Earlier this year, I decided to move from the US to Mexico, and the transition was very positive.
I've experienced better medical care, work-life balance, and general quality of life in Mexico.
The impressive street food, art, topography, and parks here have totally blown me away.
No matter where I move, I always enter the new journey with an open mind and heart, and I try to be understanding and accepting of customs that might be different from my home country.
Here are some of the things that surprised me when I moved to Mexico:
The weather is drastically different depending on what region of the country you're in
Many people think the weather is warm and tropical everywhere in Mexico, but the country has a varied climate.
The weather in Mexico City is comparable to a mix between San Diego and Seattle. It can be warm and sunny, but during the rainy season, the temperatures drop and the sun barely shines.
It's been a bit cooler than I expected, but I'm still very pleased with the weather overall.
In Mérida, the first city I stayed in before transitioning to Mexico City, the temperatures can reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit with high levels of humidity to match. I love the heat, but it's not for everyone.
Mexico has a diverse topography to explore
The landscape of Mexico has a little bit of everything, from mountains, volcanoes, and deserts to waterfalls and oceans.
Mexico City is at the base of a large bowl surrounded by two mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental. I can see the beauty of the mountains from my living room on clear days.
There are also 48 active volcanoes. The closest volcano to Mexico City, Popocatépetl, is about 43 miles away.
For many Mexican residents and tourists, another must-see destination is Las Grutas Tolantongo, a natural set of heated pools and springs. The water is heated from within the mountains and flows out for visitors to enjoy.
I can access many of the same shops and restaurants as I did in the US
If you're missing a taste of home, there are so many options. Since moving to Mexico, I've seen TGI Friday's, Chili's, Subway, Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse, Shake Shack, Costco, Walmart, and many others.
Popular stores like Forever 21, H&M, Tiffany & Co, and Louis Vuitton are also located around the country. It's a common misconception that all of these "luxuries" will be stripped away once you leave the US.
I personally enjoy going to more local shops, markets, and restaurants, but it's nice to have the option.
The traffic isn't nearly as bad as I expected for a metropolitan city
Before moving to Mexico City, I researched what it'd be like to drive there and concluded that I couldn't comfortably do it. It seemed extremely hectic.
Now that I'm living here, it doesn't seem nearly as bad, especially when compared to driving in New York. I haven't quite worked up the courage to try it yet, but it was reassuring to see that it's possible.
I haven't seen any accidents either, which is a drastic difference from generally seeing at least two wrecks a day in Arizona.
Drivers often make right turns from the left lane, and it's not uncommon to see many people cutting across various lanes. But if you pay close enough attention, everyone flows with one another.
Not knowing Spanish hasn't been detrimental to surviving in Mexico
One of my biggest worries about learning a second language is that people might judge or critique my speaking skills, as unfortunately often happens in the US to non-English speakers.
But not being completely fluent in Spanish hasn't been as much of a hindrance as I expected because many people live by the slogan "give a little, get a little." As long as you try, people will generally be open to chatting with you the best that they can.
I always try to speak as much Spanish as possible with others, but it's nice to know that I won't be ridiculed for any mistakes made along the way.
My Spanish lessons help with increasing my speaking confidence, but the kindness of others helps just as much.
Public transportation is easy to navigate and even has sections dedicated solely to women and children
Mexico City has a large public-transportation system. You can access just about any area of the city, which is a great perk since I don't plan on purchasing a car.
In an effort to minimize the level of sexual harassment women experience, the first few cars of the train are dedicated to women and children. This makes the ride feel both safer and more comfortable.
The bus system is also extremely reliable, with several centralized stops.
It's generally fine to shower and brush your teeth with tap water, but you can't drink it
While traveling to different countries with similar restrictions I wasn't cooking often, so I didn't really notice how hard they made life. Since relocating to Mexico, I've had to learn how to properly clean my meats and fruits.
Love is everywhere around you, and the PDA is off the charts
It's not uncommon to see couples straddling in the park or cozying up for an intimate make-out session. The love overflows in abundance and makes for a lighthearted, easygoing environment.
