Mexicans, patronizing. Mexico is a second world country. Many gringos come down here and are sad at how poor the Mexicans are. Indeed the Mexicans have less "things" than Americans or Canadians. Do not come down here and feel sorry for the poor Mexicans and try to do something about it. Do not feel you have to tip 25 % at restaurants. Do not overpay everything. Do not throw your money around at all the poverty you see. Be generous, but don't feel sorry for the people here. Save it for the poor people in the United States.
Mexican illegal immigration to the United States. Surprisingly most, that is MOST Mexicans I talk to, do not approve of it, and understand how the Americans feel about having "somebody in their own yard." What they object to is the foolish, there is no other word for it, attempt to build a 350 million dollar fence to keep them out. It won't work. Or the way the USA allows vigilantes with guns at the borders. Of course, if the USA really wants to stop illegal immigration they should throw all the American business men and woman in jail who are hiring illegal Mexicans. But if they did that, you could not get your car washed, lawn mowed, house cleaned, eat cheap vegetables or fruits, etc, etc, etc.
Airport: Guadalajara airport is 35 minutes away. Easy for family and relatives to come and visit and for you to travel back and forth from the United States. Bad news is family and relatives come and visit you easily too.
Animals: Pigs are no longer allowed to be kept around houses except in the country. You will see horses, cows, chickens, goats, and dogs in the Lake Chapala Area. Chickens are kept in many Mexican homes to eat insects and supply eggs. Note that male chickens, hereby called roosters "cock-a-doodle-do" at the break of dawn. Many open lots have the above mentioned animals grazing. You will see many times that dogs are in the streets. Dogs in the street will not bother you, they know better. Mexican street dogs are civilized. If a dog barks at you all you have to do is bend down and pretend to pick up a rock. The dog will run. Dogs are also kept on roofs. This is a Mexican alarm system. These dogs will bark at the drop of a leaf. Day or night.
Asking Directions. A Mexican will never tell you they don't know. They will, with no malice and a genuine love in their hearts, direct you, to the best of their ability, in some direction that may or may not be the right way. I always get second and third opinions if lost.
Sickness. You will get sick here. There is nothing you can do. Wash your hands regularly. Don't eat unpeeled fruits, vegetables or drink water you are not sure of. Many people use a cheap bottle treatment (chlorine) for all food stuffs. Some of the tricks are to squeeze lime on any food. Drink alcohol with meals. Eat yogurt for digestion. You will get sick twice a year or more. There is nothing you can do about it.
Spanish language. In Mexico they speak Spanish. Spanish is not a hard language to learn. They have way less words to remember than English and the pronunciation of letters is consistent. The Spanish language has many of the same Latin roots for words. The hard part of Spanish are the verbs. In Spanish they have close to 40 variations of the one verb. Verb conjugation tell who is speaking (He, she, it, you, I ,them, us) the past, present or future, the conditional -- whether the speaker will, may or probably finish the action. To complicate things, Spanish have irregular verb forms that do not conjugate in a known pattern. Let's not forget the idiomatic expressions that do not translate literally. Study hard and in 3 years you will speak fair Spanish. Mexicans respect a person who tries to speak their language no matter how you mangle it; they are very tolerant.
Spanish language dangers. Knowing a little Spanish can kill you. I went in to a butcher, looked at the chicken parts and asked the woman butcher, in Spanish, if I could have two of her breasts. She paused, raised the knife and stared at me to make the next move. I then asked her if her breasts were tender and juicy. She grabbed another knife and said nothing. Sensing something was lost in translation, I mentioned the word "pollo" chicken and breast and she was all smiles. Of course language works both ways. I saw a Mexican woman I know riding a bike. She spoke good English. I asked her if she wanted a ride. She than asked would I "touch" her. Immediately I thought, she was afraid I was going to come on to her. Then I thought she wanted me to touch her. I was totally confused and said nothing until she repeated, would I "teach" her to drive. The word "touch" and "teach" are, well, you know what I mean.
Funny Spanish words.
Tonto, the masked friend of the Lone Ranger. In Spanish, Tonto means stupid.
Bimbo. An American word meaning a beautiful but stupid woman. In Spanish it is the name of a brand of bread.
Burrito. In Spanish, a small burro. In America, something to eat at Taco Bell.
Huevos. Spanish for eggs. Slang term for a man's two private dangling parts.
In Mexico the Spanish word for "grab" is the slang term for F#!!#. Try not to say the Spanish word for grab and mention a family member or farm animal.
Mango, the fruit, pronounced the same in English, is used to compliment a woman on her beauty. "You are a mango." Note: Women in Mexico like to be complemented in a flirtatious way. Mexican men still whistle at Mexican women walking in the street. Mexican women ignore them. American women will file a class action law suit for sexual harassment.
Money. The current rate of exchange is 10.88 pesos to $1 American. It changes daily. Don't complain, it is 8 to 1 for the Canadians.
Money machines. There are many ATMs. People here just withdraw money from the ATMs to live on. Get an account so you can take money from an ATM. Credit cards are accepted by only a few places. You don't need many credit cards and shouldn't carry them around. You will hardly use a checking account.
Money, Investment. There are financial institutions in Mexico that invest in the Mexican stock market, the BOLSA. Most of the investment vehicles are mutual funds. The return on your investment is very high. (Disclaimer: Not insured, you can lose money) We have an "aggressive" mutual fund account and we made, after expenses, 40% on our investments. If you sell a house here you do not put the money in an American account. Did I mention that these Mexican financial institutions do not report money in your account to the IRA? Did I also mention the Mexico has no capital gains tax on investments?
