Expat Interview: From France to Mexico

Tulum street art in Mexico

Mexico is not only becoming a more and more popular holiday destination for vacationers, but also for expats to live in. Could you imagine living there? In this interview, Chou from My365World will tell us all about life as an expat is in Mexico, about the cost of living, local traditions and delicious food.

Hi Chou, tell us about yourself…

Hi Sixtina, Chou is a nickname because a lot of people think I am joking when I say my name is France. And yes I am from France too. This has led me to many funny and a lot less funny situations in the past. Having a nickname seems way easier. 

I am 47, and a few years ago, when I met this funny English guy and we started dating, his company decided they needed him abroad… so in a crazy spiralling series of events, we jumped in the unknown, packed our homes and lives, got married and moved away with about 10 boxes, and roughly 120kg of luggage. I’m a lucky girl, I love packing….I am an “expat-wife”…

What was the main reason for moving to Mexico? And which part did you move to?

We moved to Mexico this year in January. We were all excited at the prospect of moving to a sunny country, I packed about 7 pairs of summer shoes and one pair of trainers.

We landed in a beautiful town called San Luis Potosí, in the centre of the country, in the mountains. It was 10 degrees that day, and when we moved in our apartment… it was 15 degrees. No heating, just a small portable one, and 4 blankets on the bed. I had so many visuals of Mexico in my head, but apparently I had missed the mountain part…

Is it easy to connect with locals (make friends) or are there any (language/cultural) barriers?

It is easy to meet people and make friends yes. This is the third foreign country we live in, and we have traveled a fair bit through the years. Since we can compare with past experiences, I must say I find Mexicans incredibly friendly and smiling.

We are not tourists in a hotel on the coast, we live here with the daily things that can get people irritated, or make them struggle with culture difference. But in Mexico, most things go with a smile.

Here people let you into the traffic with a smile, the people in the supermarket queue or in shops are relaxed (and yes, slow, but it goes with the life style, you learn to slow yourself down, smile along and stop rushing).

The cultural differences depend very much on your own culture. We know people who struggle with what they see as delays, lack of organisation.

People who are first-timers in living abroad seem to struggle a little more with details. Some people are more worried about security than others for example. But as there is little language barrier (Spanish is a common and fairly easy language), it is easy to mingle, meet, go out, etc.

How about the cost of living?

The cost of living is an interesting thing. In general, Mexico may not feel as expensive. But there are a few more factors that impact the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) in a positive or negative way. 

For example, depending on where you come from, an item is taxed in a certain way, and it can make the same item cheaper or more expensive in comparison with your home country; say a pair of trainers, or a piece of electronics.

Then, there is the rent. The normal answer would be: the rent is way more affordable than in Europe in our case, except…. any city that suddenly absorbs a bunch of expats due to the presence of foreign companies sees its prices rise… a lot!

My husband has Mexican colleagues who have moved here for work, and they struggle to find apartments or houses in the price range that matches the price in their city of origin. The local owners have raised their prices, making the overall cost of living higher. 

Just like everywhere, one big element regarding the cost of living is to consume like a local. Forget the imported Camembert, enjoy the fresh mangos and avocados.

What is your favourite part about living in Mexico and what don’t you like?

I like the sun, the smiles, the food, the colours everywhere, the trees and cacti and finally the importance of traditions.

I don’t like Montezuma’s revenge…. I’ll let you look it up if you have not experienced it hahaha. Another thing is machoism Machoism…. it’s there, it’s everywhere, and I find women here to be very strong and brave.

What is your favourite local food?

It would be too easy to say Guacamole I suppose, although recently I came to realise that a lot of expats are not so keen on it.

The day after we moved to San Luis Potosí I discovered the enchiladas potosinas and by now I must have tried them in most restaurants that serve them. The corn flour is already mixed with chili, and the content is mostly tomato, onion and cheese.

It is simple, very flavoursome and often pretty spicy (and I am French, we don’t survive spicy too well. But that just how much I like them. I order them, grab a couple tissues, and ready myself for the shock. 😀

Enchiladas Potosinas

Can you share any funny/typical tradition from Mexico?

Everyone knows about Dia de los Muertos, so I should probably pass on this one. Also we have not been here long enough to experience it yet so I’ll keep that for an other time.

A couple weeks ago, at a party, my husband got to try his first Mezcal with slices of orange and worm salt (sal de gusano). I missed out on it (or maybe not…) but I tried the guacamole with chapulines, tiny roasted grasshoppers. It wasn’t bad once you pass the first hesitation. “A little too salty for me” is what I remember saying.

I think I prioritise sharing food experiences because Mexican food is very popular in restaurants all over the world, but once you come here, you realise you have been fed the wrong things all your life.

Coming to Mexico’s a big eye opener. It is 100 times better and more flavoursome than anything you thought previously.

What is your favourite thing to do in Mexico that people should do if they had 1-3 days there?

Now this is a tough one. The longer I stay, the more I realise how diverse Mexico is. There is a Mexico for every taste: cities, desert, grandiose waterfalls, Pacific ocean, Caribbean sea, modern, historical, ancient.

A stop-over in Mexico implies prioritising on where you are (it’s a LARGE country, you can’t just see it or cross it over a very short visit).

So for example if you land in Mexico City you can take a day to go to Puebla or Queretaro or even the postcard village of San Miguel de Allende.

If, on the opposite, you land in Cancun, you will be overwhelmed by the tourist trail offers of days out to Chichén Itzá or to local cenotes.

Going against the trail to see a more authentic Mexico on the Riviera Maya is actually harder. Take a day to go to the lesser known Mayan sites hidden in the jungle, like Muyil or Coba. Or get up very early and go to the gorgeous city of Merida.

Personally, up to now, the most fascinating part is the pre-Colombian history. Discovering the Mayans, Aztec, Toltec, Huastec and many more seems like THE thing not to miss.

blue Beach in Mexico

What was the biggest challenge for you once you moved to Mexico?

Getting my medical prescription. When you have health problems, and you live abroad for long periods of time, you cannot move overseas with an indefinite amount of tablets. So depending on people, and your doctor, you come with roughly 3 months worth of tablets, sometimes a bit more.

What I didn’t know, or had not  anticipated on, is that a medicine given to me back home, is not on the market here, it has not yet received the agreement.

A doctor prescribed me an other treatment of the same category here, but it doesn’t work as well. I guess, in that respect, I will be glad to go back home at the end of this year.

What is/are a fun fact(s) about Mexico most people don’t know about or expect?

The biggest surprise (and fun fact I guess) was that you can get cold in Mexico. The thought had never crossed my mind. One big reality of expatriation is that things are never as you had expected them to be. 

What would be your top advice for people who are thinking to move to Mexico?

Have a patient nature, or learn to be more patient. Things happen but at their own pace.

What is the biggest difference between your home country France and Mexico?

Cheese! Hahaha
More generally speaking, I would say in Europe each country is quite small. Mexico is quite a large (and long) country, with a large diversity of landscapes. Going anywhere is either a few hours drive away, at best, or a couple of hours flight away.

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