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Do Mexicans Hate it When Foreigners Speak English?

Published October 18, 2022 in Mexico - 1 Comment

Recently, I went out to meet up with some Polish chick in Centro Historico of Mexico City.

It was rainy as fuck outside.

And we both got there late due to the rain.

Ironically though, we both got there at literally the same time.

As I left the metro station, I walked along over to the exact spot we agreed to meet at.

While walking over, I see this white woman that looked like the photo she sent me walking in front of me towards the spot we agreed to meet at.

I assumed it must've been her initially but you never know entirely.

Sometimes I'm bad at recognizing people from photos I haven't met in person.

As we get to the spot, she walks over to the side and stands there looking around.

She clearly has seen me and has a photo of me but doesn't approach me.

So maybe she's as bad as I am with recognizing faces of people she hasn't met yet.

Anyway, given there was only one dude sitting on a bench to the side and she kinda looked like the gal in the pictures, I figured it must've been her.

After a quick hello, we went on walking together.

Unfortunately for us, I realized along the way that I probably chose a bad area to go out for drinks.

I remembered as I was getting there that a lot of the bars in Centro Historico tend to scam people in my experience.

At any rate, we cross the street and continue making small talk.

She has only been here for 6 months and has been here illegally for 3 of them (given 90 days only).

While she did speak Spanish well enough from what I gathered that night, we only spoke in English to each other as we walked the streets.

Without a clear idea of which bar to go to as it was a Monday night with half of the spots closed and others being spots that she knew had scams also.

Eventually, we did find a bar easy enough and neither one of us minded the extra time walking around making small talk.

And, during our small talk, we both noticed something specific about a few of the people we passed by or were walking in front of us.

That, on occasion, there was that specific person here and there looking at us with a nasty looking face.

A face of annoyance.

Sometimes just confusion.

To be fair, most people in the area were not looking at us that way.

Almost nobody.

But, in our walk of maybe 20 to 30 minutes, I remember 3 people specifically that gave us an odd look that didn't seem so nice.

Something peculiar because that never happens to me on any given day in Mexico City.

What, do I smell?

She noticed it too anyway as we got talking about Mexico at the bar we finally chose.

And that type of look -- while one that basically never is given to me -- is one that I recognize from a few other occasions where I spoke English in public.

That always is the common thread whenever you get that look.

Though, as I'd like to reiterate, most people did not give us that look.

Easily 99% of folks were not giving us a bad look simply for being obvious foreigners speaking in a different language.

Especially with all the people you find in such a crowded place like Centro Historico, it was basically a look that only 0.1% gave.

Still, one could contrast that experience with a few other moments in life.

For example, I remember being in Roma Norte over a year and a half ago (2 years?) and got a similar look that I mentioned before on my blog.

Was walking down the streets of Roma Norte with an American guy named Alex and we were committing the greatest sin one could ever do in Mexico.

Outside of telling Mexicans that Taco Bell has good, authentic Mexican food.

That sin being speaking English.

And, outside the apartment building where we lived, there was some random chick who shot me a nasty look while eating her food at the restaurant next door when she heard us speaking in English.

I always remembered that because I was thinking "what's her problem?"

In contrast though, it's not always so bad.

I remember in particular being in a not so touristy area with no other gringos known as La Viga when an old gal I know named Angie used to live over there years ago.

On one night, we were simply walking outside speaking in some English.

No dirty looks.

In fact, when we hang out, it's often in non touristy areas.

And most of the time we speak in Spanish (99% of the time) but we might occasionally say something in English.

Always in non touristy areas though.

And never any mean looks to be seen.

Having said that, that is about the extent to which I can remember speaking in English outside in Mexico City.

I just don't normally do so because most of the people I hang with are Mexicans and I almost exclusively these days live in non touristy areas.

Still, there are some final thoughts to be said about all of this.

Do Mexicans Hate Foreigners Who Speak English?

First, I've never seen or heard of a moment where a Mexican or any Latin American yelled in anger at a foreigner "SPEAK SPANISH!!!"

It's never happened.

Granted, given I always speak Spanish outside and mostly hang out with Spanish speakers, I guess I wouldn't be the type to see it ever.

