Waiting In Line: Please wait your turn in lines and be patient at service windows. Please don't be the ugly American by cutting ahead of the people waiting. Less common than in Germany , for example, a few less educated and more self important local people or tourists may go around lines and cut in at the front. How you handle this is a matter of personal preference but when it happens, people usually don't make a scene. You could wait patiently and graciously and not let your temporarily bruised ego spoil your whole day. If you are already at the front of the line when this happens, you can tactically position yourself between the intruders and the service window.
Beggars: Much less often than in Tijuana , for example, you may encounter beggars on the street and in front of churches. How you deal with this is, again, a personal preference. It is common in the Muslim religion, for example, to always give something to beggars and Jesus gave money to the poor on the streets of Jerusalem . Two pesos (about 20 cents) may mean a lot to a beggar in a poorer economy. Like in big American cities, there will be beggars at intersections trying to sell you gum, flowers or other items. A firm "no gracias" usually discourages them to cease but not in all cases. You may have to lock your doors, shake your head no and wave a finger (not the middle one) at them to get them to go away. Also like in big American cities, there will be those at intersections who will wash your car windows without being asked. It's handy to keep some two peso coins available for such occasions.
Polite Phrases: Knowledge of a few polite phrases will go a long way to help overcome language barriers. "Hola" works for hello or, if you can remember, there is different greeting for different parts of the day ("buenos dias" in the morning, "buenas tardes" in the afternoon and "buenas noches" at night). "Por favor" and "gracias" are always appropriate and "con permiso por favor" is a polite way of asking someone to get out of your way on the street or in stores. Adding "Señor" for a man, "Señorita" for a young lady and "Señora" for an older lady adds additional respect (be careful with the latter two and err on the side of the younger). Spanish phrase books are a must if you don't speak the language well.
Personal Safety: In public, use the same common sense you would in any big American city. Stay in the better part of town (local assistance is helpful keeping you in the right place). Do not flash sums of money and always keep your passport, visa and wallet in your front pocket. Walking: Walking with city traffic can be dangerous especially if you are from Canada , Massachusetts or California where pedestrians always have the right-of-way in cross walks. Use the crosswalks at intersections with traffic lights. Be very careful of traffic from your rear and to your right making left turns across the crosswalk in front of you. Although the Government of Chiapas has huge road signs stating pedestrians come first, local drivers totally do not respect that idea. Army Checkpoints: A strong army presence can be disconcerting to some North Americans not used to it. Checkpoints are common on the highways searching for weapons and drugs. The Army is usually very professional versus the common North American stereotype of "teenagers running around with AK-47s." Cooperate fully with their duties and do not be imposed upon by a check of your passport and visa and a brief search of your car.
Common Misconceptions: Because of programming from North American media, you may be embarrassed to discover several misconceptions about Mexico and its people. First of all, there is strict gun control there and a strong drug enforcement presence (it's best to leave mother nature's herbal delights at home to avoid big trouble at police and army checkpoints). It is also very dangerous for North Americans to try to buy illegal drugs there (beware of both the dealers and undercover police).
Police: Like in any country where you do not speak the native language, dealing with local police and the Federal Police (PFP - sort of a Federal Highway Patrol) and can be a little dicey for North Americans. The best way to avoid police trouble is to be very careful obeying the laws and traffic signs and by not calling attention to oneself. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation with the police, ask for someone who speaks your language and get a written receipt for any traffic fines or confiscated items. If you think you are about to be the victim of a "mordida" - literally translated "bite" which is an expectation of a monetary tip for the officer's attention to you, you can play dumb (even if you speak Spanish) and politely ask to be taken to the officer's supervisor - "por favor, habla con su jefe" (badly pronounced "heff fee" for effect). Often these tactics will wear the officer's patience thin and mitigate this situation. In this instance, local assistance with the police can be most helpful. People are people and, although there are a few bad cops everywhere, you can expect to be treated professionally and fairly by the majority of police in Chiapas