What I Have Learned from Living in Mexico

March 11, 2021

We have lived in Mexico for thirteen and a half years. I have learned a lot living here, and these lessons have made me a better person. Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed.

I am more patient.

You get a lot of chances to practice patience living here. When driving, you’ll often wait behind someone unloading furniture – or grandma – or stopping to say hello to a friend. The thumb and first finger motion means “un ratito” or “just a second” so go ahead and put your car in neutral and chill out while you wait. You might wait behind the garbage truck where hardworking guys run up and down collecting bags from car roofs, hanging on telephone poles and beside front doors. You might wait while the water delivery guys run water bottles in and put them in the water stand in their client’s kitchen. You’ll get used to it and I find it feels good. And when they start moving again there is always a friendly wave.

I am more giving.

When I lived in the US people I didn’t know only came to the door during election season or when religious people were out looking for new worshipers. Or Amazon delivery people, of course. Here we are often called to the front door to give directions, donate to the alcoholic home, buy fruit, vegetables, or bread as well as local women who need help feeding their babies. People here live a very simple life and small setbacks like even losing a day’s work can make it hard to feed the family. Even a small amount can make a difference. I feel every day how lucky I am and I always give, and without judgement.

I give more personally.

This is a continuation of the paragraph above. I would never just toss a coin in a cup or a hat or whatever here. I always give a smile and a kind word and give them a coin or a bill in a gesture of respect. I’m sure you’ve seen videos of how respectfully people in Asia treat the giving of a business card with a little bow? That’s kind of what I do. It feels so much more respectful.

I want less.

This is a bit laughable actually because I really have everything I want and am very comfortable. But I am aware of the difference between want and need and don’t overdo it. Even when I travel (remember that?) to the US I go into Target or somewhere like that and am totally overwhelmed. I grab all kinds of things I think I want and then end up putting most of it back. It just seems so excessive. When you live among people who don’t have much it makes you think about your own consumption.

I admire children.

Spend an hour or so watching Mexican children playing and you will really be inspired. They have fun with the smallest things, and can play even with a plastic bottle “ball” or just laugh and race around and chase each other for hours. One kid with a bike will usually share with everyone.

People are so enterprising.

People think up some very innovating businesses. The gal across from me who had a hair salon saw her business go down when covid started so she converted her space into a papeleria (stationery store) and cyber (internet store). Makes total sense during the pandemic as all the kids here are doing school online and often households only have a cell phone for all the kids to share. Her place was very busy during Christmas with wrapping paper and gifts and now most evenings she sells waffles out front on the sidewalk. That’s just one example.

People love their families.

Holidays aren’t Hallmark Holidays here – although plenty of gifts are given of course – but people really spend time with each other. That’s one reason I believe that Mexico has been so hard hit during the pandemic. The idea of not spending those important days with each other is not in their world view. Mothers especially are important. I once had a bit of an altercation with a young man blocking our driveway with his car and with his music on super loud. I finally said to him “Would you do this to your mother or grandmother? I am an old lady in my house just like them! He swaggered a bit but then turned off the music and moved his car and we parted friends.

People must save face.

I have learned you will get nowhere in Mexico if you try to make someone apologize or “rub their face in it” when they mess up. People close down when confronted, and the sooner you realize this the easier it will be. Really, no one wants to have their bad behavior discussed, so using the third person or passive voice will get you lots further. Try saying “Oh No! The paint drops are on the floor” instead of “Why weren’t you careful, you spilled paint on my floor” and see how much better the response is.

It’s nice to take the time.

When I’m out walking about the neighborhood doing errands, I love all the little moments. Of course we all greet each other as we pass but if you happen to pass someone you know, of course you put down your bags and have a moment to chat. When you walk into a shop we always greet the people there or ask permission to enter since some places are small and can only hold a few people in these Covid days. These little moments of connection are really important in life, I cherish them all. It’s all part of belonging somewhere and I know I belong here.

I’m less judgmental.

I hope I have never done this very much but living here has made me more thoughtful and more generous with my thoughts. Workers sitting on the curb drinking beer in the late afternoon? Have you ever watched these guys work, hauling buckets of cement all day up several levels using ladders? Of course they were dreaming of that beer all day! Someone wearing shoes that are way too big? That’s all they have. Young girls with several children around them? Those kids may be her siblings or they may be hers, either way she is doing her best in a hard situation.

