Tuesday, January 06, 2015

How Do I Say It? Mexico is not for Everyone.

Nor is San Miguel de Allende, Mexico........I started thinking about how to write this over two months ago. 




A new person to San Miguel moved into Casita Tranquilo, sight unseen, and never having been to San Miguel. This person had not been to Mexico in 37 years!  To be honest, when contacted, I was quite surprised that someone who had never been here would make the leap of faith to move here, sight unseen, with the thought of forever.

But, after saying that they had been reading the blog for several years and that they understood it wasn't the USA, I relented and rented to the person.

The first few days were quiet and tranquil.  But, in the end and after day twenty-two, the renter left San Miguel and Mexico forever.  All of the things that did not bring happiness are permanently embedded in my brain, still.

It caused me to question what I write on the blog.  It caused me to question how I could have helped to prevent this person from making this costly error in some way.  I am still questioning the whole situation even though I've only had this happen with three people in fourteen years.  It is still disconcerting.

In addition, a few other things have happened to cause me to write this post.  First, another person said basically the same thing.  "I've been reading your blog for years and I'm ready to move to Mexico and San Miguel.  It seems like paradise"  Uh oh. 

Then just the other day someone wrote and said, "In the last few years, it appears that the costs of everything have gone up in San Miguel with the fancy hotels and restaurants that are so expensive.  Can I afford to live there if I move down there?"

So, here goes - I'm going to attempt to give you the nitty-gritty.  DON'T shoot the messenger!

In my humble opinion, no where is paradise unless you're there for a short period of time and never see the other side.  Whatever the other side is.  In other words, no place is perfect!

Here are some of the things that make San Miguel NOT perfect, but, nearly perfect. They are:

Weather - Living in the USA, with central heat and/or air conditioning, you are mostly in conditioned space.  One is definitely not aware of the weather on a daily basis as one is here.

Here, without central heat and only  space heaters, fireplaces and gas heaters, we are very aware of the weather when the day starts out at 38 or ten degrees colder then that.  The months of November through January can be dicey, to put it mildly. I say that as I sit here writing in multiple layers of clothing with pillows propped against the doors and windows to attempt to keep the cold out.

Our summer, surprisingly is mid-April to mid-June when the summer rains come.  We can have 100 degree temps in mid-May in the middle of the day.  Now, it's not like 100 in Houston where the humidity is 98% because our humidity in that season is around 20%.

Just to let you know.

 Sunshine and Rain - To me, one of the great things is the almost perpetual sunshine and lack of humidity.

 But, we are in an arid climate here in San Miguel.  So, dirt and dust fly from April til the rainy season begins in June.  If you don't like dust and dirt (and who does) especially inside your house,  then San Miguel is not for you.  Or, you learn to ignore it.

Third World Country  - Although many, many of the infrastructure items are so much better now from when I came 14 years ago, the lights still do dim from time to time.  They even go out once in a while, but, not for hours at a time or days at a time, like they used to.

It's easy to get a land line phone now.  It used to take two years. We have real internet.  No longer dial up!

Not all the streets are paved.  There is paper and sometimes garbage on the streets.  It is a law that each person and business is supposed to keep the property in front of their home or business clean, but that doesn't always happen.  If that kind of stuff bothers you more then the overall beauty of the place, then Mexico isn't for you.

 Graffiti Although there is a program in place in San Miguel to paint over tagging and graffiti as soon as it happens, it doesn't always get covered over in all areas of the town.  Most of us keep a can of exterior paint ready to cover over our walls ourselves and not wait for others to do so.  Some of the outlying colonias are covered in graffiti.  I admit that this does bother me to see, but again, I move on and think of my life as a whole.....


Animals  - I remember as a girl that animals and pets were supposed to be outside animals.  I'm talking sixty years ago.  Well, that is very common in some parts of Mexico, including here.  Dogs are let out to roam and be free, as well as cats, burros, donkeys, pigs in the campo, goats etc.  Dogs also live on rooftops as their job is to be a watchdog.  Many US citizens are highly incensed by this custom.  I've had goats eat my plants that were passing through.  Heck, some friends of mine who planted flower beds outside looked out to see cattle munching on whatever they attempted to plant.  If you fail to see the humor in that, Mexico is not for you.

