If you have spent any time at all in the United Kingdom, you know that sunshine is precious. For Nichola Lister-Smith and her husband Michael Lister, it is essential. They are moving to Mexico, leaving the U.K. for the sun of Mérida on the Yucatán’s northern coast.
Both former law enforcement officers, Lister-Smith, who just turned 42, and her 52-year-old husband, grew up in the Leeds area of Yorkshire and are no strangers to the U.K.’s mercurial weather. A sunny and warm climate topped their list of key attributes they were looking for in a new country.
“We initially looked at Thailand, Laos and other countries in Southeast Asia, but it was a bit far,” Lister told us. “We also considered Spain, but the economic situation there was not good. Then we went on holiday to Mexico, which was my choice when I retired, and there it was. Bing! A light just came on.”
Lister is retired from police work after 30 years of service. Lister-Smith joined the London Metropolitan Police for 12 years before transferring to West Yorkshire. A sports and exercise graduate of Leeds Metropolitan University, she just resigned her position to begin a new career as a podiatrist.
“We were not thinking about Mexico while doing our research,” Lister-Smith said, “but then we decided to take a holiday to the place all Brits seem to go, Cancún. While we were there we met some Canadian and American expats and the seeds were sowed. I came home and started researching the area and chatting with expats online.”
The couple returned for a five-week exploratory visit that took them to Tulum and Akumal first, and then to Mérida.
“Tulum was just a little too touristy for us,” Lister-Smith said, “so we headed north to Yucatán and spent the last several weeks in Mérida, Progresso and the surrounding area. Rather than be tourists, we tried to do things as if we lived there. For example, I had my hair cut. That sounds quite simple, but in over 30 years, only five people have cut my hair. She did a really good job and it was so inexpensive.”
After their five-week orientation tour, the couple realized that Mérida was the place they wanted to live. It ticked their boxes for everything they were looking for: quiet seaside very close to Mérida’s city-center, a large city but not too big, shopping and nightlife and an international vibrancy with people of all ages.
“We’re hoping to move early next year,” she said. “The consulate in London told us it would take about three days to get our visas. We will rent our home fully-furnished, sell our automobiles and move with just a few things. After six months we will decide if we want to sell our home.”
They plan to rent on Mérida’s north side, popular with expats for its proximity to beaches, while they decide on a parcel of land to purchase for the construction of their new home.
“I would like a large lot so we are not within spitting distance of our neighbors,” Lister-Smith said. We want a place where we can create as much noise as we want without disturbing neighbors, and we want lots of farm animals.”
Their ideal home would follow the local colonial-style design on a single level with a pool and nice landscaping and ample room for their animals. Lister emphasized that natural light will be important in the design of their new home. As a sun-deficient Brit, he yearns for as much light as he can get year-round.
During their orientation visit, the couple explored the cost of living in the Mérida area very thoroughly.
“We used the laundromats, we looked into the local bathroom décor shops and compared prices of cars and financing,” she said. “Everything we could compare, we tried to compare. One thing we did note was how much more expensive branded clothing was than in the U.K. We were quite shocked at department store prices. Food was a much better value.”
Used cars are also not a bargain in Mexico, they said. Since they will be selling their cars before they move, they will be looking for a lower-priced vehicle to get around but have found used cars to be nearly as expensive as new cars. They have also discovered that electronics are expensive in Mexico, mainly due to import tariffs.
“The only thing I’m going to miss when we move is my TV,” Lister said. “I’ll be honest, I’ve got a big TV and that’s the only thing I’m going to miss!”
They considered shipping some of their household goods to Mexico, but after receiving bids from local removal companies and speaking with Brit expats in Mexico, they decided to rent their home in the U.K. with furniture and travel lightly to Mérida.
“We heard from U.K. expats that it’s a bit of a logistic nightmare to ship your household goods to Mexico,” Lister-Smith said. “They said their stuff was left in Mexico City for six weeks and then sent back to the U.K. for no apparent reason, so we didn’t want to get into that.”
The personable couple already has developed a budding network of expat friends in their new home, mostly Canadians and Brits but a few Americans, also. They stay in touch to keep up-to-date on their new home. They also are very determined to learn at least some Spanish before they arrive in Mérida.
“We take a class once a week from a lovely Venezuelan lady who lives just a few miles from our village,” Lister-Smith said. “It’s early but we are determined not to arrive in a country completely ignorant of the language. We also supplement our classes with the Duolingo app.”
Their checklist of “must haves” included warm weather, inexpensive living, quality of life and good air connections, including direct flights to the U.K.
“We can fly directly from Manchester to Cancún and then take a bus or fly to Mérida,” she said. “We also love the U.S. and want to visit there often, so having an airport in Mérida is perfect. That’s a double bonus.”
Once they arrive and begin to establish themselves, Lister-Smith is intent on setting up her own business as a podiatrist.
“I don’t know all of the ins-and-outs of being self-employed and the tax implications yet, but I’m doing lots of research so I can be prepared once we get settled.”
We asked the couple what they expected to get out of life in Mexico. For Lister, it’s a balanced way of life because of health problems. The sunshine and warm climate should help provide that. He also wants additional income to help make their lives even more comfortable, and a new home large enough to accommodate family and friends who will undoubtedly visit. Lister-Smith, a running enthusiast, is looking forward to the outdoor lifestyle and slower pace of life that Mexico will bring.
For those planning or considering a move to Mexico, they offered this piece of advice:
“Spend a lot of time there before you decide to move,” they said. “Don’t limit yourself to big tourist areas, get off the beaten track and discover Mexico. And, do your homework. Expats In Mexico and other online resources provide very valuable information, including how to start a business in Mexico. Finally, don’t expect too much because wherever you go, it’s never going to be paradise. There will always be cons as well as pros.”