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More “Mexicanisms” That All Expats Should Know

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We had such a great response from you on our last blog that we decided to do more “Mexicanisms” that all expats should know, so you can better understand the more subtle nuances of the Spanish language.

Many expats who come to Mexico are living their retirement, enjoying life, making new friends, experiencing new traditions and just exploring a new way of life.

They relax more, the date is not really important and their schedules are more flexible than when they were working. However, in their working days they may have had one of those days when they just couldn’t wake up or didn´t hear the alarm and stayed in bed a little too long.

Well, there is a Mexican expression for that. We say, “Se me pegaron las sábanas,” which means the bed sheets are glued to my body, so I just couldn’t get out of bed.

Looking back in history, there was one important Mexican who truly lived up to “Se le pegaron las sábanas.” His name was Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, a well-known lieutenant and his mission was to welcome the new Emperor of Mexico, Maximiliano de Hasburgo and his wife Carlota, on May 28th, 1864 in the city of Veracruz. Despite his great commission, he arrived late to the appointment. He said that he was afraid he would get the terrible yellow fever, so he preferred to wait (in bed) in the city of Orizaba until the emperor and his wife arrived.  Of course, they were very disappointed.

The Emperor, naturally, did not understand his behavior at all, but eventually he realized that in this new territory the way of life, the people and the way of doing things were completely different from Europe. So, after some time he got it, he knew how to approach Mexicans and what to expect from them. In other words, Maximiliano understood “le cayó el veinte.” When you say “Me cayó el veinte,” it means that you finally understand something.

This Mexicanism was originated in the second half of the 20th century, when the new technology of the time was public phones on the streets. In order to use them, you had to put a coin in the slot, which gave you a dial tone. Then you dialed the number and when the person you were trying to reach answered the phone the coin dropped for payment.

Now, with mobile phones, we no longer use public phones, but “Nos caen muchos veintes” is still in our everyday lives. However, living in a foreign country where they speak a different language, sometime you don’t get it, don’t understand something or simply “no te cae el veinte.” And when it’s not a big deal to understand somebody, you can always “give them the airplane,” if you know what we mean.

In Spanish, it totally makes sense to “dar el avión” to someone when either you cannot understand or it’s just better to leave it like that. By saying this, you are saying you understood, but in reality, you didn’t.

Obviously, we don’t carry little airplanes to give to people when these situations occur, like you are not paying attention to the conversation and your mind is up in the clouds. We say, “Oh yes, of course” or “sure” in a way to agree with the person, but actually we don’t have a clue to what the person is talking about. The other person knows what we are doing and asks, “¿Me estás dando el avión?” This means: “Are you not paying attention to me? If we ask affirmatively, we are still “dando el avión” to that person. Not nice, but it happens, you know.

So, next time that “Se te peguen las sábanas” and somebody “no le cae el veinte,” you can always “dar el avión” and everything will be cool.

Until next time amigos!


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