Specialty Food Items -  The overall variety of items that people like such as specialty cheeses, meats, condiments has grown.  However, if not being able to find that one special item that you crave would make you crazy, then either bring it with you...........or don't come to Mexico.  Of all places, San Miguel has a wide
variety, but for instance, you don't find many American brands in the stores.  We find substitutes.

Laws and Customs - They are totally different here.  IMHO, better, but then that's me.  It takes time to find out what they are and to understand them.  Often they are not logical, but only to those of us who come from somewhere else.  It can be intriguing to try to figure out where the laws and customs came from, not how can they be changed.  For example, there are newcomers here who complain about the church bells and fireworks.  They have petitioned the mayor, the government, written letters to the editor of the weekly paper.
I say, buy earplugs, jokingly.

About the laws, such as immigration or whatever, there is always a translator or facilitator to utilize to get anyone through a process.  But, it is assumed in Mexico, that it is YOUR responsibility to figure this out and take care of it.

And, back to the question about the fancy hotels and expensive restaurants.  Well, this is how that works.
The fancy hotels have the marketing budget to invite travel writers to San Miguel.  That is nothing new.  They provide them with accommodations and meals at their properties.  They show them around to other expensive and tasty places.  Hence, it appears that San Miguel no longer has tacos for a dollar or a hotel room for $35 or less. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So, the bottom line of all this is, Is San Miguel and Mexico paradise or not?  Let me put it this way....."if you come and bring a sack lunch and your own happiness it will be"*.  If not, you'll probably be disappointed.
Then you will be one of those that leaves in the first year or you might last til year seven when it appears to many of us that people leave, for one reason or the other.  Those of us that are long timers do feel it IS close to being paradise.  BUT, please don't move here because I said that.  Do your homework, which means, spend at least a few months here or somewhere and then make a decision about whether you would want to be here as a resident. 

I'm open to any and all comments.  I hope this opens up to a discussion.  I've probably missed some categories. 

*The quote about bring your own sack lunch and your own happiness is used by a tour operator in Mexico.
  The first time I read that on his itinerary of the trip, I knew I wanted to travel with him.  Many, many, many
 trips later, I will tell you that the groups that travel with him are the most compatible people that I've ever 
met.  Just thought I'd share his philosophy.

51 comments:

Rick said...

Nice try Barbara, but I love it there even with the negatives.
As you say 'it's all trade-offs'

Barbara Lane said...

That person didn't move to San Miguel because of what you said. They moved because they were wanting to escape something. Finding they took it (themselves) with them, and then having to get to know Mexico, was too much for them. They simply used your words as an excuse to land in San Miguel and assigned blame when it didn't work. So much the better they high-tailed it out of there.

I can't imagine anyone is fool enough to up and move to a foreign country without doing research and having spent time there but I know it happens. When it doesn't work for them (duh) it is no ones fault but the persons who moved. You've been an enormous boon to all of us planning it (yes - for 15 years now but I'm only shy of two out at this point thankfully) and to those not - I've gotten a tremendous education about not only San Miguel but Mexico from your blog and thank you mightily.

Your writing/experiences (no ones) could not be the tipping factor for me however - there are just way too many things involved in an international move. It has, however, provided a beautiful example of how to properly love a country, a place, people, and life.

Bless you for all of it. You're an invaluable source.

Jeannie Schnakenberg said...

Excellent blog post, Barbara. I agree with all of your points and would like to add one or two.

There is still a LOT of poverty in and around San Miguel. Many little villages have water for only 2 or 3 times a week for a few hours. Many do not have indoor plumbing. The education system is not good and many still do not go to school beyond the 6th grade.

Wages are very low and unemployment is high among the poor. Of course, it makes having a full-time maid and gardener possible for those coming to live here but is it just?

My husband is overseeing a short term construction project in the country and every Monday - 6 to 10 men would show up looking for work.

