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How To Become Immersed in the Culture


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#1 Emma S.

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 08:12 PM

Hi, all! I just posted something similar to this under a different topic so if you read the other one, this is a more in depth version. Does anyone have any recommendations of things to do or places to go where more locals go or places where locals are more likely to just have a quick, friendly chat without constantly telling me the prices of souvenirs?

My husband and I are staying in Cozumel for our honeymoon for 2 weeks. We're not very into standard tourist activities aside from our snorkeling tours but we have loved trying to get a feel for the language and culture of the Island. Many Mexicans here have been awesome about teaching us and have been really friendly. We've mostly talked to people in our area and at Mega and I was very surprised today when we made our first real trip to the waterfront stores and felt like many of the employees wanted to get our money (in English despite saying that we're trying to learn about language and culture) and immediately get rid of us after we made our purchase. I've wondered if this is because they deal with tourists all day and don't expect someone to want to learn about their lifestyles or maybe it's because of the drunk, rude Americans whom I've seen being rude to the locals (this is not what I've seen for the most part from my fellow citizens, thankfully). At any rate, any advice would be great.

Happy Saturday and thank you very much!
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#2 Kandy

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 09:02 PM

I'd recommend going to the mercado. It's located on Rosado Salas (behind the south end of the plaza), between Avenida 20 and 25. It's a wonderful place, filled with the culture of the island. You may be repeatedly asked to come into someone's "booth," but they aren't as aggressive as you find on Melgar and around the plaza.

If you have a vehicle, drive down Avenida 30 - there are MANY wonderful little shops up and down that road. There's a great shoemaker somewhere around Calle 5 (shoes hanging all over the outside wall) - the homemade shoes are inside, not on the exterior wall.

And don't forget the "wild side." The other side of the island has some great little restaurant/bars where you won't be accosted and it's very peaceful over there. Take the transversal (Benito Juarez) across and take your time making your way down that side of the island. It's truly beautiful.
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#3 TRAVELER89

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 09:28 PM

English Language Church Services

Eben-Ezer Presbyterian Church
30th Ave. at 10th Street North
Services in English every Sunday at 9 a.m.

Jesus es Rey
Bible Church
Under construction
Corner of Ave. 95 y Calle 39.
Services in English will be at 10a.m.

Jewish Services Friday Evenings & Saturday Mornings
Chabad of Cozumel
Calle 12 No. Entre R. Melgar & 5th Ave.
chabadcozumel@gmail.com
Rabbi David Caplin
044-987- 111-9715

*****************************************************************

Coffee on "the Plaza" at night, Restaurant Plaza Leza(waiters speak english)or Centro Comercial Joaquin(on north side of plaza), good coffee or cappuccino, was there tonight, just sit around on the plaza wall and people watch and speak to people(buenos días(mornings), buenas tardes(afternoons), buenas noches(evenings)or just nod your head to people, works wonders. Don't look like tourist. look like a traveler(casual wear, not beach wear) in restaurants and on the plaza at night is more in line. Talk with Paco, Rocio or Jorge at Mega, if not busy they will take time for some small talk. Talk with the time share and tour sales people around the plaza, make it clear that you want to visit with them not buy their product, if you get bad vibs, just move on politely. Check out the museum. These are some of the things that I would do.

Many of the people on the water work on commisions, and are hungry. When the ships aren't in you can sometimes some that will talk with you. Many are not from the island, but are only here to try to make some money, there are over 400 gift shops on the island, did you see 400 people on the street?

Kandy also had some go ideas

T.
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#4 Emma S.

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 11:02 PM

Thank you both very much! These are fantastic ideas and I can't wait to get started tomorrow. This is the first time I've been to a foreign country where English isn't the national language so I really appreciate the advice.

Traveler89, I didn't realize that many people work on commission. That explains a lot. I read somewhere that a good monthly wage here is around $300 USD. If that's true, it really makes me wonder how people get by here, especially with a family. Being here has begun to open my eyes to how lucky I am for having what I have. I'm also glad that you brought up church services. We wanted to check out a service but we didn't want to offend people given that we don't know what the dress expectation is and we don't have anything but shorts with us. Do you know anything about this? Are people generally okay with outsiders visiting when outsiders are not necessarily believers of their religion?

Kandy, I'll give an update about our experiences after visiting the mercado. We're very excited to check it out.
Thank you both again!
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#5 TRAVELER89

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 07:17 AM

Taylored shorts and t-shirts are ok, but remember the culture here is conservative and you want to interact with locals, I wear shorts and polo shirt to church. Some people push the limit and the host locals will accept you, but may judge you by your lack of cultural knowledge.

More later...

T.
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#6 Coz2wonder

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 08:06 AM

you might want to try a cooking class with Josefina.

http://www.cozumelmy...ingClasses.html
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#7 Carey

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 11:45 AM

CCannon posted a wonderful account of her cantina tour with our mutual friend, Josefina. Search for 'cantina' and I think you'll find it. I think it's in the Food and Drink forum. Great way to meet locals and she's laid out some of the best places to visit in the afternoons.

