COVID-19 (coronavirus) update: Though the land border between the US and Mexico is currently closed to non-essential traffic, Mexico is open to visitors from around the world. Read the latest travel restrictions and how they may affect you. Keep in mind that this article was written before the pandemic, and take appropriate steps to stay safe.
Anyone who has been living (and partying) abroad knows that your nightlife expertise depends immensely on your framework of reference. Asians party differently than Germans, and Germans party differently than Mexicans. After a few fun-filled nights out in Mexico, here are the things I learned from the locals.
Rule number one: you siempre (always) say si (yes) to a fiesta (party). Vámonos (let's go).
Mexicans dress to impress, and although it took me some time getting used to a whole hour in the bathroom to get ready before leaving, I get it.
After all, a party is an important gathering, and you want to look your best. Before the men reading this shy away, stay with me! This is also for you. In most clubs in larger Mexican cities – Mexico City, Puebla, Guadalajara, and Monterrey – high heels, carefully applied make-up, and nice clothing is crucial for women. For the guys, this means you're expected to wear dress shoes and a button-down shirt. Bouncers and the local ladies share this expectation. So, if you think you can make it into a club wearing sneakers and a T-shirt, think again!
Fun word fact: the word pedo in Mexican Spanish is one of the most versatile words I've ever encountered. Depending on context, intonation, and syntax (it can be used as a noun or adjective) it might mean fart, drunk, or problem. It might also be used to greet someone or to say that someone is fun to hang out with. You might use this word to increase your street credibility, but be aware that you might end up saying something completely different from what you intended.
At a Mexican party, you won't just learn new skills – dancing and speaking Spanish – but also achieve a higher sense of awareness of what you are capable of. This, however, cannot be achieved alone.
Get some tequila, and make sure it's the good stuff. Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, and a good tequila will be made wth 100% agave juice. If it's not 100% agave, the remainder will likely be sugar or other additives, which are a crippling hangover ready to happen.
Good tequila is smooth and tasty enough to be sipped straight – there's no need to shoot it.
If you're like me, your legs will start twitching as soon as you hear the congas and charangas of salsa, or the simple kick drum of reggaeton. Go with it. Dance and take pride in your dancing.
In one of my favorite spoken-words-poetry performances, Steve Roggenbuck talks about how dancing is the closest we get to celebrating the fact that we are alive. If someone asks you to dance, don’t be afraid you might make a fool of yourself. I found Mexican men and women to be very patient with clunky foreigners learning to salsa, and they will assure you that your dancing skills are fantastic a long time before this is actually true.
You might also be surprised by the amount of Western/American music you'll hear in Mexican clubs. This is your chance: You know the beat, the lyrics, the highs and lows – it’s your time to shine.
Finally, don’t forget to take a picture with the entire group. I don’t know why this is particularly important at Mexican parties, but it usually enlarges the already huge group of people you are with, and makes a great memory the next day.
Unless you’ve left the club early with a special someone, do as the Mexicans do and hit their preferred after-party taco place.
Pick your remedy among many delicious choices such as: gringas (tacos with grilled beef and melted cheese), tacos al pastor (boneless spit-grilled pork loin with an adobo sauce), or quesadillas. Add to all of these cilantro, onion, pineapple, and of course lime and typical hot sauces prepared in the taquerias. Avocado Serrano sauce, red hot sauce, and pico de gallo (which is a delicious tomato), onion, Serrano pepper and cilantro mix, all chopped and mixed with lime and salt.
Now, before going home, take a detour and stop at the night shop to buy some Clamato, beer, and limes to invite your friends over for an excellent Mexican recovery drink the next day.
Take off your fancy shoes, and fall on your bed. You’ve done it. You’ve partied like the locals do, and maybe you found an entire group of new friends, learned a thing or two about the best Mexican party drinks, and realized that you can indeed dance salsa.
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