Living in Mexico: Joys and Challenges

by Rosana Hart

It seems that each year, a larger number of Americans start living in Mexico. Canadians come too. Although the seasonal snowbird population accounts for a lot of the numbers around Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, Mazatlan, and other places, many foreigners take up residence here. Of course, visiting family back home may pull them away at times, or perhaps the impulse to shop, but they become residents of Mexico.

Why? What is it about Mexico that draws so many of us to migrate here? Most of us speak the language poorly at best, we complain about this and that, and we are puzzled by many of the ways Mexicans do things.

There seem to be two main reasons: climate and money. Naturally, in a country as varied as Mexico topographically, there are many different climates. The many expats who live in the area around Lake Chapala brag about its famous climate. The rain falls in the rainy season (from June to October, roughly) and winter days are warm and sunny. Yet at five thousand feet elevation, the heat is rarely oppressive. Coastal cities will be hotter and more humid, but then they have those sweet ocean breezes! The clincher is that no matter where in Mexico you live, you can leave your snow shovel in the US or Canada.

While monthly overhead is typically lower in Mexico, "your mileage may vary" as the saying goes, depending on your tastes and lifestyle. Local food is quite cheap, but imported goodies are not. Doctor's visits and hospital stays are characteristically more reasonable in Mexico than in the US, but at this time Medicare can not be used here. Household help is much more reasonable, but rentals and house prices are not necessarily.

Yet another factor is as important as the weather and the lower cost of living. The Mexicans we encounter in our daily lives are warm, friendly, and courteous. They are patient with our struggles to speak Spanish, and often they know some English. It's good to be aware, though, that in the Mexican culture, people do not say no easily, so if you ask for directions someplace, do take the answer you get with a grain of salt!

While Mexicans in the areas where expats congregate do have a higher standard of living due to all the work provided by the foreigners, that is not the reason for their friendliness to us. Just watch how they interact with each other, and you will see the same kindness and warmth.

But there is no use trying to convey how different it is to live here. If you haven't been to Mexico, and life here has an appealing ring to it, come down for a visit. Stay more than a week or two, and don't buy a house on that first trip. Inform yourself. Living in Mexico is not for everyone, but for those who adapt, it offers many pleasures.

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