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Working Gringos

The following is the first of a series of interviews with expatriates living in the Yucatan. We decided that in all good faith we couldn’t ask our friends and acquaintances to answer these questions if we hadn’t answered them ourselves. So we are our first interviewees:

YL: When did you move to the Yucatan, where did you move from and why did you move here?

Working Gringos: We moved from California in January of 2002. We had recently lost our jobs at an Internet development company and were trying to start our own thing when the World Trade Center in New York was attacked. That put a stop to just about everyone’s business development. For a long time nobody wanted a website and every business in our industry was laying off, not hiring. We had to find work and we had to move to find it.

We call ourselves dot bomb refugees.

We ruled out the San Francisco bay area and other major technology centers because there was a surplus of workers and the cost of living there was too high. We ruled out Bakersfield and many other inexpensive places because, well…, if we need to explain then you wouldn’t be reading this.

We finally decided to make a virtue of necessity and cast our net world-wide. Thanks to the world wide web we could do that more easily than ever. We made a short list of what we wanted in a new home. Here it is:

1. A place were we can make a living
2. Beautiful house we can own outright
3. Tropical and/or European ambiance
4. Close to scuba diving
5. Learn a second language
6. Live more lightly on the planet (our private code phrase for “eco-friendly and cheap”)
7. Be within a day’s flight of our family

YL: Why did you choose Merida over other places in the world?

Working Gringos: It met all of our criteria and more. We’ve traveled around the world. We thought of Tuscany, Bali, Costa Rica, the island of Roatan, but none of these quite worked for us. The combination of Mayan, Spanish, Caribbean and Gulf cultures makes Merida unique. It’s also the closest place to the U.S. that is the most unlike it. And you can make a living here and live for much less.

YL: Did you know you were going to be working when you moved here?

Working Gringos: Yes, we essentially moved our nascent Internet development company here, bringing all of our computer and photographic equipment with us. Besides, we’re not sure what retirement looks like.

YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here?

Working Gringos: We are doing more than we intended. We figured we would make a few websites for people, live on less, and give ourselves more free time. Wishful thinking. There has been much more demand for website development here than we anticipated, as well as photography.

YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision (either way)?

Working Gringos: We bought two houses. We found a renovated colonial-style house where we live now using the Internet. It was another reason we moved here. Another smaller house was recommended to us by the real estate agent here and we turned it into an office. Considering how much these properties have appreciated in value, we think we did the right thing by buying right away. But we do see the value in renting first and getting to know the area before making a commitment.

YL: Now that you live and work here, how do you like it?

Working Gringos: We’re never bored!

YL: Would you ever go back?

Working Gringos: We go back at times to visit family. One of us would consider going back if we were suddenly left alone here… but we would always keep one foot here, even if we did go back. Mexico is home now too. We would rather have our family move here. Then there would be little or no reason to go back, except for the occasional bookstore craving (see below). But can you ever really go back? So much has changed in the U.S. since we left…

YL: What are the most striking differences between living here vs. living there (wherever you came from)?

Working Gringos: Socially, the Yucatan is a lot more forgiving. It feels like people here have more liberty, that there is a wider range of opinions and backgrounds. It’s not as culturally homogenous. It’s also very, very affordable. We were being “gentrified” out of our little town in California. But Yucatan, as Ry Cooder would say, “is a poor man’s Shangri-La.”

YL: What do you love about living here?

Working Gringos: Not pumping our own gas or having to compare gas prices (they are all the same here), paying taxes monthly (it’s so much easier), the people, music in the streets at night, tropical weather, weekends at the Caribbean, the diverse culture, the food, learning a new language, the VIP movie theater, our friends, the list goes on…

YL: What do you miss from your “former life”?

Working Gringos: Browsing in bookstores, Starbucks Gingerbread and Pumpkin Lattes (coming soon to Yucatan!), hiking in the mountains, ginger Altoids, huge selections of black tea at the grocery store, Trader Joe’s… It’s always something. But we’ve lived here long enough that when we’re back in the States for very long we miss things like fresh habanero salsa, not looking over our shoulder all the time when we’re driving (avoiding speeding or parking tickets), Yucatecan food. It’s an ever-growing list… and there is something about the Yucatan that we miss when we’re not here, but we can’t put our finger on it. Must be the magic.

YL: What is it like owning and running a business here?

Working Gringos: It’s easier than we expected. Demand is high and competition is low. If you’re not engaged in a business that has a long tradition in Mexico, then your chances of success are exceptional.

There is some red tape at the beginning. You have to apply for and maintain the correct visa. You have to itemize any equipment you bring into the country and prove it was either taken back out or destroyed, in other words, that you didn’t sell it and dodge import taxes. These days, we just buy our equipment here. Dell, Apple, Canon, etc. all service Mexico. You also need a good lawyer and accountant to watch your back. It’s nearly impossible to understand Mexican tax law, but isn’t that also true in California? It was for us; except our lawyer and accountant there charged us about 10 times more.

YL: Do you have to do more than one thing to make a living?

Working Gringos: Many people do. It’s a tradition here to maintain many different sources of income in case one of them falls on hard times. It’s Mexican job security. We probably have four or five different sources of income, but they are all related to marketing somehow.

