Years ago when I was in Cusco, Peru, I remember asking some other foreigners in this hostel about any restaurants I should check out.
During that brief moment, a dude and some other chick got into it regarding what to recommend.
The guy was all about “trying something local” while the chick was recommending this one Italian place.
Which, being honest, Italian food did sound better in the moment in the moment.
But the guy had a completely different opinion.
Not only would Italian food be a bad idea in Peru because “you should try local food” but also because “it’ll probably be owned by some foreigner or something.”
Now, in hindsight, I’d actually disagree with both points above.
As I wrote here, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to not always try “the local food” for every meal. Definitely keep an open mind to it and try some of it out perhaps but don’t feel bad if you don’t want to. Some countries just have shit food (though Peru doesn’t).
But also, when it comes to “who’ll likely own the Italian restaurant,” I’d say that, if I just had to guess, that most “foreign cuisine” restaurants that I can remember were not seemingly owned by a foreigner.
Still, the disagreement really focused much more on the latter point and more specifically on “should you or should you not support local.”
You hear other expats, digital nomads and tourists say this from time to time in which, as they travel abroad, some wish to “only support local.”
Which, in my experience, can usually mean one of two things (or both):
- Don’t local large businesses like Marriott or Burger King.
- Don’t support any business (no matter if it’s a small one) if it’s not owned by a local.
And, while I can understand some of the logic for the first idea above, I don’t see eye to eye with the second point whatsoever.
At any rate, I was reminded of this topic today when I saw two separate conversations online in different expat groups that touched on the same vibe of this topic. Here's bits of one of them.
Let’s get into some of my thoughts on the topic.
Support the Local Business that Needs Customers
So, when it comes to the first point, some of the logic makes sense.
After all, people will say something like “Walmart, Burger King or Marriot” have millions or billions of dollars and can afford to not have your business.
So why buy your socks at Walmart when you can buy some cheaper ones from a local street vendor who has a humbler income?
Granted, there are some side points I would bring up against the idea.
For one, not every local is some humble person who is nice to do business with or even deserving of my business.
You got a lot of dumb cunts down here who see us as nothing but ATM machines and will try to fuck us over on something like I wrote here for example.
Some dumb cunt who doesn’t realize he’s losing out on a longer term customer than just a few weeks for an extra dollar or two selling hotdogs in Mexico City.
So, while penty of vendors are normal people, I don’t see any random small scale business or vendor as more worthy of my money just because the dude is poorer than Walmart.
It’s simple. You offer a good product at a similar or cheaper price than elsewhere and don’t treat your customers like shit? You got business.
A hard concept for some of these “local” vendors to grasp but what else is new.
Second, sometimes the quality of what you get from a big business is better than the options you are seeing from locals.
Sure, that 30 dollar a night “local” hotel room is cheaper than a 90 dollar a night hotel from some big brand name but the 30 dollar a night one might have blood on its towel and a shower that barely works.
I did actually find a hotel like that in Mexico City a few years ago.
Or perhaps you go back and forth between the idea of taking a taxi or an UBER?
Don’t want to support those pesky foreign companies like UBER do you?
Get a local taxi!
And, over the years here, I have heard some foreigners express that idea that a taxi is always better than UBER because they “want to support local.”
Now, while not every taxi driver is shit, I’ve had more bad experiences than good with taxi drivers in Latin America as I wrote here.
Any bad experiences with UBER?
Only whenever they try to pull a scam on me by driving around my location several times trying to get me to cancel.
But, when compared to taxis, UBER wins all of the time.
And it’s funny these foreigners prefer taxis over UBERs for this reason when, in my experience, most Mexicans seemingly prefer UBER over taxis themselves.
Some limp dick foreigner than pandering to locals when even most of the locals don’t buy the same shit he’s saying.
Third, you do know these large companies like Walmart or Marriot also hire mostly local labor down here, don’t you?
Going to one of those businesses still puts money in the hands of local employees.
Fourth, I’ll admit that I’m a little bit patriotic at times.
As I wrote here, you tend to feel “more connected” to your roots the longer you live away from home.
So, on one sunny afternoon, I remember walking around with my last girlfriend and we decide to get some tea.
She considered going to a local Mexican business called “Cielo” but I opted for Starbucks.
