Diplomatic Relations

Foreman GrillI am frequently asked by earnest and well meaning clients if the natives resent us for having so much when they -- the natives, that is -- have so little. It doesn’t seem gracious to say, “Honey, I’m sorry, but the natives don’t see it that way. They don’t stay up nights coveting your George Foreman grill, believe me.”

This rejoinder about the Foreman grill, while true, seems in its tactlessness to have sprung from the same unruly part of my brain that spawned the marketing slogan ” Uglier, Dumber people than You have Done It!” in response to some of the questions from anxious retirees who are down here on week long seminars about how to move to Mexico. As if it’s necessary to be thoroughly briefed before moving to the best climate in the world, where DSL and Home & Garden Television are readily available, where, thanks to whole house UV filters, we flush toilets with potable water, and where the signage is conveniently in English. It’s not like preparing your body to take the shuttle up to the Hubble telescope or going walkabout in the Australian Bush with an Aboriginal Tribe.

I find myself getting a little testy with people who have apparently been boning up on how to behave in a country under the control of the Taliban instead of one that has its own MTV channel. For instance: No, people are not offended if you use the okay sign or show the palms of your hands. Yes, women have been allowed in the workplace for some time. No, people don’t wish all the Gringos would go home. Unless you happen to be an asshole, in which case we would all appreciate it if you stay home in the first place.

Mexicans often feel sympathy for us, their misguided Northern neighbors. How can so many people, they wonder, be so rootless and disconnected that they want to move a thousand miles from their families with nothing but toasters and Foreman Grills?

Ajijic churchBy the same token, you’ll have to bring a little more to the table than not being an asshole if you want to ensure social success. We are a welcoming bunch down here, and only a half hour from an international airport. The population is a mix of old and young, year round and snowbird, Gringo, Mexican and European. It’s fun here! People who move to Mexico are cool!

Chapala is not quite a smoky cantina in 1940’s Mexico. There’s a group of sophisticates who aren’t convinced that it’s Mexico at all, thanks to it’s unique culture, a fusion of Latin American and the United States of Retirement. But it’s easy to live here, and fun and, if not exactly the Mexico experienced by the Beat poets, it is at least a more colorful adventure than the suburb we left behind.

And your Foreman Grill is safe.

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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