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  • Writer's pictureKimberly M.

Living in Mexico: What I Didn’t Expect

Updated: Jul 28, 2018

Boy poses in front of colorful mosaic artwork in downtown Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Posing in front of a colorful mosaic piece in downtown Puerto Vallarta.

It’s been a month since my son and I made the big move to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. “How are things going?” is a question that I often get from family and friends, eager to know how life in paradise is treating us. They see the photos of the beautiful blue waters and breathtaking sunsets and assume that life must be easy-peasy.

There are many things that has made life great since we made the move abroad: We now spend our days together instead of trapped for hours at work or school, we live with more for less, and we are surrounded by the most kind, happy, and loving community. However, we have certainly had our share of challenges as we get emotionally adjusted to our new surroundings.

While there are the things that I did expect with our move, such as the much lower cost of living and the slower pace of life, there are also several things that I did NOT expect:

1. Being immersed in different language is much more difficult than I thought.

Boy on beach makes eye contact with man in the distance.
When there's a language barrier, it's easy to feel distant from the local culture.

Before moving to Mexico, I knew basic Spanish. I could manage to get by with simple conversations, and was confident in my ability to listen to and read the language.

By moving to a major tourist destination, I was also confident that I’d have the comfort of being able to fall back on using English if I needed to.

Turns out in many places, English actually is NOT an option. While this is exactly the environment that I'd hoped for to help us learn the language, now that I’m fully immersed, I’ve realized just how much Spanish I DON’T know.

I often find myself having to ask someone to repeat what they are saying (several times) until I figure it out. Many times I end up sitting quietly with a blank look on my face until they find other words to get the point across to me, or until they just change the subject all together.

However, while I'm thankful for apps such as Google Translate, Rosetta Stone, and DuoLingo that make language learning easier, what I’m even more thankful for is the patience of everyone in Mexico. Everyone that I've spoken to is more than happy to help me learn their language, and take their time ensuring that I not just understand, but remember it.

2. My son’s likes/dislikes would change.

Boy attempts to eat a street taco in Mexico.
Looking in disgust at a Mexican street taco. Where he once loved Mexican food, now it is no longer his cup of tea.

The first time my son and I traveled to Cancun, Mexico back in 2016, things were much easier. He loved to ride the bus all day, and he actually enjoyed eating Mexican food. So much in fact, that it was all he wanted to eat when we returned to the U.S. No doubt that he’d still be into those things a year and a half later, right?


Now, he hates taking the bus because “it doesn’t drop us off right in front of our home.” If we’re not taking Uber, he doesn’t want to go anywhere. All of a sudden, he’s tired of Mexican food and refuses to touch a quesadilla. He doesn’t even like tacos! Who doesn’t like delicious, mouthwatering, Mexican street tacos?!

Needless to say, getting around town without spending an arm and a leg or trying to find things to eat that satisfies both of our tastes (as well as accommodates his many food allergies) is sometimes more of a challenge than I ever expected.

3. Our internal clocks would change.

Tourists and families explore the Puerto Vallarta malecon.
The malecon is packed with tourists and families following an evening thunderstorm.

Back in the U.S., we’d be ready for bed around 9-10pm during the weekdays, and almost always started our day no later than 6:30-7:30am. Now, the earliest that we are in bed is at midnight and we are up no earlier than 9am in the mornings. On days that my son takes a nap (which surprisingly has happened much more frequently here), he usually does so around what formerly used to be known as "dinner time."

The first time that we decided to go out “late” around 8:30pm, I quickly learned that here, it actually isn't late at all. Unless they are working, most people don’t go out until late in the evening.

If we go out to a restaurant around 6:30pm, we will likely be the only ones there. However, at 11:30pm, restaurants are packed with lines of families arriving for dinner. Children are everywhere playing as if it were mid-day. I look forward to seeing how this works out once the school year starts...

4. I’d actually get bored.

I most certainly underestimated the loneliness and boredom that I’d feel at times. Regardless of the beautiful beaches and multitude of places to see and explore around me, it’s sometimes tough not having my sisters or girlfriends to just call up to see if they want to meet for dinner or drinks. Sure, I have my son to keep me company, but having a margarita or a glass of wine alone with a 4.5 year old by my side isn’t exactly "fun" and most certainly isn’t relaxing!

Unless we plan in advance, without a car, the things that we do each day (that are age appropriate for both) are limited. There’s only but so much we can go back and forth to the malecón before it gets old. It also gets expensive!

5. I would sometimes want to give up.

Before arriving in Mexico, I couldn’t wait to get here. I looked forward to getting settled and starting a brand new life, possibly for years to come. What I didn’t expect was that there would be days that I didn’t want to be here at all.

There are days when single parenting proves harder than it’s ever been, and days that I feel like I’m going to fail. During the most overwhelming days, I feel defeated. Sometimes I want to just throw in the towel and book a ticket back home where I’m comfortable.

But I know that if I give up now, I’ll also be giving up on my lifelong dreams and aspirations. I’ll also be giving up on my son and the special and unique relationship that we have the opportunity to develop as we begin this new life together. So, on those days I tell myself that it WILL get better and use it as my motivation to MAKE it better. There’s no other option.

6. I’d inspire others to do the same.

Since moving and posting about our journey on our Facebook page Just Me and J in Mexico, I’ve received a number of messages from other moms telling me how proud they are of me. They tell me how much I’ve encouraged and inspired them to take the leap and do something that they’ve always dreamed of, but never thought that they could.

There are so many single mothers out there who have wanted to experience life in a different country, work on their own terms, and live the life they’ve always wanted to live, but thought that it was impossible. It feels good to look out of my window at my beautiful surroundings and know that I’m not only making a difference to our lives, but that I’m also making a difference to another other’s lives in the process.

Regardless of the “not so great” things and the emotional struggles that we’ve had to deal with so far, the fact of the matter is that we are so incredibly blessed to be here. The unexpected teaches me to deal with situations and makes me stronger person, and I know that the struggles that I do experience are all temporary. One month down, many more to go...


Follow our journey! Keep up on our travels to and through Mexico at Just Me and J in Mexico. If you're a single mother looking currently living in or planning to move to Mexico, be sure to join Single Moms in Mexico for support, tips on living in Mexico as a single mother, and to plan meet-ups with other moms!

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