Visas. No, not the credit card. There are several ways you can stay in Mexico legally -- Of course with a tourist visa of 90/120 days. There are the FM2 and FM3 visa. I won't explain the differences. We have to renew it every year. It costs around $120 dollars. The process is semi-complicated but doable. A lot of waiting, filling out forms and standing in lines.
Clothing, women's. Husbands, your wife will come down here and buy an entirely new wardrobe. You have no chance of stopping your wife. No chance. Don't try. Sure, she has plenty of clothes, shoes and jewelry she brought with her. That is not the point. Most women love clothes, shoes and looking stylish. The clothes are relatively inexpensive and your wife will feel happy and stylish. I say: Happy wife, happy life.
Clothing, men's. Free! Free! Free at last! Do not bring down more than one suit or two ties. One pair of business shoes. The attire worn by most men in Lake Chapala is a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. Guys, you can finally dress like you did in college or high school. No one cares. Only your wife will complain what you are wearing when you get dressed to go to church services or dinner. Note: Black socks with shoes and shorts is still a no-no, guys.
Religion. All denominations. Mexico is a Catholic country. There is a Catholic church in every village. Sometimes two. In Lake Chapala there are a Jewish Synagogue, several Baptist denominations, Jehovah Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists and Anglicans. Freedom of religion is accepted here. There are young missionaries from Latter Day Saints here. Yes, they still wear the white shirts, ties and name tags. There are many doors in Mexican houses with a small sign that says: "We are Catholic in here and don't knock and try to convert us." The Mexican government takes a dim view of converting the sinful in public. Believe it or not there is a greater separation of church and state in Mexico than in the United States. You believe it? Even though this is a Catholic country the church gets mixed reviews throughout history. Priests did all they could to destroy the native culture and keep the native population subservient to the landed, Spanish gentry.
Volunteer work. Most retired Americans here donate their time and effort to worthy causes. They want to "give back." There are many worthy causes to volunteer your time, money and energy.
Charity events. During the high season there are way too many charity events. It seems the charity organizations have ALL their fund raising events during high season when there is a huge population of snow birds.
Entertainment. As far as I am concerned, there are too many bands here. The talent level for musicians is very high. You will meet musicians here that played with named bands for twenty years. Most of the music is Mexican, country/western, rock-n-roll and classic ballads from the 40's. There is a theater here, Lakeside Little Theater and it is the oldest in Mexico. During High Season here there are musical concerts every night and bus trips into Guadalajara for concerts and museums and more than enough culture to fill your bill. The funniest people in town are members of Spanglish Imposition Improvisational Comedy troupe. I am a member. See local listings for times and dates. A 10% discount if you mention this article.
Newspaper and Magazines. There are two English speaking magazines at lakeside. The Ojo del Lago (Eye of the Lake) and the Lake Chapala Review. They come out once a month. They both have articles on what is happening around the lake. They also have fiction, gossip, opinions and ads. The Guadalajara Reporter newspaper comes out once a week on Fridays and has the real news. The magazines are free, the newspapers cost $1. You can get the Mexican edition of the Miami Herald newspaper.
Holiday season, for gringos. During Christmas and New Years there are a lot of parties here. It is not an exaggeration to say we could go to five parties a week if we wanted to. Actually there are parties every week of the year. We get asked out to dinner once a week or ask friends over all the time. You will socialize and eat out more than you did pre-retirement.
Smoking. Some people move to Mexico so they can smoke in a restaurant or any place they GOD DAMN FEEL LIKE! Restaurants still allow smoking, through many places are sensitive to smoking and some have smoking/non smoking sections. Mexicans feel it is their God given right to smoke anyplace, anytime. Please don't ask them to put out their cigarettes, lecture them on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke or how they are being inconsiderate of others.
Movie theaters. We have one movie theater with three screens. Two people, two tickets, one large bucket of popcorn, one large drink, first run movies -- under $10 for two. The theater is never crowded. Make sure to notice if the movie is in English or has subtitles in English.
DVD. $2. New titles and before they are released in the USA. Illegal? See #1.
Shipping. When you relocate to Mexico do not ship all those creature comfort "things" you think you cannot live without. Sell them. It cost around $1 a pound to ship here. Only ship small electric gadgets. Shipping a metal patio set weighing 500 pounds is foolish. Shipping a stove, refrigerator, car parts, weights, beds, dressers, chairs, tables, piano, organ is also stupid. At the border, custom officials have the right to open up your container and look through it. (Of course you would not ship fire arms, grenade launchers, cannons or illegal drugs.) Once again, your wisest choice is to sell every bloody thing you own. Trust me on this one. I thought we sold everything and we still shipped 1500 pounds.
Rugs. Homes do not have rugs. Tile floors are the norm. I have been in two homes that had wall to wall carpets since I've been down here. Yes, many houses have small area rugs. The Mexicans use brooms for most everything.
Caskets for the dead. Places that sell caskets are open all day and night for some reason.
Trash. Sad to say that people in this part of Mexico throw their garbage every where -- plastic bags, bottles, styrofoam, tires, junk and construction building materials. This is the biggest problem gringos complain about the Mexicans. Of course this is not true of all of Mexico. Some cities have laws against throwing trash on the street and you will receive a fine.
Remember. Coming to Mexico, we are guests here. Yes, I know the USA is the greatest country in the world and yes, we Americans know everything and yes, we are the wealthiest, bravest, wisest most sophisticated people in the world, and yes, God blesses American above all other countries, etc, etc, etc. See #13.
Acclimatization. It takes some time to become comfortable living in Mexico. After two years you will feel this is your home.
The biggest culture shock you will experience is when you return to the USA after living here for some time. What will you see? You will see that Americans have too much of everything. America is the land of TOO MUCH.
Summation: Mexico is not the USA. Food is cheap. Weather is paradise. People are friendly. Life is good in Mexico.
-- Michael McLaughlin