At first, the public displays of affection were a huge surprise to me, but now it's beautiful seeing how many people genuinely care for one another and aren't afraid to show it.
In nonromantic relationships, I've seen grandchildren holding the hands of their elders and giving them hugs and kisses. I've also seen parents swinging their toddlers between them, sharing laughs, and showering them with kisses.
There's an abundance of parks, one of the most famous being Bosque de Chapultepec
Even though Mexico City is a huge metropolitan area, there are plenty of parks spread throughout the city.
One of the most popular parks for tourists is Parque Mexico, which is home to live music, skating lessons, salsa lessons, dog training, and fitness areas.
Locals and tourists alike rave about the world-famous Bosque de Chapultepec, which is said to be almost twice the size of New York's Central Park. It offers paddle boating, museums, a zoo, and plenty of food stands for a quick lunch.
One of my personal favorite parks is Parque Hundido, which offers running lanes, a large dog park, and a floral clock in the middle of the park.
Mexico is extremely dog friendly
I always joke that you see more dogs than children in certain areas of Mexico City.
People treat their dogs like a true addition to the family, and many of them are trained to be off-leash, sporting the cutest shoes and accessories.
They have so much autonomy to run on their own, but I rarely see them losing sight of their owners.
The work-life balance is noticeably different from the US
It's always surprising how many people I see out on a random Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon spending time with their loved ones or working on their personal hobbies. For many in the US, that's a luxury.
Here, although work is still important, it doesn't feel like the center of reality.
More priority is placed on living and enjoying life as opposed to constant productivity.
Medical care is more affordable and accessible even without health insurance
Since moving to Mexico, I've prioritized my personal health. When choosing to see a dentist, massage therapist, chiropractor, or therapist, I've been able to make and schedule an appointment within a week or less.
This is drastically different from my experience in the US, where I've waited weeks to simply be referred to a specialist. As a Black person, I also feel medical care in the US is greatly lacking due to racial discrimination and prejudices.
It's affordable to see doctors in Mexico without health insurance, plus they've genuinely cared about the outcomes of their service and treatment. My doctors give me the space to ask questions, and they constantly ask how I'm feeling and whether everything makes sense.
It's a priceless experience to be treated with care and dignity, especially in a vulnerable space.
You can and should eat the street food
Some of the best tacos I've had in the city have come from street carts on the side of the road. Many mornings I walk to the park and grab a fresh cup of juice for about $1 and a chicken torta for about $1.75.
In my neighborhood alone, there are probably close to 30 food stands offering tacos, sandwiches and tortas, gorditas, elote, and freshly squeezed juice — all at extremely affordable prices.
A pro tip is to go first thing in the morning or at lunchtime to ensure that your food is fresh and hasn't been sitting out long.
There's a great appreciation for the arts
Mexican art is super vibrant and creative, as illustrated in the many street murals throughout the city and in popular museums such as the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Modern Art Museum.
So many of the people I've interacted with are writers, artists, musicians, and photographers.
As a photographer and creative writer myself, it's been one of the greatest surprises. The country has a special way of encouraging and inspiring you to tap into your creative abilities.
My skin color doesn't solely define who I am or how I'm treated
Being Black is a different experience depending on both the cultural and political views of the country you're in. Additionally, the treatment I've received visiting somewhere as a tourist is completely different from living in a local neighborhood.
In the US, I often felt as if I had a constant target on my back. Being Black in Mexico has been nothing short of peaceful, welcoming, and accepting.
The greatest surprise wasn't that people in Mexico were kind, but that my levels of stress and anxiety from living in the US have become nearly nonexistent.
I haven't once regretted my decision to move to Mexico
Expatriating to Mexico has been one of the greatest decisions I've ever made for my health, my career, and my overall quality of life.
I've learned more about Mexican and Mayan cultures, traditions, and daily lifestyles, and it's presented me with the opportunity to teach and consult others on what it's like to be an expatriate.
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