Reader Photo Request: Falling in Love with Mexico

Continuing with the Reader Photo Requests, Lisa of Seeking So(u)l asked to see a photo that represents the moment I knew I was in love with Mexico. (GREAT request!)

I can still remember the first time I ever saw Mexico. The summer after my high school graduation, I went to Acapulco to work as a missionary intern at a street child center and an orphanage. It was an amazing and extremely challenging summer that has lots of great memories for me, but that’s a story for another time.

I vividly remember the car ride that took me from the Acapulco airport all the way over to the other side of the city when I first landed. I was overwhelmed by the bay views from the highway, and as I rode along the Costera (Acapulco’s main street that goes along the beach), I instantly fell in love with the high rise resorts and the beachy vibe. Ever since that moment, I knew that tourism was going to be my passion.

Now, here I am in Cancun, another Mexico destination filled with beautiful beaches and immense resorts, working in the tourism industry just like I dreamed 8 years ago.

I combed through my Acapulco photos (printed, not digital… that’s how long ago it was) and couldn’t find a picture of the bay I fell in love with, so here’s a photo I stole from Google:

I love that city.

 

 

Should Immigrants Learn the Language?

**Note: When writing this post, I struggled with accuracy between terms like immigrant, expat, American, English-speaking, native English-speaking, Mexican, hispanic, etc etc etc. I did my best with the terminology considering that different definitions exist for many of these, so please bear with me.**

You know how in the USA, many Americans complain when hispanic immigrants don’t bother to learn English?

Turns out… Americans aren’t much better!

Over the past few years in Cancun, I’ve spent more time with local English-speaking (American/Canadian/British/Australian/etc) expats, and the fact that many of them do not bother to learn Spanish is a popular topic in the expat community. In my time in Cancun, I’ve known 5 English-speaking expats who learned fluent Spanish, myself included. A select few speak somewhat advanced Spanish, while most speak light conversational Spanish or just a few key words.

"Hola Jorge. Mucho gusto."

Personally, this isn’t something that bothers me. I feel like many immigrants tend to gravitate toward their own culture when they move to a new country, so whether it’s Mexicans in the US or Americans in Mexico, there’s often no need to learn the host language. In Cancun, almost all of the locals speak excellent English anyway.

It’s also interesting to me that while many Americans are angered by immigrants not learning English, Mexicans (at least the Cancun locals) really don’t seem to care whether immigrants to their country learn Spanish or not. On the contrary, most of my Mexican friends are more than happy to practice their English!

I’m not really trying to make any points here, to be honest. I just find it interesting that the whole “not learning the host language” is not exclusive to one culture.

Thanks!

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to get so many awesome and helpful comments on my post. Thanks to all of you for taking the time not only to read it, but to give your advice. I wanted to respond to all the comments, but it was too overwhelming to do in the comments section. So… I’m doing it here. 🙂

Foxy from The Fox Den said:

You know, that’s an interesting question… and thankfully one you won’t have to answer for a while! I think you can make it a point to surround yourself with happy people – or steer clear of negative people – no matter where you go. There are both kinds in every country. But I know what you’re saying… Mexico does have more of a laid back, happy-go-lucky attitude about it. But I feel that way about my life, and I’m here in the US.

Dear Foxy,

That’s EXACTLY what I said to Jorge about a month ago!! Crazy. I said, “Ya know… I think the key to happiness is surrounding yourself with positive people.” Great minds, right Foxy? Maybe that’s something to take into account… I mean, if applied anywhere, you could be happy in any country.

 

Ashlie from Ashlie’s Cancun Blog said:

It sounds like you are in a very good space these days. It is nice when you are feeling great about life, love, self, etc. I, too, have often considered returning to Canada once we have kids and I have played around with similar thoughts as you, the pros and cons. Don’t try to figure it all out just yet but rather wait and see how things play out. You make very valid points and often a Pro’s and Con’s list works but at the end of the day it may very well come down to what your heart chooses..wow–what a cheesy comment!

Dear Ashlie,

Thanks! I am in a great place nowadays. I can’t fault anything in my life, and it’s awesome. From the looks of your blog, you ain’t got much to complain about either haha. You’re so right… a pros and cons list can help you lay things out clearly, but in the end you have to go with your heart. *cue Disney music*

 

Brooke from Livin’ La Vida Garcia said:

wow, it sounds like you’ve already answered that. We are looking forward to moving our family to Mexico one day too! There’s lots of things that worry us about it, but hope it happens soon.

