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An Expat Tale of Two Cities

walkway lake Chapala
Credits: Peter Llewellyn | Adobe Stock images

This is an expat tale of two cities. International management consultant and author Julie Galosy spanned the globe providing consulting services to major corporations. After visiting over 100 countries and working in 27, she finally settled down in both Chapala and Guadalajara.

Armed with a Ph.D. in organizational development from the University of North Carolina, Galosy initially worked in the U.S. for companies like J.C. Penny, Dun & Bradstreet, Shearson and Union Carbide before deciding to try on the role of international management consultant, specializing in change management. She worked as an independent consultant through two different consulting organizations before going out on her own. Her opportunity came with someone she had worked with at Union Carbide.

Julie Galosy Chapala, Mexico
Julie Galosy

“I had just given a speech to the World Future Society in Switzerland on the characteristics of high-performing organizations in the 21st century,” she said, “My friend at Union Carbide said I should give that speech to his management team in Europe because I would be Dr. Galosy and that would get me instant credibility.”

It did and Galosy got what turned out to be a five-year assignment. She moved from New York to coastal England where she could catch the Eurostar train to Brussels and Paris to meet with her clients. Then she married a Brit and they decided to live in a fishing village in Spain, about halfway between Barcelona and Valencia on Spain’s eastern coast. While there she also began teaching at online universities.

“The first one was U21Global, which was in Singapore,” Galosy said. “That was a really good one because it was a very sophisticated use of the web with lots of interactivity and lots of video. That led to work with other online teaching assignments in my field. I’m still working for them and also just finished working with the Management Center Innsbruck (MCI) University where I taught organization behavior.”

But Europe was far away from her family. She began to feel pressure to move closer to home. Born in Chicago, but raised in St. Louis in a big Catholic family, her parents were well into their 80s and wished for her to be a little closer to them.

“We liked the Latin culture, especially the Catalonian culture,” she said. “So, I said let’s move to Mexico. I thought we could replicate what we had in Spain. We took a 33,000-mile road trip looking everywhere for a place to live in Mexico. My dad was putting pressure on me, though, to move to San Miguel de Allende. I didn’t want to move there, but he prevailed and I spent 10 years in San Miguel running a small Bed and Breakfast place.”

But it did not last. Three years ago, she uprooted and moved to Chapala, a town of about 50,000 on the northern shore of the largest lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala.

“I now have two houses,” she said. “I paid just US$107,000 for the Chapala house, which is about 2,500 sq. ft. with four bedrooms. It’s a block from the Malecón, a block from the plaza, a block from the police and a block from the market. A perfect location. I don’t have to drive anywhere.”

Now divorced, she struck up a relationship with Agustin Eliab Juarez (our EIM food blogger) who lived in Guadalajara.

Guadalajara, Mexico
Credits: mehdi | Adobe Stock images

“The question became should we rent in Guadalajara and keep the house in Chapala?” she said. “When we first started looking for a rental in Guadalajara prices were around US$1,400 a month. You could buy a house and fix it up for less than that, so that’s what we did.”

They found a place in the historic center of the city for about US$85,000 and then put a similar amount into it for extensive remodeling.

“We got an historic house, so we had to get permission from El Patrimonio Cultural to do renovations,” she said. “There were all sorts of rules. You can’t plaster, for example because it’s adobe. We ended up putting 300 sacks of sand in the walls. We also installed solar, which required new beams in the ceiling. We both had lived in Europe, so we decided to have a French rustic farm house. But, it has been a challenge.”

She told us that both places are very different living experiences.

“Guadalajara is a big city. If there wasn’t a pandemic, it would be great because you move to a big city for culture, right? You go for the art, the concerts, the museums. None are open now, so we might as well live in Timbuktu!”

Chapala, on the other hand, is where the couple goes for quiet time, mainly on the weekends, to enjoy a simpler life lakeside. But, she said, change may be coming that could affect the future of Lake Chapala communities.

“A new high-speed train is going to be built between Guadalajara and Chapala using the highway median,” she said. “It will go right into downtown Chapala. There is an absolutely beautiful old train station in Chapala that is currently being used for cultural events that could be used.

When she is not teaching online or renovating a house, Galosy spends her time writing.

“This wonderful character came to me,” she said. “Her name is Cece and she’s a pregnant 20-year-old Mexican girl who saw her boyfriend die from collateral damage. She decides to give her baby a better life in the U.S. You follow her journey to find out what is coming next for her. She wonders about what Americans do and what they think. Some are helpful, some are horrible and some are unbelievably kind. It’s her experience in America. The book is called, ‘For a Better Life’ and came out September 1. It’s available on Mexico Amazon as well as U.S. Amazon.”

Credits: Jose Luis | Adobe Stock images

Lakeside attracts many creative people and several writer’s groups have sprung up in towns that huddle along the shore. She belongs to the writer’s group in Ajijic and also does some writing for a local publication called “Ojo del Lago.”

After living in Spain for five years and now Mexico for 13 years, her Spanish is good, which helps when you live in neighborhoods that are not expat enclaves.

“I’m generally still surrounded by people who speak English, and that really hurts the skills,” she said. “But I can negotiate with the bank. I’ve negotiated all the loans, and with the government. Oddly, I found that when I lived in San Miguel bankers and government employees did not speak English. But in Chapala, where not that many people speak English, local bankers, notaries, doctors and others do. That was a surprise. I would totally recommend that people learn Spanish.”

Finally, we asked Galosy what she loved about living in Mexico. She strongly felt Mexico is all about the strength of the family.

“I like how it would never occur to them to separate the generations to have a life. The generations go together. New Year’s Eve in Chapala is a joy because they put their tables on the Malecón and there’s a band and everybody dances. It’s the babies, the teens, the parents and the grandparents. They are all together. That’s my number one thing about living in Mexico. I love it.”