Phillip Geerts, Physical Trainer in Merida
YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and from where did you move?
Phillip: I moved here to Merida on January 9th of 2007. I moved from a small city in Florida called Punta Gorda.
YL: Why did you move?
Phillip: My parents moved here 3 years before I did. I came to visit them on vacation in October 2006 and found Merida an interesting place.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Phillip: Well, it’s quite funny. I believe many gringos who have never been to Mexico have the wrong image of Mexico and fail to see its real beauty. My parents called me from Belgium, where they were living at the time and told me they were moving to Mexico. I asked them “Whaaatt are you crazy??”. The things I had seen of Mexico (other than Cancun) were not very pleasant and I had heard it wasn’t safe. My parents told me "No, it's just like home... they have a WalMart and everything." So I came on vacation and decided to get away from my "normal" life and try Merida for a change. Little did I realize how great it was going to be.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the
Phillip: I am currently living in an apartment behind my parent’s house. For now it is the right decision for me. I enjoy living with them. I had many years without them in Florida, so it gives me a chance to catch up.
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?
Phillip: Well I am a personal trainer and when I first came here I thought I could find work easily. I worked as an independent contractor for the WW gym and had little luck with clients. So I ended up purchasing a gym here to run myself. Not exactly what I had planned to do, since I am only 23.
YL: What is different about training and keeping in shape here, versus where you came from? Are there special things to take into consideration in this culture and/or in this climate?
Phillip: Well the most important thing is to keep hydrated. Training in any climate you should always keep well hydrated but here it is extremely important. I also recommend sunblock. Sometimes we forget because we are not going to the beach. We think a short run around the block a few times will be fine, but not here!
YL: Do you find the climate a lot different from Florida?
Phillip: Well the heat here is very intense. From May to July it is just scorching outside. Florida also has its heat but it is nothing compared to here. But I think the humidity is a lot worse in Florida. We seem to get a lot more rain there and it sits on the surface a lot longer.
YL: Where do you think are the best places to go out at night here? Where is
the best "nightlife"?
Phillip: Well that all depends on your age and what music or atmosphere you fancy most. For some loud and exciting Latin salsa dancing, I always recommend that newcomers go to the Mambo Cafe. For the younger generation, I usually send them to Tekila or El Cielo. The Centro on the weekends gets to be fun too. There are live bands playing and lots of people around having a good time.
YL: What are the most popular sports in the Yucatan among people your age?
How are sports different here than in the US?
Phillip: Soccer, of course, is one of the largest sports here and then baseball. The Yucatecans love their baseball! Sports are not so much different here. The athletes train the same, and play the same games. Mixed Martial Arts is now a large uprising sport in the US and is becoming popular here. I train in Mixed Martial Arts and train a few combat athletes here now as well.
YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Phillip: For me, it’s the great friends I have made along the way. I have met so many people here in the last year, it’s incredible. The nightlife in Merida is incredible. I love the outdoors here. I am close to all that I love to do. I can drive 30 minutes and I am on the Gulf Coast, and in 4 hours I can be in Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. I also love diving in cenotes and camping in the rough terrain of the Yucatan.
YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Phillip: I miss my family and friends mostly, but also the access to anything without a hassle. Sometimes you can not always get what you need down here.
YL: What don’t you miss from your "former life"?
Phillip: How small my town is. Where I grew up, you can’t drive to the grocery store and back without seeing 10 people you know!
YL: What is your favorite local food?
Phillip: I am big dieter but sometimes I slip away for a panucho or salbute here and there.
YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Phillip: I am going to have to say the winter because it’s the only time it gets cool. Also the holidays are great. Christmas is amazing here. Merida does a spectacular job with all the lighting and decoration.
YL: Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Phillip: I take them to the Gulf Coast to eat fish... that is a must in my book. Also, I take them around the Centro on a Sunday for Merida en Domingo.
YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Phillip: Kon Sushi! I live for sushi and this place does it the best, for those of you who enjoy sushi.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Phillip: To be honest, you really need to live here to understand the way the culture works in Merida. You need time to adapt and learn how to get around this busy city. Most of the tourist do not make it out of the Centro to see the other parts of Merida.
YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Phillip: Most of my friends are locals. There are not many young expat kids here my age.
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?
Phillip: Well, income is much different, that’s for sure! The problem I find here in the business I run is the lack of motivation in the people to train. I own a gym and am a very active person myself. Where I lived in Florida, people were very into fitness. I have a hard time finding motivated people here who want to continue training.
YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Phillip: It’s much more difficult here for me because the people pay less and my bills are through the roof!
YL: Are your work habits different here?
Phillip: Yes, in some ways. I am a little more laid back here because that’s the way people live here. I am not pressured by time so much and it allows me to focus on my business more.
YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Phillip: Si como no which means “Yeah, right” in English. I was taught it by my girlfriend!
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Phillip: No, I plan to return to Florida one of these days. I am young at the moment and if I have kids I would like for them to grow up in the States.
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?
Phillip: I haven’t been far out of Merida. I like to go diving in cenotes in Cuzama. I made my way to Playa Del Carmen a few times and haven’t had a bad memory from there, that’s for sure.
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Phillip: There are many types of people here. By mostly I am treated very well and welcomed. I get along great with everyone here.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Phillip: For me, it’s of no concern right now. I am more worried for the future of the United States!
YL: What are some changes you are hoping for in the city in which you live? Do you see any progress towards these changes?
Phillip: Well, I would like to see more bus stops put in and more rules enforced upon them. They drive like maniacs here!
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
Phillip: If I do decide to stay for good, I am very interested in opening another gym or expanding the one I have now.
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Phillip: Take your time and get to know the entire city. Don’t just stay in the Centro. Experience everything the city has to offer.
YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Phillip: Vive Mexico!!!
Phillip Geerts is the inhouse trainer at the gym at Rosas + Xocolate, the small luxury hotel on Paseo de Montejo at the corner of Calle 41. He is also a personal trainer and Mixed Martial Arts practitioner.