The gasoline prices continue to rise - now higher than in the US. How do those with low wage jobs afford to drive? Most don't, of course.

However, in spite of all that, I still have more items in the plus side than the minus side and continue to love San Miguel after 15 years. But it is a very long way from the San Miguel I first visited in 1970. And, it is not for everyone.

Calypso said...

We have experienced the exact same thing with people up rooting themselves to here without thinking or thinking correctly anyway. There are going to be false starts - just the law of averages. Do not take it personally.

All of what you write is true and there are many additions to that negative side of a list. And there are waaaay more positives so I am not going to add to the negative this day. Viva Mexico!

Babs said...

Rick, you said it very succinctly. I so agree. If I had to sum it all up, it's the "live and let live" attitude, more by the Mexicans then the gringoes, that I find refreshing. And, that no one cares who you are or what you did for a living in your previous life. Well maybe some do, but I've weeded those out.....ha.

Babs said...

Barbara, you would be amazed how many people move here without ever having been to Mexico, much less San Miguel! I'm continually astonished when I meet them.

Thanks for your perspective.

Babs said...

Thanks Jeannie for adding other things that I didn't cover. All you say is very true.

I always try to remember that Mexico has only been a democracy for just a little over 100 years. That's important. I think the culture, at this point, with their customs is where we were in the 50's. I DO appreciate that, very much.

Babs said...

Calypso, I so agree the Positive side way, way, way outlists the negatives.

I still find some of the negatives to be intriguing and enlightening, to be truthful.

But, I'm a ""glass half full"kinda girl, not a glass half empty.

Debi in Merida said...

yes indeed, we do tend to write about the things we love!

People that move to foreign countries do tend to have a different outlook on life, a more adventurous, go with the flow sort of attitude, yes, yes, broad generalization. And I agree with Barbara Lane - if they moved trying to escape something, rather than to find something, they probably brought the thing they are running from with them.
Living in Mexico is not easy. You must be flexible and resilient, and I contend you must speak more than restaurant spanish. Just my thoughts!

Babs said...

I so agree with you Debi. Flexible and resilient - a great word!

Thanks. I agree about the Spanish, but must admit, I still speak in the present tense after years of lessons and courses. I just have a mental block, although I do get my point across. I've stopped being embarrassed and just say it. The people appreciate it, I hope, and we do converse, sort of!

Senor Blue said...

Babs,

Please don't let this experience hinder your diction in any way. Inspired by your blog, I made the move to San Miguel over 5 months ago. I now have a beautiful home in Centro and feel overwhelmingly blessed to experience this wonderful city and culture. It hasn't been an easy journey and i'm not sure that I would have made it without your inspiration and advice to guide me. Should you ever have the time, I would love to treat you to lunch as a small token of my appreciation. Keep inspiring, Babs. You certainly changed my life for the better and I couldn't be more thankful.

Cuidate,
Blu

Peter Kouwenhoven said...

When I immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands at age 18, I committed to a one year trial period. If after a year I was not happy with my move I would consider Australia. I would go to Mexico with the same plan. Try it for a year, keep,your options open, and if it's not for you then move on, go to Panama, or Belize, or go home. Canada is an awesome country, but winters suck, for me coastal Mexico would be the answer with a summer holiday in the mountains...

Cheryl said...

Barbara- great blog post! I agree with what you said and everyone else that commented as well. It is hard to believe that someone would just move, lock, stock and barrel, without trying out a place first. That was her fault, not yours! We have been planning on moving to SMA for many, many years and your blog has been very helpful to us. I also plan on using you more often next year when we actually make the move (yeah!!)! No city is for everyone. Mexico is not for everyone. I can't believe how many people ask me "Why in the world would you want to move there?" It is hard to explain that to someone. I just know that when I am there, I feel like I have come home. I know there are many, many negatives to Mexico (as there are some places in the US), but I love the Mexican people, the city, the weather, the beauty and the list could go on and on. Eyes and heart wide open would be a good way to approach a move to any new place.

Lynne (WinnieViews) said...