YL: Do you work as much as you used to “back home” or are your work habits different here?

Working Gringos: We work more than ever. At the moment, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. Some of the demand is probably related to the times we live in. The Internet was made for places like Yucatan, which is historically remote and unknown.

On the other hand, we don’t have to work in a cubicle battling office politics in some sprawling corporation, wondering if what we’re doing even makes a difference. The work here has been more fulfilling. And we can and do take a day off here and there to go exploring or to enjoy a long weekend on the Caribbean. We also seem to have more of a social life here than we did in California, because people take more time for people here.

YL: Is Merida different for residents than it is for tourists?

Working Gringos: Yes, as residents we see a lot of different areas around Merida that tourists rarely visit. We see the modern side of Merida as well as the remote Mayan villages and “undiscovered” ruins, beaches and haciendas. We’ve been invited to many social, cultural and private events that tourists don’t encounter.

YL: How is your Spanish?

Working Gringos: We’re getting there. We can make it in almost any situation without a translator. We don’t sound very good, but at least we can understand people and make ourselves understood most of the time. The people here are very helpful, too. We can’t imagine trying to learn a second language in France, for example.

YL: Is the language barrier a problem for you in your day to day life?

Working Gringos: No, not a problem… an opportunity. Really! We learn so much more through the process of taking down the barrier. One interesting thing about the Yucatan is that the majority of people here speak Spanish as a second language. Their first language was Mayan!

YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone just moving to the Yucatan?

Working Gringos: Be open to magic… it lives here. And if you have a problem with ants, get over it.

YL: Are you a Mexican citizen?

Working Gringos: Not yet.

YL: If you aren’t, do you think you will become one?

Working Gringos: Yes.

YL: Why would or wouldn’t you?

Working Gringos: If one passport is good, two are better. And being a citizen means we don’t have to do the visa renewal thing every year.

YL: How are you treated by Mexicans?

Working Gringos: Embarrassingly well, considering how we treat Mexicans in the United States.

YL: Do you feel resented or welcome?

Working Gringos: 99.99% welcome. While there may be more prejudice against gringos in the Mexican border towns, we don’t feel anything like that here. We’ve even heard locals say that gringos treat Yucatecos better than they treat each other. We think that means we aren’t as codo (cheap).

YL: What are your plans for the future here?

Working Gringos: One day at a time. The magic works better that way.

YL: Do you see yourself staying?

Working Gringos: Way’a no ne (why ah NO nay). It’s Mayan for “here we are”.

YL: Do you see your business growing?

Working Gringos: Only as much as we want it to. We’d like to work a little less and enjoy this city and country a little more. There is so much of Yucatan and Mexico left to discover!


Yucatan Living will be bringing you more expatriate interviews in the future. We welcome your comments and any other questions that you have for the people living in the Yucatan.

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60 Responses to “Working Gringos”

  1. I just discovered your blog this morning when I searched for “Merida Mexico tattoos”. How’s that for strange?

    Where is your business? I would like to stop by for a visit, if that would be alright.

    I sold almost everything I owned in the U. S. and moved to Merida in October of last year with plans to stay for at least one year, during which I will decide if I want to stay. I selected Merida for many of the same reasons you recount in the “interview” and have had no regrets, either of leaving the U. S. or of deciding on Merida.

    I was very fortunate to have made contact with my great landlord and to have arranged an apartment in a great, walking distance location in Centro, outside of the heavy tourist and gringo areas.

    Tengan buen dia,
    Chris Brown

  2. Thanks for interviewing yourselves! This was a great read. I spent several of my formative years in Bakersfield, so I really understand how the search for a place like Merida became a thing of necessity! :)

    Well, you two just seem like nice people, and it sounds like Merida is lucky to have you + the other way around. I hope to discover as much about Merida as I can in the 8 months that remain for me here… but already (after 1 month) I’m noticing major quality-of-life differences that I know will make returning to life in Washington DC something of a challenge. Your example helps me see that there are many options out there. Thanks!

  3. As a Mexican, I am interested to hear your views on Mexico and on the new lives you have found for yourselves there, and in many ways I welcome them. However, I find your mindless fawning over the socialist revolutionary ‘Sub-Comandante Marcos’ to be utterly repugnant (Lenin’s term, ‘useful idiots’ springs all-too-readily to mind) and cannot let it go without comment.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Mexico has already had one socialist revolution. It left the country a poverty-stricken backwater for almost 100 years and led to the deaths of 1/10th of the total population (one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history). It led, in fact, to the very conditions in which the Indians find themselves today – conditions which I’m sure you condemn. The very last thing it needs now is another such war (bear in mind that to date Marcos’s actions have resulted in the deaths of almost 1,000 people – mostly indigenous – and could easily lead to many thousands more).

    Mexican society is both complex and fragile and there are no easy answers to many of the problems it faces. One thing, however, is certain – the solution does not lie in further socialist experimentation. The indiginous people may not articulate this fact for themselves, but they know it implicitly. That is why thousands of them risk life and limb every day of every year trying to escape to the USA where socialism has – thankfully – never been able to gain a strong foothold; and it is why none of them – not one! – ever tries to escape to Cuba where they have had a revolutionary leader in the Marcos mould for almost half a century, with all of the destruction of life, liberty and property which that implies.

