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Old Jan 27th 2017, 5:50 pm   #1
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Default The Gringo colonies in Mexico

For some time now, my wife and I have talked about retiring to Mexico, and have been checking out places where expats live. With the US Dollar so strong, it certainly makes economic sense to go there; the violence seems to be limited to specific parts of the country, and doesn't put us off. We've been to Mexico and other Central American countries, and feel comfortable in the Latino culture, even though our Spanish is pretty basic.

However... I'm wondering if the current squabble with the US government has changed the attitude towards foreign residents, and their physical safety. I'd be grateful for any useful advice or information from BE members familiar with the situation. Thank you.
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Old Jan 29th 2017, 1:04 pm   #2
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow View Post
For some time now, my wife and I have talked about retiring to Mexico, and have been checking out places where expats live. With the US Dollar so strong, it certainly makes economic sense to go there; the violence seems to be limited to specific parts of the country, and doesn't put us off. We've been to Mexico and other Central American countries, and feel comfortable in the Latino culture, even though our Spanish is pretty basic.

However... I'm wondering if the current squabble with the US government has changed the attitude towards foreign residents, and their physical safety. I'd be grateful for any useful advice or information from BE members familiar with the situation. Thank you.
Hi Gordon
I havent been to Mexico for some years now, and to be honest, have no intention of visiting there again. From what I know and have read is that ignoring the narco violence, robberies are a normal occurrence there and there's the problem of the lightning kidnappings for whatever cash they can get.

I would ask myself why I would want to live there? I think cost of living is only low if you live like a run of the mill Mexican. If you want to live decently, ie a secure area, good medical services etc, it costs a lot just like anywhere.

We live in Chile, which I can highly recommend. It is civilized, a variety of climates to choose from, and things work, and your Spanish doesnt have to be good!
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Old Jan 29th 2017, 3:07 pm   #3
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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Hi Gordon
I havent been to Mexico for some years now, and to be honest, have no intention of visiting there again. From what I know and have read is that ignoring the narco violence, robberies are a normal occurrence there and there's the problem of the lightning kidnappings for whatever cash they can get.

I would ask myself why I would want to live there? I think cost of living is only low if you live like a run of the mill Mexican. If you want to live decently, ie a secure area, good medical services etc, it costs a lot just like anywhere.

We live in Chile, which I can highly recommend. It is civilized, a variety of climates to choose from, and things work, and your Spanish doesnt have to be good!
Gosh, Jordan. That's very valuable advice, which I certainly appreciate. I hear good things about Chile; are there direct flights to there from Cuba? We have daily flights to Cuba from here, and I was planning to use Havana to get to Mexico. (I'm a bit scared to go via the US, these days!) So Cayman-Havana-Santiago would be feasible. We would want to keep a foot in both places, since our son lives here.
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Old Jan 29th 2017, 7:38 pm   #4
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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Gosh, Jordan. That's very valuable advice, which I certainly appreciate. I hear good things about Chile; are there direct flights to there from Cuba? We have daily flights to Cuba from here, and I was planning to use Havana to get to Mexico. (I'm a bit scared to go via the US, these days!) So Cayman-Havana-Santiago would be feasible. We would want to keep a foot in both places, since our son lives here.

You hadnt mentioned Cuba ! Copa fly Havana to Santiago with a change of planes in Panama. There are also direct flights from Santiago to Mexico. Like you, I dont go anywhere that involves a flight via the US, as I read so many nightmare stories of delays with security checks. There are many other and better places to go to in the world.
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Old Dec 6th 2017, 6:47 pm   #5
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