Brava! Great post!
Some of the tourists drawn to the Condé Naste version of San Miguel (and some of the residents who choose to live in the gated "gringo-land" communities nearby) remind me of some folks I've seen down here in the tip of Baja who are going to Cabo and Todos Santos. They fly in, get quickly whisked to the most "gringo-ized" parts of town, and if/when they happen to see some of the non-gringoized areas, they're seem rather shocked and mortified.

For casual 1-week tourists, no big deal if that's the way they want to say they've seen Mexico. But for anyone who wishes to be a longer-term resident, it should be mandatory for them to drive across the country first. Once they see how most of the country lives, San Miguel and the whole state of Guanajuato will indeed seem like a paradise in comparison.

I was blessed to spend 2 months in an RV park next to a simple colonia across the harbor from Mazatlan. While most residents lived simply in concrete block houses with tin roofs along dirt roads, after sharing the colonia with them for a while I realized their lives were far richer and happier than the over-stressed, in-delt-to-their-eyeballs neighbors I used to live around in the U.S.

Once you spend enough time in Mexico away from the "gringo zones", you begin to appreciate what a wonderfully rich culture this is-- dusty dirty colonias, dogs on the roof, roosters in the yard, fireworks, loud music, and all.

jennifer rose said...

I've seen people who've moved here, buying a house their first week, having done zero research, who have thrived. They're just the kind of folks who bloom where they're planted.

And there are those who'll perform all sorts of due diligence, right down to calculating the average daily rainfall, reading every book, attending every seminar, who fail miserably.

It's all a matter of attitude, willingness to accept, and deal with the cards they've been dealt. Those who come here thinking they can change Mexico will be disappointed.

mexicomystic said...

Good post. Expats who have survived more than 5 years here probably could live here permanently. I've always said only about 2% of Americans can take living in a foreign country for an extended time. Most are too pampered. Face it, we are a different breed. More flexible and with a spirit of adventure.

Babs said...

Wow! I'm LOVING all the comments and insights. I know who some of you are and have been here forever, almost! I treasure those comments as well as from those of you who come to visit!

How great this dialogue is....

Blu, please contact me, would love to meet you at any time except Mondays! ha....my email is babsofsanmiguel@yahoo.com Welcome to San Miguel! So glad you're happy.

On another note, Lynne's comment made me chuckle. There is a burro down the hill that from time to time isn't happy or is - I'm not sure which it is, but he hehaws and hehaws for a few minutes. It ALWAYS makes me chuckle, every single time! That is one of the gifts of Mexico for me.

postcardsfromsanantonio said...

If the interior of Mexico were a perfect fit for all norteamericanos, it would not be a place the rest of us would want to visit. We could stay home and travel around the loops surrounding any major U.S. cities for that bland experience.

Babs said...

Mexico Mystic - just read some of your blog and looked at your Tlacala group. THANKS SO MUCH for commenting. I never know who is "out there". You DO live in one of the sweetest places in Mexico, IMHO.
IF I ever get back down there, I'll message you before hand. Would love to hear your stories and meet you and your lovely wife.

Babs said...

Ha, ha, ha Postcards from Mexico -so true.......in fact, now I cringe when there is another article in the USA extolling the virtues of San Miguel, really!

One thing I've observed is that those who come here just because it is less expensive then the USA don't usually last.

And, Jennifer is SO right. Those who think they are going to change Mexico end up leaving in frustration or disappointment, thankfully.

sparks_mex said...

I've got two stories of women that invested a whole lot more than 21 days but still left very disappointed and short on money. Pretty sad but world experience was lacking

Steve Cotton said...

I know what you mean about recommendations. I seldom make them any more because life is far too personal. What I write -- what you write -- is about a very particular experience. Thanks for publishing this post. Every rose comes with a caveat.

Babs said...

Steve, so true.

Sparks, I have so many, I've stopped counting them, sadly.

Kubalek Internet Solutions said...

