By Julia C. Taylor
Living in Mexico Has Made Me a Better Person
By Julia Taylor
Thanks to living in Mexico I'm much more flexible and less self-centered. I'm so patient, I'm practically eligible for sainthood. I'm more generous and less concerned about my budget. I'm less opinionated... well, at least I'm more respectful about how and when I share my opinions. All around I'm a better person now that I've lived in Mexico for six years.
You didn't know Mexico was a self-improvement destination? It is. Putting your heart into adjusting to Mexico involves taking on certain aspects of Mexican culture as well as more deeply understanding your own culture. This process inevitably produces a more value-centered lifestyle. While each person's experience of adjusting to Mexico is their own, most people end up making conscious decisions about their behaviors and lifestyle rather than just plodding along through life reiterating the status quo and therein lies the self-improvement.
For example, Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Mexico, so as an (American or Canadian) expat living in Mexico you will have to decide for yourself if (and how) you are going to create your own Thanksgiving celebration. You end up answering important questions about your own beliefs and feelings. What does Thanksgiving really mean to you? Is it the food that makes the day or is it something else? Will you share your tradition with Mexican friends or will you search out other expats who will help make the day more like it is "back home?" Will you just skip the whole thing and read a good book? By answering questions like these about any and all holidays, which are celebrated differently from our home countries, each individual expatriate in Mexico actually has an opportunity to get closer to their own personal values.
A second example from my own personal growth in Mexico comes from examining how people interact with each other. When I first moved to Mexico, I had trouble deviating from my expected plans. If I was arriving home expecting to get online and check my email, I had trouble calmly chatting with neighbors who happened to be out watering their plants. I just wanted to get on with my own activities. I really had trouble when my Mexican husband would invite them to dinner! Suddenly, we'd be rolling out that barbeque, marinating meat, moving the kitchen table outside, and sitting around for hours, all the while I'd have this unmet need to check my email in the back of my mind. Now I'm not so focused on what I want for myself. There have been many times when our Mexican neighbors and friends have dropped whatever they were doing to come help us out or even just chat and make us laugh a little. Now I know that I can do what I want to do later, but that I'll never have another chance to enjoy that tiny moment of interpersonal communication, which is presenting itself to me.
After years of being treated this way by others, now Americans sometimes hurt my feelings. It seems as if they are off in their own little worlds and can't take time out from their daily problems or TV schedules to have some fun with me. Once I was visiting a friend in the U.S. when one of her other friends came to the door. I opened the door and since I knew her too, I expected her to stop and say hello, to at least ask how I was. A Mexican would have stood there in the doorway, shaken my hand or given me a kiss on the cheek, asked how I was, and how long I'd be staying. Then we would have entered the house together to continue the conversation with our mutual friend. That wasn't at all what happened. This person had just had an argument with her spouse and she was so busy replaying this unfortunate conversation over and over in her head that she barely looked at my smiling face and just barged right past me to go spend 30 minutes complaining to my friend. And we Americans wonder where all of our negativity and isolation comes from. After living in Mexico for 6 years I posit that we are creating it ourselves. It took me a while, but now I've learned to "put on my game face" and go out and enjoy whoever is around. Problems will be solved in their own time and they don't need to take over our interactions for an entire day. See? Mexico is good for self-improvement.
When you live or retire in Mexico, I highly recommend that you learn Spanish and make Mexican friends. While every expatriate must have at least one other expat friend who will relate with the ups and downs of culture shock, it would be a mistake to spend the majority of your social energy on foreigners. Having Mexican friends brings out the richness of life in Mexico. In general, Mexicans love to share their customs, foods, and knowledge and can show you some really wonderful new things. Having really close Mexican friends can also be a form of insurance. They will share their knowledge and contacts when it comes to legal and business matters that can be overwhelmingly different from those up north.
When you make the decision to live or retire in Mexico, remember that (as is true for any move to another country and culture) there will be an adjustment period commonly referred to as "culture shock." This culture shock may hit hard at times, but it's a growth process. And, once you have adjusted to Mexico, you are sure to like the new you.
About Mexico: The Trick is Living Here Second Edition
Mexico: The Trick is Living Here is a humorous guide on how to live or retire in Mexico, useful for any extended stay in Mexico. It includes sections on the following:
- housing and cost of living,
- transportation including riding buses and driving,
- eating, drinking, and grocery shopping,
- staying healthy and health care, as well as finding doctors,
- working and making a living in Mexico,
- getting a residence visa,
- bringing a car,
- bringing household items,
- residency issues unique to Canadians,
- climate and staying comfortable,
- international communication.
Housing and cost of living are dealt with in a completely unique way that helps the reader visualize what their lifestyle might be like once they are in Mexico. This section shows Mexico as it is so that the reader can decide for him/herself if Mexico might be a comfortable place for them to live. Key cultural information lets the reader have an insider's view of how it feels to live in Mexico and provides important tips on how to get along and understand people. This is information that takes most people years of experience to discover by trial and error and is one of the best and most unique aspects of Mexico: The Trick is Living Here
. A chatty style with funny anecdotes helps the reader relate to the descriptions and feel comfortable living or traveling in Mexico the way Mexicans do, all the while making the reader laugh about the challenges. The book is full of pointers for the reader's successful transition to Mexico.