Julia Taylor’s ebook, The Trick is Living Here, is an informative reference on getting settled in Mexico as well as a delight to read. It isn’t everyday that you find a good source of solid, factual information coupled with a wry sense of humor. She has an eye for the surreal, and deftly weaves this talent into her writing. Her eye for detail covers those aspects of Mexico that make it a charming place for some and an absolutely frustrating one for others, and she does it with a deft hand that is neither condescending nor evasive.
In short, it’s an honest perception of the culture that most foreigners to Mexico, who have come to love the country, will be able to identify with. I found myself laughing in recognition of some of her adventures and, at other times, feeling a sad longing, a deep nostalgia for a place I’d come to love but have had to leave for a while.
The fact that The Trick is Living Here is a good read is a bonus. It is actually a detailed guidebook that offers solid, down-to-earth information on how to go about living in Mexico with the fewest surprises and glitches possible. It also offers very good advice on how to muddle through the red tape of one’s own country. She makes it clear that to be forewarned can save a lot of grief for the novice ex-pat.
The book is divided into easy to explore categories: interpersonal relationships, climate and housing (mostly in her own area but a good rule of thumb), transportation, shopping and eating, health care, working, dealing with paperwork (always a nightmare), cultural etiquette (very important), and dealing with getting your everyday needs met (or not) from email service to Telmex (the telephone company).
However, the most invaluable part of the book are the links to the proper on line information centers that can give you the latest up-to-date information on Mexican, American, and Canadian rules and regulations, which can save headaches and possible heartache further down the road – keeping in mind that none of the countries consider ignorance of the law a valid argument for protecting one’s rights.
Another section worth reading is on whether to buy a car in Mexico or bring one in. Taylor goes through a very thorough breakdown of what each process entails along with the pros and cons of both. Her take on the medical system is also a must for those thinking about living in Mexico for the long haul. Her description of the system and how it works (and where it doesn’t) is the most honest I’ve read anywhere.
There’s a separate section targeting Canadians, which all Canadians should pay special attention to. Unlike emigrating from the United States, which is a much simpler process, dealing with residency versus non-residency for Canadians is a slippery slope of ambiguity and is difficult to interpret. Taylor gives names of people who specialize in getting Canadians through this morass. And if you’re a Canadian, it’s worth the time to contact one of these people. I didn’t have the benefit of this information before I came down, and I’m now paying the price.
As a nice touch, Taylor throws in some photographs from Morelos on the Day of the Dead. Since it’s one of the most interesting of Mexican holidays, I was disappointed that there wasn’t enough background to go along with the photos. It also wasn’t clear why that was the only holiday she chose to photograph.
She also includes a recipe for making tamales from scratch. It’s an interesting but incredibly time-consuming process, and I can’t see too many gringos taking the time. It would have been more helpful had she used that space for more useful aspects of cooking such as the variety of chiles the country has and how to prepare them, or had she given a few simple recipes using ingredients indigenous to the country.
But these are minor considerations. The bulk of the e-book has to do with more important issues, and these Ms. Taylor covers with an admirable thoroughness and in a lively manner that make it well worth the read.
The Trick is Living Here was published in 2005 and the present edition has been up dated in 2007, so the information is up-to-date. This is a must read for anyone contemplating the big move.