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Mexican Men Give up Seats in Metro to Women

Mexican men give up seats in metro to pregnant and old women and women with children — but not to other men MEXICO CITY, Mexico- Throughout our five months of traveling in Mexico, a pattern has emerged where men more than willingly stand up and offer my wife and baby their seats on crowded buses [...]

Mexican men give up seats in metro to pregnant and old women and women with children — but not to other men

MEXICO CITY, Mexico- Throughout our five months of traveling in Mexico, a pattern has emerged where men more than willingly stand up and offer my wife and baby their seats on crowded buses and metro cars. This event is so regular that all my wife needs to do is look a man with a seat in the eye and he will jump right up automatically so she can sit down. But more often than not, she does not need to even look at them — at first sight of a woman and child these Mexican men are programed to respond with chivalry. It is not only my obviously foreign wife that the men give up their seats to, but also to the elderly, women with babies, and pregnant women of their own culture as well.

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This may seem like a simple gesture, as this is also standard cultural protocol in the USA and a few other Western countries, but this is truly not a very common behavior across this planet as a whole. This simple action shows a society that is taught to be aware of itself: these men in Mexico are told from the time they are little kids that they should give up their seats to people who need them most, to be gentlemen. This route action is ingrained into the men here, they were successfully acculturated.

Mexico City metro when not crowded

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I wrote the above piece upon entering Mexico City a few weeks ago, when I had yet to test whether people here will give up a seat to a man holding a baby. I quickly found, upon going out and riding the metro with my one and a half year old daughter without my wife, that they don’t.

The seats that are so automatically given to my wife because she has a baby (seats are not offered to young women unburdened with small children) are not offered to me. Though a strange feeling emits from many men sitting in seats when I enter the car holding my baby. The men sitting near me often refuse to make eye contact, it seems as if they are debating within themselves as to if a MAN with a baby should be offered the same social graces of chivalry as a woman. I stare these men down, curiously wondering what they will decide: 95% of the time they continue staring at their toes, comfortably seated.

I bounce around standing in the crowd with a squirmy kid in my arms.

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The dividing factor here is sex — obviously — but a person holding a baby on a crowded metro train is still a person holding a baby. Few cultures in this world are yet optimized to make amends for men with babies.

Filed under: Culture and Society, Mexico, North America

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3413 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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8 comments… add one

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  • Bob L February 22, 2011, 5:57 pm

    How rare is it for a man in mexico to be out alone with a baby? That alone may make it a difficult situation for them to decide what to do. Here in the US, although it is not extremely common, it is not that unusual to see a man alone pushing a stroller, or carrying a baby. I would have to say that I would also hesitate to give up my seat to a man with a baby, but more as to I don’t know how the man would react. I certainly would not hand off the seat in the same manner as I would to a woman. There would have to be a certain amount of saving face and manliness about it. But then again, I have not been in a public bus or train in the US in 20 years and in the same time frame have probably only been in subways a dozen times or less.

    Bob L

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 22, 2011, 6:49 pm

      Good clarity, it is pretty rare to see a man alone with a baby. When I am with my wife holding Petra, I get a seat. It is when I am alone that I don’t. You may be right about manliness being a factor here. It would feel strange to give a man my seat.

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  • craig | travelvice.com February 22, 2011, 9:42 pm

    Here in Perú you automatically get dibs on a seat if you’re w/ a child, be it man or woman, if the kid is going to sit on your lap. Men and women both give up their seats for me when I’m in charge of my three year old at that moment… or can be removed from designated seating if they’re not feeling up to it.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 25, 2011, 2:35 pm

      That is really great. It is dangerous for an infant to be held in the aisle of a bus or metro car. It is probably also pretty annoying for the other passengers. That is a good system in Peru. How was the jungle?

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  • Russ February 23, 2011, 8:53 pm

    I even noticed this when I used to ride the city buses here in San Diego. I always noticed that when the bus was full men would immediately offer up their seats for women and elderly, and also most men also always let women/elderly enter the buses first when waiting at a stop. It seemed ironic to me that public transportation is looked down upon in the States in all but major cities (and some people even consider those using public transit “lower”), yet I saw some of the best displays of manners on the public transport, manners that are not equally displaced by those who actually do the judging the.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 25, 2011, 3:16 pm

      Right on!

      Good call about how the lower sectors of society are often the ones to have better social manners. It is funny how the upper classes have living strategies that separate themselves from close integration within their society. In Mexico City, very few rich people will even take public transport — they are too scared — so they will very rarely need to show politeness to strangers as they opportunity so rarely arises. If an aspect of cultural action is not engaged in regularly, why pass it on to subsequent generations?

      This is much the same as in the USA. I was raised out in the countryside, in sort of an economically depressed place, and I was taught to give up my seat in buses and trains (though it was very, very rare that I would ever ride in public transport while growing up) to women and old people. Though I feel as if these lessons were old fashioned even then. If I did not travel, when would I have even had the opportunity to give up my seat?

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  • baron February 25, 2011, 11:27 am

    Wade, please don’t take this as a slander even if sounds like one.

    To someone who doesn’t know you, or who doesn’t read the things you write here on your blog, may have the first impression that you’re a ruffian of sorts. I’m basing this on your outward appearance (i.e., head-to-toe tattos and shaved dome).

    Do you think the responce would be different if your appearance was more in line with their norms and standards?

    It would be an interesting social experiment to lend Petra to a local “clean cut” guy and see what happens.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 26, 2011, 12:32 pm

      In this case, perhaps. Though I think that masculinity and the prospect of offending me by offering a seat may have more to do with this. It would be interesting to see if people react to Petra differently if she had a more clean cut dad haha.

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