Living Lakeside the Good the Bad the Ugly
I have lived in the Lake Chapala area since I was 7 years old, I don’t regret any of it. I feel fortunate not only growing up here but also having raised a family who also enjoys the benefits of what this area in Mexico has to offer.
Most people that live here boast about being able to call Chapala their home, others don’t quite see it that way. I have seen the look of disgust and frustration of many expats who have moved down to Mexico permanently.
Living in Mexico for some may present many unforeseen challenges which will make a lot of people end up moving back to where they came from.
The truth is that life is much easier when we are able to accept the good and the bad.
Mexico is a colorful country with friendly people and diverse cultures but it’s not for everyone. For most people, day to day living seems normal, for others (especially expats) living lakeside is not at all what they expected it to be. So much so that many of them will end up packing their bags and going back home.
In this article, I will discuss some of the things that put people off and makes them regret making the move to Lake Chapala.
One of the biggest concerns of many expats is a crime, and yes it does exist, but a lot of times it’s not what people think. As I am writing this the incidents of organized or drug crime has increased in Jalisco and much of the mainstream media portrays it as very serious, and in some places, it is but living lakeside things are not that bad.
What I tell those who are thinking of moving down is that crime around lakeside is not that bad.
What to look for
Crime is something that can strike anywhere at any time but more than anything, especially lakeside its more about petty crime.
The types of crimes you hear most about are usually things like getting your purse or wallet stolen. Recently there have been a few complaints in some neighborhoods about cars being vandalized in order to remove the battery or car computer.
Home robberies do happen and they seem to go in waves, certain areas seem to be more affected than others and just because you live in a gated community does not make you immune to a home robbery.
I have only personally heard of one such case here in the Lake Chapala area but does happen in many areas in Mexico “mostly bigger cities”. In Guadalajara it’s not uncommon for people to be robbed of their car at gunpoint.
Obviously the nicer the car the more attention it could bring.
I drive back and forth into Guadalajara 2-3 times a week and have never had any issues. Obviously fancy cars that stand out are often the most likely candidates but once again these are rare occurrences.
Terrible roads and potholes
Having lived lakeside for over 40 years I have seen the best and worst of road conditions. At this time the road from Jocotepec to Chapala is not in the greatest condition.
Not only is it lined with topes (speed bumps) it has its fair share of potholes.
Unfortunately, the municipal governments have weird priorities and fixing the roads is never one of them.
It used to take 20-25 minutes to drive to and from Chapala to Jocotepec, with all the speed bumps and traffic lights it can take an hour, sometimes even more. On Friday and weekends is when there is a lot of congestion this is mostly due to all of the people who drive out from Guadalajara.
Many of them have weekend homes and come out to rest and enjoy the lake.
Mexico is dirty
In some places it is, some areas are not as bad, however, if you are looking for pristine streets without trash this is probably not a place for you.
Sometimes there is no trash pick up for a couple of days and with street dogs running around looking for food, trash bags are an easy target, so sometimes you will find trash strewn around which is not a pretty sight.
Dog crap on the street and other debris are not uncommon so be careful where you step, some dogs even like pooping on the sidewalk.
It’s not like this everywhere and some areas are worse than others.
Things don’t get done on time
One of the first words most expats learn when coming to Mexico is the word mañana, that is because Mexicans are not the most punctual people.
Most foreigners will have to ask themselves after living here for a few months how does this country functions.
This can be irritating, especially when trying to get things done in a timely manner.
The bottom line is that a lot of people especially in smaller towns don’t have a hustle and bustle mentality. In fact, even in some of the major cities, you will find that things move at a slower pace.
A lot of business never opens on time, or if you schedule an appointment don’t be surprised if they show up fifteen to twenty minutes late.
No shows are not uncommon, I don’t know how many times I have made an appointment with a contractor, electrician or plumber only to not have them show up.
Along with being late or not showing up some business will often times not return phone calls.
Understanding that this is just a cultural thing will help you better understand that Mexico is slow-moving, what does not get done today will happen tomorrow.
What I can tell you is that working with the Mexican people is a lot of fun, they are hardworking and aim to please but doing things here takes patience.
Things are more expensive
Many people who move down to Mexico expect things to be much cheaper here than they are north of the border. A lot of things are cheaper in Mexico but not everything.
Things like appliances, imported goods and vehicles are more expensive. This imported from China and Japan are also costly due to the high import tariffs.
I personally live on a Mexican budget and I know for a fact that things are cheaper here than in the U.S or Canada. If I shop at the local stores and markets I can save a lot of money.
Shopping at some of the bigger stores in Guadalajara such as Costco and Sams Club is more expensive but when I do shop there I am usually buying things I can’t find anywhere else.
I know of many people who have moved down here expecting to live like a king with their pension check but often find out that it’s not as easy as they thought, while food and rent may be cheaper utilities, gasoline, and imported goods are more expensive and in some cases twice as much.
One of the things that drives some people nuts is all the noise.
Mexico is a noisy country, some areas are noisier than others. Obviously living in most villages will be noisier than living on the outskirts of town. Barking dogs, fireworks, loud music and gas trucks blaring their horns are all things that are common here.
Before buying a home I always recommend renting first so you can familiarize yourself with the area.
Moving to Mexico from other countries can cause a bit of culture shock and its definitely not a place for everyone, however, there are thousands of expats that move down here every year and most of them love it.
I believe that if you move down here and you are someone who is not expecting things to be perfect most of you will do just fine.
Learning Spanish is one of the best ways to minimize your frustrations it will allow you to interact more with the people and experience the culture first hand.