One of the many reasons I enjoyed living in Playa del Carmen was the feeling of belonging. I was a resident. I could legally live there and work there. I was not a tourist. The very idea of not being a tourist made me giddy.!! I have never enjoyed being a tourist. A traveler maybe. A temporary resident for sure. And with some possible exceptions, like hiring a tour guide in Rome, I have exemplified that spirit in all of my travels.
So living in playa came with that extra sweetness of not being a tourist.! I was a true local 🙂 And being a true local allowed me some lovely perks. For starters, whenever someone didn’t recognize me, I could issue the following line and be left alone and/or cordially welcomed, “soy local, no una turista”. That was all that needed to be said and I was free to go about my day.!
I was also able to avoid the psycho gauntlet outside the Cancun airport. There was no need for me to hire transportation, book a tour, or go on a timeshare presentation. Someone was picking me up or I was taking the bus. I just breezed past all the mania with my lovely phrase at the ready. Easy peasy.!
After some weeks of living in playa, I also was no longer bombarded as I walked down Quinta Avenida. Store hawkers, timeshare tormentors, restaurant hosts and waiters all eventually recognized me as I strolled down the promenade. Even if I wasn’t wearing my work uniform.! When I returned for a small vacation in September, it was nice to still be remembered 😉
It was also fantastic to pay local resident prices for the taxis.!! Tourists pay up to almost three times the amount for a taxi that a local does. For example, at my first hotel job in Playacar, it cost 40 pesos to get to work. If I wasn’t a local and also wearing my work uniform, it would have cost anywhere from 80 to 120 pesos. While we are only talking about a few dollars, when you are a local getting paid local wages, a few dollars is like the lottery.!!
Also, as a local we received local discount cards from the restaurants. All we had to do was register our name and phone numbers and we could get ten to twenty percent off menu prices.! The first time, I realized that there was a price difference for tourists at certain restaurants was during the Easter holiday season. I had gone to Pizza Pazza, a locally owned pizza joint. Normally a huge slice of pizza and a diet coke costs about 25 pesos. The new girl behind the counter, not realizing I was a local, charged me 80 pesos.! I almost fainted. After some back and forth conversation, and manager intervention, I was charged my usual amount. But I was dumbfounded at the price difference. And secretly happy I was a local.!
Finally, my favorite reason for being a local in playa was that everyone knew me at Starbucks. And not just knew me, but knew my name, knew my drink.!! And everyday I came in they not only handcrafted my beverage for me, but made beautiful designs on the outside of my cup. Sometimes, it was just my name, sometimes a drawing, sometimes even a whole message.! They asked about all of my friends who they knew from playa and of course I asked about them.
In fact, I am still Facebook friends with many of them.! And, of course, when I returned to playa in September, they still remembered me.!! Interestingly enough, I don’t get this type of recognition at my Starbucks here in Chicago.! Strange. Maybe now that I have moved, my neighborhood Starbucks will show me some local love 😉 Or maybe, I should just waltz in tomorrow and say “soy local, no una turista.!”