Greg in San Miguel de Allende: "The mañana attitude is very much alive"

Expat interviews
  • Greg in San Miguel de Allende
Published on 2014-07-03 at 00:00 by team
Five years have gone by since Greg, a US citizen, has settled in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Realtor by profession, he says to be always busy. But he manages to spend his leisure time in writing novels, newspapers columns, photography, etc.

Can you introduce yourself? Who are you and where do you come from?

I'm Greg, a five-year full-time expat living in the 2013 Condé Nast Traveler-ranked Number One City in the World, San Miguel de Allende, the very heart (geographically and historically) of Mexico. Our little village of 140,000 also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site - just like Florence, Italy, and is the largest concentration of expats in Mexico. I previously lived my entire adult life in Colorado and San Diego, so you can see that weather is a big factor in my lifestyle choice.
Though I was trained as an architect and retain that right-brained instinct (San Miguel de Allende nurtures that in us all), I spent most of my career developing commercial retail projects - regional malls and lifestyle centers - until the Big Recession ended that career path in 2009. I had already begun my transition to Mexico, starting in 2006 when I bought a lot and started building my custom home here, so the transition seemed a natural move by 2009! Like many of us local expats here, I now wear many hats: I'm a Realtor, but also a novelist, marketing & P.R. consultant, and I pen the social column for our local bilingual newspaper, The ''Atención''.

What has attracted you to Mexico?

Because of its proximity to the U.S., its affordability factor, and the astounding weather where I live in central Mexico.

How long have you been in the country?

I hold what Mexican immigration calls a "Permanente Visa" which can only be obtained after five years of residency here. I'm fortunate enough to live right in the heart of the city, immediately adjacent to our city park, and never need get in my car unless I'm driving clients around. My family situation? Well, I'm single and live alone, and all my family is in the U.S.

What were the procedures to follow to move to San Miguel de Allende?

Some people sell everything and move down with just a couple suitcases - I couldn't do that! I started by getting my visa at a Mexican consulate in the U.S., and then worked with a moving agent and customs broker to create the ''menaje de casa'' that allows expats a one-time exemption (within six months of being granted your visa) to import your personal household goods without paying a tax.

Was it difficult for you to integrate the local real estate market?

This question is worthy of a novel-length answer, especially with the dramatic changes in the tax laws that started in 2014. Let's just provide a succinct answer and say that if you need a viable income stream--not just pocket money - to live in Mexico, you should assume your income will come from the U.S.

What are the types of accommodation which are available there?

I can tell you there is every possible accommodation you can imagine, from condos or apartments, to simple homes to multi-million dollar mansions. As for me, I had already purchased a lot and built a home here before I even moved here.

How do you find the Mexican lifestyle?

After five years, I have become surprisingly adept as adjusting to the fact that the mañana attitude is very much alive and well in smaller communities like San Miguel, and that nothing is ever black-and-white, like U.S. citizens are accustomed to expecting. "Flexibility" becomes your biggest asset here.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

Remember that advice above? Flexibility!

What has surprised you the most at your arrival in San Miguel de Allende?

How quickly I was accepted into the community and how easy it is to know everyone in town.

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

In Mexico, those unique and one-of-a-kind experiences happen almost daily. We joke that a "random Aztec parade" can happen at the most unexpected moment and shut down the street you are on for 15 minutes, but it's magical to witness every time.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in San Miguel de Allende?

Housing is frequently as expensive as in the United States but the difference is that we are living in the equivalent of Manhattan's Soho or West Village - based upon the lifestyle we enjoy - on the rent or cost equivalent of, perhaps, Denver. Imported goods and groceries are, of course, 16% more expensive than the States, but everything else, staff in particular, is far less expensive.

Is it easy for an expat to live in the country?

Yes, if you're flexible!

How do you spend your leisure time?

I'm a Realtor - we have no leisure time! No, I'm kidding... Remember that "random Aztec parade" I mentioned? That's the best kind of entertainment, but we have an abundance of daily social activities in San Miguel. I pen a social column and there are evenings on occasion that I cover three events in one evening, from a gallery opening to a formal fund-raiser.

What are the differences between life in the U.S. and in San Miguel de Allende?

We have no Whole Foods or Trader Joes-bummer. And since I live in the heart of a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, I don't have a fast food joint on every corner, but I also never spend any time in a traffic jam, either. We spend time enjoying the 150 annual festivals here in San Miguel, which is like enjoying the 4th of July weekly.

Any advice you would like to give to future expatriates?

Do what you're doing now - read everything you can about the experience. Even better if you can communicate in person - phone and/or email - and get an insider's insight.

What are your plans for the future?

To enjoy my home, career & lifestyle in San Miguel indefinitely. Come on down and join us!

Share your expat experience!

Contact us to be featured in the Interviews section.