This is how we became snowbirds in Mexico. Why Mexico, you might ask? While in Costa Rica two years ago, we met a Canadian couple who had been living there for over a year and decided to move on to Mexico. We decided to spend another winter in Costa Rica, but we kept in contact with them. Glowing reports would come about how much cheaper it was than Costa Rica and how much they were enjoying themselves. This snowbird stuff was new to us, so we listened!
We also have a niece who loves Tulum, Mexico, and constantly raves about how wonderful it is and how she and her husband hope to eventually retire there.
How could we not check it out? We decided we owed it to ourselves to give it a try, even though it has always been the furthest thing from our minds. And here we are!
Some Quick Facts About Mexico
- Population – 129.2 million (2017).
- The Mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) make up 62% of the population.
- 10% of the population is white
- 92.7% speak Spanish.
- 82% identify themselves as Catholic.
- Family is very important to Mexicans.
- Each town has its own culinary traditions.
- Popular food items include corn tortillas, peppers, tomatoes, beans, and rice.
- Avocados and pumpkins originated in Mexico.
- Mexico is well known for tequila made from the agave cactus.
- One of the major Mexican holidays is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
- The Day of the Dead honours those who have died, and it is celebrated on November 2nd.
I want to take a moment to discuss two important issues, if you will, about Mexico.
Mexico is always in the news because of how bad it is and how much crime there is. Yes, there are crimes, but they are in isolated areas, and most of them are drug-related. Let’s face it, it makes great fodder for the tabloids. Big cities anywhere (look at the US and Toronto, Canada) generally have higher crime rates than small towns or rural areas.
Some common sense prevails, such as not flashing your money and expensive jewellery around; keeping a low profile; and being cautious at night or in dark areas. If you are not sure about an area, ask; if you want to go anyway, call a taxi. Believe it or not, the first cause of death for foreigners in Mexico is car accidents, not a crime. Drive carefully! I am not downplaying the deaths or the crimes, but do your due diligence and check out the area first. There is so much good in Mexico, and the Mexicans are proud and passionate people.
The area that I am going to mention below, for instance, is where we are staying, and we feel very safe here! We mingle with the locals and hang out in their establishments.
(2) The language:
The thing we tend to forget is that we are the visitors! We are not ‘entitled.’ Learn some basic Spanish, even if it is only ‘please, thank you, hello, goodbye and how to order a meal.’ What we find is that when we try to speak Spanish, they will try to speak English, so it’s a win-win deal. They want to learn, too! Most of you know the saying…When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In other words, adapt yourself to the customs of the people. Don’t expect them to adapt to you!
Upon the recommendation of our friend, we chose a little community called El Faro, which is a newly developed area with 24-hour security and a swimming pool, located in Puerto Morales.
Puerto Morales is a town and seaport in Quintana Roo, Mexico’s easternmost state, on the Yucatan Peninsula. It is between the resort city of Cancun and the city of Playa del Carmen.
The marine terminal is equipped to handle containers and is the oldest, largest and most important seaport in the state of Quintana Roo. It also does not have daylight savings time, which is great for us as we didn’t have it in Costa Rica. Early to bed, early to rise! The population in 2010 was 9,188.
There is also a mosquito-infested mangrove swamp close by where stories abound about crocodiles, birds, spider monkeys, snakes, deer, and other 4-legged creatures, and it has been said that crocodiles do come up to the edge of the mangrove. I have no plans to walk there to find out if these stories are true or just rumours! Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
There are two major grocery stores, several convenience stores (Oxxo and Seven-Eleven), and gas stations. Finding a place to eat is not difficult, as there are several great restaurants and lots of little places where the local cuisine is made and served.
We are a short bus ride away from the nearest beach.
A new acquaintance lovingly referred to it as “an alcoholic town with a fishing problem!” Now that caught my attention!
Offering a Helping Hand
Our first few weeks here turned out to be rather interesting. One morning, my husband and I were alerted to the sound of female voices outside our door and the jiggling of the doorknob. Needless to say, we were a little concerned. It turns out it was a neighbour who had bought a home in the community and was checking out the security of our door locks! They didn’t realize someone lived here and just couldn’t apologize enough. Being the kind of people we are, we didn’t get upset but invited them in!
