Mucho Bueno!

Fall 2007 CSANews Issue 64  |  Posted date : Oct 17, 2007.Back to list

Mexico is home to about 700,000 U.S. and Canadian citizens who have decided to exchange hectic cities, frigid temperatures and high living costs for a more relaxed, warmer and inexpensive lifestyle.

Some live in Mexico year-round, while many others come to Mexico to escape the harsh winters back home.

Common destinations include the colonial city of Guadalajara or along the nearby Lake Chapala; the beach towns of Acapulco, Colima, Cuernavaca, La Paz, Mazatlan, Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta; and the colonial cities of Guanajuato, Merida, Morelia, Puebla, Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende.

Snowbirds have apparently found Mexican communities to their liking.

One such couple, Barry and Colleen Thompson, has spent many past winter seasons in Ajijic (pronounced ah-he-hick). Colleen, a travel writer for much of her professional career, fell under the spell of Mexico and Mexicans. Her husband Barry was easily persuaded to leave their home in Fredericton, New Brunswick for three or four months of southern sunshine. To quote Colleen, “we have always preferred warm weather to cold.”

In fact, the Thompsons have spent the last 11 years going south; eight times to Mexico, twice to southern France and once to Spain. They obviously do not go to the same location each year. They fly to Europe, of course, and sometimes to Mexico, but often enjoy the long drive from the Maritimes to their southern hacienda. They usually rent an apartment in Europe; a house in Mexico. In Mexico, there has been a general annual increase in house rentals. They have paid from $450 US to $950 US per month.

Because they prefer to rent (Colleen says that they would never consider buying a residence in Mexico), they look for location, amenities and price before making their decision. I asked what they do for recreation and the answer was, “Anything we want to do. Walk, bike, swim, explore, travel around, socialize, paint, etc. Or just relax and read.”

Q:    How much does that recreational activity cost?
A:    Not a lot. Buses of good quality are cheap in Mexico, often we have our own car.

Q:     What happens to your home in Canada? A:    We usually rent it.

Q:     Does your family watch it or do you pay for service there as well.
A:    We have excellent renters, mostly university professors on part-time teaching programs or PhD students. We have no worries about our home. We screen.

Q:    If you fly, what do you use for ground transportation when you are down south for the winter?
A:    Buses, taxis.

Q:    How much does that cost?
A:    No idea. Both cheap in Mexico.

Q:    Do friends and/or family visit your “southern home”?
A:    Sure do.

Q:    How often and for how long?
A:    A week, two weeks, a month.

Q:    Do you have a social network at your “southern home”?
A:    Yes.

Q:    How did you come to meet people in the South?
A:    Talking to them anywhere, or through friends, or through daily activities such as painting classes.

Q:    Are they Canadian? Are they American? Are they snowbirds/winter residents?
A:    They are Canadian, Mexican and American, many are expatriates from both U.S. and Canada or Europe, and some are snowbirds.

Q:    Do you keep up with Canadian news when you are down south?
A:    Not a lot.

Q:    How do you keep up with Canadian news?
A:    Word of mouth, family phone calls, the occasional spot on CNN (yes, they reported a blizzard in NB right on CNN!)

Q:    How much does your “snowbird lifestyle” cost?
A:    We try to fit our budget into what we get for our house at home, so sometimes we make money – not usually, but we don't go into debt. This year, we paid US$950 per month for our Mexican house rental.  Eating out is cheap. We don't have air conditioning – don't need it – even though power is super cheap. Phone: $20 a month, probably. Entertainment: as an example, it costs $10 to see the fabulous folklorico show in Guadalajara.

Q:    Any additional expenses or savings by staying south?
A:    Food costs are much lower. Almost everything is.

The Thompsons say that their community is largely English-speaking, but they can now get along very well in Spanish.

Mucho bueno!