Our Focus in Mexico days were all similar: the presentations started after a late breakfast in the hotel. Each presentation was led by a local expert on some subject of interest to an expat (tax implications, property ownership, immigration laws, culture, health care, insurance, driving, etc.). There was plenty of time for breaks and to have individual discussions with the presenters, to ask those “only me” type questions everyone has. The net effect was very even-handed; this was in no way a sales pitch. Speakers talked about the nitty-gritty aspects of moving to Mexico, and were very clear about the positive and negative aspects. Some examples:
- While the cost of living is generally less than in the US or Canada, if you insist on buying only the same products you had NOB (north of the border), you’ll quickly find your costs escalate.
- Electricity is fairly cheap, but you’re expected to use relatively little; exceed the norms, and your rate can quickly triple and hold at the higher cost for an extended period. This is especially troublesome for Americans used to leaving all their lights and appliances “on.”
- Buying or renting a house among the locals can save you a ton, but then you need to understand the challenge of dicey on-the-street parking or frequent festivals (which can involve loud bands and fireworks into the wee hours).
We broke for a leisurely lunch at different local restaurants, then returned for more presentations, some free time or siesta in the afternoon, and then got together for dinner and/or something cultural in the evening. Anyway, the net effect was to show that expat life in Mexico is not for everyone, but it was not as exotic as one might surmise, and to provide some tips on how to succeed. There wasn’t anything magic about the presentations, and you could find all the information provided on your own: but here it was, gift-wrapped and presented to you with ample opportunity to digest and interact. Probably the best aspect of the Focus program was the network of instant friends and relationships it fostered.
By the third day, the weather, friendliness, good food and wine was having the desired effect on Judy. As we sat in a presentation about opportunities to volunteer and do charity work locally, the speaker mentioned a local orphanage run by nuns, which always needed volunteers to come and hold babies. Judy leaned over and whispered in my ear “That’s it, I’m in.”
The last day of the program included an optional tour of different houses for sale/rent in the area, to show what your dollar would purchase. It turned out that both Judy and I had been eying the same hacienda-style model in a new, gated community just outside Ajijic. We had agreed, half jokingly, before we left on the trip that WE WOULD NOT BUY ANY PROPERTY while we were in Mexico. And here we were, seriously teetering on the edge of doing so.
If you lived here, you’d be home now
We did draw up the papers to purchase, but put the actual offer on hold until we could consult our financial advisor back home. And we might have to tell the kids, too!