From the Dictionary: Expat, exile, expatriate, a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country.
It is harder for me to write about the expats than the Mexicans. It is acceptable to claim ignorance of the Mexicans’ lives since I am an outsider. But I am an expat. I have no excuse for my meager knowledge of the expat society here. My only explanation is that I am an outsider, not a joiner. This quality in me has usually worked to my disadvantage. I am not invited to the many of the parties that go on starting now and lasting through the high season.
When I was a little girl, my father often quit jobs and we moved around a lot. Many times I came into classrooms in the middle of school years. I always thought the way to success was education. Because my parents weren’t educated, I thought that was the missing key. So I worked hard for an education and spent much of my adult life in colleges. I obtained degrees that never got me good paying jobs because I wasn’t interested in anything else but art and writing.
I am telling you this personal background for a reason. It has to do with an extensive survey that was done on the reasons that people make it in a foreign country. David Truly helped do the survey. David is called “The Professor” here. He is one of the musicians for the Tall Boys. He also works with the University of Guadalajara. Through an extensive survey, they found three qualities that helped people be successful living in a foreign country. First off, none of the reasons had anything to do with MONEY. That was irrelevant.
Here is the list of the three most important reasons:
1. Education. People with higher educations are more likely to move to another country to live.
2. People who have moved around a lot. Only 20% of the Americans move further than 50 miles from where they live when they decide to retire.
3. People who don’t like to follow the crowd; they prefer to take off the beaten track vacations. They don’t like packaged tours or cruises.
Looking back on my past, I see that all the things I had thought of as liabilities are actuality assets as far as making it easier for me to be happy in a foreign country. That felt good to hear. Finally, there seemed to be some rhyme and reason in my life because it led me to this beautiful place.
I have lived here three years now. Everyday I learn more and make new friends. I have a network of people I can depend on in case of an emergency, such as my recent broken ankle. As I said in my earlier post, for the Mexicans, families are their key support networks. From families, then it radiates out to friends.
With the expats, most of us have had to leave our families behind. So our support network becomes our friends and social circles. One of the major sources of support is the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic. The American Legion is the center in Chapala for support. The Red Cross is vital for our health needs. The Red Cross has many fund raising functions, including a delicious bake sale.
There are so many ways here to meet people, from lectures to classes. Do you like to play bridge? There are many bridge players here, from the serious to the casual. How about dominoes? Or you can go to lectures and dance classes, Art classes and Thai Chi. How about taking Meditation classes? AA and Al Anon groups are both very strong here.
I can go on and on with this list. Everyday the calendar here is filled with things to do and most people are open to new members. It is also easy to meet people at the outdoor markets. In restaurants you might get approached and offered help in settling here. We are all in the same boat. We are all outsiders and newcomers. Open Circle at the Lake Chapala Society on Sunday mornings is a great place to meet people.
Okay there are a few social circles here that don’t like outsiders. They are closed systems. But why would you want to join them anyway? I think most people enjoy being around friendly, accepting, loving groups.
In every town that I have ever visited, there are special places where groups of men hang out and have coffee in the mornings. Sometimes their wives join in but usually it is just the men. There are several places I know of like that. One is in Chapala, in the plaza. These men always welcome women to visit with them but basically it is a chat time for the men.
In later posts, I will talk more specifically about some of these groups and happenings here. For now, I just want to give an overview of what is available. I have heard that this is the largest area of expats in Mexico. People have said there are twenty thousand and others have said there are over thirty thousand of us. We have no way to know the real statistics.
The coffee shop at the Lake Chapala Society is another good place to meet people. I visited it every morning before I broke my ankle.
Some people just hide out in their mountain top homes and rarely come into town. That is possible. You can come here and hide out, live in a gated community and almost totally replicate your life in the States or Canada. Just go into town for groceries and avoid all contact with the Mexicans. Maybe you will deal with Mexican gardeners and maids. But that sounds boring to me. I prefer to go to the Art Openings and other gatherings where everyone is welcome.
If you can learn Spanish, then another world opens up to you. The Mexicans are gracious people and love to help foreigners learn their language. Many times they will invite you to their parties and then sometimes there are marriages. I have seen some happy Mexican and American or Mexican and Canadian couples here. I have met the man in the photo below. Not only did he marry a Mexican woman but he is also helping to raise her children. He seems happy to have this new responsibility and they all seem to love and respect him.
