Living in Mexico: A Survival Guide

I have been living in Mexico for a year and a half. In two short weeks we leave to make our way to the Marshall Islands to set up our next base camp. I have valuable insight. Life in Mexico can be amazing. If you approach it the right way. Here is a survival guide on how to make the most of living in Mexico, or at least… HOW TO SURVIVE.

Whatever the reason for you living in Mexico, or thinking about living in Mexico, this guide will work for you. Teenager, retiree, diver, surfer, mommy, twenty-something, hippy, construction worker, European, family of a deportee. If you follow these steps to make the most of your experience, it will be one of the most amazing things you ever did for yourself.

I am a cultural anthropologist. A writer. A world traveler. A mommy. A teacher. A professor. A dreamer. A happiness-finder and outdoor adventurer and respectful human being. And this is how I survived.

How I Survived Living in Mexico

1. I Abandoned my Materialistic Philosophy. Had to. Upon moving here, one of my goals was this exact thing. And the second my foot stepped off the plane, I made a vow to abandon this idea that things and people are judged by materialism and to try to erase it from my mind. This was the launch of a beginning to see the world in a whole new light and not clouded by a materialistic philosophy. Mexico will never provide the comforts and luxuries that we are used to in the US. And the beautiful thing is that it doesn’t claim to, or necessarily ever want to. So do yourself a favor and leave your materialism behind because it will get you nowhere here. And if it does happen to get you somewhere, that will not be a place of truth for really ‘living’ here.

2. I Kept an Open Mind. No judgment. Of anything. Even when required.There is lots of weird shit to see and do here. And it’s pretty easy to race to a judgment about how those things are crazy, unsafe, unsanitary, or stupid. But do yourself a favor and don’t. Because it’s not fair. And because for every unrefrigerated chicken, there is a life lesson to be learned. For every hot dog slice on a pizza and family on a moped, there is a lesson. Spend more time trying to figure out that life lesson than judging like an ignorant American. Keep an open mind.

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3. I Embraced Everything. I tried every food, talked to every person, and embraced the hell out of this opportunity. I never once took it for granted and said ‘I hate Mexico’, ‘if only they had…,’ no. If you wish it was different then go home. If you accept it for what it is and seek out the beauty and freedom and embrace these unique opportunities, then you will survive and thrive farther than you can even dream.

4. I Worked with Mexicans. I taught at a school as a full-time faculty member. Just like everyone else there. Except I was the only white person. With blonde hair. Sticking out like a sore thumb. But I did it. I challenged myself to learn, grow, adapt, and excel teaching at a spanish Mexican school. This is immersion to the fullest. I mingled everyday and had professional expectations, conferences, and was responsible for rearing future generation Mexicans. A heavy weight for a blonde American. And walking home from school everyday through town, I was stared into the ground by tourists not believing I was lucky enough to live here. I mean… who lives here? It’s for vacation. And same with the locals. Not believing that I lived and worked here. The uniform shirt was a dead giveaway and I think it gave me respectable status.

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5. I Adventured Everyday. Every damn day. My daughter and I got up at the crack to go conquer some new world, fulfill another dream, and live out another adventure. My adventure bag has been packed since we got here. It never gets a chance to get unpacked. I have it down to a science. Sunscreen, snorkels, masks, water shoes, water bottles, camera, sunglasses. Ready for anything. Climbing ancient ruins, jumping and swimming in new cenotes, free diving, snorkeling turtle pathways, kayaking, horseback riding, scuba diving, beach-combing, camping, boating, biking, dreamcatcher shopping, or just plain happy hour drinking. On the beach. While having a sandcastle contest with local policia who should be manning the taxi stand, but are instead loving life too much to be bothered and enjoy a face-off with a 6 year old in a mermaid sandcastle contest. Every day is an adventure. Everyday the sun is shining. And when it’s not, you are thankful for the clouds and rain. Everyday a new adventure awaits, a new country, new people, new places, new food, new random conditions and amazing paradise adventures await. Don’t sit around on wifi. Don’t lay around and get high all day or mope about missing McDonalds. Get off your ass and go adventure Mexico.

