Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
I don’t really know what I was expecting when we moved to Mexico. We had not traveled extensively, we didn’t speak the language, we didn’t know the culture, and we didn’t know anyone here that well. We made one exploratory trip to Lakeside, and fell in love with the area.
Back home, relatives and friends were discussing mental health clinics and interventions as they were convinced we lost our minds. As I look back, I realize now what a tremendous leap of faith we took. We packed up our lives and moved to a completely foreign country.
Perhaps our ignorance protected us at first. We figured “other people have done this, why can’t we?” We have learned so much while we’ve been here. I see new arrivals, and sometimes hear what they are discussing, or watch their behavior, and simply shake my head. I hope we weren’t like that when we arrived! One woman was screaming, attempting to make a complaint to City Hall because all the fireworks were scaring her dogs! Can you imagine Mexico with a noise ordinance?
Also, I see people wanting to help, without learning about Mexican culture and about the needs of the people. My first piece of advice is to get to know your Mexican neighbors, cab drivers, clerks, waiters, cooks, and service people. Mexicans in general, are very proud, very religious. They love family, and they love fun. When we look at Mexico through the eyes of people who hail from a different culture, many of us apply our thinking, and try to make Mexico more American or Canadian. For some reason, we think we have the corner on how things “should” be done. We don’t.
Many expatriates know the first thing they must do is learn Mexican law. That means traffic laws, employment laws, rental laws, banking laws: well you get the drift. Learning may be difficult, however, because anyone you ask could give multiple responses… one of which might even be correct! The community of Lakeside is one of the most devoted and giving communities I have ever lived in. There are countless organizations that help with medical expenses for children, education, teaching trades, and in general trying to help wherever they can. In addition to giving to the Mexican community, they also are known for helping out other expatriates.
Where many of us make mistakes is by forcing our solutions to their problems, without understanding the problems or their source. My own understanding grows the longer I am here, and I often smile at my own naivety when I first arrived.
Since we decided to retire here, we must have liked something about Mexico, which brought us here. The climate is a great plus. The vista is beautiful. The people here are wonderful and patient and loving and giving. Why would we want to bring to Mexico that which we left? I believe it is best to learn from the people, learn the culture, and celebrate both the ways we are similar and the ways we are different.
Another thing that amazes me is how readily we, as immigrants to Mexico, are treated for the most part with dignity and respect. We joke about the special gringo pricing. But I don’t see people demonstrating, carrying signs, and telling us to go home, as many Mexican immigrants face when they are in the USA. (I can’t comment about other countries.)
At some point in my life, I hope to live my life more like the Mexicans I have grown to know and love.