Dear Brooke,

Haha well, kind of. I know where I want to live now, but who knows what will happen in 2, 5, 10 years. It would be awesome if you moved your family to Mexico! There are a lot of challenges starting out, but once you get into the swing of things, it’s amazing.

 

Ronnica from Ignorant Historian said:

There’s nothing wrong with deciding that the fast-paced, success-at-all-costs lifestyle isn’t best to raise kids in (I agree with you, actually). In either place, you’ll have to fight for you kids, but against different things.

Dear Ronnica,

As an American, I grew up thinking that you always had to be great at something… or everything. My parents never pressured me that much, even though they always pushed me to do more (which I’m grateful for). I think it’s more from the culture: school, movies, TV shows, etc. Anything less than striving for greatness was mediocrity/laziness. Now I don’t see it that way. Here in Mexico, it’s just more about enjoying life, family and friends.

 

My gorgeous sister Sarah said:

well, if you stay in mexico and have kids, i will just have to move there and be “aunt sarah.”

Dear Sarah,

If you move to Mexico, you will become my favorite sister. (Right now it’s a tie.) I’ll add a guesthouse onto my dream home for you.

 

Leah from In Veracruz said:

I am sure you will know what to do as time goes on. It wasn’t that long ago that I would have never agreed to live in Mexico and now I can’t see myself living in the US again. You never know what life will bring

Dear Leah,

Right? 6 years ago, the last place I saw myself was in Cancun. Now it’s just home. One thing I’ve learned is that you can never plan your life, because God always has other things in mind. The best you can do is be prepared for anything.

 

Cheri from CheGo2 the Kitchen said:

you will notice this same disposition in a lot of non-1st world countries. coming from one, i guess since we dont have a lot, we tend to enjoy what we do have: family. we dont take things seriously. i mean, we have had the worst flood in the last 40yrs, and we’re waving at the cameras when it pans in our direction.

an option maybe you can raise your kids there, then send them to the state for college. you’ll know what’s best when that time comes

Dear Cheri,

HAHA! Yes. Waving at cameras in the midst of turmoil. I can see that happening here, too. In the States, whenever something happens it’s DOOM DOOM DOOM AND HATRED for decades later. I’m glad you brought up the college thing! That’s definitely a great choice, and will let them have great opportunities after they graduate. After college, they can decide what they want to do and where. Love it.

Or maybe we’ll move to the Philippines 🙂

 

The Drama Mama from The Scoop on Poop said:

I kind of agree with you. I mean I’m not hopping to move out of the US or anything but I think the general “unhappiness” here is because the country as a whole is so “rich” and everyone is so spoiled. I am glad that I have never lived in luxury. I think I am happier that way (Though struggling has it’s own stress too).

I remember once upon a time someone told me that Mexicans are very hands on people. If they touch you when they talk to you it’s because that’s how they are. I LOVE that. Studies show that touching is the most positive affirmation of love, so yeah, I love that.

Dear Drama Mama,

That’s kinda my theory too. I think humans love to have problems, and when everything is perfect, there’s a subconscious need to create a problem. (I call this the Lindsay Lohan Theory.) The more people have, the more they complain about it. Mexicans are hands-on people! Here you always greet people with a handshake, a hug or a kiss on the cheek, even when you’re just meeting them. As a “cold American”, I used to be annoyed by this. Now that I’m used to it, I see it as a great icebreaker and a great way to touch base with everyone when you’re at a get together. (Whenever I go back to the States and see someone I know, I always start to lean in for the cheek peck… then I remember I shouldn’t do that to acquaintances in the States, and I start to freak out over what I should do with my hands. haha)

 

Margaret from Single and Sane said:

Parents have a role in determining how much or how little pressure kids feel growing up. Now that you have lived in a culture where you don’t feel as stressed, you might be able to translate much of that feeling to life in the US – that’s up to you, wherever you live.