If I have ever seen something close to that, it must be escaping my mind right now.

At any rate, regardless of if maybe one Mexican out of millions has been that rude before, I just can't say it's a thing down here.

Though we do have this video here of some chick being told to speak Spanish but the context is very different than some stranger being told to speak Spanish in the street.

Moon "Luna" se enfrenta a la Doctora Ana María Polo por no hablar en Español | Caso Cerrado

Second, it's always been my opinion that non touristy areas will have less locals who hate the sound of a foreign language than touristy areas.

Granted, touristy or expat/digital nomad heavy areas will have more locals catering to foreigners and won't mind English obviously.

But, in my experience, the locals tend to get sick of foreigners of any background when there are "too many" of them flooding in over a short period of time.

Doesn't matter who "the locals" are or who "the foreigners" are.

You have Latin Americans bitching about new Latin Americans moving in from other countries like I wrote here (among other articles I have on the subject).

And they are more culturally and linguistically similar to each other than to non-Latino foreigners!

At any rate, you should expect areas being flooded with gringos to have a few extra locals that might be resentful of anyone who is an obvious foreigner.

They never have the balls to say anything to your face.

Though, given many of the men are 5'7, I guess they'd be saying it to your chest than your face.

Regardless, even with those few who dislike the foreign language in said areas, the point was already demonstrated in the first example above that a vast majority of people are not giving you "the stink eye" after hearing your foreign language.

Third, there are certain types of locals that I think are more likely to dislike the English.

Those being upper middle class Mexicans that bitch about being kicked out of Roma Norte or Condesa and insecure Mexicans that live in some nearby shithole area like Doctores and just don't like foreigners in general.

But most Mexicans are cool with it though or at least don't give you a mean look.

Fourth, I've always held the opinion that speaking English makes you more of a target than what you already were to hustlers, scammers, corrupt cops looking for a bribe and whoever else.

They think you are a tourist, have more money, don't know the local laws, etc.

No reason to speak in English and put a bigger target on your back necessarily.

Though I don't think the risk is too high that on any given day speaking English will get you into trouble.

Fifth, one thing that is funny is that a lot of the people who do judge gringos for speaking English outside tend to be other gringos.

And, when I say gringos, I mean foreigners in general.

You have this case where, as I wrote here, here or here, you have gringos wanting to feel superior to other gringos based on certain criteria.

The gringo who wants to claim to know "the real Latin America" and having been to more spots or having traveled more than the next guy.

The gringo who wants to feel superior on having a better paying remote job.

The gringo who takes pride in knowing Spanish better than the other gringo.

It's the last crowd that is relevant to our discussion right now that will get real bitchy at other gringos for not speaking in Spanish.

The type to tell you "this is Mexico!" like I wrote about here.

Very ironic for a non Mexican to be going up to bat and giving that "this is Mexico!" line.

....One has to wonder if said gringo would have the balls to say "this is America! Speak English!" to a Mexican in the US that is speaking Spanish.

If he does, he's a right wing gringo who just feels everyone should only speak the local language.

If he doesn't, he's a left leaning gringo who is just pandering to social issues so he can feel better about himself and sit on a moral high horse above others.

Sixth, is it disrespectful though for a foreigner to not speak the local language in another country?

Depends on the context.

If you are rude and run around acting snobby to the locals because they don't speak your language, then you are being an ass.

If you are just speaking to somebody else in whatever foreign language and there happens to be locals walking around you, then no.

Why is it their business what you are speaking?

Let's be real -- they'd speak their own language outside of Mexico.

Most people of any nationality would speak their own language to another native speaker of the same language regardless of where they are having a conversation.

It's simply more comfortable.

Got a problem that you can't understand us when we are speaking to each other (and NOT you because you aren't part of the conversation)?

Go fuck yourself.

Why is it your business what we are saying?

Or what a few foreigners in any area are speaking?

Doug Stanhope Immigration

Seventh, another issue is that, by simply hearing us speak in English (or any language not Spanish), some will assume that we don't speak Spanish.

That's where they'll take the argument next.