I just had the same experience. A gal and her boyfriend came down and left after ONE NIGHT! They hated it! They felt SMA was "filthy" and "old" (hahaha) and to them even the better colonias looked like "slums!" I don't blame them, but I do feel sorry for them. They missed an opportunity to stretch and learn and grow in ways they will never, ever do so in the USA. If your friend had allowed herself to sit with her discomfort a bit longer, and had been capable of watching it and learning from it, she probably would have, like most of us, grown to understand why so many love our precious town.

angelinem said...

I think a lot of people move to a foreign country and expect it to be just like back home, they want it to be just like the USA; and when they find it's not, they're surprised and disappointed.

Babs said...

Kimberly, those were tourists, not travelers. Obviously they have not been to Europe. Oh well, there loss.
I actually heard a woman say, walking in front of me on Hidalgo, "Do you think these building are this old, or they just make them look like this?" I had to grit my teeth.........

Babs said...

Angelinem, I can't imagine anyone expecting a foreign country to be just like the USA......Hard to grasp.
I haven't been in one, maybe parts of Canada, that are like the USA. That's about it!

living.boondockingmexico said...

Your comments are on mark. It is important for people to remember though, that not all of Mexico is like San Miguel de Allende. Mexico has a burgeoning middle class and Mexico is on the move. As I have always told people about travel to any foreign destination, KNOW BEFORE YOU GO! Isn't it great that the country has growing pains. Other countries should be so lucky. We love to visit SMA and hope to retire there from our busy lives in Monterrey.

Babs said...

Boondocking, please let me know the next time ya'll are in town. I still have your Monterrey phone # that you so generously gave to me that time I was driving up to the border and was concerned about the weather and the car.

Thanks for commenting. I didn't even know ya'll read the blog!

gringosuelto said...

Barbara, Great Post!

I'll have to chime in with a few of my own comments.

First, people need to keep FIRMLY in mind the fact that the average income of a Mexican is roughly 1/7th that of a Gringo. Given the less equal distribution of income, it's probably worse on average. Though a lot of things are cheaper than in the USA, they aren't 1/7th the price, so this means that many Mexicans, even the better-off, are poor by our standards. That means that they don't have a ton of shiny new stuff, don't have great clothes, and often live in houses that we'd consider hovels.

I remember vividly the time that F took me to see a friend of his at her home where she lived with her son, daughter, and mother. All the interior paint was peeling off the wall in LARGE chunks. There were broken windows, and the appliances were ancient. Laundry was hanging to dry in the courtyard. Yet by Mexican standards, these people weren't poor. But they lived under very different standards than do we Gringos. And they seemed to be perfectly happy as well.

I'll also mention a time when F and I went to see some friends in the southern part of DF. In the taxi, we went through a "neighborhood" where people were living under scraps of corrugated steel propped up on cinder blocks with sticks. It looked like something out of Africa. This too is a Mexican reality.

Other shocking things? Animals are frequently treated with astonishing (to us) cruelty or indifference. (See Rancho Santa Clara's latest post.)

And of course crime. If you think you're safer in Mexico, you are delusional. Sure, you can be safe in Mexico, but you've got to pick your spots carefully. And if something happens, don't expect the police to be particularly helpful, competent, or even honest. No Mexican I know trusts the police at all. Usually they try to avoid getting them involved in anything. So crime statistics are way underreported.

And on a final note, if you can't take San Miguel de Allende, forget the rest of the country. SMA is the spot most conducive to Gringos that I've seen in my extensive travels around the country. Want crusty French bread, brie, green olives? Want to speak English all day? Want to buy a luxury house that'd be right at home in Santa Fe, NM? It's all there. Even in DF, you'd have to look for those things in the right place, if you could find them at all. Once I spent a fruitless hour or so going around the mercado, in F's working-class barrio in DF looking for anchovies. Not only did I not find any, but got a whole host of looks suggesting that I was a something of a nutcase for even wanting them.

So Mexico is NOT for the faint of heart. If you like "upscale," "chi-chi," tidy and organized, try another country.

The rest of us can love Mexico for all its quirks and individuality and the ability of the Mexicans to have an amazing joie de vivre in spite of all the obstacles.

Saludos,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where many things that are part of daily life in Mexico are strictly outlawed.

