YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and from where did you move?
Rosa: I moved to Isla Mujeres in 1999 from the UK, then to Mérida in 2008.
YL: Why did you move?
Rosa: I decided to move to Mérida from Isla Mujeres, as it was getting expensive on the island and time consuming to commute every weekend to spend time with my husband.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Rosa: My husband originates from Mérida. At the time, it seemed like the obvious solution for me to move from Isla Mujeres to spend more time together to avoid the commuting, as he had his family and employment here.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
Rosa: In total, I have rented for 13 years, in Isla Mujeres and here in Mérida. Last year, my husband decided to buy a house. We live in a fraccionamiento.
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?
Rosa: No, not all! In the past I have been a jack of all trades and master of none, as the saying goes. I have worked in many places while living in Isla Mujeres, doing many things. I had my own home baking business in Isla Mujeres. I occasionally bake here in Mérida, but it is once in a blue moon now. Nowadays, I am a housewife. But to get myself out and about, and to feel useful, I like to help out fellow expatriates by explaining how the locals buy at the markets, as well as about the local and seasonal produce here. I do this once in a while, and it is a lovely way to meet up with other people in the international community in Merida.
YL: What are the most interesting things about living here for you?
Rosa: That is difficult to express. There are so many interesting aspects about living here. Life here is so diverse and full of contrasts. I personally enjoy the diverse range of fruit, listening to the old stories of Mérida, the traditions, the local festivals, the daily struggle of life, meeting people, the rural Mayan lifestyle through cooking and self sustainability. Lliving in Merida teaches me daily not to take anything for granted. I like travelling by bus, and immersing myself into the local way of life. The list is endless…
YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Rosa: Many things, again quite difficult to express. I cannot pinpoint one specific thing… all of the above and more!
YL: What do you miss from your “former life”?
Rosa: From the UK, I miss my parents, my brother, my family and friends. I regret not spending enough time with them when I lived there. I miss being able to get a hug here and there when I have needed it. I miss BBC TV! I also miss my friends in Isla Mujeres, which became like family to me for the 9 years I lived there.
YL: What don’t you miss from your “former life”?
Rosa: I cannot remember! Maybe snobby people… although as with every place in the world, you come across those people here too!
YL: What is your favorite local food?
Rosa: Everything is delicious, but if I have to pick something, I would say polcanes, torta de asado, áakat, salbutes, escabeche, pollo asado, cochinita, helado de guanabana y de saramuyo and agua de tamarindo. I enjoy the wide variety of fruit available at the markets. Really, the list is endless!
YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Rosa: Each time of the year has it’s own merits. From February to July there is an abundance of colourful fruit at the market. Autumn and Winter are also quite refreshing and full of festivities, and I get to put on my gloves, jumper and coat if it gets cold! I am looking forward to the cool months so I can grow cool season vegetables. Every time of the year has disadvantages and advantages.
YL: Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Rosa: No one comes to visit me! It is too far away to visit from the UK! Although, if my parents and my brother would visit, and if I won the lottery, I would love to take them to many places. I have four dear friends, who I met living in Isla Mujeres 12 to 14 years ago, who are from the United States. They come to visit México. I would like to take them out to the markets when they holiday here again, as all four of them have encouraged, motivated and supported me in my Rosa’s Market Tours. After their last visit to Mérida, they introduced me to a handful of expatriates who also have supported me and spread the word. I would like to take them to the markets and show them what I do.
YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Rosa: Last February, we had dinner at the outside terrace restaurant, I am sorry I do not remember the name of the restaurant, at the Holiday Inn here in Merida. My husband won a voucher at his work´s Christmas event for a buffet dinner for two. That was a lovely dinner.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Rosa: In a nutshell, every city, town, village is different for the tourist and for the resident. I remember when I lived on Isla Mujeres, and many people would say how lucky I was to live in paradise. Secretly, inside myself I would think ¨Goodness, you have no idea!” As a tourist, we see everything with rose-tinted glasses. The grass appears to be greener on the other side. As any resident who works and tries to make a living, we experience the positive and the negative aspect of daily life, which is true the world over. Living here and away from my place of birth, it has certainly made me appreciate everything I have left behind, and living not only in Mérida but in México has made me more sensitive to many aspects of local life.
YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Rosa: The majority of my friends are local, both in Isla Mujeres and Mérida. I must say, in the last 10 months I have met many lovely expats, who I look forward to seeing again in the future.
YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here? How is it different from doing the same thing in your country of origin?
Rosa: As my father says, you don´t go to México to save money! You earn just to get by. This is also my experience in the variety of jobs I have had before I moved to Mérida. Everyone´s experience differs. It is easier to open up a business if you have capital and comply to all the regulations, and it certainly helps if you have full command of the language. Working in México on local wages certainly makes you appreciate what you have.
YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Rosa: From previous experience, I can say that without savings, it is imperative to have a regular income here, as in any country. Many local families are living on one wage, which is why the housewife may sell tamales, bolis, ice, or whatever, while she also tends to children and the house. She does it to have her own pocket money. I have certainly learnt to adapt to this simple lifestyle without the frills, and to be entrepreneurial like those I see around me.
YL: Are your work habits different here?
