Letting Go of Materialism for a Simple Lifestyle in Mexico

Letting Go of Materialism for a Simple Lifestyle in Mexico

Picture your lifestyle as a big ol’ yellow Walla Walla Sweet onion. The roots are the part that is actually based on your survival needs. The juicy, semi-sweet bulb is all the stuff you CHOOSE to include—your preferences. The top part is… well, we don’t need that part.

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Materialism is so deeply ingrained in our first-world onion that it is hard to let go—while still in the north. Label your onion “materialistic.”

Now picture your onion in Mexico.

Click here for a description of 3 lifestyle levels in Mexico with general cost estimates.

This new onion has decided to live or retire in Mexico and it is wearing sunscreen and sunglasses. Does it have a beer in its hand? Or maybe a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice? This onion is thinner, but obviously has been relaxing more. This onion is forgetting about “the rat race.” This onion hasn’t been getting by on burgers purchased in a drive-through and double shot low fat lattes.

Materialism is coming away from your lifestyle one thin layer at a time; one experience at a time.

While still in the north, we talk a lot about having a less materialistic lifestyle, but find it very hard to get out from under its pervasive influence. Everywhere we turn there are cool gadgets to use in the kitchen, faster and better electronic devices to play with, fancy new low-fat foods to consume.

e-book Need to know more about your lifestyle as an expatriate in Mexico? Click here to see a description of an e-book prepared by the author of this website.

“You asked me to tell you how I liked the book and I do really like it. It should be required reading for anybody planning on going to Mexico.

“I am astounded at how little the general population of the US know about our southern neighbor. I am no exception. When I made my first trip to central Mexico It was so different from my preconceived idea of what it was, I began reading everything I could about the country. The more I visited it, and learned about it the more I loved it.

“And, by the way, you should write more. You are an excellent writer. You have a knack for using the correct word and I love your sense of humor.

Sincerely, Glen

In Mexico, your experiences will help you to let go of materialism in many ways. This is mostly because of the fact that life in Mexico is not normal life. IN NORMAL LIFE NOBODY EVER PEELS AN ONION! We chop, slice, and roast them, but we don’t peel them down to their hearts layer by layer. It takes some pretty unusual circumstances to make us actually PEEL our lifestyle onion. Mexico provides plenty of unusual experiences.

Once you retire in Mexico you end up having to get by with less stuff. Eventually you find you don’t miss or want that stuff you were getting by without. In other words, you have to peel your onion… then you end up liking it better that way.

SEE “THE COST OF LIVING IN MEXICO DEPENDS ON YOUR LIFESTYLE” FOR A DESCRIPTION OF 3 LIFESTYLE LEVELS WITH GENERAL COST ESTIMATES. Sometimes you can’t have something because it’s not sold here (low fat soy milk). Sometimes you can’t have something because it would require a major remodel or re-wiring of your house and it’s just not that important (a bath tub, a microwave). Sometimes the Mexican version doesn’t suit your idea of what you want (an open-topped barbeque with no grill; a wooden-armed, uncomfortable couch). Sometimes you decide your house is just too small anyway. Besides, if you got the couch or a carpet you’d have to buy a vacuum cleaner. …And in order to keep the vacuum cleaner you’d have to remodel the house to add closets…

At the same time, you can have anything you want if you are willing to put in enough time, perseverance, and money. If you have a fat enough budget, you won’t have to peel your onion very deeply. If you are earning in pesos, you’ll be peeling your onion right down to the heart.

No matter how fat your budget, the cool thing about retiring in Mexico is that it forces you to make conscious choices about the lifestyle you wish to maintain here. Because so many things aren’t readily available or cost more than they would back in the US, you have to decide if they are really worth it.

There will be a few things that you decide you definitely don’t want to remove from your lifestyle, but many others that you decide to peel off.

In addition to thinking ahead about the kind of lifestyle you would like to have in Mexico, it is also important to have some transition strategies in mind before you live or retire in Mexico.

One of the joys when you live or retire in Mexico is the amount of time that you can spend outside. See “Live or Retire in Mexico and Enjoy a More Outdoors Lifestyle.”

Mexico’s other joys include neighborliness and precious moments like this one.

Receiving Social Security Payments When you Retire in Mexico (U.S. citizens)

Can you receive social security benefits when retiring in Mexico?

What Do Other Expats Have to Say About Retiring in Mexico?

Learn from real people’s retirement experiences as told to home-sweet-mexico’s author in exclusive interviews. Here is the first of a series of articles on inspiring expats.