6. I Ate Street Tacos. I hear many people are scared of these things. What a shame. Because herein lies the heartbeat of Mexico. Like in America, it’s Chevy, a damn car. Heartbeat of America. Here, it’s the food. Tortillas, empanadas, burritos, enchiladas. It’s all the same thing. Tortillas in various form. All greasy and delicious. All local. And all better than the fancy steakhouses lit up brightly for the tourists too scared to venture onto the side-street. Do yourself a favor and eat the street tacos. To fulfill a physical need. But also a psychological one. Eating street tacos is the rite of passage to becoming a legit Mexican traveler and more open-minded human being. And they are an immense part of Mexican culture. Go ahead, see what they’re all about. I promise they won’t kill you.

7. I Made Mexican Friends. Yes. Mainly from work. And then all of my daughter’s friends. And my best friend here too. They showed us a different way of life. Different culture, activities, and perspective on the world. I got the inside scoop. If you don’t do this, you don’t really live in Mexico. Because the people are the life. Open your mind. Open your heart. Open your tortilla. And fill it all with some amazing Mexican friends who will turn your value system upside down and show you a different life that exists a country away.

8. I Took Advantage of the Freedom. Mexico offers a level of freedom that hardly even exists in the US, even behind the scenes. I wear flip flops and a bikini everyday. Never a bra. Never heels or makeup. I can walk down the street with a beer. I can ride public transportation barefoot. I can grocery shop in a bikini and I can even swim at the beach naked if I so choose. I could ride an ATV down the street with traffic, sleep on the side of the road, and bring drinks from the gas station into a restaurant with me. Everything is chill. Mexicans choose their battles. And does it really matter? It’s deeper than just rules. It’s the beauty of self-regulation. And right choices. The freedom to think, and believe, and do, and achieve, whatever you want, without being herded and molded and restricted, that is so liberating. DO yourself a favor and feel this freedom too. Lick it, love it. It empowers the mind, body, and soul. And you will never forget that time you lived actually how you wanted. Walking through town barefoot, with a beer, no bra, no makeup, and no one to tell you that you are wrong. But with everyone to tell you that you are beautiful.

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9. I Learned the Language. Not fluently. Not even great. Or perfect like my 6 year old daughter (jealous…)! But I was open to learning what I could and ended up being able to communicate with everyone. I didn’t hold up a wall to learning and adapting to the ways of life here. And when you understand the concepts of the local language, you thereby understand so much more about the culture. And you earn respect as well. Even if the product isn’t great. But for caring, respecting, and trying. If you’re living in Mexico, you need to speak Spanish.

10. I Stayed Positive. Through all the trials and tribulations, which there were. I always stayed positive. My horchata was always half full.

11. I Stayed Strong. Similar to #10 yet different. I not only stayed strong in Mexico, but I grew strong here. This place takes strong to a whole new level. And I survived. I sort of feel that I have stood the test of time with this one. Sometimes I was not sure I would make it out of the pen, but I always did. And as an offset, things in my life here have been more amazing than I ever could have imagined. It’s not all glory. Some guts. But looking back, I am proud of those guts I suffered to get to this Mexican glory. This is an amazing place that has the ability to humble you to the basement and watch how you crawl, all with the mastermind plan that the process will place gratitude and humility into your heart like never before, where it will stay for the rest of your life. The hard is hard, but the lessons and the good is far beyond excellent.

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12. I Sought Out Life Lessons. Everyday I made sure to live consciously in order to gain the necessary life lessons that I was supposed to learn that day. Every good, every bad. Every challenge, every palm leaf, bike-ride, bead of sweat, cockroach, magical cenote, beach cabana, coconut, sun ray, raindrop, grain of sand, sunrise, sunset, new friendship, and old memory. It all happened for a reason. Every day was a life lesson. Which I wrote about and shared. Thankful to be out on this road living this life having these lessons so that I can send them all home. And maybe change your home, or neighborhood, or town, or family too. Because life lessons aren’t just found in Mexico. Sometimes it takes Mexico to show us that lessons lie in everyday life. In the beauty of flowers and children and tears. But, even though they exist, most of us don’t tap into these lessons because we are too busy, or too tired, or just don’t care. Well this year and a half I cared. And I came to live these lessons and see for myself. And if you have been reading along with me, thank you, and I hope you have learned something alongside me.

So when I use the word ‘survive’ I actually mean ‘how did I survive before Mexico?’ Because living here for this year and a half has been the best gift I ever gave myself. I not only survived, but I thrived and thrived and thrived. If you follow all of these steps, I promise you will survive Mexico just fine too. It’s not that bad really. It’s amazing. And I will miss it terribly. Thank you, Mexico.

by Crystal Blue

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Crystal for allowing us to republish this article. Crystal traveled through Cozumel, Tulum and the Mayan Riviera. You can follow her next adventure to the Marshall Islands via her Facebook page: The Blonde Mexican Project.

