Advice for New Residents
Frequently I’m asked to teach courses geared towards foreigners arriving in San Miguel to live. I already spend an inordinate amount of time explaining San Miguel as it is, and wrote a best-selling book on living in San Miguel as an ex-pat, so instead perhaps the following Reader’s Digest guide to starting a new life in town is more helpful.
I bought a home my first visit and moved my three kids down a month later to finish high school here, so I’m not a big one on renting to discover new areas. I’ve met folks on tours that moved every six months for years until they found their place. Between those two extremes, it really is what works for you.
The premier real estate is in centro as it has been since the Spanish set it aside for themselves centuries ago when forming the town. Lots of lovely homes and views farther from centro but as a general rule of thumb, the closer to the jardin the better off you are in terms of location, location, location.
That being said there are fabulous communities on the outskirts of town. The downside I see to living there is those residents then don’t come into town much. Hard to find parking, can’t drive at night, etc. are excuses that lead one to spending a lot of time at home. Wasn’t the point to moving to Mexico to experience new things?
Cost of Living
Naturally, the farther afield from centro you cast your net, the cheaper housing becomes. Conversely, I’ve a pal that will drive an hour away to get fruits and vegetables cheaper. I never point out the inherent cost in gas to buy cheaper grapes.
Auto repair, flowers, plastic surgery, etc. are all cheaper outside of San Miguel. Like being in Sandy Hook, NJ versus Manhattan, there are trade-offs to being farther from the city’s core. Plus, like Manhattan, you don’t need a car here.
If cost of living is your prime motivation for moving to Mexico skip San Miguel de Allende. Try nearby Soria, Escobedo, Neutla and dozens of other charming villages that truly are cheaper and remember, there are reasons for that.
I fell into the trap of my old habits and for years only bought groceries at the big box stores as I was use to that. Now I know to shop in local markets and treat a box store like a Costco, someplace I go once a month to stock up on heavy things like laundry soap, cleaning supplies etc.
I’m still surprised how many foreigners come to town for a few weeks and feel compelled to travel an hour or so to go to Costco. Really? How much ketchup can you go through in two weeks? Truly, everything you need is right outside your door. You may buy cold medicine pills or trash bags one at time, but it is there. Stock up at La Comer and enjoy staying in town.
I always tell new residents to spend your first year not getting involved in any gringo run charities. I mean, go to an event if it appeals to you but don’t delve into being a volunteer. You’ll be new blood and eagerly encouraged to be the President of whatever. Once there, you dig into the finances and realize the Mexican adage of “Gringos come to town to from charities that line their own pockets.” is often true. Discouraged, new residents blame Mexico for a bad experience. It wasn’t a bad Mexican experience but a bad experience with foreigners in Mexico.
Live your life and you’ll find lots of opportunities to give back without a middle man between your efforts and those that can benefit from them.
Plenty of Fish is where Mexicans go for on-line dating. For non-dating communications a general rule of thumb is Mexicans don’t cotton to web sites and email, as face-to-face communications trumps all. What’s Up and Face Book are close runners up.
Put yourself out there, have fun, try your best and your transition will work out just fine. The key is finding something you like and you’ll meet others with similar interests. For me it was history, culture and dancing that opened my world up exponentially. You’ll find your niches too!
Welcome to San Miguel de Allende!