From Ecuador to Mexico — Reader’s Review of Mexico: the Trick is Living Here

I’m a 57 year-old former Iowan who, along with my fiancé, Deb, is planning to move from Cuenca, Ecuador to Puebla, Mexico in the very near future. Living in Latin America has been more than a little rough on Deb and I and she thought that getting Mexico: the Trick is Living Here would be a good idea. She reasoned that any help we could find to ease the transition from a lifetime of living in the U.S. to the Mexican experience would be worthwhile. We’ve both been to Mexico as a tourists several times and have lived in Ecuador for nearly a year so I considered that the book might be a good idea but hardly a necessity. The book, I reckoned, probably couldn’t offer much practical advice for me.

Boy, was I wrong!

Julia Taylor (with help from her [Mexican] husband) has written an e-book on settling down in Mexico that is much more than a handbook for foreign travel. It’s a well-written and very personal guide for settling down to a long-term residency. The book is written in such a personal style in fact, that I’m perfectly comfortable referring to the author as Julia. Once I’d started reading the book it was difficult to stop. Were it a paper-and-print book there’d be dog-eared pages and whole sections highlighted for future reference. As it is, it being an e-book is a blessing for the reader since relevant passages can be easily retrieved, copied … and then printed [for personal use only]. In fact, we’ve customized the Rental Property Checklist (p. 119) in just this way so as to have it handy in the future when it’ll be most helpful.

Julia has already analyzed the pros and cons of whether one should rent, buy or build; is a house or an apartment more appropriate; in which type of neighborhood should the home be located; by what criteria should the landlord be evaluated? Having established this kind of framework in advance has given us a much better place to start when beginning the search process. Noticing neighborhood business locations is especially important when our method of transportation will be on foot. Back in Iowa a six-block road trip to the store was common and advanced planning for routine marketing wasn’t necessary. Recognizing the value of having and cultivating observant neighbors as a security measure is always a good thing but as expats in Mexico, it’ll be especially valuable. These are only a couple important tips that we’ve found in her book. But before I get too far along, let me back up a little.

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. We are both facing major life-style changes. I’m returning to a profession as TEFL instructor that was sidelined years ago. Deb’s career in the U.S. won’t translate too readily into the Latin culture. We are both eager to practice and improve our Spanish. Being practical is a trait we share and added income from active employment will also be welcomed. Knowing not only where we can contribute but how will be an important part of how we see ourselves and, just as important, how our vecinos view us.

Julia gives us detailed step-by-step instructions on diverse but inevitable situations. These include importing our cars, auto insurance that is not only necessary but required, licensing of both ourselves and the car and what to expect in the event of even a fender bender. She pays special attention to negotiating in traffic, which includes how to ‘nudge’ and how to get through ‘turnabouts’. Even though I don’t intend on driving in Mexico (a fact for which I’m even more grateful after reading this), this section kept my attention and gave me a lesson on the Mexican psyche and driving concepts that I’d never considered.

Likewise, while I have the good fortune not to have to experience the constant scheduling and indignities of bathroom etiquette for women, I hope that I’m a better person and a more understanding companion for having been exposed to what half of the world’s population has to endure. Julia covers what is often left unspoken thoroughly and tastefully. It’s easy for me to say but it’s no less a fact that sometimes life just isn’t fair.

While our specific situations don’t include a need for advice on Canadian documentation or how to register newborns, Julia includes very readable and needed sections on these topics. She also includes help in meeting such universal needs as telephone and gas service, water and taxis (including helpful phrases such as, “Cuanto cobra para ir a…”). There are useful sections on weather, festivals and celebrations, riding the bus, appropriate (and inappropriate) gestures and other diplomatic social skills that will set us apart from other less informed foreigners.

Her section on food and the fruits that we can expect to find is very welcome and is meaningful to everyone. Julia has taken much of the mystery away from the incredible variety of fruits available in Mexico and experimenting with new food will be more of an enjoyable adventure than a rite of passage to be suffered through.

Having lived in Ecuador for most of the last year, Deb and I are both familiar with the market experience and it was especially gratifying to notice that what we’d thought were our own personal reactions to certain realities of the market are in fact, common to other U.S. and Canadian shoppers. While the state of the floors in the market may not be any less unsanitary or distasteful, we can at least recognize it as commonplace, non-threatening and part of the overall market experience. Just don’t eat off the floor.

On a personal note, we have been offered (with exceptional terms) several potential homes in and around Puebla and because of this book we’re much better able to evaluate each offering with an eye to our future safety, comfort and well-being. Julia has shared her insight into what (and how) real estate is presented and what we should look for. We’ve got a checklist now and before even arriving in Mexico have asked pertinent questions regarding these properties. Even over the Internet we’re better able to assess the real value of what on the surface may seem to be outstanding deals. When we finally come face to face with what may be our future home, we’ll be more objective and better prepared to calculate the worth of what is being offered.

What Julia Taylor has done is put together a how-to book dedicated to relocating to Mexico. It is chock-full of useful advice and tidbits that are not found in travel guides and handbooks. She relates how we, as foreigners from the north, can learn and accept the cultural differences within which we’ll find ourselves down the road. By giving us a practical heads-up she’s paving the way for our healthy and safe entry into the Mexican culture. She also encourages us to be better neighbors and responsible members of our future communities.

The book doesn’t include every specific detail that is germane to Deb and my personal situations. It does contain enough specific material though to be spot-on relevant on a personal level. In addition to this there is a universal appeal and usefulness about the entire book to make it a valuable resource for anyone considering a move to Mexico.

