Living in Lake Chapala- your Dream Retirement in Mexico
We "Mexpats" consider it both a pleasure and a privilege to feel so welcome living in Lake Chapala, Mexico. Although there are no confirmed statistics, some 17,000 to 20,000 foreigners have made Lake Chapala their home, either full or part time. The area has grown to be one of the most popular colonies in North America. Unlike the traditional resort locations on the coast where people like to vacation, Lake Chapala is a place where people come to live. Here in Chapala and Ajijic, we enjoy a much lower cost of living , a more temperate climate and a ready-made infrastructure. It is no wonder that Lake Chapala is the # 1 place to retire to in Mexico.
Not only are we welcomed with open arms by the warm Mexican nationals, we are also embraced wholeheartedly by the foreign community in a way that extends well beyond what we would find back home. When foreigners find themselves in a new country and culture, there is a common bond, an almost instant camaraderie and friendship. But more importantly, the influence of the Mexican people and their culture have a profound and lasting effect on us.
The Warmth of the Mexican People
One of the first things you will notice after spending a little time living in Lake Chapala is the lack of consumerism and materialism on the part of our wonderful Mexican hosts and perhaps this is a special part of the charm. The Mexican people very much value friends and family and aren’t into “things” the way we are. People on the street will always greet you with a friendly "Buenos dias!" and a big smile. Walk day or night and enjoy the special warmth of the Mexican people as they invite you to share their culture and history.
One thing you’ll notice in Lake Chapala is the color – year ‘round. The flowers you see every day are exquisite.
Mexico is vibrant and alive with color and so much creativity and talent. Wonderful little boutiques in colorful painted buildings. Houses painted orange, pink, blue; anything goes. Murals everywhere—inside and outside: schools, churches, houses, shops, museums, government buildings; everywhere you will see color. Read Five Ways People at Lake Chapala Live Well and Live Longer.
Living in Lake Chapala - The 2nd Best Climate in the World
The incredible weather we enjoy in Lake Chapala, rated by National Geographic Society as the "2nd Best Climate in the World,” is an obvious major attraction to the area. Although we seldom talk about the weather, this wonderful temperate climate is the foundation that allows us to enjoy our lifestyle in this very special pocket of paradise.
It is no surprise then that the Lake Chapala area will continue to be discovered as more and more Boomers come of age and start looking for their special Shangri La and then choose to retire to Lake Chapala.
So what do we do all day?
A low-stress life, with lots of things to do...
Living in Lake Chapala offers a low-stress life, where every single day can be an adventure. There are over 5,000 registered fiestas a year in Mexico so there is something to do every minute of the day, if you choose. They have wonderful religious and cultural celebrations, piñatas and fireworks galore. The children learn the history of the country in school through folkloric song and dance.
There is also an established infrastructure, much of it created or assisted by the foreign community. We have over 50 English-speaking organizations to participate in. To name a few: the American Legion, the Canadian Club, the Lake Chapala Society, French Group, German Group, the Irish Society and the British Society.
There’s a lot or little to do—it’s all up to you. We have a paved bike path, tennis and golf year ‘round, two golf courses lakeside and a dozen more within an hour's drive. You can dance the night away, take in some jazz or big band music, or sit and enjoy our glorious sunsets… The sunrises and sunsets will amaze you, and bouganvilleas bloom everywhere.
English newspapers, English library, English videos and DVDs and even English movies at the theater are all available. In fact, there is little you won’t find lakeside. Communications are superb so it is easy to keep in touch with family and friends back home. This is where you realize that Mexico is a land of contradictions. Practically everyone carries a cell phone. Yes, even the maid and gardener and many teenagers. Believe me the first time you see a man on horseback using a cell phone, it will surprise you!
The variety of restaurants will delight and amaze you—Greek, Italian, French, German, Chinese, International, Argentinean, English Fish & Chips, Mexican...just to name a few. Eating out in Lake Chapala is extremely affordable, the variety is immense, everything is close by and it becomes a wonderful way to socialize.
For certain, if you decide to spend time in this area, be prepared for lots of company. There is so much to see and do and get involved in. Read “Things to Do” for a myriad of other activities. You will be astonished at the variety.
When you walk down the street, people make eye contact and smile and even stop to chat. We can always tell when someone is new as they haven’t caught on yet to how genuinely friendly people who live here are. If you are walking with parcels, don’t be surprised if people stop and offer you a ride. While having coffee in an outdoor coffee shop, people at the next table might invite you to a party or local gathering. Really, it is like going back in time 50 years. If someone has cancer and no insurance, there will be fundraising events to help. It really is heart-warming.