If you want to join in and share information, stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Allyson@JaltembaBayLife.com

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11 Reviews on “Living in Mexico: A Survival Guide”

  1. :

    Perfect story.I can't wait to move to LA penita and put this story into action.

  2. :

    These are great points! As a resident of Mexico myself, I can see they're based on experience and reflection. Thinking about living in San Miguel de Allende as a possibility? What if you knew the answers to the questions you have to ask? What about crime, health care, housing? What about cost of living and nearly 20 other issues? My new book shines a light on the subject. It’s called Living in San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter, and there’s a sample on my website or on Amazon. www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/livinginsanmiguel.html

  3. :

    Fun article and some great advice for the most part but I agree wholeheartedly with John and Carole on the "freedom" aspect. While there is an incredible freedom in Mexico it's important to always show respect. I live in a great little beach town for 2-3 months every winter and wouldn't dream of running around anywhere off the beach in my bikini! I've also never seen a Mexican man in public with out a shirt on-and mostly always long pants too! I've seen how Mexicans look at tourists who do as you advise and it's not a look I'd want given to me....it's embarrassing. Carole said it best: When in Rome.....

    1. :

      Needless to say I agree with your comments. Maybe those tourists that forget may read and adopt more respectful attitudes and attire.

  4. :

    I do agree with you John Berg that it also upsets me to see foreigners walking in their beach wear in town with a beer in their hands . It ' s OK to say : when in Rome do as the Roman . The same for Mexico . We do have more freedom in Mexico but still we must respect the locals . I don't recall seeing a local Mexican walking shirtless with a beer in his hand on market day in La Penita .

  5. :

    Certainly enjoyed and agreed with the ideas you present. From the title I expected a different set of suggestions. Your article, for us, is more like a philosophy for the intrepid traveller as opposed to the tourist visiting and expecting to visit a few attractions and find the comforts of home. Your guide will apply to all countries to further enhance ones visit. I do have one small issue with your "freedom" section. I do not thing it is correct to dress in a bikini or for men to shop or dine in the local town with your shirt off and for men usually a rather large stomach hanging over ones belt. Or for that matter to conduct local business with a beer in hand. Would we do this at home? Do we see Mexicans dressed like this? Just a couple of items that do bother me when I see it. We have travelled a lot in Mexico and I'm yet to see a Mexican shopping in beach wear or a Mexican male sitting next to me eating with his shirt off. I feel one needs to respect the local culture and the Mexican culture is more conservative. I think all other suggestions are right on but felt I needed to vent what does bother me seeing tourists showing disrespect for a local culture.

  6. :

    Crystal, I loved your article. I have spent about 5 winters in Guayabitos and love small town Mexico. You are so right about the culture and especially the Mexican people. They are the biggest treasure of this beautiful country. If you go without expecting all the luxuries of home and accept their way of life it is a rich and rewarding experience. I wrote "Day Trip to Chacala" in this publication and I hope you go there too Julie (from the above comment.) You will love this area.

  7. :

    Okay Crystal, you've got me excited. I am a single woman. I have visited Guaybitos numerous times for 2 week vacations. I have reserved a bungalow for this next winter for 2 months. At the end of my 2 mth. adventure I will listen to my heart and gut. Will it say...I can hardly wait to get back into my own bed in British Columbia? OR...Will it say...I really don't want to go home? If it is the latter I will return the following winter to "scout it out". I will "sell the ranch" and " get out of Dodge". Guayabitos looks like a great place to retire. Thanks for the info, very well written.

  8. :

    There was not chance to be taken aback by the title of the article. Another survival guide. But at the end is when the theme of it took hold.. I should be called not a Survival guide but a Thrival guide. Then it really makes it.. It isn't just about surviving ... v

  9. :

    Enjoyed reading Crystal's story about life in Mexico. Is Crystal related to Karen Blue of Ajijic who was the author of Midlife Mavericks...true stories about 10 women who for various different reasons moved to Mexico permanently, and faced many obstacles at the beginning, but overcame them and made a new life for themselves in their new country. It was an excellent book, and I think Crystal could relate to it. Good luck to you and your daughter in the Marshall Islands, I'm sure your New Mexican friends will miss you both.

  10. :

    Great Article.

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