Latin America Expat Blogger Series: Drinking the Whole Bottle: Guadalajara, Mexico
I connected with Jen though Instagram and asked to interview her for our Latin American Expat Series. I thought she would be a great contributor because she lives as an expat in Guadalajara, Mexico with her husband and two children.
Tell us a bit about yourself and why you wanted to start a blog!
My husband and I had been married one month and I was 7 months pregnant when we moved to the Dominican Republic. Drinking the Whole Bottle, started as a way for my family back in NJ to keep up with our adventure abroad, but the more I wrote, the more other expats, expat dreamers, moms or family travelers would message me and thank me for my insight or ask questions. I loved feeling like my stories and experiences were helping others. Since I started DTWB some years ago, it has evolved from a personal journal to a community that inspires others to live their life uncorked with humor, courage, and love.
How long have you been in Mexico? How long do you plan on living there?
We just moved to Mexico in July. With kids, we understand that we aren’t giving them a solid place to sink in roots so we don’t plan to move around every couple of years. Ideally, we’d stay here through elementary school so about 5-6 years.
Where did you live at before coming to Mexico?
My husband and I are both from New Jersey but we left the East Coast 7 years ago and moved to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where we lived for 6 years until moving to Mexico.
What made you decide to move to Mexico?
My husband is an international teacher and our last school only offered one tuition per teacher so with our son starting this year, we knew we’d have to look elsewhere. He applied and interviewed with several places but Guadalajara felt like the best fit for us. It was another Spanish speaking country, relatively close to NJ, and a country full of cultural and historical richness.
What was the visa process like?
My husband had to go to the consulate in New York City so we took advantage and stayed the night. He went back a few days later to get it. Since arriving, the school has taken care of most of that paperwork for the rest of our family.
How do you make a living?
My passion is writing but freelance writing isn’t the easiest way to make a living. So about a year ago, I partnered with the doctors that created ProActive to start my own skincare business that I work from home. We have a growing the market in the U.S and Canada and recently launched in Australia. It gives me a flexible schedule to work around my family and writing. I can run it from anywhere in the world and it has provided a comfortable extra income for our family.
What is the average cost of thing in Mexico?
Cost of living in Mexico is inexpensive but it depends on where or what you’re doing. We’ve had fantastic dinners – that compared to U.S. prices – are a steal, but for our budget is a bit much. We’ve also had some terrific taco lunches for our family of four for $5.
What have you learned since becoming an expat in Mexico?
I don’t know that I’d say I’ve learned this in Mexico but rather as an expat in general but I’ve learned to let go of your “truths.” Things that you know to be truth or law or certainties are not truths or laws or certainties everywhere. People live different lives in every aspect of life. Nothing is universal. There isn’t one way to live or one thing to believe. What holds true for you or where you live, doesn’t hold true everywhere else.
What is your favorite thing about being an expat in Mexico?
My favorite thing is the opportunity to explore and discover a country that has so much to offer. We’ve just started to travel more now that we’re settled in and there’s so much to do!
What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Mexico you live in?
Coming from the Dominican Republic where the rules were more “fluid” Mexico is a bit more strict.
What do you miss most about home?
When we first moved to DR, I missed the conveniences of stateside living but not anymore.
Now in terms of NJ home, I really only miss people. It’s hard sometimes missing weddings or big events but I don’t miss much else. Maybe Tony’s Pizza in South Plainfield. In terms of DR home, I also miss the people and the community we built there. I miss the laid-back attitude of island living and, of course, amazing beaches being nearby.
Do you speak Spanish fluently? What has your language process been like?
My parents are Cuban so I grew up speaking both English and Spanish, but I wasn’t confident in Spanish. Living in the DR helped and so did having kids. Both my husband and I try to speak to them in Spanish as much as possible.
What did you do to meet people and integrate into your new home?
Wine. hahaha. I find that wine is a great equalizer so I often tell people to come over for wine. Who says no to wine? Additionally, my husband is a teacher at an international school so there’s an immediate community pool.
What customs/habits have you found to be the most different from your own culture or have found to be the most difficult to adjust to?
Though I speak Spanish, many of the words or phrases they use in Mexico are foreign to me so I find myself knowing the language and yet not knowing it at all.
How do you feel that the people of Mexico see you? Are you treated any differently?
I don’t think they think too much about it. Maybe it helps that I look Latina?
What is a myth about your adopted country?
That it’s super hot. Of course, the beach towns and certain desert areas are stinkin’ hot but Guadalajara is quite seasonal. It’s cool in the mornings – really cool. In the afternoons it warms up and then cools down again in the evenings. And we’ve heard that it gets legit cold in the winter months. My husband kept telling me this when I was packing to move here and I didn’t believe him so I only packed one pair of closed shoes. Big mistake.
What is your favorite dish in Mexico?
Oh, goodness do we love Mexican food. I’d say that “la gringa” from Tacos Mariano has been my favorite thing I’ve had here hands down and a cup of avena which is like warm milk made from oatmeal.
What advice would you give someone when traveling to Mexico?
The same advice I’d give to anyone going anywhere: Listen to the warnings, be safe, but don’t let it hinder your experience. A lot of times, people are so scared to leave the resorts or venture out they never fully experience a place. I’ve done it too and I always leave feeling like I didn’t get the full experience.
Any fun facts about culture or life in Mexico?
Oh! One of my favorite things I learned recently was about the character La Catrina. We’ve all seen the images of a tall, elegantly dressed female skeleton donning a fancy, extravagant hat but I never knew she had a name and I definitely didn’t know what she symbolized. Catrina symbolizes the great equalizer which is death. Essentially that even if you’re rich and have it all, death comes for everyone. In the end, we all end up in the same place. We just came back from a trip to Guanajuato where they have a big Catrina festival for Dia de los Muertos and it was awesome.