When it comes to living in Mexico, there is no competition when it comes to weighing the pros and cons. The pros will always win. There are way too many things that I love about living in Mexico, but I present a few of the pros for me in Mexico. Obviously, this isn’t a complete list, it would take a complete set of encyclopedias to cover everything I love about Mexico. I can only write about my own life experiences, your top things about Mexico might be different, but I always love to hear what readers think about life in Mexico.
Street food goes well beyond tacos in Mexico, although they are a favorite. From tacos, tortas, esquites, fresh fruit, hamburgers, hotdogs, tamales, the list goes on. Street food isn’t just about the cheap food, it’s the full experience. Going for street food is always a chance to strike up a conversation with a stranger or get the latest neighborhood gossip. It’s a social event that close friends share together. Some of my most consequential conversations in Mexico have taken place standing outside of a food cart. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say my life in Mexico would probably be drastically different without street food.
It’s pretty common for someone meeting for a first date to recommend meeting for a coffee or beer. For me, the perfect first date is meeting for street food. You learn a lot about someone over street food.
Love of Life
Everyone knows about Mexico’s celebration of death, it’s celebrated each year with a week of activities around Día de Muertos. However, their love of life is what really stands out as you spend more time around the Mexican people. It’s very rare that I hear a Mexican complain about anything. In fact, just last week I ordered food using Uber Eats and the delivery took a lot longer than I suspected. When he arrived with the food he simply apologized for being late and explained that his bike was stolen outside of the restaurant where he was waiting for my food. I felt horrible, but he just chuckled and said that’s life. I see expats get angrier over not finding their favorite brand of cheese in Mexico.
It’s not just their attitude when being faced with life’s challenges. It’s the time they spend dedicated to finding joy in their lives. They are social. They love to laugh and dance. They have a wicked sense of humor (the albur). A lack of money or resources won’t ever stop a Mexican from enjoying life to its fullest. There is no way better to remind yourself what is important in life than to spend some time with the Mexican people.
In the B.M. era (Before Mexico), I lived a typical American lifestyle gorging on fast food and heavily processed food. That is what is affordable in the USA, and why most people living in poverty are overweight and suffer the accompanying health issues. It’s completely different in Mexico. Fresh fruits and veggies are the most affordable foods, and fast food, frozen dinners, and snacks are the most expensive food options.
Beyond the food options, walking is preferred over driving. Perhaps because a large portion of the Mexican population still don’t own cars, as to where a family in the US has at least two cars per household. In the US I drove everywhere, even if it was just 3 minutes down the street to get a Wendy’s burger, large fry, and a frosty. But in Mexico, I didn’t have a car option. In my first 60-days living in Mexico, I lost 25 pounds (12 kilos), just because I walked more and ate less ‘junk’.
I also stopped smoking after a decade of trying and failing. I contribute this to the lower stress levels of living in Mexico. I had tried many times in the B.M. years. I used patches, pills, gums, and every other option. Failing each time. My first attempt to stop smoking in Mexico worked. I am now eight years smoke-free and I did it cold turkey, no help.
The Great Slowdown
I never realized how hectic my life was in the US during the B.M. era. When you live in the midst of chaos it all seems normal. The long working hours to keep the nice house, car, clothing, the entire cost of keeping up appearances. And then the need to be part of every community group possible and every social event so that you look like you have your sh*t together. It just seems normal until you remove yourself from the center of the storm and realize how calm life is outside the chaos. This was my experience with American life, it might not be yours, and that’s awesome!
I admit the slower lifestyle was the hardest thing to get accustomed to, but it’s the one thing about my life in Mexico that has meant the most to my personal life and health. When someone says they will see me at 2 PM, I know they really won’t arrive until about 4 PM, or maybe not at all. It doesn’t even stress me anymore. I still show up 15 minutes early for an appointment, date, or social event, because that is how I was raised. However, now I can accept that isn’t how everyone is raised, and allowing other people’s habits to negatively impact my health and happiness isn’t worth the trouble.
The great slow down will improve your overall health. I have been very open about my personal battles with anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. In the B.M. times, I would have days, weeks, and even months of panic attacks and an inability to leave my home. Just walking to the street to get my mail was impossible on some days. I can not tell you how many times my panic was so extreme that I ended up in the hospital. I am not exaggerating when I say that the moment I crossed the border from the US to Mexico, my anxiety ended. I have had brief periods of anxiety that are solved with a few deep breaths, but those moments might occur once a year, not almost daily like B.M.
