Cultural Differences And Getting Along With Neighbors

Kanasín native Yesica Benitez explains the realities of local culture to bewildered expats
Kanasín native Yesica Benitez explains the realities of local culture to bewildered expats. Email her at

Regardless of where you live, getting along with your neighbors can be challenging. Overgrown trees, noisy late-night parties, and barking dogs are nuisances no matter where you live.

When it comes to creating positive relationships with your Yucatecan neighbors, my No. 1 piece of advice is not to wait for a conflict to present itself before you introduce yourself (broken Spanish or not) and strike up a rapport.

Despite tremendous growth, Yucatán is still a very traditional place where folks have family ties that go back generations. Obviously, as a newcomer, it’s not always easy to fit in, as many people here are skeptical about Johnny and Ginny’s come lately  — but also generally appreciate anyone who makes an effort. 

One way to get to know people is to get outside to sweep your patio and smile and wave to passersby with something like “buenos dias” or “Parece que hoy va a hacer calor” — “Looks like it’s going to be hot today.” This works in a downtown or in a village — wherever there are neighbors.

Here in Yucatán, we like to joke that we greet even stones, so don´t worry about seeming overly forward, as these little interactions are perfectly normal and even expected to a certain extent. 

The next step is, of course, to strike up a bit deeper of a relationship. This does not mean you need to be best friends, but it shows respect and that you are willing to put yourself out there. When Thanksgiving or some other holiday rolls around, why not take over a dessert or a tray of turkey and stuffing to share a bit of your culture? If invited to a quinceañera, wedding, or anniversary, do your best to make it, as this is people’s way of “letting you in.” 

Especially in smaller towns, a great place to meet folks and strike up conversations is your neighborhood tiendita — those little mom-and-pop corner stores. This is especially true for those working there because they probably know everyone in the area and can help expand your potential network exponentially.  

Talking with people on public transit is also wholly normal here and a great way to practice your social interactions. Good ways to strike up conversations include complimenting a person’s purse or hat or asking, “¿Como crees que le vaya a los Leones esta temporada?” — “How do you think the Leones [the local baseball team] will do this season?”

These sorts of interactions are important to people here and will serve you well when it comes to integrating into society, making friends, and avoiding misunderstandings down the line. 

Have a question or quandary? Ask Yesica Benitez, who was born and raised here, at Your conundrum could start a conversation right here in a future issue.

Yesica Benitez
Yesica Benitez
Born in Yucatán, Yesica Benitez Chan is a marketer, avid gardener, softball player, baker, and a great lover of Yucatecan culture and cuisine.
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