Dear Margaret,

Hmmm food for thought! I agree that parents are the most important role models. I think school has a large impact as well. One thing that worries me about the education here is that people don’t seem to push kids to do that well… copy pasting from the internet, and copying off other kids’ tests, isn’t really discouraged here. In Mexico it’s the norm, whereas in the States it’s unspeakable.  I’m not ok with that, and I’m not sure I want my kids learning that behavior, so that’s another thing to think about. (Sorry I’m a little off-topic haha)

 

TGalvan said:

I lived in Cancun for years and moved back to Canada 2 yrs ago….big mistake. Exactly like you say….there I never really had a worry or stress in the world, here that’s all life is. Just like you my husband is Mexican and we had talked about moving to Canada on and off and for a couple reasons we decided to come live back in Canada for a couple years. I think since the moment we got to Canada I have been counting down the days till we go back to Mexico.
We recently had a son and I now more then ever want to go back and raise him in Mexico. Family, friends lifestyle and way of life are something I find much more important in Mexico then in say Canada or the US. Here it’s work $ work stress and more stress, people don’t put that aside to really enjoy what is close and precious in life here.
I could go on and on on this topic but in the end to each our own but what I have learned from experience is that really really think hard about the future before you make big decisions and if you do that everything will turn out for the best!
Sorry for the rambling!! hehe

Dear TGalvan,

Wow, thanks so much for this response! That’s exactly what I’m scared of… moving back and then realizing things were just fine in Cancun. I feel like I’d have “backwards culture shock” or something. When I think about getting back all the comforts of the States I get all happy  (nice roads, Target, great shopping, drinking water out of the faucet, flushing toilet paper down the toilet, etc), but now that I’ve learned to live without those things for 5 years, I realize they weren’t a big deal to begin with (except Target). How could I live without palm trees, ocean breezes, keeping my windows open all day, walking to the corner store, spur-of-the-moment gettogethers with friends, fresh seafood… I dunno. Thanks for sharing. You really hit the nail on the head.

 

Julie M from Mommie Cooks said:

Great Post. I do agree that there are plenty of people in America that see the cup as half empty rather than half full. I think part of the problem right now is just the economic state we’re in. So many people have taken a hit financially and when you’re in a country where money is king, that can sour people.

What people here need to realize though, is that money is not everything. There is so much more that can bring you happiness. My hope is that as people start to adjust to the “new and less rich” America, they will find happiness in the joys of life and not the dollars in their pocket.

Dear Julie,

Hmm maybe you’re right… I’m sure a lot of what I’m seeing lately is financial woes, so hopefully it’s temporary. I hope people will stop giving money so much priority as well, but it will take time. It’s such a huge part of our culture. Money = success = happiness.

 

Becca from Bare Feet on the Dashboard said:

the pace of life is so different, and that makes or breaks your stress level. God is in control, no matter how many plans you make. i think y’all will figure out what is best for your familia. if you are content where you are, you can make it work for your future kiddos as well.

Dear Becca,

The slow pace here used to stress me out more! I got frustrated not knowing what time people would show up, getting stood up unannounced, having to wait hours before plans could be carried out, etc. Now it’s something I appreciate. Once you just accept it, it’s so easy to go with the flow. I’ve realized that things will always get done eventually. There’s no hurry to do it RIGHT NOW.

 

Salt from Salt Says said: (haha try saying THAT 3 times fast!)

I think that when the time comes for you, you are going to know exactly what to do and it will be the right decision. A lot can change between now and the time you have children. Heck, something might happen here that is so huge that I’ll relocate my whole family to Mexico.

Target is nice though. I would definitely miss Target.

Dear Salt,

That’s it, isn’t it? My life plans have never gone the way I thought (heck, I’m in Mexico for cryin out loud), so I guess I’ll just see what happens in a few years. Maybe the US will have another Great Depression. Maybe Mexico will be overrun with zombies or something.  Oh, Target…

 

Lauren from On Mexican Time said:

Hey amiga – I sooo get what you are saying!!! I always hear someone complaining about something back home, and here, rarely. I mean of course, well allll complain, but it´s different.

Also, one of the reasons I agreed to live here with hubby was that we could have our ¨dream¨home sooner. I could be a stay at home mom. Back in Calgary, Canada …. would have had to give up A LOT in order to get those things…. years, and years later.

You´ll figure out what to do when the time comes!!! Until then…continue enjoying life amiga!!

Dear Lauren,

Hola, amigisima! Yay! It’s NOT just me! People living up north DO complain more. Here we complain, too… but it doesn’t seem to let us down. A setback doesn’t put us into a depression, ya know what I mean? Maybe all the sunshine and seafood softens the blow haha I keep thinking about buying/building a dream home, too. When I picture doing it here, it seems like something we can get started on in 1 or 2 years, then build onto it little by little without accumulating much debt. In the States, it just seems like decades away, followed by even more decades of mortgage payments. Maybe I’m wrong or overly optimistic, but that’s the impression I get.