Be Happy Living in Lake Chapala
A friend of ours once said: “If you are happy, you are healthy.” Enjoying the 2nd best climate in the world with sunshine 365 days a year and little or no humidity, a lower cost of living, excellent health care, lots of things to do, an established infrastructure amongst incredible beauty and the warm welcome of the Mexican people, is it any wonder people are happy living in Lake Chapala, Mexico? “Live Younger Longer” is the natural extension to being healthy and happy and you won’t find any place where that is truer than in Lake Chapala, Jalisco in Mexico.
Living in Lake Chapala Offers a Laid Back Way of Life...
Every village in Mexico has a plaza where people gather for special events as well as regularly on Sunday evening. It is delightful to see that “old-fashioned courting” is very much alive in Mexico. Mexican children, on average, are very well behaved and respectful, with the older ones looking after the youngsters without complaint and actually seeming to enjoy it. There are numerous fiestas in the plazas in each of the villages depending on the occasion and time of year. There will be music, food and, of course, fireworks galore. Some of the local fiestas run a week to 10 days long and at the end of each night, there will be a special fireworks structure called a castillo. It is amazing. It is created to allow one section of fireworks after another to go off, taking about an hour in total.
We even have natural thermal waters in San Juan Cosala, a little village next to Ajijic. There are several swimming pools and spas of different sizes and temperatures, all filled with therapeutic mineral waters. The natural mineral waters, fed from underground hot springs, are recommended for the relief of arthritis, rheumatism, stress, fatigue and insomnia.
Get Involved - Integration with Mexican Community
We think it’s important to become involved in the community and give back to Mexico some of the goodness we find here. One of the personally rewarding aspects of living on the lakeside is the charitable contribution you can make, sometimes with no effort at all.
The Lake Chapala Society (LCS) offers some twenty-six English classes (every year)...some free...as well as six computer classes free to Mexicans (adults and children). The Mexican people realize there are increased opportunities if they can speak English and get computer skills so they willingly take these lessons. If you are planning on upgrading to a new computer, consider donating your old one to the Lake Chapala Society. They are in desperate need of additional computers as the demand for lessons by Mexicans is ever rising.
Many of the abundant social events are actually fundraisers for local charities. The Lakeside foreign community can take pride in the generous charity work they do here. Most of these organizations donate 100% of the money raised directly to the cause as the labor is totally volunteered.
Often, when you go to a show or a dance, the proceeds are committed to the School for the Deaf, or the Ninos Incapacitados or a local orphanage. Many of the charities are supported by both the local and the foreign communities. This integration between the Mexicans and the expat community is one of the nice things about living here. It really is lovely to see. We are not at all resented. The Mexican people know their lifestyle has improved and jobs have increased because of us living and investing in the area and they warmly welcome us and appreciate our involvement.
MEXICAN FIESTA DRAWS OVER 3,000 SUPPORTERS
|As reported in Ojo del Lago - April 2006 edition
|"This is the fifth year that the “Help Create a Smile” grand fiesta has been organized by the supporters and parents of children who have received medical care—currently or in the past—by the Niños Incapacitados. Held March 19 at Cristiania Park in Chapala, the fiesta-fundraiser was first conceived by Ramon & Claudia Cardenas and Josefina Garcia as a way for the Mexican community to show their appreciation to the Niños Incapacitados. Each year, the fiesta has grown increasingly in the numbers attending and in the amount of funds it brings the Niños Incapacitados to help in continuing its work for the financially disadvantaged sick and disabled children at Lakeside."
There is so much incredible talent in this area and getting involved is a great way to not only contribute but to use your talent. Just because you are retired doesn’t mean you forgot everything you have learned in life. While living in Lake Chapala you have the opportunity to get involved in activities that keep you alert and alive with a real sense of purpose. It’s what “Living Younger Longer” is all about. Read "The Magic of the Lakeside."
There is a very special camaraderie among the expat community here in Lake Chapala and I guarantee you that within two weeks, you’ll need to buy a calendar to keep track of your social commitments.
Karen Blue, now a friend of ours, was tired of corporate America and retired to Lake Chapala. She decided to do something she had always wanted to do —write a book. First she joined the Writers Club, then she proceeded to fulfill her dream. Her first book, Midlife Mavericks, is a fascinating collection of interviews she had with single women and men who moved to Lake Chapala—why they came, how they live, what they do, what they like etc.
|Quotes from Midlife Mavericks:
|“I enjoy seeing the Mexicans all dressed up. The men and boys saunter around the plaza counterclockwise, and women and girls stroll the opposite direction. It’s their way of flirting. Older women sell little eggshells full of confetti, and when a young man takes a fancy to a young lady, he cracks the eggshell on her head, which crowns her hair with colorful scraps of tissue paper.”