One of the hardest things about leaving one’s own country is leaving family behind. I have found that I see my family more now that I am here than when I lived in the States. They didn’t like the small town I lived in and they love to visit me in Mexico. I also often call them on Skype. I can see them and they can see me. What a great invention.
Some people have even decided to raise their families in this area instead of in the States. Danny is living here full time. Every time I see him, he is smiling. He is learning how to ride horses. He is becoming a real cowboy.
I like this old saying: No matter where you go, there you are. You take yourself with you. If you live in fear and distrust in your own country, you will live in fear and distrust in Mexico. If you live in joy and love, you will find that here. For me, Mexico is my paradise. I hope you find yours, wherever that might be in this world. If it is Mexico, please contact us. We will do whatever we can to help you. Transitions are difficult for everyone. It is nice to know there is help available for you.
Loved your article I am new to Ajijic Can you tell me where to find art classes….specifically weaving, watercolor painting and pottery classes
Hi Miriam. Glad you like our blog posts. Have you read the one on the LCS? The Lake Chapala Society offers a wide array of classes:
My wife and I are thinking about coming to Chapala for a year or so. There is a lot of appeal. However, I don’t see many children in the photos. I have an 11-year-old daughter who is looking for her own level of society. Are there many expat children living in the Chapala area year around?
I’m currently considering a move to less than a handful of places (e.g. Costa Rica, Lake Chapala, or Belize). I’m starting to see random hints that home internet access isn’t always readily available in a lot of countries, even though literature makes it appear there is no problem. Is this true of Lake Chipala, Mexico?
Not at all David. Home Internet Access is available everywhere in the Lake Chapala area. Great speeds and great service, that is reliable and constant. I cannot say the same for Costa Rica or Belize.
We are considering moving to Lake Chapala permanently. Our health insurance consists of Medicare and BCBS Federal Employee Plan (FEP}. If we move there we would consider dropping Medicare but not the BCBS, which cover us 100% in Mexico with no deductible or co-payments. Do you think dropping Medicare is a good idea since it can’t be used in Mexico.and it would save us approximately $200.00 month in premiums. BCBS will then become our primary insurance and so we would not need Mexican insurance. Thanks.
Thanks for such an informative and openly emotional article. I especially like your point that, whatever mind-set you have at home, you bring that with you if you move to Lake Chapala.
I have just retired, here in Canada, and am considering where to spend winter. This article of yours certainly gives me more good points upon which to ponder.
And I love your photos!
Thanks you so much for this warm and fuzzy article. I am coming to Lake Chapala in 2 days for my “exploratory” visit. I’d like to know if I can bring something for someone who needs something from the states that I can bring on the plane. I know its late notice, but I would appreciate any help in getting the word around.
Thanks so much!
Wow..wonderful information. I’m planning on going to to Lake Chapala for a couple of months later this year. My intentions are to rent for 2 months before deciding on a permanent move. I live alone here in Southern Ca, and want a change.
Thanks for the wonderful information.
Good info. We just arrived here at Lake Chapala. Just to see if we should make it permanent in the future. I keep on reading. Thanks a lot.
I am looking at retirement locations and really like the Lake Chapala area. Is it possible to bring pets to the area relatively easily? Are there pet friendly condo rentals? Just can’t see leaving my furry family behind.
Hi, I was wondering what you found out about bringing your furbaby? I won’t move without mine. It reads as very complicated to bring her. Did you find it easier than Accesslakechapala.com says? Thanks for any help…
I’m retired Air Force, 62, single and have an income of $4,000 a month. I’m thinking about moving there.
This is Denise in Honolulu HI. I am moving to Ajijic in two weeks to join a girlfriend who is already living there. I’ve lived in Honolulu for 43 years after coming here in the US Navy, and have always considered Hawai’i as my Paradise. I’m ready for a move, mostly due to the high cost of living, and it looks like Ajijic may be another Paradise, for which I am very happy. I’m interested to know if you actually made the move there, and what your first impressions are. Personally, I wish I could just say, “Beam me up, Scottie,” and find myself there already, but I am trying to sell most of my belongings before leaving Hawai’i. I haven’t had much luck in finding a means of shipping over those things I want to keep ….. as shipping companies seem to quote for entire houses of belongings, and are far more expensive than I wish to pay. Have you discovered a reliable way of getting your belongings there? Let me know what your first impressions are of Ajijic.
Mahalo and Aloha!
