Sitting down in an apartment by Metro La Viga of CDMX with a friend named Blayde, we got talking about life in Mexico.
Just normal shit.
He was talking about getting back on TRT potentially.
The dude is already noticeably strong but he’d like to get on TRT to better reach certain fitness goals.
And, beyond the discussion about TRT, we got talking about other things going on in the country.
Including how annoying it is to go into an OXXO and finding their machines don’t work (a common enough occurrence).
To also the discussion of humor.
Now while I agree with Blayde on a lot of things about Mexico, this was one of those very rare moments where we didn’t see eye to eye on a topic about Mexico.
In fact, I truly don’t get how he could’ve reached the conclusions he did that day because it smacks in the face of my experiences in Mexico.
We didn’t have a major argument about it.
Simply that I found it strange some of his opinions regarding Mexican sense of humor.
For one, he claimed that the difference between American and Mexican humor is that American sense of humor is “darker.”
Where we say shit that is just too dark for Mexicans.
It makes fun of subjects Mexicans wouldn’t touch.
Now, to be fair, I don’t know who really wins on the “darkness” contest.
Who is more dark in humor?
Americans or Mexicans?
Look, I don’t know.
But Mexicans have their fair share of dark humor as you can see in memes like this one here.
Given the amount of violence in Mexico, it’s no surprise that Mexicans like to engage in a bit of dark humor.
Are the rest of Latin Americans outside of Mexico like that?
Honestly, I don’t know.
Despite having spent brief periods of time in the rest of Latin America, I don’t particularly remember how “dark” the humor was in Bolivia to Argentina to Colombia to Guatemala.
But I imagine that dark humor exists in every Latin country.
Over enough time down here in this region, I notice more and more the many similarities (and some differences) between Latin Americans and folks from the US.
Still, I will say that, at least between Blayde and I, we also might carry different experiences in Mexico.
I know Blayde hangs out more with gringos and some upper class Mexicans who find it odd he lives by La Viga.
I hang out with very very few gringos and the Mexicans I speak with wouldn’t judge that because they live in the same neighborhoods I do –Pedregal de Santo Domingo, Gustavo A Madero, etc.
So how the fuck are they ever going to judge me?
That’s a side point anyway – how the experience of one person might vary considerably from the experience of another person depending on many variables.
Consequently, we have different perceptions about the same place and reach different conclusions at times.
Anyway, one other point of difference I found was regarding the use of sarcasm in Mexico.
Do Mexicans understand sarcasm?
According to Blayde, it goes right over their heads!
Mexicans do not understand sarcasm.
Or do they?
When Blayde said that to me, it reminded me of a similar experience in another Latin country: Colombia.
“The Jokes Go Over Matt’s Head”
About 7 years ago more or less, I was living in a Colombian city called Barranquilla.
At the time, I had just begun dating a Colombian chick named Marcela.
Initially, Marcela wanted to know what I thought of her parents.
I said her mom should stop staring at me like I’m an alien from another planet and her dad is very silent.
Oddly enough, the behavior of both individuals changed after I told her that.
Anyway, in that discussion, Marcela mentioned something that her mom noticed about me.
Apparently, the jokes her mom would say would go straight over my head!
It was her mom’s opinion that, perhaps due to linguistic differences as Spanish isn’t my native language, that I sometimes failed to catch the double meaning of some of her jokes.
Given this was 7 years ago, I don’t remember what jokes her mom told that I didn’t catch.
And, to be fair, her mom might’ve been right!
Back then, my Spanish was actually pretty decent but, as I wrote here, dating Marcela really shot my Spanish through the roof.
It’s a side point – dating Latinas where neither of you speak English in Latin America is one of the better ways to really improve your Spanish.
Anyway, my Spanish was still fairly alright back then given my previous experience in Latin America before Colombia but it wasn’t like how it is now.
And, to be honest, even now my Spanish isn’t perfect by any means.
Don’t confuse me for Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
At any rate, there were apparently jokes that I did not understand from Marcela’s mom.
And, according to her mom, it was probably because Spanish isn’t my native language.
Could Marcela’s mom though say that, due to her experience with me, that “gringos don’t understand sarcasm” or the type of humor that Colombians have?
Part of me feels that this experience might shed some light on maybe why Blayde feels Mexicans don’t do sarcasm (even though, from what I’ve seen, plenty of Mexicans understand sarcasm).
Difficulty in Conveying Humor Across Cultures
There’s a few points to bring up as to why a gringo or a Latino might have difficulty in getting the humor or sarcasm of someone from another culture.
For one, as we have already pointed out, linguistic differences might be an issue.
Marcela’s mom might have been right.
I don’t remember what the jokes were but I definitely don’t remember her mom ever trying to crack a joke to begin with.
My initial experience with her involved staring the living fuck out of me until Marcela probably told her to stop.
Was staring at me part of the punch line?
“OK, I’m waiting for the punch line….”
Joker Murray Scene
Jokes aside, linguistic issues can explain for why your gringo humor or why the Latino humor in any part of Latin America (not just Mexico) won’t get across to the person of the other culture.
Second, you have cultural references that the other party might not get.
For example, a few years ago, I remember being at a small house party with a former girlfriend of mine named Brenda in a Mexican city called Pachuca.
The people at the party were very friendly.
However, I remember there being some point in the small party where the topic focused to a famous Mexican show called Chavo del Ocho as you can see here.
Jokes were made.
I didn’t get the jokes.
I nodded along but didn’t pretend to get why they were funny.
Because I couldn’t.
Which is a side point – if you find yourself in a social setting where a joke is made with cultural references you don’t get, don’t pretend you get it.
I can see a new gringo in town trying that (especially a young one) if he wants to fit in.
You’ll just look silly.
But maybe you do get it!
Though, as another side point, I do wonder how many Mexicans might find it weird if you are laughing along to a joke about something so culturally entwined to Mexican culture like Chavo del Ocho?
Would they find it weird even if you understood the joke and have seen the show?
My hunch is that nobody would be an ass about it but maybe one or two would find it weird or curious at the very least given nobody would expect us to know much about the show.
Anyway, that’s a side ramble.
Still, cultural references that someone in the interaction doesn’t get could explain the miscommunication on the humor involved in any conversation.
Finally, one other thing that might’ve influenced Blayde to say that “Mexicans don’t get sarcasm” is a particular behavior that some people do.
You see this in people of any culture – they try to make differences between themselves and people of other cultures.
Sometimes those differences are legitimate and other times they are not.
But I wonder to myself – if you live in a country as an outsider like we do, do you see some differences that actually are not there?
And does it happen in reverse from the Mexican who might not know many gringos but has preconceived notions anyway?
Well, the behavior in the last sentence does happen from people in any culture.
And I believe the behavior described before that does too in all likelihood.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
So do Mexicans understand sarcasm?
Or Latinos of any Latin country?
I’d say for sure.
I’ve seen the locals use sarcasm numerous times.
Here’s a video of some Mexican humor anyhow.
So that’s all.
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