Babs said...

Kim, I love your tag line. Do tell what are the things in daily life in Mexico that are against the law in Boston?

I love your comments but do disagree with you about crime. I researched and wrote the blog about crime by utlilizing the FBI website, the Interpol website and the Atty Genl of Mexico's information. Quite to the contrary, there is not a SINGLE major American city that is as safe as Mexico! Believe me I was amazed at that as you are reading it. Everyone who lives in DF lives like people in Manhattan. Scared of their shadow and continuing the myth of fear......of the police. I realize some is for good reason, but I have to tell you, in all my dealings with (and there have been more then a few) they have been courteous, helpful and honest. I don't think I'm the exception! So glad you posted.....and we all miss you. When are you returning?

Unknown said...

Hello everyone. I'm fairly new to following Barbara's blog and am so grateful to have found it. The information, both practical and anecdotal, is very helpful to me. That being said, I must admit that this particular blog, along with many of the comments, is troubling to me. Actually, I feel very sad about it.

I am one of the people you are talking about--who uproots her life and moves to SMA having never visited there, though I have been to MX several times and have always been drawn to the rich culture. My entire adulthood has been about moving to places I've never been. It certainly hasn't been easy, but it's been rewarding--even those places I've chosen to leave. One example is moving from L.A., where I had lived for 8 years, to Minneapolis, for what would prove to be the most severe winter of recorded history. It wasn't for me--to put it mildly--I left after 9 months. But to date it was the single most important and life-changing experience of my life thus far. I found the people there somewhat reserved, but with respect and compassion for one another--like no other place I have ever lived. For the past 25 years I have lived in NYC and can confirm that no one I know here is scared of their shadow and continues the myth of fear.

With all respect, I would ask you not to prejudge others' motivations. You've never met me and I already feel patronized and excluded by you. I can assure you that I am not running away from anything. At 67, I am ready to begin a new chapter in my life. I feel "pulled" to SMA. Even if I stay 24 hours, it might prove to be a critically important experience for me. Your experience is yours and I respect it. I don't ask you to protect me, just have some respect for my journey. Thank you for listening.

I haven't yet figured out how to edit my profile from "Unknown" so I will sign off here. Most respectfully, Maureen McSweeney

Babs said...

Good morning Maureen. I'm so sorry that you took the blog and comments personally. It certainly wasn't intended that way.

My purpose in writing it was to tell the negative things that I don't usually talk about in hopes that it would prevent another person from spending a lot of money to get here, to be sadly disappointed and have uprooted their lives based on what I write in a positive manner.

It was not to point fingers at anyone or to judge another person's motives.

I will disagree with you about NYC. I've rented many a private flat or condo that had multiple door locks on it. Each time I've asked, with great surprise, I'm told it is because it is so dangerous in NYC, which I have never felt when I'm there! That is what I based the comment about DFers and NYCers. They both talk freely about the danger of their city. I believe it is a long standing myth that is continued. I LOVE NYC and DF. To me they are two of the most exciting cities on earth.
Hopefully you will continue to read the blog and please don't feel excluded in any way.

Liker Boy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Thanks for your response, Barbara. I really appreciated it. Of course I will continue to follow your blog. It's both helpful and entertaining. All the best. Maureen

living.boondockingmexico said...

:) Sometimes my comments don't follow the crowd so it is better to just read and listen.

BTW, we are headed to McAllen to visit friends next weekend if you need anything that we can send you.

gringosuelto said...

Hola Barbara,

I have a couple of responses to your response. As for my own dealings with the police, they are as you describe: pleasant, courteous, and helpful in manner. However, that doesn't really contradict anything I said. You and I are white foreigners and the police treat us with a level of respect that's unique to us. Try being a moreno campesino, and you'll find the treatment much less agreeable. As for competence, the list of unsolved crimes is as big as the DF phone book. And as for the crime stats, the Mexican ones are TOTALLY unreliable as Mexicans don't report anything to the police unless absolutely necessary. So I don't believe the lovely Mexican statistics. You, of course, are free to disagree with that view, but it is born of knowing a lot of Mexicans in Spanish and talking with them about their attitudes towards the police. My attitude comes from them, so that's why I believe what I believe.

