My Cultural Shock Story: A Mexican in New Zealand || Living Abroad

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I remember when I walked through the gate onto the plane two years ago. A young girl leaving her home and family. Ready to walk through the door of uncertainty and exploration. Ready to see the world, ready to discover what made me tick and who I could be.

The journey to this point has not been simple nor well light at times but it has been eye opening. After finding some time to reflect I’ve come to a conclusion on my thoughts of how I feel after living two years out of Mexico.

Officially two years have past since I left my country: 6 months in Thailand, 4 months in Southeast Asia and a little over a year in New Zealand.

In the first year and a half I pride myself of being really independent and not missing home at all.

Not that love for your country means you’re dependable but now more than ever I’ve started yearning my roots… Specially after travelling around for a bit and realizing how beautiful and vast my own country is.

Sure, there are “first world countries” that make you think there’s no way of comparison… Being from a place where you gota be careful of what you do, where you go and where the opportunities have to be shared within 128,932,753 people (Mexico’s population 2020) instead of 4,822,233 (New Zealand’s population 2020), to name a few observations.

The truth is that there’s no such thing as a “perfect country” You always win something and loose something…

It’s true, we can’t deny there’s higher standards of life, more opportunities within some countries than others, security and global privileges…

But I mean it when I say you win something and you loose something.

My Story of Cultural Shock in New Zealand

When I came to New Zealand and stopped for the first time in the Australian Airport waiting for the transition flight, I had a little of a panic attack.

I saw two loud Australian women, they didn’t do anything to us but they sat beside us in the waiting room. I was shocked… White people everywhere, they all looked so loud, entitled and privileged to me. I couldn’t help it.

From that moment on I was waiting for the back stab, the unexpected punch, anything… And I waited and waited.

It turns out nobody cares about protecting themselves or starting a fight in New Zealand. Why would they? There isn’t really anything to fight for here.

Funny enough, once I realized this (a few months in) I didn’t feel happy or safe about it, I felt confused.

I would never say I’d prefer to be in constant danger over safety but at the same time I couldn’t help but think to myself “if there’s nothing to fight for, then what’s the point?”

A little bit of History

In Mexico we have a history of war, poverty, suffering, corruption. People grow up having to defended themselves and proving one way or another they’re not the weakest link. That’s how our culture and history affected our ancestors and that’s how we’ve been raised.

A culture as old as 10,000 or even 21,000 years… has gone through a lot. Not even mentioning we literally come from a race of warriors.

First inhabited more than 10,000 years ago, the cultures that developed in Mexico became one of the cradles of civilization

Culture of Mexico, Wikipedia

It is currently unclear whether 21,000-year-old campfire remains found in the Valley of Mexico are the earliest human remains in Mexico.

Pre-Columbian Mexico, Wikipedia

Having this in mind, there’s no wonder why a place like Mexico has developed culturally to the level we are. And New Zealand, only about 700 years old since its discovery and settlement of by Polynesians, who developed the Māori culture. (History of New Zealand, Wikipedia)

Humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, which is shown by the diversity of cultures across societies.

Culture, Wikipedia

Racism, Classism & Poverty

Every time I talked about social issues in New Zealand I thought I would never find anybody that would fully understand what I meant and what it really means to suffer.

Conformists, unbothered, clueless… Ignorant even… I thought.

And this coming from a middle class white Mexican that hasn’t had to live what 52.4 million people have to go through in Mexico alone.

Mexico registered 52.4 million poor people and 9.3 million of them lived in extreme poverty.

Much fights poverty, but in Mexico 4 out of 5 suffer it,
Luis Fernando Lozano

Of course I was later able to understand New Zealand’s culture more in dept… New Zealanders might not have colorful traditions or festivities but that doesn’t make their system and society any less complex.

There’s a big issue with classism and under representation. Everything we see in our tourist visits to New Zealand about Maori culture has been a wash out version of it. As many other cultures, the arrival of European settlers buried quite a few of the Maori traditions.

Traditions that the government is now trying to recuperate but the sad truth and reality is… it’s never going to be the same.

There’s a big issue with classism and isolation of the Maori community in specific areas of the country. Which you could guess… live in poverty, have issues such as mental health, unemployment and lack of opportunity for education.

“It is interesting the world believes New Zealand to be an ideal country,” Kaa says. “But it’s more interesting that we also believe that myth about ourselves.”

