How to live in Mexico; The sounds of Mexico that we hate to love

If you haven’t noticed the noise in Mexico, you are probably living under a rock. Although, I don’t even think that would help!

Mexico is a very noisy place. My day starts off at 7:OO AM with my alarm clock, otherwise known as the trashmen ringing loud cowbells to let you know it’s time to take your trash outside. Without fail, seven days a week, this is my morning wake-up call, whether I want it or not.

All around Mexico, the ringing of the cowbell alerts people that it’s time to take your trash out. Some people are lucky enough to live further down the route so they don’t get the 7:00 AM wake-up call. I have no such luck.

And on the off chance that I am able to drift back asleep after the cowbells, there is always another announcement just around the corner. ‘Se compran, colchones, tambores, refrigeradores, estufas, lavadoras, microondas, o algo de fierro viejo que vendan,’ is the phrase heard around Mexico through a bullhorn every day.

A treat for your ears if you are missing Mexico.

Translation: We buy mattresses, dryers, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, microwaves, or anything old that you want to sell.

Every neighborhood in Mexico has the ‘Se Compran’ truck every day, or nearly every day. I have even seen the Se Compran people using a horse and buggy in some parts of the country, but always with that same loud recording driving slowly around the streets of Mexico. In my neighborhood, I am delightfully treated with the instantly recognizable call to action at 9:00 AM every morning.

The only thing that is more annoying than the Se Compran callings, is the gas man. It’s different in all parts of Mexico because there are different companies in each area, but without a doubt, anyone selling gas in Mexico has made the conscious decision to have the most annoying theme song to play on their loudspeaker as they cruise the streets of their area.

Zeta, Zeta, Zeta Gas

Throughout the day, anything you could ever need is sold off the back of a truck and accompanied with its own unique jingle or scream. Water, Gas, Fruit, even the knife sharpening man (or woman) riding their bikes around the neighborhood to sharpen your kitchen knives.

In the evenings, the calls for a nighttime snack fill the air as thick as the smell of tacos and sweetbreads. The sound of the camote (sweet potato) with its high pitch steam release whistle sounding like a huge tea kettle., is my favorite snack and you can never miss that high-pitched sound. A sweet potato with sweet cream poured over the top. Yummy.

But if the sweet potato snack isn’t what you are listening for, keep listening. You will hear the calls for sweetbread and tamales too.

When I first arrived in Mexico, the dog barkings kept me up all night. However, over the last decade, it has actually gotten better. It’s becoming less socially acceptable to keep dogs chained to the roof of your house for security. Almost all homes have rooftop access because that is where most people wash their clothes and hang them to dry, so it was very common to keep a dog on the roof to discourage would-be robbers from accessing a house from the roof. Chaining dogs to the roof is one tradition I don’t mind seeing go away. But if you live in a smaller town or less populated area, you probably deal with the all-night barking still.

But not to worry. One sound that will never go away is the Mexican’s love affair with the car horn. If you are stopped at a red light and the car behind you sees that the crossing traffic light has changed yellow, they begin honking their horn at you to get moving even before the light turns green. Most of the time, Mexicans are already halfway through the intersection before the light turns green. Stuck in a traffic jam behind an accident that is blocking the road on all sides? No problem, apparently if you honk the horn enough, a magic porthole will open up and allow for your passage. Just keep honking!

When I was in Queretaro, it was the first time I had been anywhere in Mexico where a lack of car horns stood out to me. It was actually one of the first things I noticed about the city. Even in traffic jams, no car horns. There are signs in some neighborhoods asking people not to honk their car horns because people live in the area. I wish more cities in Mexico would start that public awareness campaign.

Just walking down the street, people are shouting at you in all directions, announcing whatever they are selling on the street or from their shop.

The Mexican people are loud as a culture. They talk loud. Love loud music. They love the fiesta. They love life, and it shows through the sounds of the street.

As bad as all this sounds, it has also become so familiar that all these noises, screams, and jingles remind me that I am home. We hate to love the sounds of Mexico, but we can’t help it!

Mexico is loud, but that’s how we know we are alive. We have the five human senses; touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Those senses are also part of how we recognize and experience different cultures. So take in all the sounds, because if you are just here visiting or living as a snowbird, you are going to miss those little annoying sounds that remind you that you are alive in Mexico!

¡Viva México!

Ian Hayden Parker is the founder of PVDN and has been living as an expat in Mexico for the past 12 years. You can contact Ian Hayden Parker to suggest a topic for the next issue of How to Live in Mexico by submitting your feedback here. I welcome all feedback, even disagreements, as long as those disagreements are presented with respect. I won’t read messages that are disrespectful and I won’t use my energy for negativity.

You can also join the PVDN Newsletter to receive daily news and more articles like this, join the newsletter here.

How to live in Mexico is a new series of posts dealing with life as an expat in Mexico and lessons that have been learned over the last 12 years as an expat. This series is opinions based on my own experiences as an expat in Mexico and each individual should expect different experiences through their own personal journey.

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