Home Expat Blogs I Live in Mexico and I Am Very Cold

I Live in Mexico and I Am Very Cold

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Xalapa, Veracruz
Credit: Sarah DeVries

I live in Mexico and I am very cold.  And I’m not happy about it. To be fair, I’m never happy about being cold anywhere, and I’m not great with super-hot weather either. When it comes to temperature, I’m the most intolerable of princesses, sneering at anything that’s not a perfectly pleasant 75 F (24 C) and sunny with a very slight breeze and clouds moving briefly in front of the sun at 10-minute intervals.

That’s why winter is my least favorite season in my city of Xalapa, Veracruz. The temperature? Well, around 50 F (10 C) at night, warming up to maybe 70 F (22 C) during the day, though that’s the top of the range; it doesn’t last.

At this point, there are surely some northerners and Canadians chuckling to themselves and saying, “Why, that’s shorts weather!” but hear me out. First, I’m from Texas. And while temperatures surely get that low and lower in Texas, the low temperatures can be escaped because of the magic that is climate control.

It might be snowing outside, but inside it’s always toasty warm. Every house, every building, every car is climate-controlled. If you’d like to feel the cold, you can simply go out and enjoy it for whatever duration of time you see fit. If you don’t want to, really the only “suffering” you might encounter is moving from the car to a building or house and back.

So back to Mexico. Walking outside in 55-degree weather? Not that bad. Pleasant, even. Sitting in a home with a temperature that won’t break 60? Miserable. Changing clothes? Torture. Going to the bathroom? Better psych yourself up first for that icy seat. Taking a shower? The hot water is nice, but leaving it behind (okay, fine: letting it run over you until there’s none left) downright feels like divine torture.

Needless to say, most of my winters here are spent slightly drunk (momentary heat) and more than a little grouchy as I waddle around the house in my three layers of clothes but still icy-cold hands.

Again, I know that a range of 50 – 60 F is not that bad. But once the temperature inside of your house drops – and it will drop – getting it warm inside again is and has so far proven to be a very difficult task.

No one here has actually come out and said to my face: “It’s just cold sometimes and there just aren’t any realistic solutions.” That seems to be the general attitude. I’m sure my irritation with the cold inside my house is, to them, the equivalent of someone yelling at the wind for blowing on them.

It’s just that I know the technology exists that can help us control inside temperatures. I grew up with it. And it’s not that it’s impossible to take other steps to make things warmer, even in the absence of central heating. Even super rich people’s houses here are freezing when it’s cold outside…it’s just not seen as a problem worth addressing.

Mexican houses are built differently. They’re made of brick and concrete, which means that the walls aren’t mostly hollow like in the U.S., and which also means U.S.-style heating and A/C systems are not as efficient, especially central air and heating.

All in all, it’s a pretty good building material. The main downside to it is that it’s porous, and humidity (read “mold”) is a constant problem that also doesn’t seem to be designated as a true problem. (I’ll admit, I’m amused when I read panicked messages about mold on U.S.-based sites; I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a building in this city that didn’t have mold in it somewhere. It’s so humid, in fact, that if you leave your shoes in the closet for several months, they’ll be moldy by the time you get them out.)

When it comes to the cold, the concrete isn’t precisely to blame. What I do blame, and a lot, are the windows. I have never figured out why, but the glass for windows in houses in incredibly thin and flimsy, so much so that I’ve always joked that windows down here are mostly symbolic.

As you can imagine, the cold comes through easily. What cold doesn’t get in through the windows comes inside instead through the many gaping holes around door and window frames. Add to this that many keep certain windows open during the winter in any case to reduce trapping in even more humidity, and fighting the cold essentially becomes a lost cause.

I’ve taped the cracks around doors and windows, but this isn’t possible, of course, if you sometimes need to use them. For the time being, I’ve simply given up on standing out on my balconies because I don’t want to “unseal” the doors to them. I have rolled up towels that I keep in front of the bottoms of doors leading to the outside to prevent too much of a draft from entering.

But mostly, I do what all Mexicans do: I bundle up, put some extra blankets on the bed, consume my weight in hot drinks and alcohol while I wait for spring and try my best to type with icy hands.

7 COMMENTS

  1. This is one of my main complaints about living in Mexico. Winters are okay if you are living right on the coast, but up in the highlands it can be quite uncomfortable.

  2. To tell you the truth I live in a small town near San Luis Potosi, where it can get cold in winter. My solution I had windows imported from America and I had a former contractor American of course install them and the outside doors from America. This has solved most of my problems with the cold. I also have had a contractor come into my house put insolation over the exterior walls of my house then cover the insolation with plasterboard. The cold doesn’t exist anymore for me and my family, it cost over $20,000 dollars, but I Americanized my house and I only need a space heater in the bathroom now.
    I will never understand suffering, if you don’t have to. Now I will admit it will cost you something time and money, but if you have, both you shouldn’t just suffer for no reason..

    • I’ve often wondered if people have done that here!
      I’ve always rented (well, and don’t have the time and money anyway, haha…yet!), but I feel like there must be a good business opportunity here…like, why doesn’t Mexico make double-pained glass? The people demand it! (Well…THIS person!).

  3. Lol your title got my interest and then i found myself laughing the whole time. I used to live in Guanajuato and i felt the exact same way! Hahaha I’m from so cal and i get cold in anything under 70, but my hands are miserable under 60. What you described reminds me of my years in gto inside my freezing house there. But aside from being cold in the winter and the fact that it’s loud everywhere i lived there, i love living in Mexico. About to come back 🙂 thanks for the article and the chuckle.

  4. Hi Sarah;

    I agree with you on this one. I came to Mexico to look up every day in the Winter Time and see Blue Sky’s and 80F at least. I don’t want to put on sweaters, or vests indoors, I want to walk around in my day time street cloths – Right?

    Been living in Tepic now for over 13 years, and before that off and on for another 5 years since 2000. So, I can definitely tell you (what ever you want to call it), the Climate has definitely changed over that time. First we’d only get maybe 4-6 days in the mid 90’s during the Summer. Now that can go on for several weeks at a time. And Winters? We have a small radiated space heater, and would only drag that out in February in our bedroom maybe for 2-3 nights a year. We’ve been dragging that thing around more and more each year – until this year we’ve had it on at least 8-10 nights so far and it’s not even February. We’ll have it on more there too.

    So, maybe you should do as we’re doing? This house “leaks”, not made for cold weather. If we can shut out the cold from the “Norteanos”, and regular winter weather – we’ll be all right. We thought about getting all new windows? Then we realized the cost, as they include laced, metal, that is a big Security Barrier. Finally we’ve settled on getting vertical venetian blinds put on all the window’s in the front and face into the central courtyard. The two rooms, we have it in the back – by closing them when it starts getting cool, we really insulate those rooms. Air is a very effective insulator between the blinds and our windows/security barrier.

    So, that’s proably about 1/4 the cost of replacing the windows with metal security barriers. Maybe you should consider this approach. Why we like it – in the day time, the blinds close up to only about 4″ on either side of the window – not obscuring those beautiful Warm Mexican Days!

    Cuyler Salyer

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