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Blog,  Expat Life

Our First 100 Days Living in Mexico

It’s hard to believe how much we’ve accomplished in our first 100 days in Mexico, and what still needs to be accomplished. Starting a new life in a foreign country is exciting, but it isn’t easy. We aren’t only in a foreign country, but in foreign territory when it comes to the basics of setting up our lives: opening a bank account, buying a car, when to tip, when not to tip. Even parking at the mall was something we had to learn.

To all those who have found a life overseas, I applaud you. You “figured it out.” And to those who are considering a life overseas, research is key.

Here are 7 challenges we encountered in our first 100 days of living in Mexico:

1- Getting a Visa

The Mexican consulate back in Orlando had warned us that the visa process would take a month. He didn’t say why it would take a month, but he was right. It took exactly a month. We hired a lawyer to help us with the visa process because we knew our Spanish at the time was only good enough to order food in a restaurant. We would recommend going this route because even if you are fluent in Spanish, there will still be hiccups. Our American friends and our El Salvador and Mexican neighbors who applied for visas on their own both had issues.

2- Renting a House

Luckily, we found a house to rent in our first week of moving to Queretaro. There are very few open houses and usually the realtor has to set appointments well in advance for us to see any potential houses for rent or to buy. When you sign a lease, they want a reference, preferably a family member who lives there. We did not have any family in Mexico, so we needed to pay an extra 3000 pesos ($150 USD) as insurance. Renting in Mexico is like the United States. There’s a lengthy lease to read, and first and last month’s deposit needs to be put down.

3- Buying a car

Buying a car in Mexico was probably one of the most frustrating ordeals we have been through here. It’s not as simple as going to the dealer, choosing a car, and paying cash for it on the spot. There’s a process. First, you need to tell the salesman what you want and what color. He will need to check his inventory because only one model of each type of vehicle is in the showroom (no lot). If he has it, he’ll give you the dealership’s Clave number to wire over the total payment. It takes at least 2 business days for them to receive the money. Next, you have to get tags and plates. You must present every form or document possible to prove that you live in the state of Queretaro to avoid paying an additional 7000 pesos ($350 USD) for not being a local. Even then, they may not give you the plates. Check out how we finally got our tags and plates.

4- To Tip or Not to Tip?

Our realtor was very kind to help us out during for the first few weeks. He explained that you tip the grocery baggers because they are usually retired and don’t get paid by the store. You tip the man that fills your car up with gas, and you tip taxi drivers. You do not tip Uber drivers unless they help you with your packages or do something extra for you.

“52 Days To Your New Life Overseas”

5- Driving

Tom has been the driver for our first 100 days living in Mexico. Mexicans aren’t in any hurry unless they are behind the wheel of a car. Tom uses all his mirrors at all times because other drivers drift into other lanes without checking or treat the road like the Daytona Speedway. Driving has been the scariest thing we’ve experienced so far. Sometimes it’s easier just to take an Uber and let someone else stress out about getting us there safely.

6- Learning Spanish

Every day we learn something new in Spanish whether it’s by choice or necessity. Language books only get you through the basics of asking directions or shopping. We had to learn about furniture, car accidents, deliveries, appliances, plumbing and house construction. Google Translate has been helpful, and the people have been patient, but these unique situations really show us how much we really don’t know.

7- Travel

Despite our lack of language skills, we still find time to travel and discover what’s around us. We scout out smaller towns near us like Mineral de Pozos on day trips. We’ve taken overnight trips to places we want to know more about like San Miguel de Allende and Tequisquipan. We are in a perfect location to explore all that the Colonial Highlands of Mexico has to offer. The road signs aren’t the best with directions, but we usually only get off track for 15 minutes or so, and then we are on our way.

Things We Haven’t Figured Out in the First 100 Days

Healthcare

Because of our temporary visa status, we can access the public healthcare system here in Mexico. We haven’t had any emergencies during our first 100 days, but that is something we will need to check on in the next few months at least for medication refills.

Mail

DHL and FedEx have offices here, but we just haven’t had time to find out how to receive mail from the States. It really hasn’t been high on our list because it’s nice not getting junk mail. Our one-page electric and water bills are delivered to the security guard at the gate and he distributes them among the residents. We placed our first order with Amazaon.mx 3 weeks ago, but it still hasn’t arrived. Maybe one more week…

Communication

We have our Mexican phone for $15 a month, and we have a Google phone for business communication back to the States but it costs money every time we use it. We’ve tried Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and Facebook Messenger just to chat with friends and family, but sometimes the connection drops. If anyone has a suggestion on the best communication method available, please let us know!


I’m sure other things will come up, but for now I think we’ve done well getting settled into our new life.

We know how and where to pay our bills. The internet company knows us very well with our weekly calls on poor service. We found neighborhood restaurants for breakfast and lunch, and a barbacoa place for the weekend. We know which grocery stores have the “special” items we need. Our neighbors are helping us with our Spanish, and we are helping them discover new places in our neighborhood and towns nearby.

We are working less and spending more time together. These are the reasons we made this move, and we’re happy that everything has worked out as well as it has.

 

6 Comments

  • Ryan

    Some great insight here! I think a lot of people get caught up in the whimsy of moving to an exciting new place and don’t consider all the practical concerns that will be waiting for them, which I’m sure are only compounded by not being a fluent speaker of the native language. Looking forward to seeing another update on this once you learn more about the area and find out more things you’ve had trouble with!

    • tiffnhudson

      Thanks, Ryan! I appreciate the encouragement. Yes, I think we all forget about the mundane things we need to do every day, and how they can be slightly different in a new place. We thought we would have everything done in 2 months time, but that just hasn’t been the case. Every day we learn something new!

  • Donna Meyer

    Welcome to the neighborhood, guys! I live just down the highway a bit, in San Miguel, and every one of the things you mentioned in the post has been a challenge for me at one time or another through my years here. For me, the key to really settling in was to remember one simple idea whenever I got frustrated or found myself saying… ?Why do they do it that way?” Or “why don’t they do it my way?” I just keep repeating “Because it’s Mexico. Because it’s a different country. Because they do things differently here. And that’s why you are here!”

    • tiffnhudson

      Hi Neighbor! Great words of encouragement! Most of the time we just shrug it off but when things become a real ordeal, we try to hurry home for a bottle of wine! We should meet up sometime and share stories!

  • Jillian Kirby

    Welcome to Mexico!! I’ve been on assignment down here (in Celaya) for a little over a year and a half and can assure you those frustrations don’t go away! But as long as you keep an open mind, it gets better! If you ever want to meet up for a drink or need recommendations on things to do, let me know! 🙂

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