A culture shock – visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Blown away. Two words which totally describe my first impressions of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The heat that welcomes you upon leaving the airport. The view of the mountains in the background. And the ever-smiling people around you. Blown away.

I am a student who chose a quite uncommon country for an internship, at least by German conditions. Uncommon because of the danger of the drug war, the weird food, and the unusual landscape. Mexico is so hot…there is only desert, right? These were the puzzled reactions I got when I told others about my plans. But I went nevertheless, to learn and experience it firsthand.

I have been living here for two weeks now, and I couldn’t be happier. Everything is so new, so strange and so very different from my home country. In fact, Mexico surprises me all over again every day! Let´s begin with my apartment. It is a clean, air-conditioned, modern flat, definitely not the corrugated iron shack my parents were worried about. It is situated in a lovely “colonia” with friendly neighbours. The environment here is simply stunning–the streets are lined with palms, there are many tropical animals and beautiful beaches–which all inevitably awakens a holiday feeling, even though I am here to work.

The greatest concern of the loved ones I left behind was the danger associated with Mexico. Everyone knows about drug wars, mafias, organized crime, corruption. How can a girl alone survive in such a place? Well, the biggest danger I have encountered so far has been choosing a sauce for my taco that was way too spicy. And I travel around a lot! Living on my own, I cannot avoid wandering around or taking a bus or taxi in the evening alone. Up till now, I haven’t felt unsafe at any time. I have noticed a heavy police presence in some areas, which is mostly so the tourists feel secure and protected. According to my research, Puerto Vallarta isone of the safest cities in Mexico.

Also, it is just amazing how warm-hearted and friendly the inhabitants are. I am a foreigner in a geographically and culturally distant country, whose language I don`t speak well. It is hard, while at the same time it is unbelievably exciting. It is no problem to get in touch with people, and they are always happy to help you. You don’t forget that you are a stranger here–the people on the street smiling and calling you a “güerita” (blonde) reminds you of this very well. But because of the open and welcoming atmosphere here, you laugh and take it as a compliment.

I have seen people sitting on the roof of trucks because the loading area was full. I have seen lizards and butterflies as big as my hand. I have seen people carrying a few chili peppers for a snack on the go. For me, Puerto Vallarta is an inexhaustible source of adventure, weirdness and cultural differences…and I am right in the middle of it, feeling right at home.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of  the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board or Vallarta Daily News.

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