Two U.S. expats moved from Ecuador to Mexico:

“Deb and I are approaching retirement age but not ready yet to give up the stimulation we’ve grown accustomed to in the U.S. We both hope to stay active, either through work or volunteering, as part of our future life-style in Mexico. That will require a certain amount of integration into the culture that we’ll find ourselves.” Click Here to read more…

An expatriate lifestyle is enriching, but not easy. You’ll enjoy this semi-retired couple’s viewpoint on picking up and hauling off to a new country.

Off-Site Resources

As I browse the net for information on living in Mexico, Mexico Connect always interests me the most. They have real articles written by real people about real experiences in Mexico. You can enjoy their site at www.mexconnect.com. If you are really serious about moving to Mexico, their forums is unequaled for contact with real people who share their personal knowledge and experiences about Mexico.

Oaxaca may be the place for you if you are thinking about retiring or spending part of the year in Mexico. This is a web site created by Shawn Haley who is trained as an Anthropologist and an Archaeologist and has conducted field research in many parts of the United States and Canada as well as in Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico. He has recently retired as Head of Anthropology at Red Deer College in central Alberta, Canada.

An inspirational online magazine for men and women over 50, packed with great ideas and information.

To read interviews of expatriates living and working in Mexico go to Expat Interviews.

The transition from working person to retired person is a large one. The transition from residence in the U.S. or Canada to residence in Mexico is even larger! If you want to live or retire in Mexico, you are not only planning to move, but planning to experience a whole new lifestyle. This change takes action and commitment. You might enjoy SecondActLiving.com a web site that helps people turn “happily ever after” into “right now.”

An American-Irish expatriate couple share their Greek island experience by offering lodging and information including maps and photos. They provide content and links for Paros, the Cyclades, Greece and> the world of living abroad. Learn more at: www.ParosParadise.com

Expats Reunite is a useful site for all expats. It includes an international job section, a free name search to find lost friends and you can play the UK lottery from anywhere in the world.


Should I Study Spanish in Mexico?

Should I Study Spanish in Mexico?

There are many wonderful Spanish language schools all over Mexico. You should study Spanish in Mexico before you live or retire here.

One of the best ways to both learn Spanish and prepare to retire in Mexico is to pick a school in the city in which you would like to retire.

Since the only thing consistent about Mexico is its inconsistency, it is very wise to “try out” your new place before you make solid plans. One of the best ways to do this is to study Spanish in Mexico while you get a first-hand feel for the area. If you end up not liking the area as much as you thought, you will still have had an enriching experience.


I recommend that you spend a few weeks and study Spanish in Mexico. It is possible to live in Mexico without learning to speak Spanish, but if you are the kind of person that would consider living here without taking Spanish classes, there are better places for you to retire.

cover page of Mexico: The Trick is Living Here
“Ever wonder what it is “really like” living day to day in another country with people whose expressions, attitudes and lifestyles you are not familiar? Afraid you will feel out of your element, certainly out of your comfort zone? Getting on the bus, shopping at the market, chatting with neighbors can be a bit different in Mexico.

“I felt after reading Mexico: The Trick Is Living Here that I had a much better understanding of what lay in store for the beginner American expatriate. Thanks to Julia Taylor for an instructive and also entertaining read.”
–Doug Stewart
Click here to see a description of an e-book prepared by the author of this website.

Not speaking Spanish would limit your interaction with the community so severely that you would only experience the 3rd world difficulties and little of the hospitality. But don’t be discouraged. There are many places where you can study Spanish in Mexico. Plus, you don’t have to speak Spanish well. Mexicans are so hospitable and flexible, that no matter how limited your language skills, they will make you feel welcome.


Also, in places frequented by tourists, many Mexicans speak English. In Cabo San Lucas, employers pay for English classes for even the lowliest members of their staffs. In Cuernavaca, people send their children to bi-lingual private schools, and take language classes early in the morning, after work, or on Saturdays, just so they can talk with you. Anyone with a university degree has at least an intermediate level of English. Anyone poor enough to have gone to the US to work will happily chat with you in your own language.

So, why study Spanish in Mexico?


Mexicans have so many wonderful hospitality traditions, that you will want to be able to talk with everyone in your neighborhood. They will give you food, do favors for you, and most importantly, give you information about how things are done in your area. If there is one thing I have learned from my husband about getting around in Mexico it is, ASK.