Yes you are absolutely right about resentment towards "Trump" and about "the Wall" and all that. It's made being an English-speaking person quite dodgy and I'm pretty sure not just here in the "Border" towns. The minute English comes out of your mouth they'll go "American!" and do whatever it is to you that they'd do to an American, good, bad or otherwise. And I'm actually Irish. I'm just sick of being treated like "American!" that way, the same way the UK did, actually, even after I'd been back there 2 years and started sounding less like North America and more like Ireland again. But my point was, getting treated "like American" seems to mean being overcharged for everything, ripped off and outright robbed in broad daylight. And it's not just ME; I don't actually "stand out" in that I'm not even White. I'm Pacific Islander so I LOOK "like them" but I'm getting picked on anyway. I think I'll forget about teaching English to these people until/unless I make it back to Ireland ALIVE and with any money left whatsoever...!!
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Old Dec 6th 2017, 8:47 pm   #6
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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Yes you are absolutely right about resentment towards "Trump" and about "the Wall" and all that. It's made being an English-speaking person quite dodgy and I'm pretty sure not just here in the "Border" towns. The minute English comes out of your mouth they'll go "American!" and do whatever it is to you that they'd do to an American, good, bad or otherwise. And I'm actually Irish. I'm just sick of being treated like "American!" that way, the same way the UK did, actually, even after I'd been back there 2 years and started sounding less like North America and more like Ireland again. But my point was, getting treated "like American" seems to mean being overcharged for everything, ripped off and outright robbed in broad daylight. And it's not just ME; I don't actually "stand out" in that I'm not even White. I'm Pacific Islander so I LOOK "like them" but I'm getting picked on anyway. I think I'll forget about teaching English to these people until/unless I make it back to Ireland ALIVE and with any money left whatsoever...!!
I'd be getting a t-shirt printed with I AM NOT AMERICAN!! (in Spanish, of course)
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Old Dec 6th 2017, 9:42 pm   #7
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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I'd be getting a t-shirt printed with I AM NOT AMERICAN!! (in Spanish, of course)
They'd probably do it MORE even then, assuming they could read even in Spanish. For a country that "cries out" for English teachers their people sure are illiterate in their own language.

I SAY "no soy Americana" and all they hear is the "soy Americana" part. They're as stupid as the Americans themselves, but really, it is the same continent, after all. It didn't help that I didn't know the Spanish word for "Irish" is the same as the French one only pronounced different. No, wait, spelled different, pronounced the same (as are so many French/Spanish words.)

In all fairness to the original OP, though; maybe a Latin American country like Panama or Costa Rica which is not so much on the USA's "hit list" would be better for an English speaking person. Safer.

No, I'm just furious because this is the first year in my entire 46 misspent years on Earth in which I've had my purse snatched off my shoulder THREE TIMES IN ONE CALENDAR YEAR; once by the Canadian Border Patrol, once by US Customs and Border Paranoia, that being twice in two days; and now this, down here in Tijuana in Zona Rio in broad daylight on a busy-ish street in the middle of the day. The last 2 times by the time I've gotten it back from "law enforcement" there were things missing. This time this stupid messed-up sorry excuse for a country's police have had it for over a week now, claiming they've got to "photograph" it for "evidence." How bloody long does it take to click a few pictures? And then they transferred it to a different station house? WTF? ALL of North America can go to Hell as far as I'm concerned.

But the OP could probably try Panama or Costa Rica....just don't bring a woman with a PURSE!!
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Old Dec 7th 2017, 4:15 am   #8
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

The problem of misidentification is not unique to Mexico. A few decades ago while travelling in Eastern Europe (then inside the Iron Curtain) I had to communicate with the natives in a sort of pidgin German, because none of them spoke English or French. My first words in ANY conversation had to be (in deliberately halting German) "I am NOT GERMAN. I am ENGLISH. But I speak a little bit of German." And it was always plain sailing from that point on.

And we should all sympathise with US citizens who from time to time have to disguise their origins for the sake of peace and goodwill. During the Vietnam War, for instance, one rarely met Americans outside their own countries - just plenty of "Canadians" with US regional accents. It's much the same now, especially in Mexico. Maybe our Irish friend is being wrongly taken to be one such "deserter".
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Old Dec 24th 2017, 7:25 pm   #9
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Gordon if you are still thinking of Mexico have a look at Yucatan ,lots of British and mainly Canadian and US retirees in the main city Merida. Very peaceful place very little crime and no drug problems like in the border cities.I have a house there my retirement plan (im working in Canada ).A lot of the gringos living there dont speak spanish or very little and get by without much problems.Very cheap to live there for los gringos the canadian $ is around 15 pesos and US is about 19 pesos.You buy a bottle of corona from beer store for 10 pesos about 70c CAD ,in a bar 15 pesos $1 CAD !
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Old Dec 26th 2017, 12:48 am   #10
 
