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How Do You Deal With Culture Shock in Mexico?

La Catrina costume for the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico
Credit: Max Garcia

If you have lived in Mexico for any length of time you probably have experienced at least some culture shock, that disoriented feeling most of us have when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar culture and way of life. How do you deal with culture shock in Mexico?

I have found that many times, very simple experiences or interchanges with Mexican people can throw you into alienation, confusion or surprise. This is a normal reaction.

You can overcome the feeling by practicing patience and keeping your sense of humor. You will find that getting enough rest and physically adjusting to the local climate goes a long way in helping you adapt to a different culture and your ability to cope.

Living in a new community is quite different from vacationing once or several times a year. Events will happen that you are not prepared for and will surprise you. Know that this is a normal experience. It happens to everyone, everywhere.

This same experience happens to people from other countries moving to the United States or Canada, also. After you experience living abroad, you will find that you can more easily relate to and empathize with this universal experience.

Here are a few easy steps I recommend that you take to help you make an easier transition into Mexican culture:

1. Compile a list of names of recommended doctors, dentists and hospitals. It will help ease any anxiety you might have over your basic healthcare needs.

2. Get a map of the city and walk, take the bus or drive around to find the stores and services that you will need on a regular basis. Getting to know your surroundings will help make you feel more at home in your new hometown.

3. Compile a list of phone numbers. Who do you call when telephone or electric service is out? How do you find and contact electricians, plumbers or carpenters? If you have pets, how do you find the best veterinarians and pet stores? Where do you buy the pet food your “best friend” needs?

4. If you want to attend church or religious services, you will need to research available choices and ask other expats and Mexican friends for recommendations.

Very importantly, learn as much Spanish as you can. Although major tourist centers like Puerto Vallarta have many local people who speak English, it’s not the case in other areas of Mexico.

Language can be a barrier to meeting and learning from other people who don’t speak English. If you only socialize with those who speak English, you will limit your experiences and integration into the Mexican culture. You will not be living an adventure, but living in an expatriate outpost.

If you purchase a home, you will need to keep your legal papers of ownership where you can find them. You will have an escritura, which in most cases will be a fidecomiso trust. You should also know the location of the bank that handles your trust and how to pay their annual fee. Some banks allow you to pay locally and some require payments in another city.

Importantly, always get receipts and save them. You will always need your ORIGINAL RECEIPT in order to have ANY rights to your claim of payment. Know the difference between a temporary receipt, a factura and nota. Be sure you put the utilities in the name of the owner as shown in the deed. Keep all the original receipts, whether or not you personally pay them.

This article is based upon legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of real estate conduct his/her own due diligence and review.