This chance meeting ended up with us helping to supervise renovations on her house as she was leaving shortly to go back to Canada. It was very eye-opening to see how the locals work and what their day entails. They would arrive early in the morning, take a lunch break, and go back to it in the afternoon. They were not speedy by any means, but then again, they relied on ‘themselves’ to do things. For example, there were some large rocks that had to be carried out to the backyard. They did this by hand. I wish I had taken a photo of one young lad who supported a rock on his neck (!) and carried another in his hands.
Ordering Pizza in a Local Restaurant
We forgot that we weren’t in Canada, where it is not unusual for us to ask for a pizza with half and half. I am not a big ham eater (at least not in moderation). We had ordered a pizza with one side of pineapple, mushrooms, and ham and the other side without the ham. What we got was one side of ham and cheese. We laughed about it, and hubby is such a good sport, he offered me his half and ate the ham half. I really wish I had taken a photo of that!
Lack of Certain Amenities
A lot of the houses here do not have washers and dryers. (I don’t even know if you can get dryers.) The washers are a 2-for-1 deal where you wash and then spin the water out of the clothes in a two-step process (I have not actually seen one in operation).
There are many laundromats here where they not only wash your clothes for you but also press them and pack them as if you are going on a trip, all neat and tidy. You usually have to go back the next day and pick them up. They charge by the kilogram and are very reliable—and I get out of doing laundry!!
Another challenge was the water. We had one temperature only in the shower: very hot and cold everywhere else. We asked if it could be adjusted more to our liking. It took a few days, but we ended up with hot and cold water in all the taps as well as the shower. Big improvement!
An Encounter with the Law!
Yes, you read that correctly!
One night our new friend wanted to treat us to dinner so we drove to the beach area in her rental car. We were looking for a parking spot; they were few and far between and we finally found one on a one-way street that was blocked off. When it was time for us to leave, she had no choice but to back up. And that’s when we had the encounter!
The young police officer was insistent, demanding $100 (I hope he meant pesos which is only $6.53 Canadian) but it was the principle of the matter. As far as we could determine, we had done nothing wrong. We had no choice but to back up – you couldn’t go forward! He argued for several minutes demanding our friend’s license which she kept refusing.
I have to say here she impressed me. I would have been shaking in my boots but she was ready to argue and insisted we would go to the police station if there was a problem. He would then turn to my husband (I guess because he’s a guy) and my husband repeatedly said: “no entiendo” (do not understand).
After much badgering my friend gave him her license and he continued to demand the money from any one of us at that point! My friend persevered, saying “No dinero! Give me back my license!” and attempted several times to grab it from him.
Finally, after what seemed like we were never going to get out of there, he just handed her the license back and told us to go. Whew!!
A Sick Husband
During our first two weeks here my husband was quite sick. I suspect he had the beginning of a cold when we left Canada. Being exposed to the dust and dirt from the renovations on our friend’s house just added to the aggravation and left him with wheezing, hot and cold chills, fever, weakness and total loss of appetite.
At first, he had stuff prescribed over the phone but when that didn’t work and I started getting worried, I convinced him to go to one of the Cuban clinics. The doctor immediately put him on some kind of breathing mask, gave him a shot in the butt and told him to come back for the next two days for more shots and the use of the mask and was given a prescription for meds. It took another week before he was able to finally eat and feel somewhat back to normal with only the cough hanging on.
Our first month here has been adjusting to the area and my husband getting well again. We managed to go to the community pool quite a bit and spent an afternoon at one of the local beaches.
We are really looking forward to checking out Tulum and the beautiful beaches in that area as well as some of the cenotes and one of the Mayan ruins. We also hope to spend a week in Cozumel, and maybe meet up with a friend who will be coming in off a cruise ship. Good times are ahead!
We are fortunate that we are here for six months and can take our time to visit different areas and have ‘nothing to do’ days in between but if you want to visit and can only stay a short time, check out this article on house sitting. Two sites we use are Trusted House Sitters and House Sit Mexico. You never know – you might luck out and get to stay in Mexico with free accommodations!
Have you ever been to Mexico? What was your favourite experience? or nightmare?