Mexico, like most Latin countries, has a macho culture. Familiarizing yourself with the general roles of men and women and learning the behavioral codes will enable you to maneuver throughout the country with little to no worries. Fighting the status quo could very well get you in trouble.
The differences in the traditional roles of men and women are much more apparent in Mexico. Here, men are the providers; they bring economic well-being and security. They are chivalrous with women; they open doors, pick up the bills, never walk in front, and almost always surrender their seats. It is unheard of for Mexican men to leave women to travel alone at night. Women, on the other hand, are traditionally the caretakers; they offer physical and emotional support and care for the needs of the family and home. They are considered with very high regard and many are very religious.
Many men, and particularly construction workers, don't miss the opportunity to gawk, shout remarks (piropos), or whistle at pretty women walking by. Especially if the woman is blonde (rubia) or light-skinned (güera). If this occurs, it is best to not look their way, smile, or give any indication that might be interpreted as an invitation to continue. A firm "no" should be enough to ward off the persistent ones.
Dress varies according to the season and local culture. As a rule, more conservative attire is often the best way to ward off any misconceptions. It is also advised to leave your expensive jewelry at home. Wearing it in public may make you a target.
It is not common for women to walk alone at night, hitchhike, or speak with men they do not know. Women are also advised to avoid all male hangouts.
If you are traveling alone on public transportation, do what many Mexican women do—sit next to another woman or place your bag on the empty seat next to you. Doing this may permit you to select who gets to sit next to you. And though you may prefer to travel alone, safety is often in numbers. It may be helpful to befriend fellow travelers, at least until you reach your destination. Do not pick up hitchhikers.
Keeping a bottle of pepper spray or a whistle handy is a good idea, as it will help scare off an attacker. If possible, purchase a cell phone and save emergency phone numbers for instant dialing. The Mexican chain, Sanborn's, sells independent cell phones to which you can upload minutes from pre-paid Telcel phone cards.