Humanities Information

Mexican Living: So You Want To Expatriate?

Expatriate wannebees often ask us how we managed our expatriation to Guanajuato, Mexico. They want to know how we overcame the seemingly overwhelming logistics of deciding where to live, if it's affordable, if there is reasonable medical care, how to find housing, can Americans find work, what about visas, and will the culture shock be too great to handle?

All of these questions are legitimate and answers are obtainable if you are willing to do the homework. If I had to narrow it down to two things that are the most important in your quest to expatriate to Mexico, I would say this: research and make an exploratory visit to the city of your choice.

First, take all the time you need to research the city or cites which you are considering. Read everything you can get your hands on--and more--about the regions in which you might be interested. The second thing is that, once you've narrowed your options down to the cities that most interest you, visit as many as you can afford.

This last suggestion, we have found, intimidates many with whom we've spoken about their expatriating dreams. If they aren't well traveled, fluent in the language, or gutsy enough, this thought is a little overwhelming. We found ourselves in the same boat when we reached the point of research overload and it was time to go and have a look around. We were scared but determined.

What we decided to do is what we highly recommend to potential expats--go to language school. This is the perfect way in which to experience the culture, learn some of the language, and see what the country is really like in a safe and controlled environment in the city in which you may want live.

Attending a language school and staying with a local family, in the cities you are considering as your new home, will have the following advantages:

1) You will get "three hots and a cot."

2) You will stay with a family, carefully screened by most reputable schools, who knows the cityfrom the inside out.

3) You will have the support of the local family and school in case you get into a jam.

4) You will be able to see and experience genuine Mexican living in a worry-free environment.

You will get "three hots and a cot". We made our exploratory trip to Guanajuato in February, 2003. In the school we attended, we arranged for a home stay with a local family. We had fine accommodations with an upper middle-class family. The family maid took care of cleaning our room and making the bed just as in a hotel.

In some cases, you can get them to do your laundry--for a small tip. All of our meals were provided so we didn't have to worry about finding restaurants three times a day. You have the option of eating out if you warn the host family ahead of time. The point is that all the arrangements for your needs are made through the school before you arrive. Most schools arrange to have you picked up at the airport when you arrive.

This is, in my opinion, a worry-free proposition. All we had to do is show up at the Guanajuato airport and there was someone to take care of us in a country we knew little about and with our having little to no travel abroad experience.

You will stay with a family, carefully screened by most reputable schools, who knows the city from the inside out. This is the perfect setup! If you are thinking of expatriating to Mexico, what better situation can you find but to be in the care of a Mexican family who knows the city--where to find a place to live, how to set up your utilities, which banks are the best, all the bus routes, moving services, handymen, maids to hire, etc. You can't beat this!

We stayed with a host family when we came to language school in which the man was an influential lawyer inGuanajuato who knew everyone and anything you could conceive of needing in your expatriating adventure. This was perfect for us and this could work for you too. Networking with the locals is what will smooth your way in your desire to expatriate.

You will have the support of the local family and school in case you get into a jam. I was a nervous ninny at the thought of just booking a hotel and showing up in Guanajuato to do our exploratory mission. I mean, what did I know about traveling or living abroad? Nothing! So having this support system set up through a local language school who found us a wonderful family with whom to stay solved my anxiety.

You will be able to see and experience genuine Mexican living in a worry-free environment. What better way to see what life is like in Mexico but to live with a Mexican family? You have virtually all your needs to taken care of, freeing you to explore with almost nothing to worry about. It truly was the most relaxing trip we've ever taken.

A final tip is to be sure and write some former students, listed on the school's web sites, to see what their experiences were at the school. Get a consensus, if you can, from the former students. We did this and were surprised that some listed on the reference page of the school's web sites were honest enough to mention deficiencies.

Check out the web site,, to get you started.

A good search-engine term to use to find additional sites is "Spanish schools Mexico". Type that in the search term box of any Internet Search Engine.

Doug Bower is a freelance writer and book author. His most recent writing credits include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Transitions Abroad. He lives with his wife in Guanajuato, Mexico.

His new book, Mexican Living: Blogging it from a Third World Country, can be seen at


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