“So what’s it like living there in Mexico?”
I started this Cheapest Destinations blog way back when as a place to provide advice on traveling well for less. That mission has stayed basically the same, so while some may say I’m foolish to not exploit my “personal brand” on here more, I’m usually content to help others find travel bargains instead of talking about myself and what I’m doing every week.
I keep getting e-mails from people asking me what it’s like living in Mexico though, so here’s a quick post on life as a Mexpat.
I moved to Guanajuato, Mexico on June 30 with my wife and daughter and have been loving every day of it since. This is a beautiful colonial city that was already a city before the pilgrims landed way up north. It’s surrounded by mountains and most of the traffic moves in tunnels underneath, meaning the pedestrians outnumber cars about 30 to 1 in the center. I walk almost everywhere, only taking a taxi two or three times a week when it’s too far or too late.
This picture below is a view from our roof deck. (Here are more roof deck views.) We pay $800 a month for two furnished side-by-side apartments, utilities and internet included, a total of four bedrooms and two baths. One of the apartments I use for my office and for the steady stream of visitors we receive. A maid comes once a week and cleans up: $12 to $16 depending on whether we have her do both apartments or not. Our babysitter charges a shade under $3 an hour. Not everything is cheaper here though: here’s a sample list of what’s cheap and what’s pricey.
We are at 6,500 feet, so the weather is gorgeous all year. The lowest it gets in the winter is about 40F, the highest it ever gets in the summer is about 85F. Most days the range is 60-80F. Apart from a few rainy days in July and August, it’s sunny all the time.
Few people speak English here (unlike nearby San Miguel de Allende, which is dominated by retirees from the U.S. and Canada). So every day I use at least a little Spanish every time I leave the house and I regularly take lessons and study at home to improve. My daughter is becoming very fluent: she goes to a Spanish-only Waldorf school and her neighborhood friends don’t speak any English. She was quite upset when we told her we were packing up the house and moving to Mexico, that she would be going to school in Spanish, but now that she’s in it—and thanks to some intensive study at a language school in the summer—she’s absolutely loving it.
Overall, this has been an easy experience. The hard part was packing up our house in the U.S., taking care of all the address changes and such, selling off a lot of possessions, and putting things in storage. Once we actually made the move, life got easier. There’s less stress here, people move more slowly, people aren’t so obsessed with their work, and there’s far less of a “buy buy buy” consumer culture.
There are adjustments, of course. Nothing gets done as fast as we would like it to, but you go with the flow because that’s the way it is. Living in a cash-based society is tough sometimes, especially when you get dinged $5-$7 every time you hit the ATM machine to access your bank account back home. You have to always have a lot of money on hand: the doctor and dentist are paid in cash, you shop at the market or the butcher shop with cash, you go out to eat with cash.
Speaking of the doctor and dentist though, I’ve found a great way to solve the U.S. health care crisis: move everyone to Mexico. A cleaning and checkup at one of the best dentist offices in town is under $50. A visit to the doctor is $35 to $50, including follow-ups. Most prescription drugs are far cheaper here—probably because the companies are not spending millions a day on TV ads trying to convince you to “ask your doctor about…”
We picked a great year for our sabbatical: this is the year Mexico is celebrating its bicentennial—the time it started the revolution to become independent. Someday soon I’ll put together a video and photo montage of some of the crazy and just plain interesting things we’ve seen here, but with the Cervantino Festival going on right now and Day of the Dead coming up, I’ve got to add some more material to the mix first.