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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Originally Posted by pkennedy1990 View Post
Yes you are absolutely right about resentment towards "Trump" and about "the Wall" and all that. It's made being an English-speaking person quite dodgy and I'm pretty sure not just here in the "Border" towns. The minute English comes out of your mouth they'll go "American!" and do whatever it is to you that they'd do to an American, good, bad or otherwise. And I'm actually Irish. I'm just sick of being treated like "American!" that way, the same way the UK did, actually, even after I'd been back there 2 years and started sounding less like North America and more like Ireland again. But my point was, getting treated "like American" seems to mean being overcharged for everything, ripped off and outright robbed in broad daylight. And it's not just ME; I don't actually "stand out" in that I'm not even White. I'm Pacific Islander so I LOOK "like them" but I'm getting picked on anyway. I think I'll forget about teaching English to these people until/unless I make it back to Ireland ALIVE and with any money left whatsoever...!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by pkennedy1990 View Post
They'd probably do it MORE even then, assuming they could read even in Spanish. For a country that "cries out" for English teachers their people sure are illiterate in their own language.

I SAY "no soy Americana" and all they hear is the "soy Americana" part. They're as stupid as the Americans themselves, but really, it is the same continent, after all. It didn't help that I didn't know the Spanish word for "Irish" is the same as the French one only pronounced different. No, wait, spelled different, pronounced the same (as are so many French/Spanish words.)
I have some thoughts as a long-term student of and participant in Mexican culture, and as someone who has spent a long time in the country (but not in the "gringo colonies" - in fact I did my best to stay very far away from them), and as someone who married into the culture and has a half-Mexican son.

You are right about the corrupt police - and the Mexcians themselves are the main victims and also the people who over many, many decades have risked their personal safety to try to change their government and protect those on the losing end in their society. Not only do they see what is wrong in their country, they are the ones trying to do something about it while the US has done its very best to prevent that from happening - and certainly nobody else has helped.

You are also right about anger towards the US as a state, which is not surprising given its history of military and economic intervention in and exploitation of Mexico and points sounth since the 19th century. This anger is not born of "stupidity" as you say, but of a far greater awareness of the what the US has done to their country than most US citizens have, and indeed citizens of any other country includng the UK.

Have I ever been on the receiving end of insults there due to being mistaken for a US citizen? Yes. But I have also been at great pains to behave in a way that is appropriate for Mexican culture, and that is what makes a person appear "not a gringo". Being polite, smiling, and absolutely making an effort to learn the language, and watching for cultural cues and behaving appropriately are all signs of not being the "ugly American", or the ugly anything else and opens up the relationship very quickly. In any but the most casual interaction I would quickly find a way to say "soy de Inglaterra " in order to disassociate myself from some appalling international behaviour, but frankly, in almost all my casual interactions, except with people in uniform, the Mexican people were uniformly polite and friendly. They take pride in it. And once they count you as their friend, there is little they would not do for you.

I used to drive around small Mexican villages a lot, and country families would invite me to share a meal with them even when they had very little food even for themselves. What you see as price gougeing - well yes, there is certainly bargaining and the first price is almost always absurdly high for everyone - but the truth is that most of Mexico is very poor and rightly or wrongly they consider that US citizens, and Europeans, can afford a lot more than they can. Very often they are right, in terms of the demographics of the tourists in their country. You, or I, often have more in their hotel room than an entire family owns in its entirely. And this poverty is also part of the reason why some people do not have a lot of formal schooling. There is free universal educaition, often with extremely dedicated teachers, but for many families the reality is that children often leave school very young to find work and help feed the family. They are not to be looked down on for it - at least I wouldn't.

I don't look "like them". "They", in fact, come in all shades of colour and physical form depending on their ancestry and the region of Mexico, ranging from white to almost black and everything in between. And yet, I managed to fit in just fine - I wanted to, and made an effort to do so.

Mexico is home to many extraordinarily rich cultures. They have music, poetry, art, theatre - all embedded in people's daily lives far more than in the UK or the US. I can't speak for Ireland. The northern border towns are different from the rest of the country, and I recommend exploring further.

