Johannah in Tampico: "So many places here in Mexico are just beautiful"

Expat interviews
  • Johannah in Tampico
Published on 2015-04-16 at 00:00 by team
Johannah, US expat, moved to Tampico 8 months ago with her family following her husband's reassignment. During their free time, they enjoy traveling around the country...

Where are you from, Johannah, and what are you doing nowadays?

I'm a mother of two, married to a chemical engineer. We are from Chicago, where we were a pretty typical family, busy with school, work, house, snow, shopping and visiting Starbucks.

Why did you choose to move to Mexico?

My hubby's company offered to relocate our family to Mexico for a three-year job reassignment for him. After some research, visiting the area and long family discussions, we accepted their offer for many reasons, the main one of which being: "How many offers like that come along in a lifetime?".

What were the procedures to follow for a US national to move there?

My husband's company took care (and is still taking care) of all the paperwork - crossing all the "t"s and dotting all the "i"s, and there is a lot of both involved in an international move like ours. I'll share that the procedure to move our household goods from the US to our new house in Mexico was crazy stressful: the actual planning, packing, paperwork, moving and then waiting for those items to arrive. We had to create a written index of all of our possessions (every dish, fork, DVD, toy, etc. - you get the idea), and the truck arriving with all of our belongings was incredibly late (not to sound materialistic or anything, but you don't realize how much your earthly possessions mean to you when you are sure they've all been stolen). Getting our temporary work and living visas has been an ordeal and lengthy process. Our family had started Spanish lessons before the move, and had a few days of cultural training, both of which was immensely helpful.

How long have you been in the country? What is your family situation?

We have been in Mexico for eight months now. Our family situation has changed in that we no longer have family living near us. Everyone is in a different country now, and that's been hard to deal with as we miss everyone, and certainly the option of just jumping into our cars to go and visit family is no longer available. But I also think it's brought our immediate family (the four of us) closer together.

What has attracted you to Tampico?

The physical location of my husband's job was the deciding factor of why we picked Tampico, which is also in close proximity to our girls' school. Besides that we also loved the close proximity to the beach, lots of stores and restaurants (and Starbucks!).

Are you currently working?

Hubby is working hard at his new job. I am not, for the first time in my adult life, actually. I left a job I had been with for fourteen years to facilitate this move (I'm a paralegal), so not working for me has been an added adjustment to everything else.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there?

My husband's company provided us with the nicest, most knowledgeable real estate agent in the area (and who apparently knows everyone who lives here). She showed us different rental properties in our area of interest. I don't think the market had a ton of rental properties available, but luckily she did find us what we needed, and for the past eight months we have really enjoyed living in this particular rental property. With a few exceptions, many of the homes did not have the "open concept" we were used to back in the US and several had no yards. The architecture here is beautiful, including the homes, but they are different with the small yards and security gates.

How do you find the Mexican lifestyle?

It's loud and friendly, slow and frustrating at times, beautiful and family-oriented. We've had a hard time adjusting to their meal schedule, as evidenced, by trying to go out for lunch at noon and finding some places aren't even open yet, or dinner and some places do not open until 8 pm (our kids bedtime!).

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

Some days, I think we're doing pretty well, and some days I think we all feel like we've been hit by a truck. So in my opinion, adapting is a day-to-day process. You either accept and enjoy the things that are different, or you respect them enough to deal with them. We are happy here, so I'm hoping we are adapting as well as can be, enjoying those situations that are different and hopefully learning something in the process, and learning patience for anything left over.

What does your every day life look like in Tampico?

Work and school for my husband and children. As a native-English speaking person, I am volunteering at the school helping kids read in English and enjoying writing my blog. We're from Chicago, so right now we are really enjoying the fact that our "every day" life currently doesn't involve shoveling snow and minus-wind-chill temperatures!

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

I am surprised daily at just how bad the driving conditions are here: the physical condition of the roads with huge pot holes, little-to no signs, traffic lights that don't work, as well as the other cars on the road, including tons of buses and taxis. I've already been rear-ended, so I will share I'm surprised at just how bad it is and I definitely do not enjoy driving here, and am a little worried at how my own driving will be when we return to the US.

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

I would answer this question by tying together two of my previous answers already: how friendly the people are, and how bad the driving conditions are. I was rear-ended after only being here for about three months. Not understanding how the accident procedures were here, it was pretty scary. However, the young man who hit me turned out to be one of the nicest people we've met so far. No one was hurt in the accident so we both pulled over into a nearby-parking lot. Another car had immediately pulled in behind us, and it was a fellow mom from the school. She had witnessed the accident and knowing I was new to the area and still struggling with my Spanish, wanted to come over and see if she could help. While waiting for the insurance companies to come out (which took about an hour, but in this heat and humidity it felt like three), I had a really fun time talking to the young man in the other car, who was a local, born and bred here in Tampico, and just full of interesting and helpful information about our new local area. Although I certainly did not enjoy the actual accident itself, I appreciated the kindness showed to me by the other mom who stopped to help me, and enjoyed meeting and talking with the young man.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Tampico ?

In our experience so far, groceries are cheaper but the quality isn't the same, and it's hard to find many organic options. Electricity is very expensive, so watch your thermostat (especially in the summer time): our first electric bill was over US$ 700. Water is cheaper, clothes are not. Eating out is cheaper, which we find ironic because with very little exception, the food here is amazing. I certainly think it's cheaper to live here than in Chicago, but just watch those electric bills!

How do you spend your leisure time there?

Trying to travel and see as much as we can. When we aren't traveling, we're at least talking about traveling and trying to make plans. We've been to Cancun and visited Chichen Itza, which was amazing. We also recently visited Xilitla and the Las Pozas, equally amazing. So many places here in Mexico are just beautiful - the history, nature and environment. We watch a lot less TV here than back home (although I'll admit that we won't be giving up our Netflix account anytime soon). We play a lot of games, be it cards or boardgames or online games. Our children have several penpals they keep in touch with (and writing letters for them can sometimes be an all-day event for some strange reason). We all read a lot and relax. I've recently started practicing yoga and we all have bi-weekly private Spanish lessons, taught by two wonderful teachers.

What are the differences between life in Mexico and in the US?

The biggest difference I would suggest is that Mexico is much slower. Sometimes that can be really frustrating, but sometimes that forces us to slow down ourselves and appreciate things more.

Do you miss your home country?

Every day! But that doesn't stop us from enjoying our time here in Mexico.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Mexico?

Be open minded wherever you go, be as prepared as possible, and be patient. Make sure to find the time to enjoy the experience. It's only as positive as you make it for yourself and your family and sometimes that takes a lot of effort. But it's worth it.

What are your plans for the future?

I don't know yet. We're still hanging stuff on the walls. We honestly haven't thought that far ahead! I guess when our three-year work plan is up, we'll have a discussion with hubby's company about what our options are next. Sometimes it feels like the three years will fly by, and sometimes it feels like time has come to a stand-still! We are just working hard to enjoy our three years here, see as many beautiful Mexican places as we can, learn Spanish and continue to meet and get to know the many wonderful people here.

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