For one, the black tea in Starbucks is better than the tea in Cielo (though Cielo doesn’t have bad black tea to be fair).
Furthermore, in the moment, I told her “no, major Starbucks. Starbucks es una empresa de mi país. Apoyo America.”
Meaning “no, better to go with Starbucks. Starbucks is an American business and I support America.”
That’s paraphrasing anyway. I don’t remember how exactly I said it but I said something along the lines of I’d rather support an American business of my homeland.
She responded “no mames” but found it funny.
And, truth be told, I really would rather support a business from my country than a local one if all things are considered roughly equal.
When I say roughly equal, I mean that the price and quality difference isn’t THAT much and also, more importantly, that the local Latin American option is also a highly successful business.
Take Soriana vs. Walmart.
OXXO vs. 7-11.
Cielo vs. Starbucks.
At least when you are comparing buying socks from Walmart versus a local street vendor, I can see your argument about how the street vendor only makes maybe 250 bucks a month and could use the business more than Walmart.
And, while Soriana doesn’t make anywhere near as much profit as Walmart, they are still a VERY successful business with buildings all across Mexico.
There are no heart strings you can pull to make me feel for the CEO of Soriana.
Both the CEO of Soriana and the CEO of Walmart have their rent paid.
They both can afford Argentine steak and fancy Chilean wine for 3 meals a day everyday for the whole year.
Both probably have nice cars.
And both can afford a high-quality life for their children in that their respective families probably have had nice international vacations, went to top private schools, etc.
Including everything else under the sun!
Could the CEO of Walmart buy out Soriana?
But that CEO of Soriana isn’t starving.
Neither is the one of OXXO or Cielo.
So, in the end, I’m going to lean towards supporting the American business because I am American (assuming all things are roughly similar like price and quality of the product).
Fifth, what about the locals who steal?
While I personally don’t care if the local product I buy was stolen and understand that I might be contributing to local crime by doing so (thieves need to eat too!), I imagine many other foreigners don’t realize this (especially if they are new here).
As I wrote here for example, plenty of “local” businesses sell stolen phones in popular areas of Mexico City.
Or what about any products sold in the metro? As I wrote here, you have concerns by locals that some of those products are stolen.
All around, it’s not an argument against buying from small local vendors as not everyone is selling stolen stuff but it’s an irony that I’m sure plays out time and time again.
The blissfully unaware foreigner new to Mexico who feels all tingly inside after buying something stolen from an informal vendor and then posts a picture of it to Instagram for validation telling everyone “to buy local!”
Meanwhile, he just put money in the hands of someone complicit (directly or indirectly) in stealing and assaulting locals.
With probably the victim of said theft standing behind him with his missing teeth after having been assaulted for his phone only a few hours ago now sticking his thumb up and going “muy bien, gringo! Muy bien! Ya puedo tener mi cel que compraste, cabron?”
Sixth, as I said before, plenty of locals don’t always act on the idea of “buy local, ignore foreign.”
While you do have that usual ol “buy Mexican” in Mexico among numerous customers like you got those back home who insist on always “buying American,” you got others who honestly don’t mind supporting foreign businesses.
As I wrote here, I’ve gone into large fast food chains like Burger King, Dominos and whatever else and I ALWAYS see Mexicans filling up the place.
While that should be seen as normal as it’s mostly Mexicans who live here obviously (DUH), I just never see other foreigners in those places like McDonalds, Subway, etc.
I can’t remember the last time I saw that.
Take Little Ceasers.
I go there often enough and NEVER see a foreigner eat there. Only Mexicans. Not even one foreigner!
So, when speaking of irony, I just find it ironic that said foreigners act all snobby and use this moment to judge other foreigners for eating at those big chain fast food spots instead of maybe a local vendor who can make a pizza but yet don’t judge other Mexicans for doing the same.
And, when it comes to pizza, it goes back to what I said before.
“If the quality and price are similar and we aren’t comparing big businesses against each other, I’d lean towards supporting local.”
The thing is though, at least in my experience in Mexico City, some of the best pizzas I’ve eaten were at Dominos.
Some of the best bang for your buck pizzas were from Little Ceasers.
You got some local businesses that make pizza well like Perro Negro.
But, just from my experience only, A LOT of the pizza made in local pizza restaurants are GREASY as fuck, sometimes more expensive than what Dominos or Little Ceasers can offer it for and usually of lower quality in taste in general.
