The dress code in Chapala and Ajijic is informal. The customers that come to my office come in shorts, jeans, and most of them wear tennis shoes or sandals
I used to have a partner who’s not working with me anymore, and he would say, “Let’s go to the office in shorts.” And I said, “No, we are providers. Our clients are retired. They are on full vacation, but we are not. We’re here to give them service, so we have to have a better look.” It’s informal because of the weather, because I would look strange if I would use a tie and a coat.
In Guadalajara (the closest big city to Ajijic, about an hour away by car), most people use a tie and a coat, but not everyone. Most of us in the insurance agents’ community wear a sports shirt, buttoned down, long sleeves. The shoes we wear are formal and not just sandals, or tennis shoes.
Here in Ajijic, the Mexicans, even the ones who are not service providers, who are maybe middle or lower class socio-economically, unless they’re in the middle of working a construction job, many times they’re still dressed extremely nicely. They’ll have pressed pants, and maybe they’ll wear a cowboy hat and long sleeved shirts. During the day, they wear work clothing. Most people use jeans, but after work, they do change to something like Dockers. Not that label because it’s expensive, but that’s the way they dress. They change to be nicer.
What’s interesting when you think about it, is you wind up having the local Mexicans who may not have 1/10th the money of an expat, dressing nicer than the expats. The expats are here to relax, and if they are comfortable in shorts, in a t-shirt, or in sandals, they’ll spend the entire day looking like that.
Most Mexicans, if they can afford it, it’s more important for them to look nice. They will not pay much, but they will manage to look better. That’s for sure. Their appearance is very important to them, and that’s their culture. In all of Mexico, people like to look good, and if someone looks like a laborer, it does not reflect well on them. Mexicans would say, “You look terrible. You look like a construction worker.” That’s an insult, unfortunately, because that discriminates. It’s not a terrible job to do, or something to be ashamed of, but people do discriminate based on that, more so here than in the United States.
In the United States, you can go into a bank in shorts, sandals, and t-shirt, and they’ll give you service. Here, you go to a bank like that, and they are going to think that you’re going to rob them.
(Adelita Bar and Grill, Lake Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)