Having spent 6 months out of the year in Mexico and 6 months in Canada for the last few years, and I have to say, when we get back to Canada we suffer from a bit of culture shock when we first arrive.
As most people know, Mexico is known for the friendliness of their people. It is their custom to greet each other, and us as well, upon encounter. My husband and I cycle most mornings, and in Mexico virtually everybody we encounter greets us with a big smile and a “buenos dias.” What a wonderful way to start the day! That is not the norm in Canada (at least not where we reside). If we offer the greeting FIRST, a percentage of people will respond, but it is not unusual to be ignored. Kinda puts a damper on the happy greeting given, sometimes.
I’m sure everyone has seen that thing posted on Facebook about all the things we did growing up as kids in the 50s, 60s and 70s that didn’t harm us or kill us… like drinking out of the yard hose, sharing pop out of bottles with ALL our friends and riding our bicycles WITHOUT helmets. Who ever even HEARD of helmets in those years? Not me, that’s for sure.
My kids were born in the mid to late 70s and we cycled with them on the back of our bikes in the ‘kiddie seats’ that had JUST come onto the market. The first one we got was from Sears and it was kind of boxy-style allowing me to actually stuff 2 kids into it! YES, I REALLY did that and nobody gave me flack about it! No helmets on us or the kids… there weren’t any to buy and nobody thought about it back then.
Now we have all these rules and regulations (in BC, Canada anyway…) and it’s against the law to ride a bike without a helmet. Yes, they can FINE you if you’re not wearing your helmet. ARGH! I HATE wearing a helmet!
We ride our bicycles to enjoy the fresh air and feel the freedom of ‘riding in the wind with the breeze ripping through our hair.’ We don’t ride on the busy main streets or bother the people driving vehicles. We stick to the back streets and rural areas as much as we can. It absolutely amazes me how many people take it upon themselves to YELL at us that we should be wearing our helmets and that we COULD be fined.
What’s happening to people? Why are they so concerned about everybody else’s business? How does me riding MY bike without a helmet affect them in any way? Why should they concern themselves about it?
We have rules about wearing helmets when cycling, skiing, etc., next thing they’ll have rules about wearing helmets as pedestrians. You never know, you might get hit by a car or one of those cyclists not wearing HIS/HER helmet!
Without making this really lengthy, suffice it to say what we observe is that there are more rules and regulations regarding ‘safety’ here in Canada that gets to the point of being ridiculous. People are giving up their own autonomy for the sake of inflicting rules on everybody. In Mexico, people just do what they do and nobody bothers them about it. It’s a rare thing to see a Mexican wearing a helmet on a bicycle. It’s common place to see parents or older siblings ‘doubling’ the smaller children on a bicycle… sometimes 2 kids (one with feet perched on the back axle hanging onto the shoulders of the rider and one on the front handle bars to boot). They’re just enjoying their lives with the onus of responsibility for their injuries should they occur upon themselves.
I know some of you are shaking your heads thinking I’m nuts for not wearing a helmet most of the time while riding my bicycle, but here’s something to chew on. I see some of the people who DO wear their helmets speeding along the busy streets with the fast moving vehicles, and I think to myself that if they should have an accident there, it won’t matter that they are wearing a helmet. Their injuries will be severe regardless.
So for me, I choose to stick to the not so busy streets and try to enjoy my cycling like I did in the days of old! I don’t even mind cycling in the rain… in Mexico! (But not so much at home in Canada.)
by Karen Nagy – Vernon, BC and La Peñita, Nayarit, Mexico
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