Moving to a foreign city can be somewhat daunting. I remember moving to Paris and having to adapt not only to a new city but also to a new culture and a new language. It’s difficult at first, but as time goes on, you get the hang of things. Parisians started becoming my family, and French my language. Moving back to the States was a reverse culture shock, and I missed drinking wine on a daily basis and buying a baguette from the boulangerie right the down the street from my house.
This is Mexico: Tales of Culture and Other Complications (She Writes Press, March 2015) by Carol M. Merchasin begins much like mine. Merchasin moved to Mexico with her husband, envisioning a fresh and new way of life. What she finds is a culture shock like no other. From chapter to chapter, she recounts her experience with merchants who give no change, house maids who bring their children to work, and other culture quirks that at the same time annoy and inspire her.
This expatriate sets up the book with a different story for every chapter, highlighting a different aspect of Mexico that presented a cultural challenge for her. As she infuses elements of humor and a light tone, Merchasin presents Mexico as her and her husband (or, as she refers to him in the book, Senor Reoberto) see it as foreigners adjusting to a new world.
Travel writing can be a difficult feat, and while Merchasin does a thorough job of presenting Mexico as an expat might see it, there was not a keen sense of connection with how Mexico functions. I wished I were reading individual stories of people she interacted with every day, rather than the solo story of Merchasin’s daily life. Though she gives glimpses into those lives—particularly with her cook and maid—I thought a unique story like this would have provided a more rounded view of Mexico had she centered chapters around other people rather than herself.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a light, interesting narrative about an American’s life in Mexico, this is the book for you.