We might get frustrated over the great slowdown in Mexico, but let me assure you, if you can take a deep breath and accept the slower pace of life, your health will thank you. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, stress can still lead to other health issues, including death. Live The Great Slowdown, it’s actually directly related to the healthier lifestyle and love of life points previously mentioned.
Every ‘best things about Mexico’ list is topped by the Mexican people. However, my reason for including the Mexican people comes from a much different place. When you see the Mexican people listed as the best thing in Mexico, they typically use examples like; the Mexican people are willing to help you, the Mexican people greet you with a smile, the staff at the hotel or restaurant were friendly. It’s always impersonal.
Yes, the Mexican people greet strangers. They are always there with a smile. When you are eating, a complete stranger will say buen provecho (enjoy your meal, bon appetit), as they walk by your table. They are super nice people.
However, I don’t include the Mexican people as one of the things I love about Mexico because they smile at me and offer good service. It takes more than the exchange of pleasantries. I include them because they are my best FRIENDS. I think the friendship of the Mexican people deserves its spot on a list, finally.
Yes, the Mexican people are the nicest people on earth, but even more so, they make the best friends.
Natural Wonders of Mexico
In Mexico, there are places sculpted by nature that will take your breath away, some of them have even been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. From a pink lagoon to a natural landscape where you can observe millions of birds in a synchronized flight. There is so much beauty in Mexico that I can’t even begin to scratch the surface. Even near Puerto Vallarta is Playa Escondida, one of the natural wonders that you must see in Mexico.
I always recommend Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, because there is only one other petrified waterfall in the world, located in Turkey. So in Oaxaca might be your only chance to see this kind of wonder up close.
I also recommend seeing the Monarch Butterfly migration to Mexico every winter. Millions of butterflies find refuge from the cold weather in Canada and U.S. by migrating to central Mexico.
The shopping options in Mexico are pretty amazing. Even in Puerto Vallarta you will find major U.S. brands. Obviously even more in Mexico City, the shopping capital of Mexico. But even in Queretaro, you will find one of Latin America’s largest malls that have every American brand you can think of, even options not found in Mexico City. That mall is Antea Lifestyle Center. I make about four runs a year just for the shopping there.
But it’s not just the malls that are impressive for shopping. The mercados (farmer’s markets) make the best food shopping experience. The endless rows of fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, cheeses, and meats won’t disappoint you. And if you enjoy the free Costco samples, let me assure you the free samples at the mercado are unmatched. You won’t leave any mercado hungry. The vendors are always pushing fresh fruits in your face. If you aren’t impressed with the overall experience, you will be impressed with the prices.
Then there are always the delivery options for anything you could want. If I am cooking dinner and realize I need milk, eggs, chicken, or anything else, I can send a whatsapp message to the tienda (small store) on the corner and they will run it to me in minutes.
Of course, just walking down the street or sitting at a sidewalk cafe, your time outdoors is like being on the set of the Home Shopping Network. The sellers will come to you. OK, I understand they can be very annoying at times, but I can’t imagine not being annoyed by them anymore. It just wouldn’t be Mexico without them!
Ian Hayden Parker is the founder of PVDN and has been living as an expat in Mexico for the past 12 years. You can contact Ian Hayden Parker to suggest a topic for the next issue of How to Live in Mexico by submitting your feedback here. You can also join the PVDN Newsletter to receive daily news and more articles like this, join the newsletter here.
How to live in Mexico is a new series of posts dealing with life as an expat in Mexico and lessons that have been learned over the last 12 years as an expat. This series is opinions based on my own experiences as an expat in Mexico and each individual should expect different experiences through their own personal journey.
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- HOW TO LIVE IN MEXICO; MY COST OF LIVING IN MEXICO
- HOW TO LIVE IN MEXICO; MAKING END-OF-LIFE PLANS AS AN EXPAT
- HOW TO LIVE IN MEXICO; LEARNING SPANISH AS AN EXPAT
- HOW TO LIVE IN MEXICO; CRIME AND VIOLENCE IN MEXICO
- HOW TO LIVE IN MEXICO; BEATING BACK THE EXPAT BLUES
- HOW TO LIVE IN MEXICO; LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED AS AN EXPAT OVER THE LAST DECADE