    Of course, like the prostitute of yore, you (through your blog) are in the extremely privileged position of having power without responsibility, and were Marcos and his ilk ever to attain their goals, I have no doubt you would quickly escape the ensuing carnage by returning to the USA where you would waste no time bemoaning the slaughter back in Mexico and claim it was all Uncle Sam’s fault in the first place.

    If your interest in seeing an improvement in the living conditions of the Mayans is a genuine one, then I would ask that you rethink your support and commitment of Marcos and his cause. Remember, you are but interlopers in Mexico – old-fashioned colonists, if you will – and your meddling in the politics of my country today is no more appropriate than when it was done by other Americans in other countries like Chile, Guatemala or Nicaragua in times past.

    I trust you will have the integrity to publish this post and welcome any comments you might have about it.

  4. Socialist revolutionaries AND interloping colonizers? That sounds difficult. We must really be Working Gringos!

    However, it is against Mexican law for a foreigner living here under a residence visa to participate in the Mexican political process, and we don’t. We are not fawning or campaigning; we are experiencing. And when we think it will interest our readers, we write about it.

    Nobody would deny that Marcos is a world-famous and controversial figure. Some call him a human rights leader. Others see him as a threat to society. But if Marcos is such a threat, why is the Fox Administration (which we generally admire) protecting him as he travels through Mexico? Where we come from, Marcos would have been scooped up years ago and sent to Gitanamo Bay.

    We’ve studied history. It is intolerance and repression that bring revolution, not any particular political dogma. Porfirio Diaz held onto power ruthlessly and lost touch with the governed, just like King George, just like King Louis XVI, just like all those who have brought revolution on their countries.

    But modern Mexico’s toleration of a wide range of political opinions and expressions of dissent is proof of a healthy democracy.

    It’s what liberty looks like, and we like the experience.

  5. Whoa! That was quite a rant there…

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that i’m proud that my city could make you feel at home :)

    Keep working, gringos ;)

    Email me if there’s anything I can do for you

  6. I’ve so enjoyed reading ALL of this post and think it is wonderfull that each can share a divergent opionion and do so respectfully. I wish that were the case in much of the US.

    I am about to do the inadvised and nearly unthinkable… sell my home and leave my world here, as it is just to miserable to continue. I am a nurse by training, got injured last fall at work and as a result have lost nearly all my possessions, have next to no heat thru the winter and have had to borrow from friends to buy food and pay utilities. It is nearly incomprehensible in such a “developed” country that this could happen. Because I returned to work I lost my benefits, then I had to quit the new job for surgery. Alas the surgery was cancelled due to equipment trouble and can’t be rescheduled until august or perhaps sooner on waiting list. I unfortunately don’t qualify for any assistance because I tried to go back to work, and I am “too much of a liability risk” to get hired now.

    In comparison to many residents of the USA I’ve not got it so bad. I cringe when I think of the hurricane victims and survivors. At least I own a home to sell, and can muster the means to get out. Mexico has many challenges ahead, but I can testify they are no worse than those facing the States. The heritage of community in Mexico I hope will help to maintain a balanced and sustainable development.

    Am getting off soapbox now, thank you for suffering thru this missive.

    Hope to see you all in September.

  7. I loved reading your auto interview. I’ve lived in Merida a couple of years in the 90′s and was just as delighted as you guys are. I’m living in Bangkok now but I’ll always have great memories of ‘ The White City “. Hey, why else would I be visiting your site?

  8. I just have a question. I have been exploring this idea of living in Yucatan. But my husband and I are folk artists with a home gallery in Arkansas. He is also an artist jeweler. He is basically disabled due to health problems, Diabetes, Heart. He has a college degree and I am just short of one. We are fifty-four and sixty. I work part-time in Infant care in a Montessori school. We are not really skilled labor nor do we have impressive resume’s. We could sell our home and come out good. But could I earn a living there that would support us doing child care or something similar?

  9. Dear Lily,

    Your question is difficult to answer. It depends on the lifestyle you want to maintain, what part of the States you are coming from, and your ability to adapt to a new language and culture.

    There are many different socio-economic levels in Merida, so it is not difficult to create an affordable place for yourself here. But you may find yourself going through a lot of changes before you do and it helps to have a spirit of adventure while doing it.

    We sold our house in Caifornia, paid off our debts and bought a house here in full. We set aside enough cash to live for two years while we started up our business. Without debt, we felt we could easily live here on $24,000 a year. Many live here on less. It took less than a year for our business to become profitable, so our cash reserve was more than adaquate.

    It doesn’t really matter if you have a resume or a degree because to work here as a foreigner, you generally have to own and operate your business and employ yourself. We can imagine making a living by providing childcare to the expat community and perhaps the more upscale Meridanos in the northern part of the city who want to expose their children to English. We can also imagine a business providing doggy day care and dog walking to the expat community. If you choose the latter, call us when you get here!

  10. I live in Florida in a nice neighborhood and am a bi-lingual (Eng/Span) Paralegal by trade. I live in a nice bayfront home here and just had a hike to my property taxes of $4,500 and $4,000 for insurance annually, I am selling everything I have and leaving this place. I like the states, but my husband and I can’t seem to live life eventhough we make pretty decent money. I feel like all we do is live to work and not work to live. I want to leave before my 40th b-day and that is June, ’07. What do you suggest?