| “I came here for the sense of adventure and the climate. I stay here because I’m learning new lessons from the Mexicans—lessons on how to live.”
| “They have unlimited tolerance. They’re much less materialistic people than we are and infinitely more spiritual. Their generosity and caring are wonderful attributes. And the people have time—time to talk and time to listen.”
| “In Guadalajara I’ve been able to enjoy so much more culture than in New York. Front-row seats for the Jalisco or Philadelphia Philharmonic orchestras cost less than ten dollars. Operas, ballets and symphonies from all over the world come to the city.”
| “On every street in these Mexican villages, there’s a feeling of life—day and night.”
|“How safe do I feel here in Mexico? Safer than I did in Dallas or Belize. The Mexicans are gentle people. I don’t hesitate to walk down to the restaurant alone or to the village plaza on Sunday evenings.”
Places of Worship
We are so very fortunate to have such a wide variety of places to worship in Lake Chapala; Spanish, bilingual and many English services. See “Religion – Churches” in right Navigation sidebar.
Mexicans are very different from their northern neighbors
You'll learn early on one big difference between Mexicans and their northern neighbors. In Canada and the United States the term "Time is Money" is well understood and respected. In Mexico there is simply no connection between "Time" and "Money." It takes longer, much longer, to get things done in Mexico. A simple task can seem to take forever. There seems inherent inefficiencies built into everything.
It is easy, especially when you first arrive, to look at these differences and label them as poor management, lack of business acumen, lack of caring or whatever you want to call it. However, over time you will realize they do manage to get things done, manage businesses, bring up their children; in fact, everything we do they manage to do, too—only without all the stress and pressure we are good at building into all our activities. The big difference comes down to their value system.
Mañana doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow.
It just means "not today."
Mexico might not be right for you
The fact that you have a confirmed appointment with a plumber for 10 a.m. takes second priority if the plumber's brother needs a ride to see his girlfriend. When you offer your maid or gardener extra hours or to work holidays or during fiestas, you're surprised that they don't accept. Why don't they want to earn more and have a better "living?" This is another important difference. In the United States and Canada we "live to work;" here in Mexico, Mexicans "work to live." They don't consider working overtime to have a new car more important than spending weekends off with the family and taking the bus. They don't consider it poor business to miss the appointment with you to fix your plumbing; they consider the needs of a brother to take precedence. They simply value family and friends above "things."
Another interesting tidbit—Mexican people do not like to say NO. It just doesn't sit well with them. They are accommodating by nature and truly want to please. So you ask the plumber "can you come at 8 o'clock," and he tells you he'd prefer to come at 10 a.m. When you become persistent that you need him to come at 8 a.m., he will finally agree. He still probably won't come at 8 o'clock, but he'd rather agree and keep you happy than debate the issue with you. Punctuality isn't a strong trait in Mexico for day-to-day living. However, in the business world, Mexican businessmen will try to accommodate their foreign business associates by being on time.
I hear people say all the time, "I just wish he'd tell me the truth instead of lying to me." In his mind he isn't telling you a lie, it's a little story. He is helping you manage your frustrations by simply telling you what you want to hear.
We too have come to think of these as "stories" not lies. And each story comes with its own guarantee. If you don't like that one, another one will be readily available.
Part of the charm of Mexico is their rich culture and history. Don't try to understand it or change it, just enjoy the differences and come to terms with them.
If you are fortunate enough to cut yourself some slack and lighten up a little, you'll soon feel release from the stress you have been causing yourself by not letting go. We move to Mexico to be part of a new culture, and then many times we bring our old rules and regulations with us and try to impose them on our new hosts.
This is one of the reasons we tell people "Mexico is not for everyone." If you are very set in your ways and not at all flexible, then maybe Mexico is not for you.
On the other hand, I know many people living here now that did initially arrive with all their old "tapes," but have since managed to open their hearts to embrace this new culture and appreciate the differences. If you can do that, you will cross over the threshold into what we call "The Magic of the Lakeside" and when that happens, you really will have a new lease on life.
Living in Lake Chapala - One of the Last Best Places on Earth!
Simple words can never do justice to the beauty of this area, nor can they describe what it is truly like to live in our little pocket of paradise amongst the friendliest people in the world, our Mexican hosts. There is no way to paint the magical picture for you that we see every moment and no way to tell you how we feel about living in Lake Chapala. You MUST experience the Magic of the Lakeside for yourself as we did.
The End… Or it could be just the beginning for you!
The best way to find out is to sign up for a “Focus on Mexico Program” and experience a taste of Mexico and see for yourself if Lake Chapala, Mexico could be your special Shangri La. We invite you to join us! You’ll be glad you did.