A short summary of my experience in Mexico.
Let me start of by thanking Magnus Karlsteen and Dag Hanstorp for this opportunity! I am very lucky to have been one of the few students to go to Mexico to study. During my months there I really didn’t see a lot of exchange students at campus.To be honest, the chance of meeting a european student is pretty low just considering the sheer size of the campus. UNAM’s campus in DF (Distrito federal, what we call Mexico City) has more than 300.000 students, almost 40.000 professors and nine different bus lines on campus. I was extremely lucky to get an apartment close to campus, just 20 min walking distance from school. Normally people spend an hour or more to get to school, and these guys still live within the city center!
Getting around in this huge city is pretty easy, theres tons of small buses, big buses and metro lines all over the place. They’re all fast, cheap (2-3 SEK per ride) and pretty reliable, the only downside is that it can be pretty cramped. You have maybe seen a clip from Japans metro where they have special ushers to squeeze people in? During rush hours this is pretty much exactly how it is in Mexico City too, only people squeeze themselves in.
Getting around in the evening is a breeze too, stay away from the metro and shady taxies and get an Uber instead. I found it to be extremely easy and safe to use to get around.
I would suggest you learn some Spanish before you leave for Mexico! I would suggest looking into websites like fluencia.com, duolingo.com and the podcast «coffebreak Spanish». There’s also intensive Spanish courses at UNAM, a great place to learn Spanish and meet other international students. Properly preparing your Spanish will make life a lot easier while you’re there!
Traveling from one side of the globe to the other there’s bound to be cultural differences, both in personal life and professionally. Simply put; Mexicans have latin hearts and are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. I don’t think that I during my semester there spent more than a few hours alone!
One big difference (a part from long working hours and the long lunches), was the power distance. Geert Hofstede, a pioneer in cross-cultural groups and organizations, has an interesting theory on cultural dimensions that can help us understand the difference between two cultures.
Comparing Sweden with Mexico is quite interesting.
The first three items are particularly useful to gain an understanding of the everyday differences in the two societies. Lets start with power distance; Sweden gets a very low score compared to Mexico. To quote Hofstede’s own explanation of this «Sweden scores low on this dimension (score of 31) which means that the following characterises the Swedish style: Being independent, hierarchy for convenience only, equal rights, superiors accessible, coaching leader, management facilitates and empowers». This is in sharp contrast to the Mexican society, «At a score of 81, Mexico is a hierarchical society. This means that people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organization is seen as reflecting inherent inequalities, centralization is popular, subordinates expect to be told what to do and the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat».
Im not going to elaborate all the different cultural dimensions, if you want to know more about it then a short read at Hofstede’s website will give a brief summary of the comparison between the two societies.
Shortly put, I have had an amazing time in Mexico, and if you have the chance to go do it!