  11. Can you provide some information with regard to American schools for my kids. That was not something that was addressed on your website, which is excellent by the way!!!

    Thanks for all the great info.

  12. Dear Ellie,

    If you’re bilingual, you’re already one step ahead of most of us expats in Latin America. And from our brief research, it appears that your profession is “Internet-portable”, so if you established a more economical standard of living in Mexico, you could probably offer a more competitive rate to one or more law firms in the U.S. and work over the Internet. We call this voluntary off-shoring.

    Our children are grown, so we haven’t focused as much on that issue, but we will research the school situation and post an article soon. In the meantime, we know a family with three school-aged children who are investigating a move and are in Yucatan as we speak checking things out. Their blog is

    Buena suerte!

  13. Dear Gringos:
    I have my mouth wide open (con la boca abierta) reading about you. Since my son “discovered your site”, I haven’t stopped. For starters I am Meridana. I have lived most of my life in California (about 40 Years) and I have to admit that you gringos know more about my hometown than I do! My husband is an anthropologist and also Yucateco, but he is more americanized. His dream is to work in the fields in the Mayan ruins, I guess he will when we retire which is coming soon. Isn’t it amazingly funny? Americans going to Yucatan to make a living and Yucatecos (like us) coming to the States for the same reason. The worst is finding my way back to Merida thru YOU….I can’t believe the mysteries of life.One thing I know for sure: GOD is everywhere.

    Thanks so much for your example. I already like you and consider you my friends. I hope you will feel likewise someday.

    Truly amazed,
    Genny M/La Peregrina

  14. Hola Genny…
    It is interesting that at the same time that Mexicans are going to the US for economic opportunity, many Americans are discovering the opportunities for a better life in Mexico. We’re happy that our site helps to bring you closer to the Yucatan and we look forward to meeting you when you come to visit or come back to live here!

  15. Re: Would you ever go back?
    “But can you ever really go back? So much has changed in the U.S. since we left…”

    …or is it that so much, all the reasons we left in the first place, have not changed … and, indeed, have only gotten worse? The whole time I’ve been (temporarily) back in the States, I’ve been repeating the refrain “How can you people LIVE like this?” These people (Americans) don’t have a point of reference for comparison. Because of their own propaganda, I honestly don’t think they know there actually is a better life to be found in many parts of the world today. Poor things. But I quit. All of the energy I expend on where I live, from now on, will be in Yucatan.

  16. Oh my gosh, one of these days I’m going to get fired… I LOVE THIS SITE!

    I have Yucatan Living bookmarked and find myself reading bits and pieces at work (with the screen super minimized, mind you) every chance I get. I’ve forwarded the link to my family and friends. I know they’ll love it just as much.

    As Genny M. stated (a couple of posts up)… I, too, already consider you friends and look forward to the day I visit my Bella Ciudad Blanca, so that I can hopefully meet you in person (although I feel I already know you). I want to be able to tell you, face-to-face, how proud you are making so many of us Yucatecos, by sharing such a wonderful site. You truly are showing everyone – from a “gringo’s” point of view, just what a treasure Merida really is. Keep up the fantabulistic work (and keep your fingers crossed that I don’t get caught reading more of your wonderful, informative, and super-interesting website!!!)

    p.s. – you haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll probably post again when I get to the next topic! *grin*

  17. Thanks, Maria! We live to hear comments like that. You made our day!!

  18. Just thought I would stop by and say hi. Haven’t had time to go over whole sight but seems very informative. My wife is from Peru and when we visit everything is very resonable especially if you are with a native that has more bargining power. I have read some of your posts on weather underground. Thanks for this link

  19. Wish you were here, but happy that you are happy there. Miss you and Love you both!!!

  20. Really nice piece and I’m not sure how old it is, but if you see this can you let me know where on the site I can get an idea of the cost of living in Merida, including all the things you talked aboout like food, utilities, tv, etc. (the things we’re used to in the US. Thanks.

  21. Love this website. I really would love to move down there, but, like a lot of folks, I have a unique situation… I’m a disabled veteran on a fixed income- just under the visa 1,000 amount. Makes a non-tourist visa a tad more complicated.
    I am totally fed-up with the US.. can’t even afford to live on my pension unless I give up something, like eating food. Probably a more common story these days.. ‘looking for a lifestyle I can afford’.
    Did rumble around on Craigs List and do see places (Yucatan) that I can afford long term. Don’t drive, so I don’t have those expenses. I suppose I ‘could’ work, but that would make my pension go away. Besides, I don’t have a profession that would be unique enough so as to not take a job from a local. Well, I ‘do’ design websites, but doesn’t everyone these days ?
    I was comparing $ 350 p/m apartments there with the very minimum possible here (Fresno, CA.. 450 gets you a slum apartment) .. it’s disgusting. Takes $ 600 to even get close to a place that’s habitable. Well, that’s 2/3 of my income gone.
    I guess I have the “standard” questions…
    Is it really possible to live there on $ 911 per month ?
    I ‘think’ I get my pension no matter where I live.. will have to check into that…as long as I am a citizen of US…

    Just a comment that you may find interesting… In the US newspapers a story just out— one of four homeless people in the US is a veteran. AND of that group, over half have a pension of some amount– yet they can’t afford to live like regular folks and, thus, become homeless.
    I think foreign countries are going to see a lot of immigration of veterans that can no longer afford to live here. Most are either too old ot too broken to be gainfully employed, yet too young for Social Security.
    It’s a bitch.