Above all Julia recognizes the most important asset that we can all carry with us. In the early pages of her book, she offers what she calls, “The key to it all: Interpersonal Relationships”. The secret to a successful transition into a foreign culture is the willingness to cultivate human connections and become a part of our new community. If this is done successfully, and Julia Taylor certainly points the way for us, when faced with an unknown hurdle and we ask questions, we’re much more likely to get (and recognize) accurate and helpful information. This reminder to break out of our engrained isolation may be the most valuable piece of advice the author offers us. After having read Mexico: the Trick is Living Here, Deb and I are both better prepared to face our next challenges in Puebla, Mexico.

–Scott Hanel & Deb Neighbor
Cuenca, Ecuador June, 2008

Find out more about Mexico: the Trick is Living Here

Receive Social Security Benefits While Retiring in Mexico

If you wish to retire in Mexico you may ask, “Can you get your social security benefits in Mexico?” The answer to that question is “Yes.”

According to the the Social Security Online Electronic Booklet you have three different ways to receive your benefits in Mexico:

1. Have a check mailed to you in Mexico.

2. Receive a direct deposit into your account in Mexico.

3. Receive a direct deposit into your account in the U.S. (and use a cash card to access your money).

For more information you can read the booklet to learn more about your rights, residency requirements for some recipients, and other topics.

Personally, I recommend option three for the majority of people from the U.S. Option 1 involves depending on the Mexican mail system, and while it’s not that bad, it’s smart to use it for things you don’t depend on. I get 98% of my mail here in Mexico, but I received one letter about two years after it was sent! Obviously when you retire in Mexico, you wouldn’t want the thing that comes two years late to be your social security check. Option number 2 involves the slippery slopes of banks in Mexico with their often non-existent customer service and their frequently high/surprise charges involved in currency exchange, receiving transfers, scratching your nose, etc. Each bank is different in Mexico and sometimes it’s hard to know ahead of time what exactly you will encounter with a particular transaction at your particular bank. I created a section on banking in my book, Mexico: The Trick is Living Here, that includes tips on how to choose a bank in Mexico based on your particular needs. Having a bank account in Mexico is a smart idea and you can use that section to help you once you retire in Mexico, but again, when it comes to receiving your social security payments there is nothing like a cash card (and online banking through the internet) so you can work with a bank you are familiar with in the U.S. Cash machines are widely available throughout Mexico and are the best way to access cash.

Well, there you go, you can check that worry about retiring in Mexico off of your list. What else do you need to know about living in Mexico?

Back to Letting Go of Materialism for a Simple Lifestyle in Mexico


Mexico Named the World’s Top Retirement Haven in 2007

Mexico Tops Global Retirement Index

If you think you want to retire in Mexico, here’s another reason to plan it. The number 1 country for retirement abroad in 2007, according to is Mexico. Of course, those who are already retired in Mexico aren’t surprised! “We give top priority to those things that matter most to anyone planning for retirement….” reports Laura Sheridan of International Living in reference to their yearly Global Retirement Index.

The Global Retirement Index considers 8 factors of common concern to retirees or those planning their retirements. The most weight goes to the 4 factors which will have the strongest effect on the retiree’s pocketbook. 75% of the Index weight goes to cost of living, health care, special benefits, and real estate. The remaining 25% is covered by entertainment, infrastructure, safety, and climate.

Quick Guide to the Global Retirement Index:
1.  Cost of living — 20%
2.  Health care — 20%
3.  Special benefits – 20%
4.  Real estate – 15%
5.  Entertainment, Recreation, and Culture – 10%
6.  Infrastructure – 5%
7.  Safety and stability – 5%
8. Climate – 5%

e-book Learn what the retirement index can’t tell you.

Isn’t it nice when someone gives you statistically analyzed support for what your heart knows to be true? It’s a good idea to retire in Mexico.

Sheridan emphasizes Mexico’s Geographic/Climactic diversity as one of it’s greatest advantages as a retirement location because, “[E]verybody can find exactly what they want.”

As the Index tells us, Mexico perfectly combines low costs, geographic variety, modern convenience, pleasant climates, and, well … fun! Sheridan writes, “[w]hether your vision of the ideal retirement involves shopping, fishing, sunbathing, diving, biking, mountain climbing, parasailing, collecting crafts, visiting archeological sites, partying, going to concerts, attending the theater, or fine dining, in Mexico you can engage in all of these activities, and many more.”

Hey! You and your spouse can retire in Mexico together and both get what you want. Don’t have a spouse? There’s plenty to do in Mexico.

What about those “Special Benefits” which receive 20% of the index’s weight? Mexico allows people who are over 60 and hold valid residence visas to participate in its senior discounts program. Discounts are often up to 50% and are offered for services such as health services, bus and airline tickets, and admission to cultural events.

You haven’t yet reached retirement age? Perfect! As Sheridan stresses in her article, these factors weighed by the Index are factors which are important in retirement planning. If you dream of retirement in Mexico, then you can begin to take steps toward that dream today. For example, you could purchase real estate and begin planning your dream home. Don’t wait, though, because sometimes when a country becomes popular as a retirement haven real estate prices increase.

Finally, here’s what makes special: The author reminds you that Mexico isn’t only about low prices and luxury living. Mexico is about growing and changing. About getting to know yourself better while learning a new language and culture. If you really want to retire in Mexico, take some time and enjoy Mexico. If you are going to pick the best retirement destination for you, you have a lot of fun traveling to do. (Remember, it’s a diverse country.)


Convinced you want to retire in Mexico? You can learn more about the real cost of living in Mexico here.

Back to Letting Go of Materialism to learn more about the lifestyle when you retire in Mexico.