Rosa: Yes, totally. As I have mentioned previously, this has been a true learning experience. I have total respect for many Mexicans and people the whole world over who have a couple of jobs to make ends meet. I am a housewife to a local man with a local job. Apart from tending to the house, I occasionally bake, but this tends to be once in a blue moon. Now I have found great joy in occasionally accompanying those who would like to know how to get around the markets, and experience first hand the interesting and remarkable produce which are sold in the markets.
YL: Did you speak Spanish when you moved here? Where did you learn Spanish (if you did)? Is the language barrier a problem for you in your daily life?
Rosa: I spoke Portuguese prior to moving to México, which helped slightly, but I must confess that I learned Spanish while working, reading Spanish magazines, books, newspapers and watching television. I had no cable vision or internet access, so I had no choice really. I threw myself in the deep end and learned to swim. I am very grateful for what I have learned, for now I can communicate with my husband, who doesn´t speak English. The problem sometimes now is how to explain myself in English!
YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Rosa: I forget more English words as the years go by. I get a bit tongue tied when I am asked to speak English or Portuguese on the spot after speaking Spanish for awhile! I will look at something, and forget how to say it is English, and then look really daft! I did learn a couple of new Mayan words recently: ”sats”, which refers to crisp items of food such as tostadas, crackers and sabritas which have softened or are bendy just like rubber. My husband uses Mayan words peppered with Spanish at home, and “me jen pák” is one I have learned, which means “currant tomato”, a native tomato of this region. Both of his parents speak Mayan, so I am constantly surrounded by Mayan words here and there. I also picked up a bit of Mayan living in Isla Mujeres.
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Rosa: I am a permanent resident. I have dual nationality, British and Portuguese, so for the time being, I do not plan to become a Mexican citizen.
YL: Have you traveled much within Mexico? If so, where and what has been your favorite location to visit? What did you see there that you liked so much?
Rosa: I have travelled most of Southern Mexico, but that was when I was backpacking 15 years ago. Since living in México I travelled to Chiapas regularly before moving to Mérida.
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Rosa: Generally quite well.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Rosa: Not long ago, I read an article speculating that by 2040, México will be on par with the first world in technology, social services, business and infrastructure. Let´s hope that the good prospects do not mar the local identity and still allow Mexico to preserve the true essence of the country, as well as the indigenous culture, while still enforcing equality and fairness in all aspects of life for all Mexicans, without palancas or mordidas.
YL: What are some changes you are hoping for in the city in which you live? Do you see any progress towards these changes?
Rosa: Purely from a personal point of view, here is what I would like to see: Frequent buses with handicap accessibility, better services for bus users without denying services to the handicapped, elderly and students. (Mérida offers free bus transport to the handicapped. My sister-in-law is handicapped and often, she goes to the bus stop to go to work and the bus driver takes all the paying passengers and forgets her, and she arrives late. So instead, she pays just so she can be “in line” with the others and not get left behind). I would like to see an improved recycling and rubbish pick up system (the garbage service in my area does not pick up organic and recycleable waste separately). I would like to see better telecommunications for the area I live in. I would like to see all residents not throw rubbish on the side of the road (Some have not paid their rubbish fee, so they throw their rubbish at the side of the road. Or the bus driver will throw his Coke bottle in the road. It seems I usually sit behind that one person who throws las mazorcas de elote or Coke bottle out of the window of the bus, usually a child and the parents says nothing!). I would like to see strict driving tests for car drivers and bus conductors (service with a smile would be nice too, as well as a limit on standing passengers. Oh, and it would be nice if the workmen would give up their seats on the bus for the elderly and the ladies!). I would like to see the city discourage the use of the mobile phone. Although it is an enforced law, many drivers still use their phones while driving and some forget to use their turn indicators. I would like to see better medical services at IMSS and Seguro Popular, a reduction in the waiting time, service with a smile, and prompt medical attention. I would like to encourage local employers to send their employees on refresher courses once they reach 35 to 50 years old, rather than letting them go, and hiring fresh-faced youths (straight from university) for half the salary. I would like to banish the plazas in the education system, and improve the education system, especially the exams. I would like to see solar powered public lighting. The list is endless…I will stop there!!
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
Rosa: Something which I have learned living in Merida… never make plans!
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Rosa: Aww! Just one piece of advice? I have a list! OK, here goes: Learn Spanish, and don´t be afraid to speak Spanish and make mistakes. If someone wants to understand you, even if they don´t speak English and you may speak a little Spanish, it is possible to understand. If you want to know Mérida, use the bus system. Don´t give up! There will be days that you will feel angry, frustrated, upset, depressed, sad or even homesick. Make good friends from all walks of life, have a wide circle of acquaintances. Everyone´s perspective is different. Regarding local cuisine, fruit and vegetables, and local events, if you don´t know, try it! Give it a go! This is the only way you will know whether you like it or not. Be patient, and give everyone and everything a chance. Never judge a book by it’s cover! The most treasured findings are often discovered in the most unlikely packages or places!
YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Rosa: Gracias por su confianza. (Thank you for your confidence)
YL: If there is anything else you would like to add for our readers (people interested in or considering moving to the Yucatan, former Yucatecans, people planning to visit for an extended tour…), please add it here:
Rosa: Learn Spanish. Get to know the locals. Take every day as it comes. Shop locally when you can! Give everything a go! Accept help and advice!