    Anyway, I am trying to get some line of communications going with folks down there. Am not too sure about full-on ex-pat as my pension would evaporate.
    Any ideas or suggestions ??

    Thanks in advance for any aid on this…
    Rick Noah
    Fresno, California

  22. Rick,
    You can maintain your US Citizen status regardless of where you live in the world. So, that’s one thing out of the way. I’m not sure about a military pension, but most all pensions do not depend on where you live. And, you can always have a pension deposited in a US account with online access – so you can work with your money from a foreign country.

    Merida is probably cheaper than the USA on some things and more expensive on others. And, due to recent popularity, costs in Merida have gone up lately. Don’t fall for the line that all drugs are cheaper in Mexico (assuming you need any prescriptions). Some are cheaper and some are much more money.

    On $911 a month? Yes, you could probably make it OK and still be happy, if you owned a house. If you pay rent, yes, you could probably find a nicer place in Merida cheaper than in the USA. But, you’d have little left to live on – $500 or so a month? It might be tight. Of course, Mexicans live on less than that, but there is more than one income per house, in most cases.

    Most everything in Merida is within walking distance – there’s a corner coke stand on most corners. There’s a small market here or there in most neighborhoods. Danged convenience stores are opening all over, the ugly little things. Instead of 7-11 or Quik Trip, they are called OXXO. Merida has a good bus system. Taxis are plentiful and cheaper than the USA.

    It just depends on where you’d be happy. Merida is hot and humid. If you don’t like that kind of weather, it wouldn’t be any fun. But, on the other hand, you may find that the place grows on you quite a bit.

    Oh, on the visa thing, some people travel back and forth every six months… just living in Mexico, essentially, on a tourist visa. Some folks have done that for years.

    Would you be able to take a vacation and check it out?

  23. Does “disabled” mean in a wheelchair or something? I wouldn’t recommend Mérida in that case… (even though it’s better than Campeche…)

  24. sky- My disability is total deafness in one ear. I also have degenerative spine disease but it’s treatable with drugs, so far. I get around OK. I’m 59 and in good health otherwise. I saw the comment about dog walkers… that’s priceless ! I was a dog trainer for the Border Patrol for a while (in the 70′s). Love doggies. I keep thinking of skills I could use down there. I do recognize that learning the language will be paramount. When I’d said that I design websites, I truly meant business level with forms and databases and so forth. I do all the nasty server-side work. I am also a photographer and soon-to-be videographer. Looking at getting some windfall money soon and may very well come and visit. The hurricanes do bother me, some. I don’t really care for them much. Been in a few.

    Here’s a tough question– since I don’t drive, can anyone guess which would be cheaper… Taking a bus/train from San Diego or flying ?? Do they even have train service to Yucatan?

    I do want to keep a dialogue going, so if someone wants to shoot me an email address that would be nice. Otherwise I’ll keep using the forum.

    Thanx, Rick Noah

  25. There’s no train service to Merida. You can fly into Merida. You can take buses, but there may be a few changes along the way, like in Mexico City. The buses would likely be cheaper than flying, but would take a couple days, I’d guess.

    You can often find cut-rate fares or charters flying into Cancun. Then take a bus from Cancun to Merida for around $40 or so one-way. It’s about a 3-4 hour trip by bus (take the non-stop!).

    The reason Sky asked about the wheelchair is that many sidewalks are very narrow and there are few curb cut ramps. Getting around would be difficult

  26. Thank you for your site and allerting me to replies. I inadvertantly hit a button that said not to notify me if there’s a response. I do wish to receive these responses. Again, thanks.

  27. thanks so much for this site…we love MERIDA!, too…one question: you often have wonderful photos of architecture…a hacienda or building or some beautiful detail or landscape…it would be great to know what we’re looking at…(maybe label is hidden or accessed in a specific way?) anyway thanks for the beautiful images (often on front page)!

  28. Just read this for the first time, and the house (home) blog too. Great fun ewok! ;+}

  29. Thinking of you guys. The site looks wonderful…talk to you soon!

  30. i just returned from playa completely head over heels with the idea that mexico is a dream that i can make into reality. you happened to be my first stop in the beginning of my research and can i just say the magic is so present! i am very happy that you have decided to share with the rest of us one of the many ways to live as an expat. you’ve given me a good foundation to add upon and i’ve only begun to check out your sight! but as i do, i’d just like to extend my gratitude. muchas muchas gracias.

  31. We love your web site and try to absorb as much info as possible. My wife and I are traveling to Merida for the second time this fall to look at purchasing a home. There are a few questions we would like to ask (possibly redundant) to get a little more info.

    If I owned a home and had $50,000 in annual income how well am I living in Merida? We are retired and like a nice home and entertaining and travel but the remainder of our needs are quite simple.