New Zealand’s most shameful secret: ‘We have normalised child poverty’,
Eleanor Ainge Roy

It’s not that New Zealand white people are racist. It’s not that they want to be. But there’s definitively an issue that is unspoken. The people who acknowledge it would address the Maori communities in the north and elsewhere as “shitholes”.

The way beneficiaries (of the poverty aid programs) were portrayed in the media had led to people living in poverty being stereotyped as “lazy” and “irresponsible” with poor money management and budgeting skills. 

Stop blaming the poor to break poverty cycle among Māori, report says
Brittany Keogh

A whānau advocate interviewed for the research said: “Interactions with staff are described as being laden with coercion, monitoring, denial of entitlements, sanctions, blaming, hostility, humiliation, minimization of legitimate concerns and high levels of intrusion when seeking legitimate help”.

Stop blaming the poor to break poverty cycle among Māori, report says
Brittany Keogh

The difference, in my opinion is… It’s been years since the Spanish came to Mexico and the destruction of the pre-Hispanic cultures has healed (in a way) by the birth of a cultural merged, creating what Mexico is today.

In New Zealand, there’s a clear separation between Maori and Pākehā (Maori word for New Zealanders of European descent). It seems like white New Zealanders don’t mind going on with their lives without getting involved with the Maori issues.

Do they even know? Do they even care? I can’t say.

What I can say is that me as a white middle class Mexican: I know there’s thousands and millions of Mexican people that couldn’t care less about our poor. But the time that has passed and the merge of cultures at least allow us to feel deeply for the issues in our country and develop shared frustrations. We are able to understand the issues and understand each other.

In New Zealand, the number of people around able to make a difference and create awareness is very limited.

Who is that going to be?

The Wonders of New Zealand & Mexican Culture

Mexico

As human beings, we’d always have a bit of a bias when comparing and trying to decide what’s the best country, the best culture, the best society.

I think specially me as a tourism graduate with my love and passion for ethnicity, culture and folklore, I can get really protective and bias…

But I also think it’s safe to say that Mexico has one of the richest cultures in the world, in fact, as mentioned by Hellen Dwyer in her article:

“Mexico’s culture is rich, colourful and vibrant, influenced by its ancient civilisations such as the Aztec and Maya as well as European colonisation. It is unique and probably one of the most fascinating cultures in the world. The traditions and customs of the Mexican people are varied and diverse.”

Hellen Dwyer, The Culture and Customs of Mexico

Knowing this, I must say that even I’ll always be bias in a way, from the most objective point I can push myself to be, I can say there’s beautiful and meaningful cultures out there but Mexico is just so special.

With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home of 10–12% of the world’s biodiversityMexico ranks 1st in biodiversity in reptiles with 707 known species, 2nd in mammals with 438 species, 4th in amphibians with 290 species, and 4th in flora, with 26,000 different species.

Biodiversity in Mexico

New Zealand

Having said everything that I discussed above, I’d like to say that New Zealand is an awesome place.

The culture of New Zealand is a Western culture influenced by the unique environment and geographic isolation of the islands, and the cultural input of the indigenous Māori people and the various waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonization of New Zealand.

Culture of New Zealand, Wikipedia

There’s so many things you’re able to do here that you might not be else where in the world. Because of the same reason of New Zealand being only less than 700 years old, it brought human beings in the modern time with better knowledge and awareness for the environment.

Have you seen the amount of endemic birds and general nature? Going into the woods, camping, hiking is the norm here. A natural playground at your feet!

Sadly, places like Mexico with such a rich biodiversity is being corrupted and destroyed.

New Zealand has one of the best biodiversity and ecosystem conservation programs in the world and it’s one of the main topics everywhere when you first come here. Kiwis feel deeply for conservations and they will make sure to let you know!

New Zealand is an internationally recognized world ‘hotspot’ for biodiversity. This high endemism is largely the result of our long isolation from other land masses and diverse geography and climate, allowing unique flora and fauna to develop.

New Zealand’s Biodiversity

My Conclusion

As every other country, both New Zealand and Mexico have issues that need attention. Some of us are born in this world with physical and geographical privileges. No matter where you go, there won’t be such thing as a “perfect country”, not even better.

You always will gain something and you loose something.

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Thanks for reading and see you next time! ♡

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Hello, this blog is written by a young artist and traveler looking to share the world from her perspective. 

“I want to share things that inspire me: Different disciplines I learn along the way and experiences I have. Hoping to inspire whoever’s reading to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.” 

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