And don’t take my word for it!
Don’t believe me that places like Little Ceasers or Dominos are better for pizza in Mexico?
Just go to ANY neighborhood in Mexico City that has a Little Ceasers and, especially on a weekend night, you’ll see LOTS of people walking around with their pizza boxes going home.
When I iived by Metro Politecnico, there was a Little Ceasers with a local pizza place right next to it.
The local place had business (though you couldn’t pick up a slice of pizza without your hand LITERALLY being covered in grease as if it was a grease towel) but it couldn’t compete with Little Ceasers.
Not even close.
In the neighborhood where I am now, there is no Little Ceasers but there’s one about a 5 minute metro ride away.
And, over the entirety of my time in Santo Domingo area of CDMX (roughly a year now), it is not an uncommon sight to see Mexicans walking home with that box.
Even though you got local pizza vendors RIGHT OUTSIDE the metro.
So these same Mexicans – many of them – would rather travel on the metro (and spend money doing so) to get a Little Ceasers pizza (from a big, bad foreign company) than support local pizza.
And, keep in mind, that’s JUST Little Ceasers.
You got other foreign businesses – like Walmart – that clean up also.
And, like I said, I’ve NEVER seen another foreign give support to these foreign businesses (even though I’m sure it happens).
So that’s the irony here really.
Other foreigners bitching and acting like snobby cunts about a few other foreigners supporting foreigner businesses when those same foreign businesses not only offer a better product compared to most of the competition but even Mexicans are cool with them.
How come these same snobby foreigners never act snobby towards Mexicans but only other foreigners?
I’m waiting for the day one of these dumb cunts runs into a Little Ceasers and yells out.
“No! No! No apoyen Little Ceasers! Ustedes deben comprar una pizza local! Claro, sabe como mierda y es doble el precio pero es local! Es local, mis Latinx amigxs!”
“YA CALLATE TU PINCHE BOCA, MARICONCITOOOOOO!” someone yells at him.
At any rate, let’s put aside the argument regarding if you should ever support big foreign businesses versus local ones and now look at that second argument.
No Supporting Foreigners!
So the first argument is really one against supporting any LARGE foreign businesses like Walmart or Little Ceasers.
There’s various points and situations that make me critical of that opposition but, ignoring specific context, I generally agree with that idea if you mean comparing buying at Walmart vs. the local sock vendor (assuming the sock vendor isn’t a complete cunt).
But let’s recognize also that not every business owned by a foreigner is like Walmart.
In fact, if I had to guess, probably most businesses run by foreigners in Latin America are relatively small businesses that are nothing like Walmart in terms of size.
Though, for obvious reasons, those like Walmart obviously bring in more revenue and can expand into numerous cities.
Still, you got plenty of small-scale businesses run by foreigners in Latin America where they’re not Walmart.
They are run by a normal person who doesn’t have billions and who is also just trying to feed his family like a normal local businessman.
So what are some thoughts that come to mind with this?
First, I never like how it is portrayed.
It’s often my impression that those who speak ill of supporting a business run by a foreigner, like that Italian place in Cusco, often tend to portray the foreigner running that business as “outside of the community.”
“He’s not local.”
Is he not local?
Well, assuming he never gained citizenship through naturalization (which there are those who do), then he definitely isn’t a local in terms of having the same citizenship as those born there.
And, if we’re being honest, even if said individual did get naturalized, you’d still have plenty of local cunts viewing and treating said individual as a foreigner and not like a true local.
So, in a way, I see what they mean. He’s definitely “not local.”
But does that also mean that he’s not part of the community?
Because when people tend to talk like this, it’s again my impression that they see the foreigner as “not part of the community” and that’s why you shouldn’t support him versus a local restaurant.
But how do you know he’s not part of the community?
He at least owns and runs a local business that hires mostly if not entirely locals. That brings jobs, tax revenue and, assuming his business is any good, it brings a nice service or product for everyone to enjoy in the community.
Also, as I said, we don’t know if said foreigner has citizenship but I guarantee you that he probably has residency if he invested lots of money into a business.
On top of that, how do we know he doesn’t have kids, a wife (a local one perhaps) and any other ties to the community?