    We live on the east coast of the US and are trying to deal with our current belongings and how feasible it is to move them to Merida. We would have the time to drive a truck or trailer. It is difficult to get rid of everything but it may make the most sense. Any info on this process would be very helpful.

    Real Estate – we are open to buying a fixer upper and paying to have it redone. It looks to be a reasonable option in regards to price and time. Any thoughts?

    We are thinking about looking exclusively in the Centro area. Should we be looking also in a second area of town? I realize this is a very personal decision but thought I would get some other opinions.

    Thanks in advance for your help,


  32. Larry,
    An income of over $4000 US a month (tax free?) will allow you a comfortable lifestyle here in Merida.
    Moving things here is difficult… we did it. In retrospect, we would only move things that are personal (mementos, art, clothes). We would leave our furniture and appliances behind and buy new ones here. The furniture here is designed for this climate and it is good to buy appliances from the place that is going to service them in the future. Check out our article on buying furniture in Merida.
    Buying and fixing up a house is the most popular expat pasttime here… go for it!
    We love the Centro…for the charm, the convenience and the activities. Other areas you might like include Garcia Gineres, beach communities or the town of Cholul, just outside Merida’s Periferico (ring road).
    Buena suerte!

  33. Dear WG’s
    My wife and I have been seriously considering a major relocation and after being introduced to Merida by a client we have found your sight to be informative and enticing. Presently we own and operate a high quality digital lab in Oklahoma City producing high quality wide format digital prints and fine art reproductions, “giclees”, for various businesses and artists throughout the state and the country. Reading through your site we have been particulary impressed by the large and seemingly expanding art community in Merida and are wondering if you know if such a business currently exisits or what your thoughts might be about establishing one there. We would welcome any insight taht you might have and, please check out our website
    to see what we do.

  34. Dear Leighton,

    As you can imagine, a lot of photography happens in Yucatan, and there are many photographers, both local and foreign, who would probably be a market for your services. There is a growing number of digital printers in Merida, but it is our understanding that many photographers send their work to Mexico City to receive the highest quality service. These are generally photographers who intend to display their work in museums or galleries. If you marketed your business to the entire Peninsula, including Cancun and the Rivera Maya, you would probabaly have a good income (by Mexican standards), but we always recommend that any new business startup have enough capital to survive for two years while establishing itself. Best of luck.

  35. So sorprice to know that in my state yucatan there is such a group of people who care and like the land I was born.thah make me feel so gratefull and lucky,to have them at my state yucatan, I for ucla. here in los angeles Ca. and soon to retire in my beutiful yucatan and form part of this Gringos who love my land manny thanks working gringos my house is your house..feel like home becouse I feel like home in LA. but I missed my yucatan.I want to own a house in yucatan,

  36. I found your website doing a Google search for Xtabentun. Great site!

  37. I glue myself to your website every chance I get. While I am originally from Guatemala City, I have lived in Chicago for over 25 years, but there’s always been a longing in my heart to live anywhere in the Yucatan. Things have changed dramatically in the corporate world and I am ready to move. I’ve had a career in sales and marketing for many years, but feel the time has come to do something new. I am fully bilingual and enjoy the warmth of Mexico and its people. I have traveled to many places, but there is something about the Yucatan. The “magic” of the beaches, the white sand and the friendly faces everywhere you go. I enjoy the peace I find when I walk the entire island of Isla Mujeres. When in Playa, I love my daily morning walks toward Cafe Corazon on 5a to enjoy fresh fruit and steaming hot coffee; where I meet the locals and the expats for a time to chat. I enjoy the sun, the beach and its sports during the day and then walking la 5a just before dinner only to find the excitement of daily Latin dancing at Mambo Cafe. Merida seems to have been the missing link, as I so much enjoy the arts, be it theatre, opera or concerts. I read about the Festival de Otono and how Placido Domingo was at Chichen Itza, the star studded skies above it. I can literally close my eyes and see this picture in my mind and feel that is what I should be doing, for life is so short and time so little. Thank you for the beautiful work you do in describing Merida and giving such details as to pricing information, medical and utility costs. Yours has been the most complete “guide” anyone can read. Hope to meet you soon.

  38. We hope to meet you too, DealMaker! Let us know when you are visiting next time…

  39. I’ve devoured your website, every page. It is wonderful. Thank you for all the hard work and insights you share.
    I was in Merida in 2005 and fell in love with it. I actually was in a new relationship and our visit was during Carnival, so how could one not fall in love with Merida? It was magical. But even though the relationship didn’t last, the thoughts of living in Merida did, so much that I frequently visited real estate sites. I moved back to the States mid 2005 and got entrenched in life, in work, in bills…how easily that happens! While planning my recent trip to Isla Mujeres, several friends wanted to do something different, so I planned a stay in Merida. That’s when I found your site. And to my delight, during my visit I found that it wasn’t the new relationship I had been in, it wasn’t Carnival, it is Merida…the magic as you put it.
    I live in Denver and I don’t like cold weather…yes, I know, Denver isn’t that bad, it’s a dry cold! Whatever. My focus for the last few years is “once I sell my investment condo I will move south.” Top on the US list has been Austin or San Antonio, then retirement in Merida. Then I read your short list of what you wanted in a new home and it is very similar to mine….and Austin and San Antonio don’t make it. My favorite saying is “Why Wonder?” , “por que maravilla?” Why wait until retirement? Why not move to Merida now? And finding your site, and so many great interviews of people who have done just exactly that has sure lit a fire under my derrierre! I do have a few things to figure out, i.e. an income (I’m a reluctant accountant and that won’t work there…which is fine with me), but that is something I have to figure out wherever I move.
    I’m coming….by my Jan 26th birthday next year.
    Thank you again for all that you share. I anxiously await more Yucatan Living articles and welcome any comments, suggestions, job offers, etc other readers or working gringos might have!

