Expat Interview With Rose, First Generation Croatian-American in Mexico

Published: 1 Aug at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Mexico
howdoyousaytacoinspanish is a blog by Rose Boras, a former expat who lived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She (not so) secretly hopes to return one day soon! Ms. Boras became an expat because her love for coffee and a thesis on Fair Trade collided with a study abroad class in Chiapas, Mexico on sustainable growth. It was love at first sight for both of them.! Until she returns to Mexico, she enjoys blogging about her experiences, the food, culture, language and all of those wonderful 'lost in translation' moments!! Rose's expat blog is called How do you say taco in Spanish (see listing here)

Meet Rose - American expat in Mexico
Meet Rose - American expat in Mexico

Here's the interview with Rose...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Chicago, Illinois. However, my parents are from Croatia. I am a first generation Croatian-American who spoke only Croatian until kindergarten.

In which country and city are you living now?
I was living in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. But I have returned to Chicago.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I lived in Playa del Carmen for a little over 2 years - middle of 2010 until February 2013.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved down to Mexico because I was interested in fair trade coffee. Initially I went with a study abroad class to visit coffee farms and fair trade cooperatives. When I lived in Mexico, I worked in the hotel industry in the marketing department. Which worked out great because I met a woman who wants to open up cafes in Caribbean resort hotels. Currently I am consulting with her on opening up these cafes. I also just started writing blogs for World Spa and Travel Magazine.

Me at Maya Vinic coffee co-operative
Me at Maya Vinic coffee co-operative
Did you bring family with you?
No, I went to Mexico by myself. Though some of my friends and family did come to visit.!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
At first, everything was easy except the language. I spoke very little Spanish when I moved to Mexico. But I was so excited about everything that I just threw myself into learning it.! However, as time went by and the language was less an issue, then I noticed other issues popped up. For example, it is really hard to take care of your interests back home when you are abroad such as storage, taxes, etc. You need to do one of two things - one, travel constantly back and forth or two, commit to one country.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes for me it was easy making friends and meeting people. Before I moved to Mexico, I had interviews there and I visited fairly regularly. So I had met a core group of people and became very comfortable early on. When I finally moved to Mexico, my friend circle continued to grow because I was working. Most of the people I met, I met through work. I would say half of my friends were expats (from the USA, Britain, Holland, Ireland, etc) and the other half were Mexicans from Quintana Roo, Veracruz, Hidalgo, DF (Mexico City), etc.

Me at Palenque with El Palacio in the background
Me at Palenque with El Palacio in the background
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The best things to do in the Riviera Maya include seeing the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Coba. As well as Chichen Itza. But if you are on a time constraint and want to climb one of the ruins then I recommend Tulum and Coba.

I also think swimming with the turtles in Akumal is a must do.! Akumal means place where the turtles nest in the Mayan language. And you are almost always guaranteed a turtle sighting without any gear even.! Also, Akumal has some of the best beaches for me.! Just gorgeous.!

Finally, I would recommend eating at El Fogon for traditional Mexican food. La Azotea for pizza and drinks with a rooftop view. El Sur for steaks.! Oh so many more food choices..!! But I will refrain :)

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I enjoyed the beaches - the most beautiful clear beaches.! I enjoyed the sky - it is the most gorgeous sky.! Always blue, full of puffy clouds. And I enjoyed how laid back it all was there. You gotta love beach towns.! After growing up in Chicago's hectic pace, it was nice to slow down a few notches and enjoy the moment(s).

Playa street facing the beach
Playa street facing the beach
How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living is cheaper than in Chicago. A one-bedroom apartment or a shared 2-bedroom apartment can run you about $350 to $400 in Playa. And you are 3 to 5 blocks from the beach. Its even cheaper the farther away from the water you are. Decent apartments in Chicago would be twice as much at least. Same goes for food and utilities - much cheaper.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Income in Mexico is very low. Most salaries are between $100 and $800 a month. Even police officers only get paid about $700/monthly. You need to live with family, a spouse, friends or have roommates in order to thrive and save money. It's very hard to get ahead.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
If you want to live and work in Mexico, make sure to have a job lined up before you move down there. Or income from your home country. Also, make sure to have all your paperwork in order for your living or work visa requirments. Most companies make you pay for the visa upfront or take it out of your paycheck. Some places won't let you work until your visa is in place which could be anywhere from 2 to 4 months. So make sure you have a nest egg to rely on.!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I would say the hardest aspect was missing family and friends back home in Chicago. And not having enough free time and money to always go home and visit. Of course, now it's the reverse, I miss all the friends I made in Mexico.!

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Well, I returned home in February and I have to say it was a readjustment. First, to the cold weather.!! haha. And secondly, to the pace at which everyone is operating on. It took me a few weeks to speed up again :)

Drinks at La Azotea with co-workers
Drinks at La Azotea with co-workers
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Learn the language.! A few words will go a long way in endearing you to locals....
  2. Make sure you have a trusted friend or family member back home to help you take care of any personal issues you might need dealing with while you are gone.! ....
  3. Make sure you go back home and visit or have friends and family visit you. It will make the transition much smoother for you and less lonely.!....
  4. Make friends fast.! That too will make you less lonely and will quickly give you a social structure, support system and routine.! Can't say enough about that one.....
  5. Finally relax.! Whatever happens will one day make a great story.! Whether you blog about it, tell your friends or grandkids, you will laugh about it one day.!! Trust me....

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My expat blog is about my love affair with Mexico. Its called howdoyousaytacoinspanish.wordpress.com. I came up with the title from my friend's 6 year old daughter who kept asking me how to say words in Spanish. That one sorta became a running joke between the two of us :) I usually write about my personal experiences with food, with language and with the people. Sometimes, I talk about places I've been such as Tulum and Palenque. I also talk a lot about lost in translation moments. I talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the truly magical.! I always include photos.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted on my blog. Anyone can leave a comment there or send me a direct message on Twitter @chirose23.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingRose is an American expat living in Mexico. Blog description: Lost and found in translation - my expat life in Mexico (by chirose)
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