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Working for just a tip
Belmopan (Belize), May 22nd 2017

Due to the good humoured nature of the Mexicans, you would almost forget that they live in a country with many problems. With Trump’s United States, they have a world power as their neighbour which is not in favour of the Mexicans. Because of corruption there is a high degree of lawlessness in Mexico, which makes Mexicans suspicious of their government. However, if you talk to Mexicans, poverty is often seen as the most urgent problem of the country. The Mexican Carlos Slim Helu may be one of the richest people in the world, but the difference between poor and rich is enormous here. Of the OECD countries, only Chile has greater income inequality. With more than 21% of the population living in poverty, Mexico has the highest percentage of people living in poverty of the OECD.

The government is not yet been able (or willing) to address this problem, and therefore the social safety net of the family is of great importance. Some people go to the US for several decades to send money back to their family. Others stay in Mexico and try to make sure that one of the children can get a good education, so this child can support the rest of the family.

Due to a lack of jobs with a reasonable salary, the Mexicans try in a variety of ways to earn some pennies. The number of beggars is limited; here it is more common for people to try to work for a tip. The best example of this are the "volunteers" who work in the supermarket. These volunteers are usually older people who put the groceries in plastic bags at the end of the cash register. They do not receive a salary, but hope that every customer gives them a few pesos for their service. The Mexicans almost always give them this tip and the volunteers are clearly pleasantly surprised if a traveller does the same.

In general, the generosity of the Mexicans is notable. In many countries, street musicians target on the tourist, while the Mexicans are the most important and most lucrative target group here. In central plazas in the Mexican cities, women and children often walk around in traditional clothing to sell bags and shirts. These people usually come from the surrounding villages with minibuses to the city every day, hoping to earn some money by selling some things. Buying a shirt is seen by many Mexicans as a good way to support these indigenous peoples. We sometimes ask whether the children who sell the items, also go to school. The Mexicans usually role with their eyes: "No, but that's the way it's".

In the second class buses the bus preacher is also a very common phenomenon. A man walks with the Bible in his hand through the aisle and speaks for fifteen minutes about family values and marital loyalty. In addition, he reads corresponding Bible texts and at the end of his sermon he walks through the aisle. The generous givers get an extra blessing and the preacher can give his family a meal again.

The generosity of ordinary Mexicans also has an additional effect: the owners of cafes, restaurants and hotels often pay their employees extremely badly. The fact that someone is "working" in their business gives these employees the opportunity to get a tip. The huge number of employees that hang around in some cafés can only be there because they are paid almost nothing. It is striking that these employees distribute the tables evenly among themselves in a way that everybody has a chance to receive some tips. When we accidentally settle our bill with the wrong person, they immediately go to our "waitress" to hand her over her tip.

As a traveller you can have the opinion that people should get a decent pay when they work and that a tip should only be a bonus for extraordinary service; unfortunately, in Mexico that is not the reality. Hence, a small request to anyone who is going to visit this beautiful country: budget a few extra euros a day for tips and follow the habits of Mexicans. This is the way many people have to make a living, whether you like it or not.

 
 

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