’s why we were rather surprised to hear a few years ago that he had got married. After a couple of years, though, his wife left him for he wouldn’t really let her in but kept her (emotionally) at a safe distance. He felt very sad and helpless after the divorce, and has been single since for he can’t find a woman who is right for him. Now, does he lead a successful life because he has a good job and is loaded? Is loneliness just the price we pay for success? Or are there other ways to be successful?

Another friend of mine had been pursuing a career in the fashion industry. She was always the very pretty, very chic, very smart one, and we were having a blast at countless parties. It came as a surprise when she lost her heart to a man on a different continent, gave up everything, moved to a far-away country to not only be with him, but also to have 3 children with him. They are both running their own language school, but things were tough and they still just make enough money to cover the costs of everyday life. Clearly, she would have been more successful in her previous profession, and she would have worn more Prada and Gucci in her life, but when I see pictures of her and her family, she is always beaming, and I keep thinking that her life has been a success through and through.

I believe that success is very subjective and not measurable by anything but by everybody him/herself. There is no right or wrong, everybody has to decide where his/her priorities lie. And again, that might change from time to time. To me, successful people are those who listen to their hearts, who follow their dreams and do not regret the choices they made, even when going through a rough patch (and we all have those).

What about you? Do you feel successful and if so, why? How would you define success?