I could go on and on. But the truth is that I’m a better person for living here. I can’t imagine living anywhere other than Mexico. What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments.

By the way, if you like my photos, be sure to follow me on Instagram. I post lots of photos there. The link is at the top of the page on the right.

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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. Great article, Nancy.
      I’m going to start a blog in the near future. Each post will be an article about the history, people, and culture of Mexico. Basically, articles like I wrote for The Mazatlan Messenger.

      1. Myrry, That is great, please let me know when you get it going so I can link to it. Take care, Nancy

    1. So good to be back to reading your work again, this was great. Thanks for ggoing to the effort for our entertainment and knowledge.

      1. Hi Wendy, Thank you! I have had a hard time blogging lately but maybe I am BACK! (Just like you are! YAY!) xoxo Nancy

      1. Hi Larry, It’s a good life,, right?!? Hope all is well with you. Nancy

    1. I appreciate being reminded of all of these excellent points. I particularly value the greetings received anywhere we go. I have spent almost a year now in the US and am so anxious to get back to enjoy the pace, the friendliness, and the elements of life you’ve described.

      1. Hi Suanna, Th pandemic has made it clear to all of us what are the most important things in life. Hope you and Les can get back to Maz soon. xoxo

    1. Wonderful post Nancy. I agree with you. I have received more life lessons in my 21 years in Mexico – all good, then I received in the previous 55 years
      I was told early on that the term “con permiso” Is an open sesame in Mexico
      It has always been so. The courtliness and kindnesses touch me frequently fr the people of Mexico.

      1. Hi Babs, Thanks so much for your comment. We share a similar viewpoint, I really hope to meet you in person when the virus is dealt with. xoxo Nancy

    1. What a wonderful article Nancy! I feel very much the same way. Mexico has made me a better person. Thank you for sharing this.

      1. Hi Jan! I am so glad we are living near each other again! Soon we will be hanging out and having fun together… xoxo

      1. Hi Mexico Bob! Thank you for your comment, Mexico truly is a wonderful place!

    1. So well said, Nancy! You’ve captured the sentiments so well. Miss having you here in Maz – happy to be able to keep up with you this way!

      1. Thank you Kathi! I miss you too, we were hoping to get to Maz before it got hot but it probably won’t happen now since the vaccine rollout is so slow. But maybe! Take care amiga

    1. What a great blog, Nancy. You have put into words what most of us feel. The people of Mexico are beautiful and we can learn so much from them. Glad you and Paul are doing well. We miss you!

      1. Thank you Nicola, There are so many more things that are beautiful about the people here, I might have to make another post one day. All the best to you and Guy, we will get to Maz for a visit before long, fingers crossed for vaccines before long! xoxo

    1. Such a beautiful article. My husband and I are moving to Mexico in the next few months, but we’ve been planning and dreaming about it for the past two years (we actually had plans to move last year until Covid hit.)
      These things you mention are all the reasons I would give when people would ask me, “Why Mexico?” I have felt all of this and more in my soul from the moment I first starting searching for our new home to retire to. I can’t wait to get there and experience them firsthand.
      Thank you for sharing this! <3

      1. Thank you Cheri, I sure remember the excitement of planning and making our move. If you want you can go back to the beginning of the blog (on the right side is a dropdown with months) to go back to when we were planning, too! All the best to you, and Bienvenidos a México!

    1. Very nice, I realized those things in a few visits to mexico. Especially the being patient part! I have spent hours in a restaurant that was empty. Turned out to be one of the best times and meals I ever had.
      Now if I could just talk My wife into moving 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for commenting, Flash. Just hang in there, maybe she will come around 🙂

    1. Hi Nancy, thank you so much for this eloquent, lucid and humbling article. I concur with every word (I’ve lived on and off in Mexico for seven+ years; I’ve been here to stay for three). I see from comments that we have mutual friends; I sincerely hope you’ll be a FIHMY (friend I haven’t met yet). You have a loving kindness that’s rarely found. Bendiciones.