I would also suggest examining the expression you use - "these people", especially when coupled with insults such as calling an entire population stupid. Generalizations of that kind are rarely accurate and suggest an attitude that you may be communicating to the people with whom you interact. "Irlandaise" (French, feminine, for Irish) and pronounced to rhyme with "mayonnaise", or "Irlandais" (French, masculine) and pronounced to rhyme with, roughly, "eh", is not the same as the Spanish, either masculine - "Irlandes", pronounced to rhyme with "kes" or feminine "Irlandesa", pronounced as it looks. Linguistic sensitivity is an important part of fitting in. Yes, both languages have Latin roots and can be confused, but they are not the same. I'm lucky to have an ear for language and was often congratulated on my Spanish with genuine pleasure because I had taken the trouble to learn it. It still serves me well in the huge Mexican community of Chicago where I live.

To the OP - don't be put off. Every country has its pluses and minuses and much depends on the attitude you take with you.
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Old Dec 26th 2017, 2:41 am   #11
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

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I have some thoughts as a long-term student of and participant in Mexican culture, and as someone who has spent a long time in the country (but not in the "gringo colonies" - in fact I did my best to stay very far away from them), and as someone who married into the culture and has a half-Mexican son.

You are right about the corrupt police - and the Mexcians themselves are the main victims and also the people who over many, many decades have risked their personal safety to try to change their government and protect those on the losing end in their society. Not only do they see what is wrong in their country, they are the ones trying to do something about it while the US has done its very best to prevent that from happening - and certainly nobody else has helped.

You are also right about anger towards the US as a state, which is not surprising given its history of military and economic intervention in and exploitation of Mexico and points sounth since the 19th century. This anger is not born of "stupidity" as you say, but of a far greater awareness of the what the US has done to their country than most US citizens have, and indeed citizens of any other country includng the UK.

Have I ever been on the receiving end of insults there due to being mistaken for a US citizen? Yes. But I have also been at great pains to behave in a way that is appropriate for Mexican culture, and that is what makes a person appear "not a gringo". Being polite, smiling, and absolutely making an effort to learn the language, and watching for cultural cues and behaving appropriately are all signs of not being the "ugly American", or the ugly anything else and opens up the relationship very quickly. In any but the most casual interaction I would quickly find a way to say "soy de Inglaterra " in order to disassociate myself from some appalling international behaviour, but frankly, in almost all my casual interactions, except with people in uniform, the Mexican people were uniformly polite and friendly. They take pride in it. And once they count you as their friend, there is little they would not do for you.

I used to drive around small Mexican villages a lot, and country families would invite me to share a meal with them even when they had very little food even for themselves. What you see as price gougeing - well yes, there is certainly bargaining and the first price is almost always absurdly high for everyone - but the truth is that most of Mexico is very poor and rightly or wrongly they consider that US citizens, and Europeans, can afford a lot more than they can. Very often they are right, in terms of the demographics of the tourists in their country. You, or I, often have more in their hotel room than an entire family owns in its entirely. And this poverty is also part of the reason why some people do not have a lot of formal schooling. There is free universal educaition, often with extremely dedicated teachers, but for many families the reality is that children often leave school very young to find work and help feed the family. They are not to be looked down on for it - at least I wouldn't.

I don't look "like them". "They", in fact, come in all shades of colour and physical form depending on their ancestry and the region of Mexico, ranging from white to almost black and everything in between. And yet, I managed to fit in just fine - I wanted to, and made an effort to do so.

Mexico is home to many extraordinarily rich cultures. They have music, poetry, art, theatre - all embedded in people's daily lives far more than in the UK or the US. I can't speak for Ireland. The northern border towns are different from the rest of the country, and I recommend exploring further.

I would also suggest examining the expression you use - "these people", especially when coupled with insults such as calling an entire population stupid. Generalizations of that kind are rarely accurate and suggest an attitude that you may be communicating to the people with whom you interact. "Irlandaise" (French, feminine, for Irish) and pronounced to rhyme with "mayonnaise", or "Irlandais" (French, masculine) and pronounced to rhyme with, roughly, "eh", is not the same as the Spanish, either masculine - "Irlandes", pronounced to rhyme with "kes" or feminine "Irlandesa", pronounced as it looks. Linguistic sensitivity is an important part of fitting in. Yes, both languages have Latin roots and can be confused, but they are not the same. I'm lucky to have an ear for language and was often congratulated on my Spanish with genuine pleasure because I had taken the trouble to learn it. It still serves me well in the huge Mexican community of Chicago where I live.