Ask, ask, ask. The only thing consistent about Mexico is its randomness. Nothing is done the same way in one place as another. Even the requirements for getting immigration papers differ from city to city. Nothing is even done the same way twice in one place! My friend and my husband were both doing their annual taxes at the same time at the same office and one was having a smooth flowing experience and the other was hitting road-block after road-block.

It is through communication that you will have access to all of the information that you need.

Be grateful for Mexican patience and flexibility. As long as you know a few basic phrases, you can learn Spanish slowly when you get here.

If you have already studied Spanish and want to know how to keep up your skills, read about Krashen’s Input Hypothesis

How Can I Study Spanish in Mexico?

Once you know where you would like to study Spanish, use the internet to preview the schools in that city on their web sites. Make sure that the school’s methodology is communicative. This means that the objective is for the students to be able to communicate in the language. As we all know, no one is going to ask you if you can explain Spanish grammar. They are going to ask you if you can SPEAK Spanish.

Spanish courses in Mexico

Learn Spanish in Mexico at IMAC Spanish Language Programs.

A communicative methodology means that during class the students are given ample opportunities to speak to each other in the “target language” (i.e. Spanish). See Good Language Classes, a methodology checklist that will guide you as you choose a school where you can study Spanish in Mexico. Good Language Classes

What are the Costs of Spanish Classes in Mexico?

Private Spanish language schools in Mexico charge between $120 to $500 USD per week. You can also check with state universities to see if they offer Spanish classes. Many schools offer a choice between small group classes and one-on-one classes.

In my experience, one-on-one classes are not necessarily better. If the school’s methodology is communicative and includes pair and small group work in class, students get enough practice speaking Spanish. On the other hand, if the school’s methodology is traditional and involves the teacher lecturing throughout the class, private classes would be better so that you can get a word in edgewise.

Once you have spent this money, keep up your skills back at home. Learn about Krashen’s input hypothesis.

Back to Travel in MexicoHOME

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Mexico V.S. US and Canada: Cultural Differences…

Mexico V.S. US and Canada:
Cultural Differences Are Harder to Get Over Than We Think.

You’re in Mexico now. Cultural differences mean that friendship is full of uncomfortable little surprises. The cultural rules are DIFFERENT, in particular, those that define honesty.

Cultural differences give life a sort of before and after feel when you first come to Mexico. As in: before things worked, now I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.

Photo of the cover of Mexico: The Trick is Living Here
Did you know that Mexicans often say things that we would consider “LIES?”
The author of this website has prepared an e-book with a funny section about cultural differences and honesty.


For example, friendships are defined by the giving and receiving of favors. We take turns buying each other lunch. You give me a ride home from work and I help you drop off your car at the mechanic next month. You loan me money, I pay it back when I say I will. I can’t go to your party, so I call you up the night before. I don’t want you to be looking for me, wasting money on food I won’t be able to eat. I know that you’ll understand my absence. Friendship is smooth, effortless, as long as we are honest with each other, right? Wrong. You’re in Mexico now. The cultural rules for friendships are DIFFERENT.


Now I have to offer you food if I’m going to eat. If I suggest that we eat out, I have to buy your food. You give me a ride, home, but I don’t have a car. How will I pay you back? You loan me money, but I don’t ever have to pay you back and it would be very rude of you to ask for it. I can’t go to your party, but I don’t dare tell you that. I tell you I’ll be there even if I know I’ll be in Timbuktu. Besides, you have to have tons of food ready because I might just show up with my family of 6: all of them hungry.

At this point, you might be saying, “Ok, so the cultural differences exist. How can I have friendships be part of my life in Mexico?” After all you wouldn’t live or retire in Mexico, if you didn’t want to have Mexican friends. Keep your foot out of your mouth by reading more about how people make friends first in Mexico and some of the cultural differences in how we have friendships.

When you first get here you will be vigorously targeted for favor relationships (as described in the page about friendships). How should you respond? Read about how talking to your neighbors helps you to build a strong future when you live or retire in Mexico .

You may have guessed that the same cultural differences will affect your relationships with coworkers. Keep your foot out of your mouth by reading more about the cultural differences in work relationships .

I mentioned honesty above. How we define honesty causes a lot of friction and frustration between ourselves and our new friends and coworkers. Surprisingly, this cultural difference in how we express honesty affects the right way to make requests . It also means that there are certain things we can’t say. Even the way we loan people our things is different in Mexico. Learn how to avoid asking why does everyone keep my stuff?

As you grow and adapt to the cultural differences you will find yourself changing. Some of these things make funny jokes. Find out what might happen to you after a year or two of living in Mexico by reading You might be becoming Mexican if…