When I began selling real estate in San Miguel I was surprised at the range of questions people asked me. Many wrote or called to ask about pizzas, pacemakers, cars, chiropractors, sushi and always Costco. I have come to find this a delightful part of my job since it lets me see Mexico and San Miguel through the eyes of potential newcomers, and tell them why I live in San Miguel de Allende.
These questions also remind me of what I have learned about life in Mexico (sometimes painfully) over the past almost 20 years. When seeking information, smart folks ask open-ended questions, and the one that catches me by surprise almost every time is: “Why do you live in Mexico?”
The answer to that question is, as you might guess, complex and in many ways ever shifting. The classic answer is the four Cs: Climate. Cost, Culture and Community.
The climate in San Miguel is the best I have experienced, which includes a number of years in Santa Monica, California. It is a moderate four-season climate. I love living without heat or air conditioning. I do have fans, bed warmers and a fireplace. My bathroom heaters have been turned on once in the last 12 months, and that for a party. I love having windows open all-year-round and I spend more time by my pool than in my living room.
The cost of living here, while higher than many other parts of Mexico and the world, is a great bargain compared to major cities in the U.S. and Canada. You can rent a whole range of houses and apartments for US$500 to 1,000 a month, often with long leases if you wish. If you are buying, turn-key houses and condos starting in the mid-US$100s are available and are sometimes a good bit lower if they need work or are a bit far away from the center of the city.
Almost everything is a bargain compared to the rest of North America. Appliances, home entertainment and cars being the exceptions. They are either about the same or higher. Selection also is less. If cost and convenience are your number one issues nothing beats the big box stores and Amazon. For me, though, less purchasing and more time for myself were big goals.
I have been charmed and attracted to Mexican culture since my first visit at age 10. It is an amazingly rich and diverse country in every way. Still today I am delighted every time I stumble across a herd of cows in the street or bicyclists on pilgrimage. I always enjoy visiting the communities that make artisanal items like stone carvings or Christmas ornaments. And after 20 years, I still hear about new ones regularly.
It is very true that expats form strong communities. We need each other for information and for some sense of the familiar. Even people who have lived here for 30 years are excited to meet someone from their home towns. Instinctually we help each other out – this one doesn’t drive, that one speaks little Spanish, those two want to go to the beach but would never go alone and so on. All sorts of groups help expats and locals in numerous ways. You have an opportunity to be part of a community if you wish.
So why do I live here? Almost 20 years ago I was in a taxi on a narrow one-way street when a small delivery truck came to a stop blocking all traffic. I liked that no one blew their horn, but when my driver got out to help unload the truck I knew I had found my place. That same summer a truck with wide tires parked on a narrow street, which blocked the bus I was on. So, I joined with about 15 men to pick up the truck and move it on to the sidewalk.
I love living in the country with four dogs, friends with plenty of time to visit, improving the life of the neighbors by giving them water, looking forward to giving a home to a family through Casita Linda and having endless space for my succulents. All of these things and much more about San Miguel mean so much to me. Life in SMA isn’t for everyone, but for me, it’s paradise.