InterNations Featured Blog
Ted: No Hay Bronca
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Mexico, etc.
I’m from Michigan but spent about twelve years in Canada. I also lived in South Korea for two years. I moved to Mexico in 2010. I’m an English teacher at several schools here, including a university, and now that I’ve learned Spanish I’m also a translator.
I love being challenged, and I am presented with unexpected challenges every day – I just have to leave my apartment and head into the market, or a dive bar, or take a cheap bus trip to one of the countless interesting small towns in central Mexico.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
There’s a lot more to Mexico than the two extremes portrayed in the media. On one hand you have the beauty and glamour of places like Cancun, and on the other you have the very real misery of the drug war. I live in a different Mexico, a Mexico of average folks from a rich and resilient culture trying to make it in a tough economy. But the two extremes of Mexico, beauty and danger, are always just a right or wrong turn away.
I set up my blog No Hay Bronca last year before a two-month trip in southern Mexico and Guatemala. I’ve always enjoyed writing and had some stories published on websites, but I was tired of getting rejected on the paying ones. So I decided to just start writing for myself. I want to do more writing work, so the blog is something of an ever-changing resume, and in that sense it has been successful.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
A lot of my blog entries are just information – how to travel in Mexico, how to get a job, some advice about speaking Spanish, things like that. I’m happy to get that information out there, but my favorite blogs are about strange cultural things. A Drinking, Smoking, Womanizing Saint is about an important but unofficial saint in Guatemala. Mojado is about what I learned from people who had snuck into the US illegally.
By far my most popular post, the one that gets the most hits, is Top Ten Mexican Slang.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Mexico differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I can’t say that I experienced culture shock. One of the best things about living here that’s different from back home is the great variety of cheap fruit and vegetables. I drink freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice every day. If you like to cook, you will be in heaven. Everything you want is fresh, vine ripened, and probably organic. Beer is cheap too, even at soccer games and concerts.
Public transportation is quite different than the US; rather than an overpriced, inefficient near-monopoly like Greyhound or Amtrak, Mexico has numerous bus companies that go all over the country with big price variations. The best buses are more comfortable than airplanes, but then domestic flights can be even cheaper than those! If you like to rough it, like me, you can get a very uncomfortable and unreliable bus across the country for very cheap, as low as 20 dollars for a 20 hour trip.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Mexico? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’d done a bit of traveling in Latin America, so I think so. But when you live and work here you understand the economics of a developing country in a much deeper way. So I supposed that I would have saved more money before coming! I showed up practically broke, which made the job search a little stressful.
Studying more Spanish beforehand would have helped me, but then it’s terribly boring in a classroom. Being here you learn faster because it’s not a subject, but a survival tool.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
During the height of the Arizona immigration law controversy in 2010, a month or two after I got here, I was stopped by Mexican immigration at a bus station. They demanded my passport, which I didn’t have, but I had my Canadian driver’s license. The officer called in to check the records to see if I had overstayed my visa. All the while she told me about how she was glad I wasn’t American. She pointed to a very angry looking guy in a business suit they had also detained. She said he was American and had been rude with them, and even though his status was in order they were going to take him to the immigration jail anyway! Just imagine the horrors of that place.
So when they couldn’t find a record of me, I told them that they should look for my name under an American passport, being that I’m actually from the US. The woman was so embarrassed that they let me go!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Mexico?
- First, make learning Spanish a priority, at least some basics. It will go a long way.
- Second, try to be as open-minded and outgoing as possible. Mexicans have a deserving reputation of being very hospitable, but it is a two-way street.
- Third, though I hesitate to add to Mexico’s growing bad reputation as a dangerous place, make sure you talk to some locals about safety. Some places are quite safe, especially touristy places, and some places are extremely dangerous, like in the north. Know where you are and how to behave.
How is the expat community in Mexico? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Every time I travel to a touristy part of Mexico I meet lots of nice expats. Expat communities flourish in places like San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, even Mexico City. However, I live in a very unglamorous part of Mexico, so although I’ve made a few foreign friends, I certainly haven’t found anything close to community. That said, I have many like-minded Mexican friends.
How would you summarize your expat life in Mexico in a single, catchy sentence?
Your preconceptions of Mexico are all true but also lies - welcome to where cognitive dissonance is a way of life.