As for things in Mexico daily life that are (mostly) illegal in Boston, here's a little list I compiled in no particular order. It is, of course, not exhaustive, but gives you some idea of what I had in mind.

Fireworks
Selling stuff on sidewalks
Blocking sidewalks
Playing loud music in the subway
Selling music in the subway
Selling anything on the subway
Music and movie piracy (yes, "illegal" in Mexico too, but never enforced, and everyone buys them.)
Using your garage as a restaurant
Having unvaccinated pets
Selling individual cigarettes
Smoking in the outdoor seating of a restaurant
Not having health insurance
Not having car insurance (again "illegal" in Mexico, but widely flouted)
Driving cars that are obviously not roadworthy
Driving at night without headlights
Letting your farm animals wander into the street
Having your dog off leash
Selling tacos out of a booth on the sidewalk
Young children working as street performers or doing other remunerative work
Protesting by blocking streets or highways
Collecting donations at highway toll booths
Collecting donations by creating roadblocks
Vigilantism (the "autodefensas")
And on, and on, and on.

I think it's the things on this list that drive a lot of inexperienced Gringos back over the border.

(As a humorous aside, a friend of a friend was once arrested in Switzerland for mowing his lawn too early on a Sunday; clearly the USA falls mid-pack in the spectrum of obsessive laws.)

Saludos,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where "banned in Boston" lives on in non-literary form.

Babs said...

Wow, Kim, that list makes me understand better then anything why I love Mexico! Ha. I agree, that DFers see the police and life in a whole different perspective. I would too if I lived aorund that many people.

Babs said...

Boondocking, I understand! How thoughtful of you to ask if I need anything. Actually, I need so much that I need to make a trip - probably will be a few months before I can! But, thanks so much for the offer.....One of the darnest things is finding good fabric to make curtains, bedspreads, etc. I don't get frustrated until I need those items........then I get a bit aggravated. The cost of bedsheets in Mx makes me crazy too......Oh I'm venting, sorry.

Thistle said...

Hi, Babs ~ Love your blog. Have you tried going to Guatemala for fabric? It's gorgeous and it wears like iron (although not impervious to cats -- is anything?). As for sheets, I know what you mean. Why are they so expensive outside the US? I suggest real linen; it gets better with age and it feels divine, summer or winter. I don't want to put an ad link on your page, but the best place I've found is called Rough Linen (near SF, and I think they would ship it to you).

Babs said...

Thanks Thistle for your suggestions. The fabric in Guatemala is NOT colorfast so it fades very easily, unfortunately.
I have tried to use it many years ago in restaurant projects, did not work.
I never ship things to myself in Mexico because there is a 16% import fee, PLUS shipping costs, PLUS the charge from the mail services that we all use for our mail and packages which is high. In other words, you add about 40% to the cost of the item! It's not worth it, sadly.
One of the best things I've used for upholstery and curtains are drop clothes from Home Depot. They look just like natural linen, are about $25 or $35 for one drop cloth, which is about 7 yards of fabric!!! And designers have been doing this for years.....So, when I can go up, I'll get four large dropcloths and do all kinds of things......

John Scherber said...

A fine post, Barbara. The key is to be prepared, just like in the Boy Scouts. I have a similar chapter to this in my book, Living in San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter. The important thing is that people give themselves time to sample and observe the place before they settle in. It is truly not for everyone, but when it's right for you, then its fabulous!

http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/livinginsanmiguel.html

Babs said...

Thanks for your comment John and now you've also been able to plug your book.

I've been contacted by an agent who wants to discuss with me publishing parts of the blog as a book!

I'm astonished. He'll be here for the Writers Conference. We'll see.
I certainly don't think of myself as a writer, but I guess with 30,000 readers a month, I'm doing something that people enjoy.....

Lorie Sanchez said...

