Residency Options In Mexico

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People all over are inquiring about how to gain residency in Mexico. More and more travelers and retirees are finding that there are major benefits to living in this country. Many baby boomers who are now retiring give the same general reasons for choosing to relocate there, and they all add up to this: you can enjoy a better quality of life for less. As the cost of living keeps rising in the United States (and across most of the world’s more advanced economies) and inflation is on the rise, it makes sense that anyone would want to go to a place where more costs less.

Take that sizable benefit and combine it with Mexico’s abundance of gorgeous beaches, fresh tropical produce, and perfect weather, and this residency thing is really a no-brainer. It is also important to note that Mexico has one of the most powerful passports in the world, placing 24th when compared against others for global travel freedom. A Mexico passport holder can visit 144 countries without a visa.

Here are the residency options and the visas available to those looking to go to Mexico:

Mexico Visa: Visitor Permit

When you first arrive in Mexico as a tourist, you’ll receive an entry permit as a visitor. As a visitor, you won’t be privy to any of the perks of residency, it’s just a step in the right direction. Think of it as a tourist visa. That’s essentially what it is. You’ll have to fill out an immigration form to get your visitor permit, and this will allow you to stay for a period of six months.

You cannot work during these six months if you are visiting as a tourist, but if need to do so (maybe you’re just getting a feel for what Mexican life would be like and you have to work while you’re at it), you can purchase a “permission to work” visa for only $155 USD. The only stipulation here is that you cannot be paid in Mexico for your services. If you’re working remote from a company back home, they’ll just continue to pay you via your home bank account.

Temporary Resident Visa

Residency in Mexico is relatively quick, and it is also very affordable. However, you can’t complete the process (or even begin it) while staying in Mexico on a tourist visa. You’ll have to go back home to do that. You will need to complete the appropriate paperwork at a Mexican Consulate and pay a $40 USD fee for a temporary visa valid for six months. During that time, you’ll make your way to Mexico and once there, have 30 days to swap out that temporary visa for the official visa. Don’t miss your 30-day mark, or it’s extra paperwork and fees, which is all an extra headache that’s completely avoidable.

Once you acquire your temporary resident visa, you can stay in the country for up to four years. You cannot work while holding this visa unless you apply for permission to work, as was mentioned above. The fee for that remains the same, at $155 USD. You’ll also need to provide an offer letter showing that you’ve already accepted a position.

You can qualify for temporary residency by proving you have the ability to support yourself financially while living in Mexico. This includes the cost of housing and meals, and the minimum salary amount for this qualification usually comes out to be at least $1,553 USD per month. You will need to provide your last six months’ worth of bank statements to prove this income, and if you are bringing dependents, you’ll have to have an extra $520 in income per dependent. You could also prove that you own a property in Mexico (which does not require any type of residency to own) that is worth at least $208,000 USD.

After your four years as a temporary resident run out, you must either leave Mexico or apply for permanent residency. Those four years spent as a temporary resident will automatically qualify you as a permanent resident, so there’s no time lost there.

Permanent Resident Visa

If you already know you’d like to live in Mexico for the long-haul, you can skip right along to the permanent residency option and bypass those other steps. There is no time limit on the permanent resident visa, and it automatically allows you the right to work in the country, just like a citizen. Citizenship itself, though, is a separate process and so you still won’t be able to vote.

For permanent residency status, you’ll need to meet higher income requirements. Your monthly net income will have to show that you’ve made at least $2,588 over the last six months, either through a pension or net income. Otherwise, you can show investments with an average monthly balance over 12 months of about $103,500 USD.

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Retiring to Mexico: The Best Choice for You

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By Thomas Lloyd | Let’s Retire in Mexico

When you’re thinking of your retirement, there are many things to consider. Amongst those, is the ease with which you will be able to move around. This means actually living in a city that is relaxing, close to everything, and where transportation is at hand. A place that requires you to drive everywhere most likely means traffic, and nobody wants to deal with such things during their retirement. It’s your turn to sit back, relax and enjoy. That is why retiring to Mexico has so many benefits. In fact, it is one of the top destinations in the country for Americans and Canadians to spend their golden years.

There are many benefits to retiring in places such as Playa del Carmen. Not only do the big expat communities help each other out constantly, but the quality of life is impressive. Walking everywhere is easy, everything is nearby, there are plenty of things to do, and there is also a great infrastructure.

MEDICAL ASSISTANCE

Medical Tourism

One of the perks of retiring to the Riviera Maya is its top-notch medical industry. Many English-speaking professionals work here and cater to the well-being of American and Canadian expats. Retiring to Mexico means having the best possible medical care at hand with many private clinics and dentist’s offices available.

MONEY GOES A LONG WAY

The Mexican peso is constantly fluctuating and the dollar gains more and more strength against it. While that may be bad news for our Mexican friends, it is a great opportunity for Americans and Canadians. Dollars will go a long way here not only because of its value but because living in Mexico is very cheap in comparison to other countries. Not only when it comes to real estate but also with simple things such as a meal out in a restaurant, or grocery shopping and even transportation.

RETIRING TO MEXICO INCREASES QUALITY OF LIFE

The Riviera Maya is a friendly and welcoming place. It is home to a close-knit community that will help you find anything or recommend places to visit. Many people will also willingly volunteer to help you in translating documents, instructions, or anything else you may need. But because Mexicans are so friendly and open to foreigners, the quality of life is much better, too. Friends are found around every corner. Great food is served in every restaurant. Beers and cocktails flow by the beach nonstop. Activities to do include swimming, snorkeling, diving, yoga, fishing, and many others that keep everyone young at heart.

