10 April 2017

Stephanie Kempker Edri - Expat in Puebla, Mexico

Stephanie Kempker Edri - Expat in Puebla, Mexico

We’ve had the chance to talk to Stephanie Kempker Edri, 28, an American expat who has moved to Mexico with her husband. Mrs. Edri who has been living there for one and a half  years, now works as a travel writer. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Grand Rapids, MI, USA.


Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: I took a short trip to Thailand when I was 24. I ended up falling in love with the country and deciding to stay in Bangkok. It wasn’t planned.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Puebla, Mexico. My husband and I were living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and really not enjoying it – relatively high costs of living for poor quality, safety worries, and I was experiencing very intense sexual harassment on the streets. We were looking for other opportunities, and my husband had a job offer in Puebla. I can work from my home office from anywhere in the world so it seemed like a great choice.


Q: How long have you been living in Mexico?

A: In Mexico: A year and a half.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my husband and two dogs. My husband has been outside of his home country for 5 years and loves expat life. My dogs are adopted from Thailand and Guatemala, and they’ve been travellers their whole lives.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Home is where you make it, and I definitely don’t miss my “home” country of the USA (aside from Panera Bread, yum!), though I do miss my first expat home in Bangkok. I do miss my family but luckily they come to visit frequently, which helps me cope with homesickness.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Mexican people are some of the most warm, welcoming, and kind people I’ve encountered in the entire world. They are extremely supportive to language learners, which is awesome and not always the case.


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 there?  

A: We lived in Mexico City for a brief period, and I found it much easier to make friends and meet people there as compared to Puebla (where I live now), perhaps because of more diversity. There are many expat groups, photo groups, and a “Girls Gone International” group that made it quite easy to meet other expats.

In Puebla, most of the expats are German working for the auto industry and in general act quite exclusive towards other nationalities, including Americans like me. The few friends here I actually met through other acquaintances.

I socialize mainly with expats, but have local friends as well.


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

A: In general, it is much cheaper. If you want luxury products, however, it is much more expensive.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: At a local shop (ie not Starbucks) around 20 pesos (a little over 1USD)

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 40-50 pesos (a little over 2 to 2.5USD)

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: At an “expensive” for local prices restaurant would be 200 pesos (10USD) but you can go all the way up to 100USD for a meal, same as anywhere else in the world.

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

A: My favorite wine is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and it is 100 pesos (a little over $5). No idea regarding cigarettes.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Mexico?

A: Block out a half day because it takes a lot of time, and check with the bank regarding the necessary paperwork. Sometimes you need to show a bill in your name with your local address, and proof of employment, along with passport and visa.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: We have a company lawyer via my husband so I haven’t really had to deal with it.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Mexico is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Yes, it is very good. There is always a private hospital in any mid size or larger city, with quick and efficient service. Doctors at private clinics and hospitals generally speak English.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or Mexico?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I have health insurance for expat Americans, which I purchased once living abroad. Essentials would include emergency care and once yearly checkups, along with assistance in finding English speaking doctors in the area. For me, because I travel so much, a plan that covers me in whatever country I’m in is also important.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Mexico? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: We moved from our previous host country of Brazil to Mexico. The most memorable experience was my husband getting upgraded to business class while moving with our small, carry-on sized dog. Dogs technically aren’t allowed in business class, but no one noticed. Yay for getting upgraded!

We moved ourselves in a few suitcases as we lived in furnished apartments so we weren’t getting a container or anything like that.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: I’ve been an expat for over 4 years now. In the beginning, the main challenges were simply saving money and finding a job, when I started off in Thailand.


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

A: There are so many but mainly positives!

Positives: amazing food, cheap prices for everything (VIP movies for one-quarter the cost of a regular ticket in the US are a current obsession), friendly culture, being away from Trump and the madness in the US, convenient to travel to other countries, learning Spanish

Negatives: unreliable services (internet, water, etc), bureaucracy of simple things like getting a bank account


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: In Puebla, I love the Africam Safari for animal encounters, downtown Cholula and Puebla for cool historic sites, and the Sonata Plaza for interesting vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

Living in the Lomas de Angelopolis would be nice for new expats, especially those that don’t understand the security/safety situation in Mexico, as it is a secured community with a lot to do within it.


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

A: No - I do not plan to live in the US ever again, especially not in the current political climate. With a multicultural family, I don’t feel it is a very safe or welcoming place.

As far as living in another country, yes, we probably won’t stay in Mexico forever, but no current plans.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Relax and enjoy! Always keep a book stashed with you for long waits.


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

A: I write a blog about expat life in Mexico (and previously Brazil and Thailand) at JoyAndJourney.com