      1. Hi Kathleen, Thanks so much for your comment, now you have me wondering who we know in common! Of course I am a FIHMY! Thanks again. 🙂

    1. Hi Nancy, Everything you write here is how we feel about Mexico. The people have been so generous, caring and accepting. When I fell and injured myself in SMA, shopkeepers, elders, young parents and children in a school helped Colleen get me an ambulance and stayed with her until I was attended to. It was something we will never forget. And oh, the children…. Laughter and Joy. Lovely to read your words again. If you get together with Babs one day we will join you. Now all we need to do is get back to Mexico. Saludos, Robert

      1. Thanks for commenting, Robert. I’ve heard stories like yours many times, people here are really generous and caring. All the best to you and hope you get back to Mx. soon!

        1. Nancy, I feel that these are all the reasons I will be moving there within the month. Beautifully said. What a contribution!

          1. Paige, Thanks so much for commenting and congratulations on your big move! Welcome!

    1. Several years ago, you wrote an article about how strange it felt when you would visit Washington. I have had the same feeling on my series of trips to Oregon. I do not realize how much I have changed until I am away from Mexico. It is almost as if I have discovered social skills that I did not know I possessed. Shopping is the big one. Visiting Costco was always a treat when I lived in Salem. I now visit the Bend Costco and wonder what I would ever do with most of the things that once attracted me. Like you, I am blessed to have what I need here in Mexico, but the desire for “more” has almost disappeared.

      Thanks for updating your earlier thoughts.

    1. My dear friend, you are right, we must think and reflect; what is important to us?. The love for each other bring the best of us. We love Mexico because the people, they are wonderful people, family oriented, and they are good at helping you, if you ask for help. In 4 years we are blessed with some friends that today they are like a family to us. God bless our family and good friends. Family are also the friends that we choose to be our family. God bless you and have a wonderful Sunday.

      1. Thank you for your comment Juan. It’s times like these that make us cherish the people around us. Thank you so much for your comment. Nancy

        1. Beautifully stated I am looking forward to my move ..it only took me one visit to Puerto Vallarta to realize this I love the culture the people and everything associated with this beautiful country❤️❤️

    1. Such a wonderful post Nancy. So positive and invigorating. Mexico is such a calming and wonderful place to live. Fingers crossed we will be back in the fall.

      1. Hi Contessa, Congratulations on your two little ones! Hope you can travel this fall, too. xoxo

    1. Nancy,
      You remind me of the awe I felt when I lived in Mexico 20 years ago. My blog julieheifetz.com tells stories about my year working In the Yucatan jungle. Like you, it was the lessons I learned that changed my life. We are moving San Miguel de Allende in July and you are making me hungry to get back to Mexico. Thanks!

      1. Thanks so much for your comment, Julie. Congrats on your upcoming move and thank you for commenting!

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more, I have lived here full-time for over 40 years and it was the best decision I ever made.

      1. Jr, Thanks for your comment! I bet you have some wonderful stories about life in Mexico!

    1. Nancy, This article is so wonderful. I have only starting visiting Mexico in the past 3 years but from my first trip the county has always called me back. The people are so friendly, helpful and warm. Just being in Mexico my spirit is so much at ease. I can honestly say that it was the first place I was able to recognize true and authentic joy as I watched the local children play on the beach in Huatulco. My husband and I are now considering moving to Mexico City in a few years. We are ready to leave the rat race and live a more connected and simple life.

    1. Hi Nancy I am a Canadian ninety years of age, with a house in Morelia Michoacán. This March after receiving a negative Covid test and a Covid shot I packed my car and headed for the border. I was refused entrance to the US. I felt bitterly disappointed and when I spoke to my friends here of course I joked about missing the sunshine and tequila. Your blog puts into words the Real things that I am missing about Mexico and why I am feeling so down. I am generally a very positive person and my plan will be to drive down in the fall but in the meantime I really am missing Mexico and all I love about it,

      1. Hi Jan, Thanks so much for your comment. I hope you are able to get back to Mexico soon. I love Morelia, it is a wonderful city.

    1. Great blog
      Thank you
      I have been here one year and moving here during a pandemic has certainly had it’s moments, but I hear the children playing on the streets and see so many wonderful smiles that I know this was the right choice in our small little Mexican Casa

      1. Hi Kim, Thank you so much for your comment, I think this post has really reminded a lot of people how lovely it is here.

    1. Your piece echoes so many of the thoughts my husband and I share often about our life in Mexico. The culture and the people have changed our lives in so many ways. We live a much simpler life here, and are grateful every day to have the opportunity to live in this remarkable country.

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