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5 Life Skills You´ll Gain Living in Mexico

One thing people overlook when considering a move to another country is what kind of skills they´ll gain.  Most people who consider moving abroad analyze things like cost of living, safety, schools and health care options, which are clearly important items to consider.  However, the one intangible set of items most overlook is the kind of valuable skill set someone gains when living abroad and more specifically, when living in Mexico.

Typically, when creating Top 5 lists, I build my lists from least to greatest significance.  Today, I´m going to start with what I consider to be the strongest skills you can develop while living in Mexico.

Negotiation Skills – If you´ve ever visited Mexico, you know there are a lot of opportunities to negotiate.  Whether you are bartering with a local vendor at a market, working the price down on the necklace on the beach, or negotiating with a boat captain on the cost per hour to take your family to see the whales, you want the best deal.  There are many parts of the world where bartering is still a way of life.  Mexico is certainly no exception.  As someone looking to relocate to Mexico, you should know this is a big part of daily life.  And you must be on your A+ game.  Some of the daily encounters you may have are with your newly hired housekeeper, the tuition at your kids school (more on this in the next blog) and of course, rent.  Each of these are just a sample of encounters you will have as a new arrival.  Don´t expect to negotiate the price of a new car at a dealership, you will be spinning your wheels, figuratively.  Not many salesmen have the authority to budge on the price in Mexico.  If I can provide some guidance for you, aim at 30% whether you are buying or selling.  Meaning, if you are buying, try to negotiate a price 30% lower than what is offered.  If you are selling, keep your price a minimum of 30% above your bottom line.  The majority of locals have been playing this game their entire lives and they will be better than you.  But only until you learn the trade. 

Learning Spanish –  This is an important skill set.  There are 22 nations in the world that list Spanish as their official language and Mexico is one of them.  Although English is spoken in some international business settings and most tourist towns, Spanish is still largely dominant and needed in daily life.  Too often I see expats relocate to Mexico and never the learn the native language.  This is an ongoing problem.  The challenge is most expats who move to Mexico reach for their comfort zones and attach themselves to the expat community rather than saturate themselves with locals.  This often happens with no ill intent, it´s just easy to gravitate towards people who may already have a common interest with you.  Many new arrivals obtain jobs at resorts with other expats.  Many have children who enroll in bilingual schools, which leads to meeting other expats.  Nonetheless, its such a great benefit to learn Spanish.  As a resident in Mexico, many of your daily operations will require Spanish.  This includes working with your company´s human resources, paying bills at a physical location, dealing with banking institutions and buying groceries.  Although you may pass with knowing the basics, it will certainly make your life easier if you invest some time and learn the language. 

Metric System – Learning the metric system is listed as #3 because most of the world already uses the metric system.  In fact, according to a quick Google search, there are only three countries in the world, that don´t (Myanmar, Liberia, USA).  Canada used to be one of them, however, they slowly converted to the metric system in the early 1970´s.  So, this section is primarily targeted towards Americans.  American were indoctrinated with the Imperial system of measurement at an early age, so moving to Mexico and learning a new system can be an adjustment.  As an American myself, it took me a few years to fully understand that the Metric system is actually the most widely used system in the world and certainly the official system in Mexico.  I remember the first time I ordered sliced turkey from the local market in Puerto Vallarta. I ordered 1 kilogram of turkey breast.  Well, for anyone that knows kilos, this is enough for 3 weeks of turkey if I ate it every day and for every meal.  To put this in perspective, 1 Kilo=2.23 lbs, which is a lot of turkey.  To this day, 13 years after moving to Mexico, I still look at prices at the local gas station in liters, convert it to gallons (1 gallon=3.8 liters) and compare prices in Mexico to prices back home to get a sense of how “cheap” gas is.  The Imperial system is forever imbedded in me, however, learning the Metric system is life changing.  It provides a new system to learn and makes you far more versatile in international travel.

Adaptability – This skill set is a little harder to explain if you don´t already live in Mexico.  Adaptability may be more considered a trait rather than a skill set, but I´m going to list it as a skill in Mexico.  I want to list this as a skill set because sometimes things just don´t work out as expected in Mexico and you have to adapt.  I don´t mean to alarm anyone but I´m speaking in terms of daily appointments, functions and activities.  Mexico is well known for its culture of ´mañana´ which directly translates into ´tomorrow´.  Although it has gotten better in my 13 years living here, somethings just won´t change.  You always have to have Plan B in Mexico.  For example, you are going to find Mexico has more federal holidays than anything you have ever experienced.  Imagine you have a full-day planned in Puerto Vallarta.  First, you´ll go to the bank and make a deposit.  Next, your headed to put the electricity bill in your name.  Then, you´ll stop by the immigration office to finalize your work visa.  Guess what?  Its Benito Juarez Day.  All government business will be shut down.  Now what?  The truth is there are so many days like this throughout the year, it becomes humorous, but you just have to adapt.  It’s not going to change.  Its best you find something else to do that´s productive, or just go to the beach and have a margarita. 

Persistence – In addition to adaptability you have to be persistent in most all your activities.  Since there is not a huge sense of urgency within the culture in general, you have to work extra hard and stay on top of things to get things done.  This can go from trying to get an interview to checking when your new credit card will be delivered.  There is not a lot of follow up in the country, so you will have to.  This means calling or emailing potential employers about a new position.  It means calling the credit card company every day to see if there is an update on your credit card delivery.  You may have to call the car shop working on a repair every few days to generate some urgency.  It’s a fact of life if you live in Mexico and a skill set you´ll have to acquire if you don´t already have it.  In the greater scheme of things, these examples are all first-world problems and easy to overcome.  Its just good knowledge to have for anyone interested in a lifestyle in Mexico.

In sum, I hope my list and experiences help provide some insight into life in Mexico. If you have any comments or opinions about this blog please leave comments below or email me directly at josh@ventesmexico.com

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