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Politeness in Mexico



     Emilio Zertuche finds the English use of "you" a relief:
     "In Mexico we are also victims of the formal language. Mexico City and the surrounding states are the worst examples of this. You are always expected to address new acquaintances using the formal "usted" rather than the familiar "tu". Switching from one to the other often proves traumatic. I have an excellent friend of many, many years, we are even "compadres" (I am the godfather of one of his daughters), which is almost a family bond, and he still can not get used to address me as "tu" only because I happen to be older than he. In the Northern states of Mexico, the situation is not so formal and most people would be addressing you as "tu" right after being introduced.
     Realizing that there is no such distinction in English when you learn the language is a wonderful thing. It changes even the way you think. It makes you think that the US is a more easy-going country, a place when you can call "you" anybody you meet. However, after a while you realize that there are people that you may call "John", but there are also those that you have to call "Mr. Rockefeller", just as anywhere else.

Ronald Hilton - 12/1/99


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