US Expat Living in Mexico City - Interview With Kim
|Published:||26 Apr at 9 AM|
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Here's the interview with Kim...
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from the United States of America. Our family has lived in seven different states in the US, and most recently moved from Minneapolis, MN.
In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently experiencing my first expat assignment in Mexico City, Mexico (DF).
How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We moved to Mexico City in August 2012, and are planning to stay for about three years.
Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved to Mexico City for my husband’s job. Before relocating to DF, I worked in marketing. My company was nice enough to hold my job for me, so I’m currently on sabbatical.
Did you bring family with you?
Yes! My son, my husband and my dog, Ranger, all made the move to Mexico City.
The Cosmovitral in Toluca, Mexico is a beautiful indoor botanical garden, with lovely stained glass murals.
Mexicans are very welcoming people. My Spanish isn’t perfect, and sometimes that’s frustrating, but I’ve committed to living here, learning the language and getting making the most out of our assignment in Mexico. I feel very strongly that I will reap what I sow as far as this experience is concerned. Like any new experience, there are challenges and obstacles, but I’m trying to maintain a sense of humor.
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?I've just arrived-- but already, I am so impressed by the cohesiveness of the expat community here. It's welcoming,vibrant and social.
I've found three organizations to be extremely helpful to my transition: InterNations, MeetUp and the Newcomers Club. InterNations is a great place to meet professional expats in a fun, social setting. It's composed of a lot of clubs and smaller, niche special interest groups, but also hosts events that expose newcomers to hot spots in different neighborhoods in the city. MeetUp is a wonderful and casual way to connect with people--and I love that it is impromptu. And lastly, like many popular places for expat assignments, Mexico City also has a wonderful, well established organization called the Newcomers Club. For a small membership fee, you're added to a listserv and have access to wonderful information: live-in maid recommendations, drivers, items for sale, playgroups, coffees and other very useful information. Using the listserv we've been able to find an honest, reliable maid, take fun field trips with other families and even find a hairdresser!
Mexico has such a rich and vibrant culture. It’s incredible to experience. Trips to the pyramids at Teotihuacán, and Frida Khalo’s Casa Azul are always on the itinerary!
What do you enjoy most about living here?
My favorite thing about living here is the wonderful access to arts and culture. From the Mayans to Diego Rivera, there’s always something interesting to explore. Venturing out and visiting the many cultural attractions here has been illuminating for me. Trips to the pyramids at Teotihuacán, and Frida Khalo’s Casa Azul are always on the itinerary when visitors come to town!
How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living is much lower here for things like food. My observation has been that for the most part, services are inexpensive and goods are outrageous. Just like the US, good private schools aren’t cheap and neither are the safest neighborhoods. Clothes are outrageously expensive. I’m astounded by the cost of clothing here, and I’ve only purchased one shirt in seven months as a result!
My biggest frustration (which I blog about constantly) in Mexico is the lack of customer service here. In the United States stores, restaurants and service providers have a, “the customer is always right” attitude about service. There’s a real effort to exceed expectations and deliver a positive consumer experience. In Mexico people don’t really care if you ask to speak to the manager, because he doesn’t care either. Some days that’s a bummer.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?Be patient. Because so many Americans travel to Mexico for vacation, they tend to forget that Mexico is a foreign country and a foreign culture. Learn Spanish. Be patient with yourself. Time moves slower here, learn to wait. Patience is the key to a positive experience.
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Readers of my blog know that I just loved my car and hated selling it. Telling my car goodbye was a real pre-departure low-point for me. I loved the car and the freedom that it represented. In the States, I felt safe driving. I knew the language, the routes, everything. Now, I walk everywhere. Traffic here is very chaotic and even walking can even be dangerous.
Templo Mayor, an ancient Aztec temple, is located in the historic downtown center and dates back to 1325.
- Embrace the experience. Before moving here we made a pact as a family: we promised to acknowledge that nothing would be like it was at home, and collectively, we would embrace that. So far, we've done a pretty good job--and it's helped us join clubs, talk to strangers, ask for help and accept the differences.
- Learn Spanish. Mexico is a very homogenous country. Everyone here speaks Spanish and not everyone has patience for those that don’t. Even if your Spanish is awful, all attempts are appreciated.
- Manana Does Not Mean Tomorrow. Time moves at a different pace in Mexico, and there is no sense of urgency here. That's neither good nor bad, just the way it is. At times it's frustrating, but remember, just because you’re irritated your anger will in no way speed up the process! If someone tells you they will deal with something “manana” you should not expect results within 24 hours.
- Thoroughly Research Your Banking Options. I wish that I would have done more due diligence on banking in Mexico. I wrongly assumed that banking here would be turnkey because our bank is large, international and has a branch in both the US and Mexico. Incorrect. Actually, those banks don’t have a relationship, and it’s very expensive to transfer money from the US branch to the Mexican branch. This has created numerous headaches---especially in a cash-driven society. I would have done a lot more research and possibly changed my US bank if hindsight were 20/20.
- Close Your Eyes During Your First Cab Ride! Watching your driver whiz through red lights and stop signs and dart into oncoming traffic can take years off your life. In Spanish, "alto" means "stop". In Mexico City, the word "alto" is subject to interpretation. When we asked a few drivers why they didn't stop at stop signs, the answer was consistent: "In Mexico City, ‘alto’ means slow down a little. Not ‘stop’. You're not in Spain!"
The Zocalo, has been a gathering place since Aztec times in Mexico City. This must see is one of the largest city squares in the world.
Before leaving the States, our company assigned us to a cultural coach from the Athena Group. During one of our sessions, I remember the coach telling me, "Leaving the States won't be the most difficult part of your experience. Returning will be, because you will change so much that it will be difficult for the people who know and love you the most to understand all that you've experienced. You'll change, but they won't understand how much." I felt that by writing a blog and chronicling my experiences with words and photos, I could bridge the gap between the life I left behind and the one that I'm creating. I decided to blog to keep my family and friends up-to-date on my adventures.
Since I started it, my blog has won numerous awards and received recognition. I write about my personal experiences as an expat (the highs and the lows of expatriation) and share reviews of restaurants, museums and other cultural venues of interest. I also write quite frequently about life with a dog in DF, as dogs are popular here and welcome at many restaurants and parks.
How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be reached via my blog (see link below) or on Twitter @kmbowsundy.
Kim blogs at http://amovingstory.com which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. A Moving Story has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Kim, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments
Kim: I really appreciated your writing. My wife was born in DF and came to the States when she was 6. My grandparents are from Guanajuato and came when they were 20. We have kids now and go back every other year to DF and it's getting more and more tempting to move there for our children to experience our culture. But as Americans, we don't have many job connections. Any advice how to start that search instead of just moving and hoping for the best?
Michael: I couldn't resist to comment on your writing because I understand frustration of job search in Mexico as a foreigner, I am Korean by the way. Recently I found a job in Mexico for a Korean company that wants to start its operation in Mexico. I would suggest you to search for specialized headhunters who work for US companies that want to expand their business to Mexico. Here is the email address of the headhunter who connected me with my company. [email protected] Additionally, speaking fluent Spanish is quite important. I hope this helps. Good luck!
In the picture you posted above of the little "pancake looking" food the vendor is making. I cannot remember the name of those it is killing me! I loved them! We bought them at the markets all the time! What is the name? They are so delicious! I miss Mexico City so much. We lived there for a few years in Interlomas. Loved it!!!