“Neta”: No separating culture from language
Mexican expression of the day:
La neta: the real truth.
¿Es neta? Really, no way?!
The questions we have all been asked a million times: Why did you come to Mexico? Why are you thinking about moving or doing business in Mexico? They are good questions really, although admittedly tiring to answer two or three times every day. I am sure you have your “in a nutshell” answer down pat. Yet, have you answered those questions for yourself? What was your motivation? Was it is merely to get out of the cold? Was it because of the low cost of living, the lower wages or relocation due to a job? Did you suffer as I did from a conscious (or unconscious) love affair with Mexico? Was it the music, the heat, the Spanish, the insouciant yet rebellious and valiant spirit of the Mexican people? Whatever the reason, for those of you who have made the move, you are now completely immersed in a culture that is not your own and you must ask yourself: ¿Y ahora qué? Now what?
As I see it you have two choices. The first choice is to take the path of least resistance. Contact all the foreigners who speak your same language and become a “member” of the expat community. Your whole life in Mexico can be in English, the only Mexicans you will have real conversations with are the ones who speak English and you will use your own elaborate sign language to get your point across at Home Depot and the local pub. However, in doing this, you are opting for a peripheral experience of the real Mexico because it is nearly impossible to truly understand the people, culture or the system in a foreign country if you don’t speak the language. Reading about the history, politics and way of life is definitely recommended and gives you an intellectual understanding of the culture, but in order see the world as they see it and experience life as they experience it, you must delve into the strong, passionate and profound world of the Spanish language. As Federico Fellini, the Italian Filmmaker, said: “A different language is a different vision of life.”
In saying that, your second choice of course is to immerse yourself in the culture and language. The two are interdependent; you cannot do one without doing the other. Getting to know a culture is like a puzzle: you must examine each piece and then try to figure out where the pieces go and how they fit together. It takes years to truly understand a people and their deep rooted traditions and mannerisms. The key to unlocking the mystery of that puzzle is learning the language they speak. There are so many cultural subtleties that are hopelessly lost in translation. It is when you can laugh at their jokes, roll your eyes with them at the absurdities of life or when you can resolve intellectual problems together that your chosen home away from home starts to pervade all aspects of your life. So neta: bask in the bochorno of the Yucatecan air, dance to the melodies of its trova, laugh at the chispa of their typical expressions and the witty humor of the piropo a la mujer you hear in the bombas yucatecas. Be a part of the real Mexico and let this home be where your heart is.
* bochorno–sweltering heat
*trova yucateca–traditional Yucatecan ballad music with roots in Cuban trova music
*piropo a la mujer–compliments to a woman
*bombas yucatecas–traditionally they are a witty and non-vulgar compliment from a man to a woman said in quatrain while dancing their traditional dances.
By Stephanie Carmon for TYT
Stephanie Carmon, “language lover” is an English and Spanish language professional with over 18 years of experience teaching and providing clients with effective communication skills. She works both online and in person with companies and individual learners and from Mexico, Russia, U.S. and Canada as a freelance language consultant, translator, interpreter and teacher. She currently lives in Mérida, Yucatan.