Yes, you can certainly get by in Chapala and Ajijic if you only speak English.
Ironically, a lot of people think that if they come here they will learn Spanish, they start and they have the will to learn, but they never learn because most people talk to you in English. This is one of the reasons why people come and stay here. If you ever have an emergency such as if you need to go to a private hospital, the receptionist at the hospital would speak English, the doctor at the ER speaks English, and the nurse speaks English, too. Expats don’t usually go to the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute), which is the Mexican healthcare service. Wherever you go for an emergency or wherever you go for something that you need, English is usually the language spoken.
I offer services for people who do not speak Spanish who need to deal with Mexican offices. As an example, we went to get the driver’s license of a couple the other day that were afraid of their exam because they were studying in English but the exam would be in Spanish. We traveled from Ajijic to Guadalajara, which is a very large city about an hour away. The exam is a computer-based exam. Of course, they had hesitation on which were the right answers but the exam was very easy. They provide you with a translator when you do the exam even if it is for a Mexican driver’s license. That’s very cool.
Sometimes people feel like when you need to process a document in a Mexican office, everything is really slow. It’s not like that anymore or at least, it is not like that when you go with somebody who knows how it works. Because if you arrive at a Mexican office and you don’t know what copies of your documents are required of you and you don’t know the procedure, it would take you longer but if there is somebody who could tell you the procedure, even if they don’t personally come with you, but if you know what to do beforehand and you bring the right documentation, then your transaction would be faster and easier. The clients I just wrote about had an easy time because everything was smooth and they didn’t take over an hour and half for both the written exam and driving test. They got their driver’s licenses so quickly and easily and were so happy about it that they decided to treat me out to lunch.
I know a lot of good restaurants in Guadalajara and Guadalajara has a good traffic system but you need to know where you want to go, so I always tell people to check Google Maps first before going to Guadalajara because just depending on your GPS is not a good idea. As a result, we preferred to have our lunch back in Ajijic. There was not even one Mexican in the restaurant where we ate in Ajijic. That happens most of the time. Ajijic is full of expats and tourists even now that it is not peak season. Half of the rental houses in Ajijic are empty now. That’s huge compared to how it is during wintertime. But even at this time, the restaurant that we went to had no Mexicans in it. The menu at the restaurant is in English and you will place your order with a waiter who speaks English. This happens in Ajijic but I couldn’t say the same for all of Mexico. This area is a bubble of protection for expats to live here and feel like they’re home.
(Concierge services offered by Luzma Grande, Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)