14 September 2016

Elizabeth Helsley - Expat in Mexico

Elizabeth Helsley - Expat in Mexico

We’ve had the chance to talk to Elizabeth Helsley, 35, an American expat who has moved to Mexico alone. Ms. Helsley who has been living there for more than ten years, now works as an international business consultant.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am originally from San Diego, California.


Q: What made you move out of San Diego, California?

A: I had done study abroad a couple of times in Mexico, and I got hired by a company who wanted to expand their operations in Latin America, so they wanted me to be based in Mexico City.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Right now I live in Mexico City.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I often joke that it chose me. I had always seemed to get jobs that required me to be in Mexico and then when I left my last company I just stayed. 


Q: How long have you been living in Mexico?

A: A total of ten + years in different cities – Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Los Cabos.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Mexico?

A: The most difficult experience is the first couple of months when you get into that “comparing” mode – comparing your host country with your home country and not accepting things for how they are. 


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in Mexico? What was your experience with these?

A: Getting a work permit was not difficult, but it can be time-consuming if you try and go at it alone without the help of a lawyer or gestor


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I live alone. 


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Mexico? How did you manage to find a social circle in Mexico?

A: I think the international expat groups are a great way to meet people. I socialize with a mix of people – Mexicans, Americans, Canadians and people from all over the world. As an expat, I find that my social circle changes all the time. Many of the people I meet are just in Mexico for a year or two, so it is a constant influx of new people. 


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: There is always something going on in Mexico City, no matter what you are looking for. Every Sunday, Paseo de la Reforma (one of the biggest streets in the city) closes down and runners, bicyclists and walkers take over – which is great for people who like exercise. There are a number of great restaurants in the Polanco area, downtown is great for the historical sites, and the Bazaar Sabado in San Angel is a good spot to see local handicrafts.


Q: How does the cost of living in Mexico compared to your home?

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: A cup of coffee runs around just under $2 USD.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: You can get a meal at a mom and pop restaurant for under $4 USD (at lunch), but you can find a meal at another inexpensive restaurant for under $10 USD. 

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: The sky is the limit…you can pay over $100 USD at an international restaurant like Nobu.

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: You can get a bottle of wine at a liquor store for under $10 USD on up. A pack of cigarettes costs around $3.11 USD. 


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The locals are great. The Mexican people are super friendly and very welcoming. They really appreciate it when you try to speak Spanish. Mexico City is just like anywhere else; you have good and bad people. 


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Mexico?

A: I think Mexico has a lot to offer culturally, as far as food and places to travel. There are plenty of places to travel to that are close by – including the Pueblos Magicos, which are full of history and great things to explore.

As far as the negatives, the impunity is a tough issue to deal with. When people think the police are just as bad as the criminals, then you have a real problem.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Of course! 


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I try to go home as often as I can, and I talk to my friends and family on Skype and Whatsapp almost every day, so that makes it easier. 


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I always tell people that I don’t know what’s going to happen because I could have a firm plan set in place and then have it change at the drop of a hat. I’m open to living almost anywhere!


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: I think the hardest aspect of living in a different country can be the lack of stability. Since people come and go, it can be hard to have a core circle of friends. Also, the economy can fluctuate, so depending on what you do some years can be more challenging than others. 


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in Mexico?

A: I would say my number one tip is to learn the language. It will open doors for you as far as employment, allow you to make new friends, and make your day to day life run much more smoothly. 


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Mexico?

A: I like to read the news on El Universal and Expansion.