Those who know me know that I like order and structure in pretty much everything I do and without it, I begin to lose track of common every tasks and objects. It’s particularly apparent for anyone who has ever worked with me. Building in procedures, documenting everything and anything to streamline processes. Even going so far as having a completely clear desk with no clutter. A clear desk is the bedrock of my organised working life. At any one time I will have a computer, my iPhone and some earbuds on my desk and any computer peripherals such as a keyboard or mouse really should be wireless.
Going even further my digital life is also meticulously ordered. I have photo library that is over 13 years old since the time I purchased my first Mac. I use Wunderlist for my to-do’s, Evernote for notes, all meetings are in my calendar and every project I run has its own folder in my emails.
I drive this point home to illustrate the level of order I impose on my day to day life. And then I go to Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in Mexico and I’ll have a little more on that later but when I was introduced to Mexico with hundreds of billboards on the motorway, terrible road infrastructure and not being in a single lane for 50% of my journey it really shows how different the country is to the UK.
It is a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to the road. 3 to 4 lanes of cars that look like they just came from a scrap yard all trying to get somewhere as quickly as humanly possible, weaving between lanes, honking their horns and (hopefully) trying not to kill their passengers or the Mexicans on the street selling you cigarettes and newspapers in the middle of the road. It’s important to note that passing judgement on the Mexicans on everything I have said so far is completely unfair. This is definitely a ‘don’t’ judge a book by its cover’ situation as the Mexicans themselves are incredibly polite. So much so that at times it made me feel uncomfortable as I’m simply not used to it. Opening the door for you before getting in any taxi and even stepping out when you are planning to leave just to say goodbye. A comforting welcome and a nod from strangers to say hello.
Getting to the business part on the outskirts of the city is a slightly different story. Yes, you still have the seemingly suicidal drivers, but the cars become nicer with a very strong influence of American car design coming through with your Chevrolets and pick-up trucks. The odd BMW or Audi show up really showing the wealth of the area, although I suspect most are business drivers with a car on loan.
Getting to the hotel however offers a completely different experience. Beautiful furnishings, high ceilings and incredibly polite staff that always have your name ready and will offer to help you. It was unclear as to whether this was just to provide a great service or if it was to earn a tip off you but I’m not generally a big tipper unless in a restaurant so if it was the latter I didn’t bite. Whether that’s the right thing to do I’m not sure, but I was woefully underprepared for that level of service so if by any fluke any Mexicans in the catering or travel industry are reading, I apologise!
Speaking of tipping. One area where I didn’t tip and in hindsight I really wish I did is with the Uber journeys. In the UK, you do not tip with Uber. It’s one of the beauties really. You order your taxi, pay directly in the app and it takes you where you need to go and you leave. The concept is identical in Mexico City; I would even go so far as saying that the Uber service is superior in Mexico as the amount of taxi’s available was phenomenal. I never waited longer than 5 minutes for a taxi to arrive and my most expensive journey was $160 (peso’s) which equals to something like £5 for a 45 minute journey from the hotel to Zocolo. A 15-45 minute journey to the office cost only $50 which is less than £2.
Think about that… Take it in.
Before I left for Mexico I took out $4000 pesos of which I ended the trip only spending $50 because I used Uber for everything! I was genuinely worried I would be scammed a lot because I was a tourist, couldn’t speak the language and was usually dressed smartly like a corporate wanker but it was never an issue thanks to Uber.
I did have an opportunity to do some touristy stuff and I took that opportunity on my second day. Tuesday was a day for me to recover from the 11 hour flight. I woke up to 100 unread emails (around 3pm UK time was my 9am). I had a couple of phone calls and went through and replied to any of the emails I could. I also prepared material for the purpose of my trip which was to train around 25 people on how to use on of our services at Pfizer over the course of 2 days.
At 1pm when everyone in the UK had finished for the day I hailed the Uber I spoke of earlier and headed into Mexico City to explore the area. If you’re currently picturing a city centre during a beautifully sun shining day, then you’re picture correctly. Most shops were very small with no doors or windows but instead shutters that opened all the way with a large outdoor canopy with little bits and bobs for sale. Walking along a street you’ll see people on the side of the road selling whatever they can to make ends meet. Socks, lighters and for some reason, 64GB memory sticks were very popular too.
Street food was also very popular with pick-up trucks on the side of the road where they would make taco’s and sell them for $10. I must admit, I couldn’t bring myself to have any street food. I was too worried of food poisoning on the day of my training session. I think my biggest failure as a tourist was that I ended up going to Starbucks of all places to have lunch. With the exception of the odd mass produced chain store (Starbucks and Mcdonalds is all I saw) my experience of Mexico City is that it is completely unique to anywhere I have been before. It looks as if everyone is self-employed, doing their own thing which really brought wonderful character to the city. The streets are loud, merchants shouting on the top of their lungs to give themselves a competitive edge over their neighbour who is selling the exact same knock off Nike bag. Despite the incredibly visual police presence I didn’t come across anything that showed there should be something to be worried about from a safety perspective either so the entire experience was really great.
That being said, my colleagues who I met the next day were shocked I went on my own and they didn’t do any sightseeing due to safety concerns. I don’t think those concerns were unfounded based on what I read but also because I came across my first dead body within a 10 minute walk from the Pfizer office. No lie. An actual dead body, on the street, white sheet, police, ambulance. Everything.
An area I have not yet written about is the architecture in Zocolo. I thought the Zocolo square was beautiful and it reminded me of traditional Russian architecture whilst using the similar dark stonework that you find in Edinburgh. I’m not architect so it’s likely I completely wrong in regards to its influence but it’s the first thing that entered my mind. You’ll also find Mexican flags absolutely everywhere. Outside people’s homes, in car windows and even over the top of buildings in the Square. What is clear is that the Mexicans are incredibly proud of their country and they want you to love it. Everyone I spoke to welcomes me to their country. Not the country. Their country.
I’m not going to write much about the work elements on my trip as this post is already quite long, however I will say that the people I met were amazing. They were incredibly welcoming and whilst the training session was exhausting it was enjoyable thanks to excellent participation on their part. I met people from the US, Argentina and Mexico. On the phone we also had attendees from Venezuela and Brazil so it was a mixed bag of cultures resulting in some really fun conversations. In a new one for me, we went out bowling after day 1 of the session which was just great. There’s something really formal about going out for dinner with work colleagues that mean you are never off the clock. This was different. We were cheering during the strikes, laughing when no one knocked any pins and had some banter. It was a very relaxed and it felt like going out with friends.
This thankfully extended a little further into day 2 where I had the entire team cheering me on as I tried to bump up my flight to business class (there’s a story with the strange poses – another time maybe!)
As a work trip, Mexico City was brilliant. If I were to go for work again, to see the same people… I would be there in a flash. Well. More like a horrendous 11 hour journey. As a tourist, I’m really very sorry to say that it wasn’t for me. Perhaps I need to give it another chance and really explore the city more when hopefully the issues of safety are less poignant. With regards to being organised, clear and generally neat. Well, neatness has its place in life and I just need to get over it else I will find any country not in Europe a little difficult to bear!