 

K from Michigan said:

You have time to think it over. But life in the US is stress and more stress!

Dear K,

*sigh* I suspected as much. Why is that? Do Americans just DO more than Mexicans? Or do they just freak out about it more?

 

Ang from Football, Sushi and the Pursuit of Happiness said:

Hey, thanks for the plug!

I’m glad you’re happy right now… just roll with it for a bit. Leave the future in the future and deal with it as it comes… or at least in a little bit. Happiness is fun, enjoy it!

Dear Ang,

You’re welcome! Cell phones while driving annoys the crap outta me. You’re right, life is good now. Maybe that’s enough 🙂

 

Megan from Twinsomnia said:

Gah, life in the U.S. is stressful. There is a reason I’m always saying I should move to the Bahamas!!

You know, you have all the time in the world to figure out what to do. You may change your mind once you have kids, or you may not. But the fact that you’re happy right now, with your life and where you are, is awesome. Enjoy it!

Dear Megan,

DO IT! Move to the Bahamas! I’ll go with you haha

 

Conclusion:

We’re just gonna save tons of money over the next few years, then decide where we want to spend it later on. Either way, there will be a guest house for ya’ll to come visit. 🙂

Thanks again, guys!

This is exactly why God is in charge instead of me

My girl Ang over at Football, Sushi and the Pursuit of Happiness had her own mini-campaign against texting while driving yesterday. I don’t have a car (yet!), but I have talked on the phone while driving a few times myself… and it was kinda scary. I can’t imagine what would happen if I were texting and had to focus on pressing buttons and correct spelling!

At my request, Ang made me this awesome button (which matches the flowers in my header… pretty cool, right?). If you want to participate, just steal the button, or shoot her a comment and she’ll make one in whatever color you want!

Anyway, on a completely non-related topic, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about life and happiness. I’ve realized lately that I am extremely happy with my life. Things couldn’t be better. I have almost zero stress (any stress in my life is related to my dogs, usually), I have a great job that pays well, I speak 2 languages fluently, I have hundreds of friends (as proved by my enormous wedding guestlist), I have an amazing family, I have an amazing future husband, I live in a city that I love… God has truly blessed me.

Most expats living in Mexico that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing (online or in person) have this same outlook. They tend to focus more on the joys in life, and they usually see the humor in bad situations.

Via Facebook, I’ve seen that such is not usually the case with my American friends still living in the States. There are many cryptic facebook statuses, working awful hours at work, self esteem issues, family stress, financial stress, and the list goes on. Not that they’re depressed… but they just don’t seem as happy. That was me, once.

Jorge and I had always planned on moving to the States when we have kids someday. I’m no longer so sure that I want to do that. People just seem happier here in Mexico. Everyday struggles don’t seem like such a big deal. Obviously Mexico has its issues, but I can’t deny that the lifestyle usually leads to a healthier outlook on life.

So what do we do?

Do we move back to the States once we have kids, where education is great (and pretty much free) and there are so many opportunities, but the culture seems to lead to stress and self doubt? (Target is also high on my list of reasons to go back.)

Or do we stay here, where a good education is gonna cost us, but the culture will allow our kids to feel more confident? I feel like here we’d also be more able to build a dream home in a great location. In the States, it could take decades, whereas here we could have it within a few years if we play our cards right.

I used to think I had to raise my kids in the States for the education. I wanted to give them every opportunity I had. Lately I’ve read so many blogs about Americans raising families in Mexico, however, and they just seem so happy. Maybe it’s not a bad idea after all?

Sorry if I’ve offended anyone, and maybe I’m generalizing a lot. I sincerely love both cultures, and the USA has given me so many opportunities. I love my friends and family there, and it has so many pros over Mexico. (That’s a blog post for another day!) But that’s just my observation, and that’s what’s going through my head as Jorge and I try to make these decisions.

At least we have a few years to decide (assuming everything goes as planned, which it rarely does in life).

Then again, maybe I just shouldn’t plan ahead anymore. Things usually turn out better that way (probably because God is so much smarter than I am).

If you’re still here, thanks for putting up with my random thoughts.