YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and from where did you move?
Joshua: I moved to Mérida in 2007, sight unseen! One of the big reasons we choose to come to Mérida was because we discovered YucatanLiving.com and read every article we could find on the website. It was a huge inspiration to us. Like finding a super insider guide to everything. Your website got us so excited to come to Merida and see everything we had read about for ourselves.
YL: Why did you move?
Joshua: The plan was to move to Mexico for six months so that my kids and I could learn a little Spanish and skip winter. What we didn’t expect was that we would end up staying! Our first six months went by in a blink of an eye and we hadn’t seen everything yet, so we couldn’t leave! I work online so deciding to stay was an instant decision.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Joshua: We chose Mérida by typing into Google “Best tropical place for Canadians to live.” The very first result we found was an old forum website called “Merida Insider” (no longer online). I made a post on there asking questions and a bunch of very helpful expats replied. I ended up talking to a couple of people on the phone and they all pointed us to Yucatan Living. After reading everything on this website, we just decided to come. It took about two months from the moment we thought about it to make the final call and move to Merida. It all happened really fast.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
Joshua: Our very first home in Merida was a beautifully done colonial about a block from la Ermita. We stayed there about six months, and then rented a house around the corner for another year or so. After that we purchased a house in Santiago (Gringo Gulch).
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?
Joshua: Yes, I have been a web/interface designer for about 16 years and I continued with my clients from Canada and the US when I arrived in Mexico. I am still doing a lot of design work, but I am now teaching people how to make online businesses and training people to build effective websites locally and online.
YL: What are the most interesting things about living here for you?
Joshua: By far the best part about living in Mérida is the people. It is impossible to be lonely here. All I have to do is walk out my door and I will run into someone I know. I love how friendly everyone is and how Mérida is a decent size city with everything you need, but still feels like a small town in a lot of ways. The location is perfect - close to the beach, easy for visitors and family to get to from Cancun, and a great home–base for visiting other parts on Mexico. We love going to D.F. (Mexico City), for instance. I love all the cultural events, art, music, & crafts that are here. There is always so much to do and see.
YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Joshua: That is a hard question because there are so many things… one thing that sticks out is that every day is summer! Being from Canada and living somewhere without 9 months of winter has a huge impact on how I live. I spend most of my time outside every day. I love the people. I have so many great friends here and everyone is just a phone call away. It’s not like Canada where you have to make a 2 week appointment to hang out with people. I see my friends almost every day for coffee or to have something to eat.
YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Joshua: The biggest thing that comes up is food selection. Calgary is so multi-cultural that you can eat just about any type of food you want, whenever you want. I miss Vietnamese food with a passion! Or any type of Mediterranean food. Or real Indian food. I would kill to get some more variety in Mérida, but it’s coming along. It seems that every week I hear about a new restaurant opening up with a new concept. There are a lot more choices now then even a few years ago… so I will just be patient. Plus, nothing beats tacos el pastor or a killer pozole!
YL: What don’t you miss from your "former life"?
Joshua: I think people are more open and nice here. I don’t miss winter. I don’t miss the cost of living in Canada. I don’t miss the fast pace of life. Really, I don’t find myself yearning for home... ever.
YL: What is your favorite local food?
Joshua: Tacos el pastor, relleno negro, pozole (even though it’s not local), poc chuc, all the botanas at places like Eladios. Micheladas!
YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Joshua: Whenever it’s not 45 degrees Celsius! Seriously, pretty much all the time.
YL: Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Joshua: Parqué de Santiago is my favourite place in the whole city. Just to hang out or eat. It’s a really special place for me. Of course I take them to the Plaza Grande. There is a great cafe there called Cafe la Cabaña that you will find me at most days. Outside of the city I usually try to bring people to at least one awesome cenote, Uxmal or another ruin and Progreso is always a crowd pleaser.
YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Joshua: I really enjoy eating in the markets etc. But I also love places like Rescoldos, La Tratto en Santa Lucia, Piedra del Agua, etc.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Joshua: I think people need time to adjust here, especially in centro where there is so much traffic, buses and people. As a tourist, I think you have to be a special breed of traveler to really enjoy all that Mérida has to offer. If you are looking for “all inclusive” style vacation, don’t come here. But if you want to dig in and meet some locals, have a good time and don’t mind walking everywhere, there is a lot to enjoy. I love the colonial buildings in centro and the art displays and music. About half the people that come to Merida love it... the other half hate it. I guess it just depends on what interest you. If you live here, you eventually learn to relax and stop expecting everything to be like home. I’m not sure I answered this question properly, but I don’t think of Merida as a place you can really know as a one-time tourist. It takes time to find all the little details that make it so special.
YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Joshua: Both. It’s impossible not to make friends here. I think the expat crowd generally does a great job of assimilating into society. I think it would be hard for people to stick to hanging with just expats and I would be sad for them.
YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here? How is it different from doing the same thing in your country of origin?
Joshua: Business in the Yucatan is a whole lot different than anywhere else. I’m not sure if I am ever going to figure that out! I have banged my head against the wall more than a few times. I find that there are very different sensibilities than I am used to working in Canada or the US.
YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Joshua: I work online, so the answer is no. I would be doing the exact same thing in Canada. The difference in the cost of living makes a big difference for the lifestyle that I am able to afford, and I am really grateful for that.
YL: Are your work habits different here?
Joshua: Yes! I work a lot less here than I used to back home. A lot of that has to do with the cost of living, but I have also adopted the habit of taking long lunches or coffee in the middle of the day with friends and family. I am not as wound up and stressed out. The pace of life is slower and more enjoyable. I also take more holidays. It seems that every second day is a holiday here, and who am I to argue with all of Mexico? “when in Rome” !
YL: Did you speak Spanish when you moved here? Where did you learn Spanish (if you did)? Is the language barrier a problem for you in your daily life?
Joshua: I came here with 2 Spanish words: “hola” and “cerveza”. I learned the rest here. It was a wonderful experience learning a new language as an adult. I feel like knowing Spanish really adds to my creativity. I still have a lot of learning to do!
YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Joshua: When someone says “gracias” to you, you can say “no hay de queso (caso), no mas de papa…” it’s a line from a famous comedian “Chaparron” (I have been told...). It’s just a funny way to say thank you. It is a play on words... hard to explain in English. Another famous saying that I really like is from Frida Kahlo… “Te amo mas que a mi propio piel…” (I love you more than my own skin), a portion of a poem by her. I am always finding romantic or beautiful sayings and quotes… they go well with all the beauty here.
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Joshua: I am not. But I would love to be… maybe if I keep studying my romantic Spanish quotes, I can find a way to be come a citizen!
YL: Have you traveled much within Mexico? If so, where and what has been your favorite location to visit? What did you see there that you liked so much?
Joshua: I am in love with D.F. (Mexico City). There is so much to see and do there! I will be going back as much as possible. There is a lot of art and culture there. Too much to write here. I recommend everyone goes there.
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Joshua: I love the people here. Everyone is so nice and welcoming. I have felt a couple of times that some people maybe feel resentful of the expat community sometimes, but that is a rare case. I think people are amazing here and as a Canadian I have learned a lot about being genuine and caring from my Mexican friends.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Joshua: There is so much opportunity in Mexico... this country has everything. Especially online, I feel like there is so much that hasn’t been done yet. I am very excited about the economic prospects of Mexico. I feel like there are huge business opportunities in service markets and manufacturing. There is a lot of innovation and creativity in Mexico and every day I see new opportunities. I constantly hear a lot of people grumble about how Mexico is on the brink of falling into total collapse or complaining about the economy, when in reality there is so much to be optimistic about. Mexico is doing great things and will continue.
YL: What are some changes you are hoping for in the city in which you live? Do you see any progress towards these changes?
Joshua: Mérida is growing fast! A lot of people from other parts of the country are moving here and I feel like the diversity is fantastic for the city. I think we will continue to see an expansion of services and business that are available here as the city grows.
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
Joshua: I’m not 100% sure. I would like to continue to do more personal teaching around business and design. I am working on a course right now to teach people to start their own online business. I would love to use my training as a platform for less and less client work and transition to full time teaching.
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Joshua: Work with a local real estate agent. There are a million great deals here. I am always finding properties for amazing prices. Buy downtown. Like all major cities in Canada and the USA in the 70’s, they expand outward but then eventually contract… that is when you start seeing urban living concepts. I am seeing that happening now. The centro is slowly transforming from the ghost town of grandparents to the hip new place to be and it will pick up speed. Imagine if you wanted to own downtown in any major USA or Canadian city now! A lot of local people look at me like I am crazy when I say that… “why would anyone want to live in centro?!” they ask with a semi confused look on their faces. I just smile ;)
YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Joshua: Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Mexico has changed my entire outlook on life and filled my heart to the brim. Every day I wake up thankful that I have the chance to live here. Thank you for welcoming me into your world and teaching me so much. Also, thanks for tacos el pastor!
YL: Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers (people interested in or considering moving to the Yucatan, former Yucatecans, people planning to visit for an extended tour…)?
Joshua: Just come here. It’s the best choice I ever made in my entire life.
Joshua loves helping people turn their ideas into real business online and off. He also offers design/communication and web design training, perfect for beginners all the way to seasoned professionals. If you are interested, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 999-910-7350 (Merida Cell). You can see his website at 99lime.com.