The first best thing about living and retiring in Chapala and Ajijic is that you have a year round climate that allows you to make plans to do whatever you want everyday without taking the weather into account. We have seasons, but they are not extreme. The weather does not affect our social activities.
The second best thing about living in Chapala and Ajijic is the low cost of living. You could live really well or even better here than you might be able to in the US for less.
Third would be the cultural aspect; the fact that Mexico has such a strong culture and tradition. We have really nice cultural activities, music, and food. We have the tequila, the horse culture, and a strong emphasis on family and family unity. Mexicans do a lot of their activities together as a family. We are also open and warm to strangers, so for those foreigners who live and retire here, if they choose to dive into the culture, it becomes a huge, enriching experience.
Some expats tend to stick with their kind and don’t get involved as much and they still live quite well here. However, those expats who actively seek to learn more and be a part of the Mexican culture tend to have an amazing and rich experience. I find that as one of the best things about living here. I chose to dive in, I speak Spanish, I participate in the activities and that has become a huge part of my life. Being close to a big city (Guadalajara; about an hour or less away) but not living in a big city is one of the great things about living here in Chapala and Ajijic. We don’t lack for anything. Not only do we have a lot of shops and stores and services here in Chapala but anything that we do not have here, is available very close by. We have an international airport about half an hour away by car and that has hundreds of flights a day, coming and going to most parts of the world.
The downsides about living here is that Mexico is a developing country and so we do not have all of the infrastructure or street maintenance. Some areas do not have sewers; they have septic tanks. Everything may not be up to the same standards as we have back home in the US. The Mexican government is underfunded and they are slow in responding to things such as potholes on the streets or leaking water pipes. There is some corruption at the government level, which can sometimes impede the progress of the country as a whole. It can make some things annoying. It’s not a big part of a foreigner’s life but it can affect the way the government runs some things.
There is a lot of poverty here, which can weigh down on you sometimes. You cannot help everybody, you cannot change everything, and you cannot give everybody a great education and a great job. That is difficult for some people to see.
The concept of mañana exists here, which results in things not happening in a timely manner or in a punctual manner, which can be difficult for those of us who grew up in the US or Canada where being on time is a big deal. In North America, when someone says they are going to be there at 10 o’clock on Tuesday, they are going to be there at 10 o’clock on Tuesday. Here in Mexico, they could arrive at 2 o’clock, next Tuesday. That doesn’t work for everybody. Not all people adapt to not having a government that is willing and able to immediately improve or fix things. Some people cannot adapt that sometimes they cannot depend on someone to show up exactly at the time they said they were going to or finish something at the time they said they were going to. These types of things are probably going to be the deal breakers when you decide to live here in Mexico for the long term.
(Thomas Hellyer and family enjoying life in Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)