Greg and Dianne: ¡VidaMaz!
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Mexico, etc.
Greg and Dianne moved to Mazatlán, Sinaloa Mexico from Leawood, KS USA (Kansas City) with their 12-year-old son in 2008. Previously Dianne had lived in Kyoto, Shizuoka and Tokyo, Japan; Salamanca, Spain; and Mexico City.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
We started blogging about our experience the day we starting the drive south, on June 14, 2008. Originally we blogged for our family and friends, but readership quickly grew. Nowadays the blog is read by expats in Mazatlán, wanna-be expats, and is reblogged by hotels, timeshare and condo associations as well as, occasionally, by tourism and civic organizations.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My personal favorite is the post I did when our son graduated high school. Many people told us we were crazy moving to “dangerous” Mexico with a school-aged child. Thankfully, we are so happy we did, on every count.
Our most popular post is one my husband wrote, about the first time we crossed the brand-new, world-class, Baluarte Bridge (so tall the Eiffel Tower would fit beneath it).
Tell us about the ways your new life in Mexico differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Of course we experienced adjustment and transition to our new home. We had never before lived overseas as a family, and Greg and Danny had never before lived outside the USA. We left great jobs to gamble on starting a new life.
How does life here differ from back home? At home we were always in a hurry. We experienced the people around us as stressed out and working too hard to keep up with the Joneses. Here, we love being able to work all morning and then go out to the beach, put our feet in the sand, eat a freshly cooked fish that was caught that morning, and refresh our souls. We love our mix of friends, locals and other expats, and their varied perspectives on life. We love that people here still take the time to really care. They are not always in hurry; they will visit, chat, and help you out when you need it.
On the first anniversary of our living here, our son, who of course did not want to move and leave his friends, said to us, “One year since the best decision we ever made.” That said it all!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Mexico? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I am, by profession, a cross-cultural consultant. Thus, I would say we were very well prepared. We hired a Spanish tutor to work with our son several times a week for a year before we moved. As a family we talked about how our life might change, what might be difficult for us as we adapt, and how we could support each other. Once we moved, we frequently discussed how to create the life we wanted, how to adjust how we were doing things.
Having said that, cultural adjustment is rarely easy. There were plenty of times my son wanted to kill me because he couldn’t understand his homework. Then, one night about six months into our residence here, he went to bed and woke up speaking Spanish fluently. Me, I’m still waiting for that light bulb to come on!
My husband and I both experienced a few different periods where we felt like we were just never going to fit in or understand the differences. As long as you know such doubts are part of the journey, and remain confident that you will find your way, you will.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My personal favorite is tattling on my husband, but it was so funny. He used to wear a pedometer to count his steps. At a party, our “nephew,” a son of close local friends, asked Greg what the pedometer on his belt was. Greg said, in Spanish pronunciation, “pedometro.” Our nephew’s eyes opened wide. His mouth dropped open. “Really? A pedometer? How cool! How does it count them?” he replied, excitedly. You see, “pedo” is slang in Mexican Spanish for passing gas, and the boy believed my husband was proudly counting each time he passed gas every day!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Mexico?
- Be prepared for learning and change. Remember that life is all about change, and adapting to it keeps us young. Don’t expect Mexico to be “just like home.” Don’t waste your time and energy, or get yourself frustrated, trying to change things. Respect and enjoy the local culture, adapt to it and get involved in it. Mexico has a wealth of cultural riches and is one of the world’s most diverse countries. It’s also the world’s tenth largest economy. Enjoy it! Promise yourself to learn something new every day.
- Clarify your personal and family values, to help guide you as you create your new life. Reflect on methods of relaxation that have worked for you in the past and given you a sense of accomplishment—maybe it’s running or playing tennis; maybe it’s a hobby like bird-watching or photography. Then, be sure to take time to continue that in your new home. It will help you retain your sense of self while you adapt.
- Learn Spanish. It’s all too easy to get by in English if you want to. However, speaking even a bit of the language here will open doors to new experiences you wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. It will give you an independence you can’t have if you are limited to one language. You’ll make a broader variety of friends, and more quickly learn to understand why people here do the things they do, what makes them tick. It’ll be worth the effort.
How is the expat community in Mexico? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I find the expat community in Mazatlán very different from the expat communities in which I lived in Japan or Spain. Here we have a lot of snowbirds—people who come down for 4-9 months during the winter. It’s pretty cool; the energy of the city changes when the temporary expats are here, so we get to experience two very different versions of our city every year. Secondly, many of the expats here are retired, so they have a lot of time for socializing as well as for volunteering in the local community. In the expats communities worldwide in which I lived previously, we were almost all working. Thirdly, many international expat communities are fairly wealthy. In many major urban areas worldwide, a good portion of expats are sent abroad by their companies or work organizations and receive an out-of-country living stipend. Most people are here in Mazatlán by choice. Finally, the expats who work often aren’t very wealthy by international standards, because most of them are working for local wage. They do, however, have a very enviable lifestyle. Fresh fish, fruits and veggies are available at affordable prices, as is housing and excellent medical care.
How would you summarize your expat life in Mexico in a single, catchy sentence?
La vida es dulce / life is sweet!
Two phrases from the Corrido de Mazatlán, a famous Mexican song:
- “Life here passes without crying.”
- “Here, even someone poor feels like a millionaire”