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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pursuing the Expat Life

Sunset off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico
Exotic locales, new experiences, low cost of living and the excitement of immersing yourself in a new culture.  Who could pass up the opportunity for a richer fuller life?  Many Americans are retiring or relocating overseas in order to achieve the “dream life.” For one family, that aspiration was attained in Baja, California.  But is the expat life all it’s cracked up to be?  What does it take to follow your heart, pack up your life and move to the country of your dreams?
Expat Emily A. agreed to sit down with me to answer a few questions about her experiences relocating to another country, and what prompted her and her husband to make “the big move.”

S:  What motivated you to move to another country? 
E:  We enjoy Latin culture and wanted to be near the ocean.

S:  How long have you lived in Ensenada, Mexico?
E:  Six years

S:  How many years in advance did you start planning your move?
E.  We planned for five years before we moved to Ensenada.  During that time we made several trips to Ensenada, securing property, permits, etc…

S:  Can you describe your life as an expat?
E:  Very similar to our life in the U.S.  We both still work.  The commute is much more attractive now though.  Our standard of living is very high and we love living in a coastal community.

S:  What do you do about health care?  Do you have Mexican health insurance and was it difficult or expensive to get?
E:  We have U.S. health care coverage, however, we use Mexican doctors for minor issues and all dental care.  I had to have knee surgery last year and I opted to have the surgery done here.

S:  What is the cost of living in Mexico compared to the U.S.?  If you are comfortable, what does a typical month of expenditures look like?
E:  Don’t move to Mexico because you think you will save money!  The cost of living is similar to what it was in Arizona, but with an ocean view.  Property costs less, supplies are more expensive, labor is less but food (other than rice and beans) costs more.

S:  How do you generate an income as an expat?
E:  We both own our own businesses. I own a consulting and training company and my husband is in commercial property management.  We home office and travel for business as needed.

 S:  Would you recommend your current location in Ensenada to others who are considering making the same type of move?
E:  Only if they are committed to living in another country and abiding by the rules and culture of the host country.  So many Americans move to Mexico thinking they are going to live by American standards and they have not integrated.

S:  Do you speak Spanish fluently?  Do you have difficulty communicating with the locals?
E:  We do not speak Spanish fluently, but we speak enough to get by.

S:  What have your biggest challenges been since becoming an expat?
E:  Working through the immigration process to be in Mexico legally (this is a step many Americans skip and it is not good!). 

S:  Do you have any advice to offer others who are considering making a move to another country?
E:  Only make the move if you are open to integrating, adopting and contributing to the new culture and surroundings.

S:  Has it been easy to make friends and build a social life?
E:  We make friends easily and have met many great people.

S:  What’s the best part of living in the town you are in?
E:  The culture, the people, the food and the wineJ

S:  Did you furnish your house with belongings from the U.S. or did you buy most of your furnishings in Mexico?
E:  Interesting you should ask….we moved all our household goods from the U.S.; however, we purchased all the household goods from Mexico long ago during our travels. We just brought things back to their native homeland.

S:  How often do you get back to the U.S.?
E:  I travel for my work so I cross the border two or three times a month.  Last year my husband Dave crossed the border five times. 

S:  What do you miss most about living in the U.S.?
E:  Nothing.  We stay in touch with family and friends from the states and have established many new relationships.

S:  Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom for those considering a move to another country?
E:  Think the move through very carefully.   Rent for at least a year before buying property.  You might find a different location during your explorations that you would prefer to settle in permanently.  Liquidate and buy household goods when you get to your new home country.  Go through the proper channels for immigration and always check your facts three times.

S:  How old are you?
E:  I am 48 and my husband is 60.

S:  Thank you for taking the time to indulge my curiosity about life as an expatriate.
Eighty miles south of San Diego lay the coastal town of Ensenada, Mexico.   Often referred to as the perfect weekend getaway, Ensenada is a popular place for tourists, the adventure seeker, or those in search of a better life… the Expat Life.