- Speak the language. Learn to speak the language. Try to learn to speak the language. Keep trying. Hire a tutor. Take a class. Don’t give up and expect Spanish-speakers to understand you! Otherwise, you will stay isolated within the gringo community.
- Before driving to Mexico, sell your high-performance vehicle in the U.S. and buy something simple that Mexican mechanics know how to repair, like a Ford, a Nissan, or a Honda. I recently sold my 10-year old Saab 900s and bought a 2003 Honda CRV in preparation for my Oaxaca move.
- Visit many times (at least three or four) for at least several weeks at a time before you make the commitment to even rent in a particular location. Stay with friends. Talk to people. Get the “lay of the land.” Don’t let the romantic notion of living in Mexico — where it is warm, friendly and inexpensive — turn your head too quickly.
- Rent, don’t buy or build immediately. Start out with several weeks in the winter. Then, come in the off-season – during the rains or in the hot and dusty months. Know what you are getting into regarding the climate. It’s not pure blue sky and balmy days year ‘round.
- Create a base of friends and a support system before you make the move. Get connected with local cultural organizations or volunteer groups. For example, expats gather at the Oaxaca Lending Library for educational infrastructure, connection, and doing good in the world of Oaxaca.
- Expand your multicultural lifestyle and friendship circles – get to know the locals to appreciate and share history, culture, wisdom. Understand that you are a guest in someone else’s country. Treat all with respect and kindness.
- Understand that cultural competency means accepting things the way they are rather than trying to change them or make things “better” (in our own image of what is right). Mexicans know what is best for them in their country — they have been living this way for thousands of years. There is a lot we can learn from them without trying to “fix” it to suit U.S. standards.
- Stay open to adventure, to change, to the unpredictability of what each day might bring, to opportunity and who you might meet, what unusual delicacy you might taste, an impromptu invitation.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. Saving money should not be your primary motivation for moving to Mexico. It should be to expand your cultural competency, improve your language skills, and to stretch yourself through exploration and discovery.
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