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The Londoner Who Loves Mexico City

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Mexico City
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Sam Martin was born and raised in London and confesses he loves big cities. He is the self-described Londoner who loves Mexico City.

“It’s a real living city,” Martin said. “There’s stuff going on all of the time. The city has wonderful street food, so wherever you go you can find something nice to eat. If you like living in cities, like I do, it’s the ultimate city. There are tons of things to do, very much like London.”

Sam Martin In Mexico City
Sam Martin

Martin, 34, lived nearly all of his life in London until he moved permanently to Mexico City with his girlfriend, Grace, last September.

A graduate of the University of Warwick near Coventry in the country’s geographic center, Martin collected a bachelor’s degree in history before returning to London to receive a master’s in philosophy and history at Birkbeck, University of London.

“It’s quite common in England for people to just do a degree in the arts because they don’t really know what they want,” he said. “They haven’t got a clear idea of what they want to do.”

In his mid-20s, Martin studied Spanish and then decided to do volunteer work in South America, working and traveling through Argentina, Peru, Chile and Columbia before returning to work for mainly non-profit organizations in London.

“I was working in fundraising for charities before working with academics to communicate their research, mainly at King’s College London,” he said.

Martin’s last job before leaving England was with an interesting company: Tempo Time Credits, which creates social currency through time banking. The concept is based on people exchanging their time with each other to perform different tasks.

The itch to live in Mexico City began with Martin’s interest in the country’s rich history.

Angel of Independence
Credits: kmiragaya | Adobe Stock images

“I had never visited Mexico before we decided to move here in September of last year, “Martin said. “I had studied Mexican history, loved big cities and knew it was always sunny here, so we just got on a plane and came.”

After perusing Craigslist to find a job teaching English in Mexico City, Martin started working for mostly large corporations that require their employees to speak English.

“I started teaching company classes in-person, but now a lot of what we do is done online, particularly because of the pandemic,” Martin said. “International House was our first employer, but there are many other smaller companies who hire English instructors. You can find them all on Craigslist. I work with Coca-Cola, Novo Nordisk pharmaceutical and Google, mainly.”

As a young Millennial, Martin believes in work-life balance, spending about 20 hours a week working and the rest of his time enjoying Mexico City and Mexico. He also writes a blog called “Prickly Pears” that documents his life in Mexico City. You can find it in our Expats In Mexico blogs section.

When the couple first arrived last fall, they lived in an Airbnb place in Condesa, a neighborhood that attracts many expats. They moved, though, to San Rafael, which is an up-and-coming colonia known for its aspirations to be like Greenwich Village in New York City.

“It’s not that popular with expats, but we like that it is just north of Reforma and just to the west of the historical center of the city,” Martin explained. “We share a place with a Mexican couple and pay 6,000 pesos a month, which is less than US$300.”

Martin said that this arrangement has been great to get a real sense of what living in Mexico City is like for Mexicans. He said they get invited to things they otherwise would not have. There Spanish is improving, also.

“I’m intermediate level, although we are finding it more difficult to focus on Spanish when our jobs are teaching English,” he said. “I’m doing Spanish classes again, which helps. When I traveled in South America, I found I was always thinking in Spanish. I need to get back to that.”

guadalupe basili
Credits: maqzet | Adobe Stock images

Mexico City has a large expat community with many “corporate” expats on assignment there, which has provided unexpected benefits for Martin.

“I was a competitive football player in England,” he said, “so I was very happy when I found an app called Sport 12 that connects people who want to play. Games are a mix of expats from all over the world and Mexicans.”

The couple is also enjoying other pleasures in Mexico’s capital city, including salsa dancing.

“We’ve been meaning to take salsa lesson for ages,” he said, “but now we’re here and taking lessons. The dancers in Mexico City are very good, so you definitely need to practice before taking the floor!”

Karaoke is another of Martin’s guilty pleasures.

“I think people like doing karaoke, but I found that people in England were more inhibited and needed a few drinks to get going,” he said. “Here, they pass the microphone around at dinner and just start singing while having their meal. People just get up and sing, whether they’re great or not.”

Whether it is for business or pleasure, getting around the city is very easy and inexpensive, Martin said. He uses mostly the Metro rapid transit system and busses to get around.

“The Metro has a very extensive network and they are always expanding it,” he said. “And, I think it is one of the cheapest to use in the world.”

Martin finds endless places to go when the couple is not working.

“There are loads of places to go in the city and surrounding area,” he said. “We’ve been to El Chico, a national park in Hidalgo, and Real de Monte, also in the state of Hidalgo, which used to be a mining town. Interestingly, Real de Monte attracted lots of miners from Cornwall, England during the peak of its mining history, which is why they still sell pasties there, which is a Cornish dish.”

Weekend trips to Cuernavaca, Taxco and Tepoztlán have taken them out of the city to enjoy more of Mexico, but Mexico City is still their favorite place.

Mexican folkloric ballet in Mexico City
Credit: Aleksandar Todorovic | Bigstock

“There are tons of things going on all of the time here, interesting shows or events, great live music, world-class museums or something else,” he said. “There is always something to do.”

Martin also loves Mexico City’s magnificent setting.

“You’re in the middle of what used to be this huge lake where not long ago a totally different civilization lived,” he said. “Then it was invaded, the lake drained, and turned into a different Mestizo society. I don’t think there are many cities like that, really.”

Will Mexico City be his big city forever?

“Maybe. I think there are certain things that are hard that you have to get used to if you live here. I’ve gotten used to them, so I definitely think if we ever left Mexico City we would really miss it.”

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