As you travel, live and make friends in Mexico, you will begin to receive written correspondence that might surprise you. Mexicans are indisputably more expressive, even sensual in their writing, and that takes some getting used to when you’ve lived most of your life at arm's length as dictated by American culture.
First, you have to know that “encantar,’ while sounding a lot like“to enchant” is used in Spanish to say you like anything from movies to hamburgers.
The verb ‘desire’ is used more informally in Spanish than English too. “Tengo tanto deseos,” literally “I have so many desires,” just means “I’d really like to…” But it sounds so much more...passionate, doesn't it?
Expect it in romance
Whenever I was asked out on a date by a Mexican man, his mode of writing and communication tickled me immensely; everything sounded so florid and over the top. Very seductive, I thought until...
Expect it in casual social correspondence.
The email below is from someone whom had had dinner in my house in Mexico with other friends, not a stranger by any means. I had sent a note casually asking if we'd be seeing each other before I returned to the U.S. He wrote back:
“Para mí sería un honor que me permitieras verte de nuevo. No sé tu horario de actividades, ¿a qué hora dispones de tiempo?”
Literal translation: For me, it would be an honor if you would permit me to see you once again. I don’t know your schedule of activities, at what time would you be available?
A little much? Not by by Mexican standards.
Sometimes I feel like a character in a 19th-century Oscar Wilde novel. Here’s another.
“Tengo tantos deseos de aprender contigo el idioma universal, de la amistad. Me encantaria saber de ti. Tú amigo S.
Literal Translation: I have many desires to learn about you in the universal language, that of friendship. Your friend, S
Expect it in friendship
All very seductive, I thought. Then my Mexican girlfriends began to communicate with me the same way, ending their e mail communications, even when I was practically a stranger, with “besos” (kisses) and signing off on even a five minute telephone conversation with ‘muchos abrazos,” (hugs) and effusive wishes for my continued well being.
Here is a message from a new girlfriend in Mexico.
"Como pasaste navidad y año nuevo? Te deseo todo lo mejor para este nuevo año.Te quiero. Besos. Maria.
Literal Translation: How was your Christmas and New Years? I desire the best for you this new year. I love you. Kisses. Maria
I have been offered both love and kisses. I am "encantada."
It was a very standard note from the Mexican viewpoint. I dove right into trying this new form too, much to their amusement, immediately ending all my communications with kisses and abrazos.
But they have it to an art form. How long before I will be able to do it? Or will I need a transformative change in my heart?
I’ve come to believe most Mexicans, male and female, can construct this type of writing as easily as they can say “buenas tardes.” If I didn’t know this, I’d have a new crush every day, even on the women.
Expect it in groups
On morning I had Sunday brunch with a large group of accomplished Mexican women. I could barely understand the rapid-fire Spanish, but their eyes would soften in greetings redolent with endearments. Words like “cariño” (honey), ”mi amor,” (my love), mi hija (my child), rose up into the air like softly popping soap bubbles throughout the morning.
Expect it in the street
In one of my early blogs, I have a clip of my conversation with a cab driver, a courteous older gentleman. Someone who’d seen the video remarked that he was flirting with me, because he referred to me as “mi amor”(my love) as he hustled me into the cab. I never thought twice about it, so commonly is “mi amor” used in Mexico.
Flaubert once wrote “Human speech is like a cracked kettle upon which we tap crude rhythms to make the bears dance, while we long to make music that will move the stars to pity.”
My Spanish is still more like beating a drum than making music, but making even a little more music, as my Mexican friends do, is a goal for me worth having.
Related links: You hang out with friends differently in Mexico. It's a little uncomfortable at first. I haven't had a friend hang out with me while I put on my make-up and blow-dry my hair since I was 16.
The most efficient way to make a friend: Focus.
Next up: What will you do with your car while you spend six-eight months in Mexico? Let's think about that.
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I'm a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico, including the recent "If Only I Had a Place" on renting as an aspiring expat.
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