  40. ¡Felicidades! Your website is excellent. Reginald McGhee , a fellow bicyclist, just came through Xalapa and stayed with me on his way to Merida, taking a Sunday bike ride with our cycle activist club( Fortunately Xalapa has been my home for the past 37 years and I would really like to be able to have a website about this wonderful city as good as the one you have about Merida. Please contact me since I would like your help in making such a website come true.
    ¡Mucho gusto y muchisimas felicidades de nuevo!
    Roy “El Gringo Jalapeño”

  41. Thanks so much for sharing your lives and experience with so many here. It is illuminating and refreshing.

    My partner and I are coming to Merida in early September for a short vacation which will be also a scouting trip. We are both interested in living in Mexico for a few years and have heard so much about Merida and environs that we’d like to experience it for ourselves. We do have a few questions, however, and I lay them out here for possible responses.

    We will both need to work in Mexico. My background is in internet retail and web and social media strategy. I also manage a large taxonomy for a US Government website. My partner is research director for a Washington non-profit and also publishes a daily internet newsletter for a science association. Ideally, we would both like to stay in the same fields. Can we realistically expect to find opportunities which would allow us to live in the Yucatan?

    Thanks so much!

  42. Bob and Mike, it sounds like you both can continue doing what you do over the internet with the same clients you do it for now. Will you find clients here in Merida for your services? The first question is… do you speak and write Spanish fluently? If so, we would say a very qualified “maybe”. But chances are you are not going to find many local clients for what you do and finding work here (as in someone giving you a paycheck for your services) is highly unlikely. Fortunately, what you do can be done for anyone anywhere and yes, Merida has good and fast internet access.

  43. Hello WG’s, what a great website! Your articles are informative and the stories you share about your daily life are funny & inspiring! My husband and I are Canadian, 35 years old and are longing for a life change. We chose not to have children in order to travel and experience as much as we can from life. I saw a television program on Merida on the Home & Garden network and I was immediately captivated and enraptured. We are in the very beginning stages to make the big move. I have found so many resources on this site to get us started, so another big “Gracias” to you both for that! I do have one question for you though and that is work/business opportunities. We will need to work in order to survive and sustain our life with the basic necessities. My husband is a certified plumber and gas fitter with a cross connection ticket. I currently work for the Canadian Federal Government. What is the liklihood of my husband finding work in his field? Could he feasibly start his own business? I was thinking of opening a doggie daycare in the area but wonder if that venture would be embraced by the community or seen as a ridiculous uneeded service? The other option I was thinking of was offering my services as a freelance data entry/document production. Any thoughts or direction would be great! Sorry my post is so long!

  44. Hi,

    I’m also looking to relocate from the corporate world to a more relaxed and slower paced life. Merida looks and sounds perfect. I’m planning a trip there at the end of April 2010. Looking forward to it.

    I’m an avid motorcycle rider, not the dirt bike type but the touring kind. Love long rides. How are the roads in Merida and surrounding areas and surrounding destinations and are they safe?



  45. Congratulations, Beau! We are not motorcyclists ourselves, but we know that there is a growing faction of motorcycle riders here… we see their rides on occasion. The Yucatan is webbed with lots of long, straight roads in good condition. They are perfectly safe and we predict that you will enjoy yourself here immensely. (Well, it may be too hot in the summertime, but that is a different issue…)

    Let us know!

  46. Great article!
    Your article indicates you have some type of internet company. With the risk of being competition, I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and a VMware Certified Professional. I currently work in Missouri and support companies locally and in Florida through remote management software. I perform on-site and remote service and repair. My question; would this be a viable business need in Merida? Is there a local business there that offers excellent PC support and repair? With the coming changes in health care here in the US my family has been looking at Merida as an opportunity for the future that is more friendly to small business. Thanks for any feedback!

  47. Hola, Dave. You don’t mention if you speak Spanish, but that would be important if you are thinking of providing services to Yucatecos. However, there are many opportunities in Merida for serving the expat/English-Speaking community, and computer maintenance and repair is one of them, especially if you’re willing to make house calls to expats’ homes and offices. There are local computer repair shops in Merida and many options for buying and maintaining a computer, but most expats are not able to take advantage of them, due to the language barrier (both Spanish and technical jargon).

  48. My spanish is very, very basic but willing to learn. House calls for sure. I am assuming that internet access is stable there? I would like to continue supporting sites in the states as I do now so it would be very important to have stable internet access of at least 3mbs or more. Thanks much for the feedback!