To the OP - don't be put off. Every country has its pluses and minuses and much depends on the attitude you take with you.
This is a pretty good post.

I also suggest pkennedy examine himself rather than incorrectly assume he's having a rough time because everyone thinks he's American. Thousands upon thousands of Americans live in Mexico, and many more visit each year and come back loving the place.

I am a multi-citizen and work extensively in conflict zones, developing world countries, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. I always travel on my US passport and receive nothing but respect and kindness.

It's a very sheltered and very Western-centric viewpoint on the world to assume the entire world lives and turns on what the United States (or France or the UK) does, or that anything that happens on the planet is caused by the West or is a reaction to something the West has done. 6 billion people wake up each morning not caring what is happening with Brexit.

As Lion and Winter notes, historically Mexico has been at the losing end of conflict with the United States and this can breed resentment (ie, for instance, the Zimmerman Telegram). That doesn't mean people face abuse. As Lion and Winter noted Americans and Europeans are, comparatively, very wealthy and come to spend money in their businesses and shops. There is also an enormous Mexican diaspora in the US that now is in almost all corners including "red states."

I relax when I'm overseas and I see someone who has sewn a Canadian flag onto their backpack. 90% odds that this person is not a patriotic Canadian, but some young thing whose worldview was formed not from reality but from blog posts and Facebook trends, and that they think that Canadian backpack patch is all they have to do to keep safe and fit in. It's very naive and causes a dangerous sense of complacency, recognised by bad guys worldwide. When I see them, I know that means those bad guys are going to target them first, long before I will ever be a target. They are low-hanging fruit and that always gets gobbled first - bad guys don't discriminate based on nationality and I think that comes as a nasty and unexpected shock to a few people.

To the issue of retirement, lots of Americans do retire in Mexico. The destinations of choice, however, seem to be Costa Rica and Panama. I second the other poster who put forwards deep South America (that poster mentioned Chile - I would also throw in Argentina). More and more Americans are retiring to Ecuador; I would put in as a wild-card - surprisingly - Lima. There are ample secure compounds and the city has enough amenities to be pleasant, and there are lots of great attractions around from Inca ruins to mountains to beaches to rain forest.

However - though attracted by the low cost-of-living and good weather, most of the time, those who retire in Latin America regret it. It is a lonely existence - the "gringo compounds" can have high turnover and they are far away from family and friends and that becomes very in the retirement years. Language barriers prevent full engagement with the local community and locals. Cultural differences can also be acute in the later years.

I do know quite a few who have done it - but the ones who did it successfully, had decades of experience and local connections to the country. One was even elected mayor of his village (as an American!).

I would suggest renting a house and spending a year in a place first, before making long-term plans. Also put some Southern European locations on your radar.

Good luck.
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Old Dec 29th 2017, 2:00 am   #12
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Gordon if you are still thinking of Mexico have a look at Yucatan ,lots of British and mainly Canadian and US retirees in the main city Merida. Very peaceful place very little crime and no drug problems like in the border cities.I have a house there my retirement plan (im working in Canada ).A lot of the gringos living there dont speak spanish or very little and get by without much problems.Very cheap to live there for los gringos the canadian $ is around 15 pesos and US is about 19 pesos.You buy a bottle of corona from beer store for 10 pesos about 70c CAD ,in a bar 15 pesos $1 CAD !
Thanks, Neil. We have acquaintances who live on Lake Chapala, and old friends in Playa del Carmen south of Cancun. When our time comes, we'll probably start out in Chapala, but we won't commit ourselves to any place in a hurry. Our son lived for a few months in Valle de Bravo, west of Mexico City. So we've got plenty of choices!
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Old Dec 31st 2017, 8:19 pm   #13
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Default Re: The Gringo colonies in Mexico

De nada Gordon,Lake Chapala looks a very nice spot ,good luck.
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