I would also suggest eating where the locals eat as no one there speaks English. In the evenings after 7 and the later the better try these 3 on Avenida 30 -- El Pique across from the big grocery store at the light on Juarez, Chilangos, about 4 blocks south same side of the street or Los Seras, across the street from Chilangos.

Go to a loncheria at lunch time -- 11:30-4:30ish -- and order the comida corrida -- lunch on the run. Which is plentiful, good and cheap if you go to the right place. There are all over and everyone has their favorites in their own neighborhood. In my neighborhood I like Las Flamitas on AVenida 25 between Calle 3 and Morelos (NOT the larger one near the corner with 3 but the smaller one further south) and Sabores, on Avenida 5 1/2 block past the intersection with Calle 3.

Go to Playa Azul on Sunday afternoon for lunch and join locals in dancing to the live music they have then.
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#8 Emma S.

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 01:50 PM

Thank you, Carey! How long have you lived in Cozumel? I'm not sure how safe an idea I have is but I've heard Cozumel is a lot different from the US: I think it'd be a great experience to go out to lunch or out and about in on the island with a person who lives here but also speaks English just to socialize and truly get a feel for the island. I don't mean getting a tour of places I want to go but I'd love to simply follow someone or a couple around for an hour or so while they do their daily activities (maybe lunch, coffee, dinner, or shopping). I wouldn't do this in the US due to safety concerns such as Internet psychos who want to hurt others but maybe this is something that's accepted on the island. Do you know anyone here that would be up for that type of adventure or is this an ok idea to begin with?

When, Chris, my husband, planned our honeymoon, we thought we would mostly want to go on tours and do tourist activities. I was so scared about going to a foreign country where I didn't understand the language or culture but on our first day here we met an employee at a shop who inspired me in such a way that I think my life will be changed forever. The man was just out of high school and he talked to me about being scared to learn English and how he was the only person out of his group of friends who pushed himself to enjoy learning English even though it was uncomfortable at first. Since I met him, I've followed all of his advice and I feel that I've pushed myself into a new world of learning about others. When I did a year of Spanish in college, I was too scared to ever practice it and I never spoke to native Mexicans in Denver even though they wanted to help me learn. Since I've been here (only a week now), I've learned more than I ever did in school and I owe this to the man who told me to stop being scared because "the worst thing we can do as humans is to give up and not experience the world." I'm disappointed because I've tried to go back to the store to ask for him and tell him what an impact he's made but I can't since I can't remember his name. I'm a school teacher and I'm always in awe of what brilliant young people can teach me!
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#9 GringaErin

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 05:03 PM

Sundays at Chen Rio (on the "wild side") are filled with locals, literally truck loads. Mostly families, big extended ones. We pack a lunch and our beach umbrella and make a day of it. My 6 year old always gets a local family to adopt her for the day and both of us get to practice our Spanish (she's a lot better than I am). Have fun!
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#10 Coz2wonder

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 01:33 PM

El Gatos Negro was shut down for 24 hours for serving drinks to minors. What what the rag paper reported today, once they pay their fine (500-2,000p's) they will reopen.
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#11 ljohnson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:46 PM

HI Emma,

I like to talk to the locals that come in and out of the Palapita beach club and bar in the afternoons. On any given afternoon you have dive instructors and other locals that show up for a quick drink before going back to afternoon activities. Most of them are very friendly, but you'll need to start up a conversation with them to get them talking. I love the Palapita because it's outdoors and doesn't have that smokey bar feel to it. It's also a great place to experience the culture on Friday night when the Salsa band comes. I love it so much I teach introductory dance lessons (mostly to gringos who have no experience dancing salsa) at 10pm and then a fantastic salsa band plays at about 11:30pm. Many locals show up at around the same time the band starts. It's not the best place for conversation unless you're sitting at a table in the back. But dancing salsa and cumbia is definantely a big part of the local culture all over Mexico and is a perfect way to make new friends and socialize without speaking fluent spanish.

Good Luck!
~Laura
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#12 Emma S.

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 04:41 PM

Hi Laura and thank you!
I've already left Cozumel but since I've met so many awesome people and learned so much over my 2 week stay, I've decided to come back to teach English while learning Spanish (I'm a teacher in the US but most of my kids are Mexican and still learning English). Ideally, I'd find a family who is willing to sponsor me (I live with them and teach English to children or to the family). I've really been hoping to find a family who wants to trade my teaching skills for a place to live.

I have more to say but I'm outside and there's a HUGE storm so I have to go...more later!
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#13 realestateroadwarrior

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Posted 27 August 2010 - 02:23 AM

Emma, I'm actually from Broomfield, Colorado living full time here in Cozumel. Email me at cindy@cozumelmexicohomes.com
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