  49. Just a few notes to mention: Mexico (as well as Costa Rica where one radio personality intends to flee) has national health care. Of course, as in most countries with national health care, you can conduct your medical needs through private funding as well. And many projections are for small business costs to decrease after reform comes fully into effect in the USA.

    If government regulation and/or bureaucracy is frustrating to anyone in the USA, try it in another language, with a much more deeply entrenched and – at times – unresponsive system. And then there are banking “difficulties” which are improving, but slowly.

    Just want to help anyone understand that it isn’t all rosy in the land of enchantment. You have to be the type who can roll with the flow, because inanimate objects are soon overcome by ‘the system’ in Mexico.

  50. Hello everyone:

    My name is Yanet Gonzaga and please, we need some help. If someone can help us we would appreciate it. My boyfriend wants to come to Merida to live. He is from US (Coral Springs, FL). He is 24 years old and wants to work here but we don`t know where he can find a job. He is flight instructor but now he`s working in Public Storage. He`s in charge of the property, he takes payments, does new lease handling, customer service, collections, manages end of month bookkeeping. He`s storage expert. If you can help us please contact us by my e-mail: yanet_goc81 [at] hotmail [dot] com

    Thank you!

  51. Wow! really love your blog/web sight. I am looking to retire in about 5 years and desperatly want to retire in Mexico. I have a what I consider to be a unique set of work skills. I am an arson/fire investigator, as well as a Police Officer. Almost ALL insurance companiies in the U.S. either contract or employ private fire investigators to determine the cause of fires in buildings that they insure. Is there a market for this skill set (fire/insurance investigator) in Mexico? I speak a little Spanish, and would immedialy enroll myself in an immersion languge school to become fluent in Spanish.I would also be able to function as a regular private investigator, since I have been a criminal investigator for close to 30 years. I would be able to travel throughout Mexico on assignment. Any ideas??

    Scott B.

  52. I moved from California to Merida Yucatan and am intrested in jobs where I will primarily be using english.

    I know that teaching English at a language school is definitely a way to go but am unsure what is the best way to get established in this area.

    Does anyone living in Merida know of any school or other company willing to hire expats? I know that options are very limited, but I would just to earn enough to cover my minimal expenses. I I am basically willing to do almost any type of work!. My Spanish skills are ok, but not great yet. My ability to read and write is better than my conversational skills, but I’m sure those will improve pretty quickly.

    Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  53. Lynette, as we have said many times, it is extremely difficult to get a job in Mexico as a foreigner. There are jobs occasionally to teach English, but you may not make the income you need. The best bet is to start your own business, and there are many business opportunities.

  54. I have the question concerning jobs. I’m an Mexican American, 22, bilingual and my dad and that side of my family live in Merida. I will be moving there in about 2 months with my two small children and husband. Will it be difficult to find a job or to start a daycare business? Will we need working visas or anything like that?

  55. Artesia, you should check out our sister website,, which has a lot of good information about immigration and working in the Yucatan. You can also download the Expat Guides for those subjects. As a daughter of a Mexican citizen, you can become a citizen also, which will make it a lot easier to find work here. Good luck and welcome to the Yucatan!

  56. Gringos, I’ve enjoyed this site for many years. your insight into the workings of everyday life is a small portal into Mexico. It appears based on the dates of the replies that this interview was done in 2006. Is that correct and if so, do you have time to update it as many things have changed since then? It would be very cool to leave the 06 answers and insert the ’12 answers so we can, as they said in school, compare and contrast. Thanks.

  57. Thank you for your compliments on the website. Many things, its true, have changed since we wrote this article. What hasn’t changed is our reasons for moving to the Yucatan or our love of the place!

  58. I am back to reading everything you have to say. I see myself coming for the investigation trip in 2015. I can hardly wait. I so want to get away from the hectic lifestyle, and just be, do different things and retire where there is no pressure.

    I am so glad that I have found your articles again, and will continue the study process.
    Thank you,

  59. Thank you for this wonderful site and all of the great information and questions. I am currently living in Eugene, OR and considering a winter stay this year doing a housing swap with another ex-pat in Merida. I would really like to bring my dogs and continue with my dog treat biz; I make gluten free and grain free tasty treats. I also make dog food but the restrictions in the US are too much for me to manufacture right now. Any ideas for sites or individuals to contact regarding property in Merida? Also, I am a metal artist and enjoy working with steel as a sculpture medium. Any foundries or art studio setups there? I could certainly set up my own shop would need to buy equipment there, as you mentioned taking stuff there is difficult. Did you bring your dogs with you? Anyone bringing cats? I have five fur babies but would only bring them if they would be safe. Also, what’s the weather like from December to March?

  60. Trish, there are many good real estate sites for Merida. Just Google “real estate merida yucatan” and start from the top. There is, or there used to be, a foundry in Merida. There are many artists using many mediums, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find what you need. We rescued our dogs in Mexico, but many people do bring their dogs from the States or Canada. All you need is an international vet document that states that they have their shots. Any vet has this form. The same goes for cats. And of course, they are safe… it depends where you live, of course, but there are as safe in Merida as they would be in any city. The weather from December to March is heavenly… warm and sunny, with occasional storms (called nortes, because they come from the north).


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