"Oh I heard so many foreigners today speaking in anything but Spanish in Condesa. These ignorant people. They should learn Spanish!"

How the fuck do you know they don't know any Spanish?

Did you go up to all of them asking if they do or simply just rage hating at the fact that they aren't speaking the local language?

Which, if that's the case, go back to Point 6 about how you can go fuck yourself.

That is the greater irony of it all though.

You just assume that any foreigner in the street speaking a different language must not speak Spanish when you don't even know him.

And yet you call him ignorant.

What are you retarded?

Eighth, there is another irony too in that some of the locals might feel more xenophobic or have some negative feelings after hearing some foreigners speak in English but, at the same time, that same local might also be taking English classes.

And, even more ironic, that said local might try to turn every foreigner he can into a potential free tutor for practicing his English.

I guarantee you that some of the folks who have negative feelings after hearing a foreigner speak in English in public has also attempted to force a foreigner to speaking in English so he can practice on him for free because his broke ass living in Iztacalco can't afford real lessons.

It's a topic I've covered many times on this website so we'll leave it at that.

Ninth, part of the issue though isn't that you are speaking in a foreign language but that you are a foreigner and you speaking a foreign language just reaffirms you are a foreigner.

Some Mexicans really don't like Americans for various reasons that varies by the person.

Part of those reasons -- for some Mexicans anyhow -- is envy that we Americans have more money and an easier life than them.

That we can show up to Mexico where it is cheap for us and where we get more attention from the local women than they do.

If the issue is envy, then said Mexican likely has an issue with most foreigners from "the first world" and not just Americans.

Among other points of tension that might make the Mexican dislike Americans specifically and/or foreigners in general from "the first world."

So just know that it's not necessarily the English (or Italian, German, Polish, etc) that is bothering the Mexican but that you speaking this foreign language is announcing to him that you are a foreigner and he has pre established issues with your status as a foreigner.

This same Mexican might though claim that it is the "speaking another language" that is bothering him as he'll assume you don't speak Spanish but it's really his deeper resentment that is causing more of the negative feelings he has about you and other foreigners.

Tenth, to be fair, not every local giving you an odd look has negative feelings or is judging you for speaking in English in public.

There are other looks that you might get while speaking in English or not.

You can usually tell the difference between genuine curiosity and something negative.

During that night walk with that Polish gal, we ended up walking towards the metro station.

It was 11 PM and I needed to get home because I currently live in Iztapalapa and really didn't like how I was going to be walking those streets near midnight.

Going to have to put on my angriest face when walking home so nobody fucks with me.

But we were having a bit of a conversation anyhow and it was seemingly never ending as she was really getting into it (so was I to be fair) but I also really wanted to go now before it literally hits midnight.

While wrapping it up though in front of the metro, I saw some dude pass by us that was really looking at us with a certain intrigue.

Among other Mexicans I saw looking at us like that.

Which, to be fair, it's not like we were some exotic species in this part of Mexico City.

Plenty of foreigners in Centro Historico as it's very touristy.

Still, you can clearly see the difference between someone who has that "hmmm what are saying? Is my English good enough to understand?" look and someone who has the look of "WHY DONT YOU SPEAK SPANISH?!!?"

In other cases, it might not be annoyance but just straight up confusion as to "what the fuck are you doing here?"

Always in areas where they don't see gringos.

Not a look of xenophobia but just one of confusion.

Eleventh, just to reiterate one more time, most Mexicans don't have a problem if you are speaking in English with someone in public. They might get confused in non touristy areas or find it normal in touristy areas.

A vast majority are chill and are carrying on their day not even thinking about the few words they overheard from you while passing by.

As long as you try to learn the local language if your plans are to live there and not be a tourist and as long as you don't act like an ass to the locals for not speaking your language, it'll be OK.

Anyway, that's all I got to say.

If you got anything to add, drop a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


1 comment

K - October 20, 2022 Reply

Xenophobia seems to be everywhere! Telling someone what language to speak is always cringeworthy, screams of ignorance and provincial superiority, like they’ve never been 10 miles from home and expect everyone to conform to the standards of a tiny, isolated rural hamlet. Well documented! I hope your Polish friend is a reoccurring character!

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