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A pleasingly empty bus in Mexico City | © Eneas de Troya/Flickr
A pleasingly empty bus in Mexico City | © Eneas de Troya/Flickr
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7 Habits Only Locals in Mexico City Can Understand

Picture of Lauren Cocking
Northern England Writer
Updated: 24 May 2017
There are many things that make the Mexican capital special, from the somewhat questionable culinary concoctions to the nightmare traffic that locals put up with on a daily basis, but what are the things only locals in Mexico City can understand? Here we’ve rounded up the top seven frustrating and funny habits that no one tells you, about living in Mexico City.

Eating quesadillas without cheese

The top culinary foible of the capitalinos in Mexico City, that literally no one outside the capital or country can understand, is eating quesadillas without cheese. The official line is that in Nahuatl, the language from which Spanish derives the word quesadilla, quesadilla simply means ‘folded tortilla’ and the similarities to the Spanish word for cheese (queso) are simply coincidental. So, if you want a ‘real’ quesadilla in Mexico City, you have to tack on con queso (with cheese) at the end of your order.

Quesadillas, which come with cheese as standard anywhere but Mexico City | © Diógenes ;)/Flickr
Quesadillas, which come with cheese as standard anywhere but Mexico City | © Diógenes ;)/Flickr

Eating tortas de tamal

Another of the culinary quirks for which the chilangos take a lot of flack is that they are huge fans of a torta de tamal. Tamales, officially described in English as stuffed, steamed corn dough parcels, are popular street snacks across the country, but no one quite loads up on carbs like a Mexico City local. In the capital, these doughy delights are stuffed inside bread and enjoyed as a sandwich. Delicious? Yes. Healthy? Probably not.

Tamales are served in bread in Mexico City | © Enrique Vázquez/Flickr
Tamales are served in bread in Mexico City | © Enrique Vázquez/Flickr

Commuting up to two hours a day each way like it’s no big deal

Mexico City is a notoriously congested city. In fact, it’s so polluted and crowded that on certain days of the week cars aren’t allowed to circulate in the capital. This crazy traffic also means that getting anywhere fast is unlikely to happen, even when you take public transport that bypasses the manic streets, such as the metro. As a result, the majority of workers in Mexico City will have at least a one hour each way commute to deal with, and it’s really not that uncommon to hear of people travelling up to three hours to get to work.

Long commutes are no big deal | © Marmened/Flickr
Long commutes are no big deal | © Marmened/Flickr

Closing down some of the main streets every Sunday for a bike ride

While this might happen in other cities around the country as well, Mexico City is the only place we know of in Mexico that regularly closes down principal avenues completely to cars, in order to have a weekly bike ride/ run/ rollerskate-a-thon. Every Sunday, Paseo de la Reforma is open for fitness fanatics and cyclists, who are are given free reign over many other city streets besides. If you’re interested in taking part in this excellent and strangely Mexico City tradition, economic bike rental is available on site.

Bike ride street closures are a weekly occurrence | © Cordelia Persen/Flickr
Bike ride street closures are a weekly occurrence | © Cordelia Persen/Flickr

Drowning out the screech of the organ grinders

If you’ve ever been to Mexico City, the chances are you’ve heard these screechy, whiny contraptions being played in key locations across the city, principally in the historic centre. They’ll bust out a few tunes and then ask for donations. However, if you’re a local in the capital, this squeaky annoyance just adds to the background noise of the already chaotic city, getting lumped in with the cries of tamale sellers and the pre-recorded soundtrack of scrap metal collectors.

Organ grinders occupy many key spots in the capital | © E. Krall/Flickr
Organ grinders occupy many key spots in the capital | © E. Krall/Flickr

Cramming your way on to an already full bus

Depending on your country of origin, you might not be entirely used to the very haphazard method of using public transport in Mexico City, but the locals sure are. Here, it’s not uncommon to see passengers practically dangling off the side of the bus, crammed in the stairwell, as they drive at full speed down busy main roads. Even if a bus looks full to you, the chances are at least five more chilangos will try and squeeze their way on before it sets off, and the same goes for the metro at rush hour.

A pleasingly empty bus in Mexico City | © Eneas de Troya/Flickr
A pleasingly empty bus in Mexico City | © Eneas de Troya/Flickr

Staging protests at the Ángel de la Independencia

A symbol of the country’s independence, this towering monument on Paseo de la Reforma is an iconic feature of Mexico City. It also happens to be the principal gathering point for any kind of social protest, celebration or march, whether that be a protest against gay marriage or a celebration of a major Mexican football team win. Either way, Mexico City locals are used to using the Ángel de la Independencia as a social gathering point.

Ángel de la Independencia | © Omar/Flickr
Ángel de la Independencia | © Omar/Flickr