To deny that he is part of the community is xenophobic, ignorant and the type of backwards shit that one would expect in a stereotypical small town of 3,000 in Alabama (no offense to the good folks of Alabama. Just a stereotype).
Either way, the guy is part of the community and supporting his Italian restaurant (or any other business run by a foreigner) is “supporting local” in my opinion.
You are supporting the business of someone who has become an immigrant and lives in the community while providing money and a service to the community on top of that.
Second, should we not support Mexicans then in the US?
In my home town of Iowa, there’s two really awesome Mexican restaurants that I love.
One is owned by a couple who had kids in the US, have lived there for decades, seemingly hire mostly locals born in the town, pay taxes and so on.
The other one has an owner who assumingly also made a life in the US, seemingly hires only Mexicans (several with no English skills) but also pays taxes, has residency or citizenship also if he runs a business and maybe has kids or something in the community.
Should the people of that small town in Iowa refuse to support at either Mexican restaurant just because the people who run them were born in a foreign country?
Or maybe I can start my own Mexican restaurant there?
Then I would ask you – should everyone support my business and ignore their businesses just because I was born in Iowa and they were born in a different country?
Why the hypocrisy?
Because I fucking guarantee you that the type of person who says “support local business” in Mexico or wherever in Latin America is not going to refuse dining at a business run by foreigners in their own country back home.
Every single time that I have ever met someone who STRESSED “support local business” in Latin America to the point that you’d think they were making a commission for every customer they referred has always been the type that would “lean to the left” in the US.
Some left leaning foreigner who, without question, would support the foreign owned Mexican business back home and chuck all their concerns about “support local” out the window.
While you do have more right wing leaning folks who say “support American made” in the US , I’ve never met someone who came across like that type down here in Latin America who was also would not support businesses that are run by foreigners down here.
At the end of the day, I guarantee you that these types would support a business run by a Mexican in the US but vomit at the idea of supporting a business run by someone from the US in Mexico.
Now, why are they like this?
My opinion is that it likely comes from different contributions to their mentality.
For one, they have a hard time accepting that we foreigners can NEVER move beyond “just being guests” and actually be part of the community in Mexico like I wrote here.
Also, I feel some of them, like I hinted at before, just want social media validation on Instagram by supporting a local vendor in Mexico. Nobody is going to give a fuck if they eat a Mexican restaurant in Iowa.
Next, some of these folks, while pretending to be very “woke” or concerned by social justice, also have a very racist “white savior” complex in my opinion.
They tend to view the “local” in Mexico as some poor brown motherfucker who barely knows how to wipe his own ass and “needs help” with their business.
Their “savior complex” doesn’t exist when the businessowner is white guy Mark from Gary, Indiana selling hotdogs outside the Zocalo in Mexico City.
And, personally, I do see the Mexican owner in small town Iowa as equally deserving of business as the foreigner from the US in Mexico. Both are part of the community to me with their various roots to the area (business, kids, spouse, taxes, residency/citizenship, etc) and supporting each is supporting local.
Third, going off what I just said a few paragraphs ago, not every local in Mexico is poor as fuck needing help.
Now, to be fair, white guy Mark probably came to Mexico with more money than a typical local starting a business because white guy Mark might’ve had a few decades and more of working and earning USD that he can bring to Mexico or wherever.
That’s not always the case though as you do got younger expats starting business (and they don’t always have a generous dad who can donate to the costs of starting the business as an informal investor).
So I can already see that argument coming from those who would rather support Jose of the Taqueria versus white guy Mark.
Jose has “less privilege” than Mark.
But Mark, while having the privilege of being born in the US, assumingly worked hard for years or decades for the cash he’s bringing to Mexico.
So, because of his hard work, I’m throwing the “privilege” argument out of the window. The dude worked for it.
And, even if he did inherit all the money to start the business, I honestly don’t give a shit.
I’m not the type to judge people for having successful families. Good on his family for being successful!
What’s the alternative?
For his family to have grown up in the ghetto and only now we can contemplate supporting him because he “has a struggle story.”
While people do enjoy seeing those with struggle stories rise to the top (like the Rocky 1) – especially those with them – nobody who actually had a struggle story wanted to have that struggle story.
Fourth, one argument against what I’m saying is the concern regarding gentrification.
Now, as I wrote here, I personally find this argument dumb of painting all foreigners as gentrifying neighborhoods because they tend to paint me with it even though, if you knew my lifestyle, you’d know damn well I don’t contribute nothing to gentrification.