I love this blog. I am In Love with San Miguel and in the process of trying to but a home there. Fingers crossed. On my first visit I just couldn't believe my eyes. When we had fireworks for the third night in a row I said to myself, this place is brilliant. Why not fireworks and church bells all the time? This town celebrates life like no other.

I have stayed all over SMA deciding which area I wanted to buy a house in. Our first stay was at the Rosewood. After that, it was a shock to stay downtown in a house. I'm glad I did it because I started to look for quieter streets and colonias that still had the community I craved. My initial instinct would have been wrong. Each area of SMA has different things to offer.

Everyone needs to do there homework! If I had thought I knew San Miguel based on my first visit at the Rosewood I would have been quite shocked at SMA living.

When I took my sixteen year old daughter with me to look at a few houses I had friends who were worried for my safety. Honestly everyone could not have been nicer and I have to say we met so many locals who were nothing but amazingly patient with two non-native speakers stumbling around trying to locate different properties. We felt safe and welcomed at all times.

Friends who went to visit SMA for their anniversary recently were very unhappy with their experience and could not understand why I love it so much. I felt guilty for recommending it!

You are a valuable resource to those of us thinking of living there--either full time or part-time--but everyone sees things their own way.

Thank you thank you and l love your pictures,
Lorie

Babs said...

Thank you Lorie for posting your experiences and perspective. I'm glad you have explored many areas of SMA.

I always advise people to rent for the first year just so they can make sure this is what they want and to discover what area of town they would want to live in.

Since buying becomes a dead asset (you can't borrow against your equity in Mexico), many decide to rent long term such as I have for the last 14 years! ha.

I so appreciate your kind words about the blog. Let me know when you're here full time and we'll meet up in the jardin or something, if you wish.

Rae said...

I'm brand new to Mexico, been renting an apartment in a Mexican community that's part of Mazatlán (Stone Island/Isla de la Piedra), and in just that amount of time, I could have written this post. It covers everything that I've heard expats complain about or say that you just have to get used to. Well said!

I think that it doesn't take long at all to find out if Mexico is right for you. In my case, it was just a few weeks. I actually found that I had very little culture shock when I got here. I'm very good at taking things the way they are and not judging others for having different values than me (eg. the treatment of animals).

My Mexican experience so far has been terrific. I love how rough it is around the edges, how kind and welcoming the people are, the lack of building codes that lead to creative construction, the omnipresent music that somehow doesn't drive me nuts, and the incredibly inexpensive fresh and natural food (I don't eat imported Gringo stuff so my food budget is fully a quarter of what it is in Canada!).

I could do without the roosters waking me up at 4:00 a.m., though. :)

I've got another four months left in Mexico for this trip and am already planning my next six-month stay. I hope that I'll eventually be able to get visas sorted so I can stay here longer. Forever is too long for me (too much nomadic blood), but four or five years would be wonderful!

Babs said...

"Taking things the way they are and not judging others" as you say Rae is the key.........

I'm so delighted that you wrote about your feelings and experiences.

"Forever" is a very long time. I rent, because I thought I would never be here long. Now I've lived here longer then almost any other home in my life! Surprise....

Bill Ellis said...

Babs,

Having lived in San Miguel about ten years ago was wonderful. Your blog has brought back a lot of good memories. We in in Col. Guadalupe. We are almost ready to move back. Can you provide us with a person/company you trust to help us find a rental

Bill and Sharon Ellis

Bill Ellis said...

I forgot to mark my email address

Bill and Sharon

Babs said...

Bill and Sharon, I don't know how far in the future you're looking for a place, but Atencion is one source.

VRBO is another.

I assume if you put into your search engine San Miguel house rentals that you will get many companies. I'd rather not recommend any one of them.......

Good luck in your search and welcome back.

BARBARA ESTABROOKS said...

Barbara,

Thank you for all you do to share our beautiful city with others. I'd love to interview you and feature your blog on VisitSanMiguel.com one of these days. You have such good advice to give others who are just discovering our San Miguel de Allende. Get in touch if you are interested.

Kimberly Kubalek
VisitSanMiguel.com
SanMiguelSales.com
SanMiguelTours.com