Living in Mexico from A to Z: Part Two

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Karen Blue

A Woman’s Perspective on Living in Mexico

M – Money, Medicine and Maids

Most expats here keep the majority of their money in Canada or the States; however, because of the recent peso devaluation, interest rates are high in the bank–33% last week. The money I do have here, I keep at Lloyds in a thirty-day account. Every month, like clockwork, money is transferred from my 30-day account to my 24-hour account and also from my 24-hour account to my Serfin Bank checking account. I get cash from either my US or Serfin accounts through local ATM machines, but it’s nice to have local checking capability as well. Credit cards are seldom accepted in the smaller villages.

We have excellent medical care and varied medical insurance plans. Several clinics are available lakeside and several excellent hospitals are located in Guadalajara. National Insurance (IMSS) is available for about $300 US per family. I failed my cholesterol test and have private medical insurance with a $200 deductible that costs me about $700 per year. There are options locally for homeopathy, alternative medicine and assisted care.

Almost every household has a maid. Their wages average about $1.00 per hour. Mine comes in three mornings a week, cleans the floors (I have two dogs and they track in a lot of dirt), kitchen, baths and patio. Once a week she does laundry. I have my own washer and dryer. Some maids will do the shopping and cooking. Some live in. We are responsible for two week’s vacation pay at Christmas time and paid holidays during the year. If you don’t like a maid, be sure and fire her within the first month. Some maids will sue, even if they’re fired for good reason. Get references.

N – Nails, Noise and Non-fat Products

Yes, you can get your acrylic nails done here and facial massages and pedicures. Several beauty salons cater to these little necessities. The cost is about $4.00. My friend has hers done at home by a woman who makes house calls. She pays $5.00.

Fireworks, political slogans screaming from loudspeakers mounted on trucks and vendors barking their wares, mix with the barking of dogs, crowing of roosters, mariachi music and church bells to create a cacophony of sound–noise. Some love it; some don’t. The village is a good place for deaf people or those of us who have discovered Number 30 ear plugs. Some folks call it background music and say the sounds of Mexico lull them to sleep.

Guadalajara isn’t the diet capital of the world. You can find “light” milk. Maybe 2% milk. You can find low-fat yogurt, but not non-fat. If you’re into diet products, bring them along, increase your exercise or be happy putting on a few pounds while you’re here.

O – Onstage and Operas

Budding or frustrated Thespians can cavort and entertain on one of several stages lakeside. Local playwrights, directors, producers and actors mix and mingle to present several stage performances and musicals throughout the year. Not a center-stage person? Building sets, helping with costumes and make-up, selling tickets and serving drinks during intermission are all volunteer opportunities for folks wanting to get close to the drama.

The Music Appreciation Society of Ajijic has over 300 members and organizes local events as well as bus-trips to catch some of the world’s finest operas and ballets in Guadalajara.

P – Pets, Pedestrians and Pharmacies

Bringing pets over the border is no problem. Just make sure all shots are current and you have a health certificate from the Vet. I haven’t yet met anyone who has been asked to see any of those papers, whether by air, land or sea; however, better be prepared. Several equestrians either brought their own horses with them, or purchased them here. There are stables and kennels available and many locals will house and pet sit when you’re away.

Walking is difficult in cobblestoned villages. As you’re walking, the mantra that should be on your lips at all times is “Watch and Walk; Stop and Shop; Watch and Walk; Stop and Shop.” It’s too easy to twist an ankle, break a leg or hip by falling on the cobblestones if you’re not careful. But, it’s lovely to walk along the streets, peek into the gardens and spend a day window shopping. Remember to wear substantial, comfortable shoes. “Watch and Walk; Stop and Shop.”

There are almost as many pharmacies here as tire shops. Many perscription drugs in the States are sold over-the-counter here. Hector’s pharmacy in Chapala is good because Hector is extremely knowledgeable, carries a large inventory and speaks excellent English. A couple of the pharmacies are open seven days a week. Prescriptions and counter drugs are often less expensive in Mexico.

Q – Quiche and Quarrels

Didn’t think I’d find any Q’s, did you?

At the Lake Chapala Society, sometimes at the Super Lake grocery store, and always at the German restaurant, one can find homemade quiche. Other homemade muffins and desserts are often hawked around town. Do real men eat quiche?

Raising one’s voice at a Mexican can get you thrown in jail. It’s not an effective way to solve disputes and many of the frustrations here are simply not solvable. It’s a different culture, and one that does not tolerate screaming and yelling. The worst thing you can call a Mexican is “Estupido.” Typically, Mexicans don’t lie, they just tell you what they think you want to hear. No matter that tomorrow you’ll find out it wasn’t true. It makes you happy–in the moment. And that makes them happy, too.

R – Repairs, Roofs and Rummy Tiles

Almost anything can be repaired here. Mexicans don’t throw out a radio or a coffee pot when it stops working, they repair it. They don’t replace the entire side view mirror and holder on a Mazda for $200, they repair the mirror for $2.00. If you find the right “taller” or “repairer,” you can save mucho money. Ask for references, get a receipt and ask for a guarantee. You won’t always get it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Except roofs. ((Or is it rooves? No, it’s definitely roofs.) They seem to be in need of perpetual repair. But only during the rainy season. And, the cement walls get damp too, even if there are no leaks. Make sure all wooden furniture is set away from the walls and even wood frame pictures are kept off the walls with those little plastic push pins.

I’m a Rummy Tiles addict, among other things. My latest addiction is playing Wheel of Fortune on the Internet with real live players from all over the world. My average is 109%. If you can figure out how I could have won 109% of my games, please let me know. You can buy Rummy Tiles and other games here at WalMart, but the instructions are in Spanish. Same with software and drivers for printers, scanners, etc.

S – Safety, Security and Shopping

Is it safe here? Is it safe in your town? I think the answer is biased.

Published or Updated on: December 1, 1998 by Karen Blue © 1998
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