But I’m not every foreigner out there and I recognize that, at least over the last year as I’ve paid more attention to other expats, that I have sometimes felt “out of place” when I realize again and again how much money other expats are spending to live here (much higher than what I spend).
And, to be fair, as countries like Mexico become more popular and more people work remotely or try to escape Covid restrictions, you’ve had more foreigners come to Latin America.
Over time, many do leave the already touristy areas to live elsewhere.
So, in short, I can’t argue against the effects of gentrification necessarily when you speak about it in broad terms about foreigners in general.
Personally, I’m not well-versed in the argument so I don’t have a strong opinion on it either but I do get what people are saying when they bring it up.
My only response would be that most foreigners do tend to stick to touristy areas that are already gentrified.
Most don’t venture out to live or invest outside of those areas.
On top of that, if these same folks are doing everything legally and immigrating to these countries to build businesses in these areas, they are technically doing things by the books.
Furthermore, in the areas where these foreigners are typically running their businesses, part of the gentrification comes from local investors also because, as I said, these areas are already places of interest. Not every local, especially in spots like Condesa, is poor as fuck.
So, by focusing strictly on foreigners as the problem (and they do contribute to it without question), I feel part of the anger comes from resentment and envy from poorer Latin Americans (which you see no shortage of in their politics) and also xenophobia (assuming their anger is only directed at foreigners).
And, of course, you got the other counter-argument of “well, they make the areas look nicer with more business that creates more jobs and wealth for locals.”
I can’t argue against that either but I also see the other point regarding locals who have lived in certain areas for years or decades being kicked out (with all the resentment that builds from that also).
So, in that regard, I can see this as an argument with some merit in favoring businesses run by local nationals versus the foreigner.
There are things I disagree about it or find illogical but I’ll leave it at that because I’m not as knowledgeable about the topic of gentrification.
Fifth, as I said, I’m more of a patriot the longer I live down here.
And, as I consider my longer term future down here as an “expat” or “immigrant,” I can’t help but feel solidarity with other foreigners trying to make the life work down here.
Plus, if I’m being honest, they’re making it work better than myself as I certainly don’t have tens of thousands or maybe a hundred thousand dollars to start a business.
It’s admirable that they also immigrated and are even having a better run at it financially than I am.
Good on them!
So, because they are like me in that regard, I can’t help but feel some bias for them and wish them the best of luck (and some of my business assuming their business is good).
In the same way that you got Mexicans or immigrants of any other background who don’t mind supporting businesses run by people like them in the US or in any country.
The Mexicans who support Mexicans in the US.
The Pakistanis who support the Pakistanis in the UK.
The Venezuelans who support Venezuelans anywhere in the Americas (or Spain).
So on and so on.
Why is it some only think it’s bad for foreigners of richer countries (especially those from the US) to feel a similar solidarity for other people like them?
Sure, it has its difference in that not all of us Americans are actually immigrants.
I’m only speaking for myself.
If I see a business being run by another American, I’ll support it assuming it’s not a terrible business and has something I like at a reasonable price.
Which, as a side point, it’s not always. As I wrote here, sometimes other Americans and folks from other “richer countries” have a very warped understanding of what is a competitive price locally because, when they compare what they earned in pesos to how that translates in the currency back home, they demand more beyond what is competitive locally.
But that’s a side point!
Either way, all things being equal and assuming the business is good, I’d feel some “patriotic solidarity” in supporting the other American because he’s assumingly trying to make a life work down here just like me and we share the same roots.
Don’t like it?
Then watch me put my Red, White & Blue Cock in Yo Girlfriend’s Mouth.
America Fuck Yeah
At any rate, let’s wrap this up.
Anything to Add?
In short, I mostly agree with the first point but strongly disagree with the second point.
The only argument in the second point that I can see any merit in is in regards to gentrification.
Outside of that, you’ll likely just come across as some pandering, self-hating (or xenophobic) limp-dick idiot who can’t understand foreigners can be part of the community also.
On the first point, there are circumstances where I’d support the big foreign business but, assuming all things are equal outside of other specific circumstances, I’d strongly support the local sock vendor over Walmart.
But that’s all I got to say for the summary.
Got anything to add?
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Thanks for reading.