I too am living in Hawaii and plan to move myself, my two preteen kids and 2 dogs to Lake Chapala area. How was your move? Any tips to share now that you have made the move from one paradise to another? I too find the cost of living in hawaii too high for my preference. Mahalo and Aloha, Sandra
I am also looking to move to Lake Chapala (or in the area)….
Presently I live in Glendale, Arizona… Will you keep me informed as to any issues, requirements or pitfalls of finding housing, bringing animals (if you have any) or other things that you encounter that make it easier to make the “move” to what I imagine as being heaven.
Presently I live in Glendale, Az and know of no one who has made the bold move out of country……
I look forward to hearing about your journey…
There are many ex-pats who live abroad. Frankly, the greatest challenge is simply understanding and accepting that the culture and customs may be (or are) different. If you release any expectations based on comparison, e.g., “…but this is the way we did it in the US…etc.” you’ll do fine.
I’ve now lived in eight countries (and traveled through many more). My choice to live in the Lake Chapala area was based primarily on affordability, then access to a vibrant intellectual and/or spiritual community. There are an estimated 20 thousand ex-pats who reside in this area. The ex-pat community swells to perhaps 50K during the “high” season.
I personally see no downfalls to living here at all. Please don’t expect others on this website (or any other) to answer all your questions. Just explore your concerns, etc., on the internet–then begin to consider the options.
I have been looking at Mexico as somewhere to live for the last 12 months. In February and March of this year I stayed in Merida in Yucatan State. Didn’t like the expat community there and the whole states is flat and riverless.
April, May and June spent some time in Barra de Navidad with most wonderful Canadian people who I have made a strong bond with and love them dearly. Traveled to all the little seaside towns and enjoyed every minute of it.
I currently live in the Caribbean and have property there which I am going to sell or let. A number of apartments and cottages. It very beautiful in the Caribbean but I love Mexico so much, it is like Spain 50 years ago.
I don’t want to buy a house initially and would like to meet a nice lady who is lonely like me and perhaps set up home together. I am 75 years old with absolutely no nasty or annoying habits.
I have been looking around , like you , did you happen to go to Progresso, while in Merida ? I am curious about that town . i was in that part of Mexico last winter , Do you rent any of your cottages in the Carribean at this time / which island are they located on /
I am trying to organize myself for an escape from the cold in 2018.I am 77, not lonely , but like to meet new interesting people .!have a great day whereever you are.
Thank you Marie for your reply, yes I went to Progresso and had wonderful seafood in the restaurants there. It is not a pretty town and I am a little suspect of the quality of the seawater there.
Yes I rent all of my cottages but currently let to medical students on one and two year contracts. So sorry but do not have availability.
In any case I do not expect to be there in 2018. I am seriously considering in living somewhere in Mexico permanently. I will be going to look at Ajijic in the next few weeks and will probably return and spend Christmas and the New Year there if I like it and find friendship in the expatriate community.
It’s a shame more people do not visit and comment on this website it is so professionally presented.
A little slice of heaven , that is on earth . That’s sounds wonderful . I will retire there as well .
my wife and have lived in the philippines for the last 8 years, i am working on getting her a fiance visa for the usa, and she will have to spend 6 months a year in usa, and i am very interested in visiting ajijic and see how we like it, i feel really sure we will like it there, my wife will be 55 in august, and i am 70, lucky, we are healthy, can anyone suggest a place to rent or bnb or whatever so we can explore it on internet, if it all works out, we will spend november thru april in usa and then rotate to ajijic, off season rentals furnished are very cheap in myrtle beach area in south carolina during that time which is lucky again, very nice condos cheap in off season, i hope there might be some philippinas living there, i feel sure there will be, but she will mingle with everyone,
it would be nice to find someone that is interested in emailing us and we stay in contact,
i really learn a lot on this site, thanks to all
thinking of moving to lake chapala. need info. Best way to get there for visit. will be flying. Appreciate any at all info. Thx.
Hi. I am a 70 year old canadian woman. Very clean, friendly, bilingual (English/French), a little Spanish. I am looking to rent a place in Ajijic or Lake Chapala for December 27 to April 15, 2019. Most sites rent by day, week or month. But not 3 or 4 months. I hope to return every year thereafter. I’m looking for a senior, 55+ community, whether snowbirds or expats. I have owned a condo in Florida for the past 8 years but I want to sell and change. I live in a condo in Ottawa, Ontario, during the summer. Any referrals would be appreciated.