MOVING AROUND IN MEXICO

If for some reason you decide to use a vehicle, there are many trusted rental cars that offer incredibly low prices in comparison the USA. Renting a car to pick friends up at the airport, or to get around is an easy and affordable process. However, the transit system (bus and colectivos) are very reliable, timely and good. There are a few terminals scattered around the Riviera Maya that will take you anywhere and bring you back.

YEAR-ROUND WARM WEATHER

The weather in the Riviera Maya is very consistent with the sun always shining and warm temperatures throughout the year. The average temperature is 28°C, while it can fluctuate anywhere between 22°C and 36°C. The weather makes it a great place to retire due to the amount of activities one can enjoy under the sun.

All in all, there is no reason to avoid retiring to Mexico. It is affordable, fun, friendly, beautiful, and offers a great deal of Americanized standards that you are used to. Shopping is easy and cheap and moving around either driving or in public transportation is no hard feat. Mexico is definitely the number one choice for you to retire.

Original Source

Retiring in Mexico: Financial Requirements for Residency

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If you plan on making Mexico your retirement home, I strongly recommend that you apply for either temporary or permanent residency. It will make your life a lot easier and give you access to more services.

If you don’t know much about the residency options for retirees in Mexico, you might want to check out Deciding Which Residency Option is Right for You before going on

In order to qualify for either temporary or permanent residency, you’ll have to prove that you have the financial means to support yourself. The specific financial requirements will vary depending on which residency you’re applying for and if you have any special circumstances (e.g. family ties in Mexico).

For the purpose of this post, I’m going to keep it simple and assume that you’re the average retiree from the U.S. or Canada who wants to retire in Mexico.

Temporary Resident Card

You have a few options with this one. You only have to meet one of the following:

Foreign Source Income (e.g. Pensions and/or Employment):

An average monthly income (after taxes) of at least 300 days of the Mexican minimum wage: 300 X $88.36 = $26,508 pesos, or about $1,400 USD*.

You must show proof (original documents and copies of each) for the previous 6 months.

Savings / Investments:

Investments or bank accounts with an average monthly balance of at least 5,000 days worth of minimum wage: 5,000 X $88.36 = $441,800 pesos, or about $23,300 USD*. 

You must show proof (original documents and copies of each) for the previous 12 months.

Own Real Estate:

You own real estate in Mexico valued at over 40,000 days of minimum wage: 40,000 X $88.36 = $3,534,400 pesos, or about $187,000 USD*.

* Exchange rate used 19 MXN to 1 USD

Permanent Resident Card

Generally speaking, people who immigrate to Mexico are required to complete four years as a temporary resident, after which they can obtain their permanent residency; however, Mexico made an exception for foreign retirees/pensioners. They can apply for permanent residency right away — provided they meet all the qualifications.

You only have to meet one of the following:

Retirement Benefit (e.g Pension):

An average monthly retirement income (after taxes) greater than 500 days of the Mexican minimum wage: 500 X $88.36 = $44,180 pesos, or about $2,330 USD*

You must show proof (original documents and copies of each) for the previous 6 months.

Savings / Investments:

Investments or bank accounts with an average monthly balance of at least 20,000 days worth of minimum wage: 20,000 X $88.36 = $1,767,200 pesos, or about $93,020 USD*. 

You must show proof (original documents and copies of each) for the previous 12 months.

* Exchange rate used 19 MXN to 1 USD

Spouses and Dependents

You’ll have to add 100 days of the minimum wage to the figures above per dependent. 100 X 88.36 = $8,836 pesos or about $466 USD*.

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The best things to do in Mérida, Mexico

By Lilit Marcus | CNN
Mérida is one of those dream destinations where “something for everyone” is not just a tourism-board platitude.
The capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, there’s a ton of Spanish colonial and Mayan history, as well as stretches of sunny beachfront practically engineered in a lab for perfect relaxation.
Here’s everything you need to know about enjoying the city, whether you have a quick weekend of travel or a lot of time to hang out.

Arts and culture

The best way to begin your visit to Mérida is by exploring the area’s history and figuring out how Mérida fits into the bigger story of Mexico.
The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya provides necessary background.

The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya provides necessary background.
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Mérida, named for the town in Spain, was built on the site of a thriving Mayan city. Even today, these two major cultures brush up against each other — it’s not uncommon to hear Maya still spoken in the area.
Next step: take a walk along the Paseo de Montejo, which begins not far from the city center.
The Spanish colonizers became rich from agave farming, and many built mansions along the Paseo de Montejo, named for one of the first Spanish sailors who landed here.
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These days, the mansions are in various conditions — some have been converted into B&Bs, some are still single family homes and a few are in disrepair waiting for the right buyer to come along and fix them up.
While it’s far from authoritative, this walk will really help you to visualize how Mérida has changed over the years and what it may have felt like two hundred years ago.
Dzibilchaltún Mexico

Many people combine their visit to Mérida with visits to Mayan sites like Chichen Itza throughout the state.
But if you’re short on time or want to experience multiple spots, Dzibilchaltún is close to central Mérida and you’re likely to be the only tourist there.
As yet another example of Mayan and Spanish cultures intersecting with each other, Dzibilchaltún has both a temple and the ruins of a church, as well as a small museum that gives background and context on the area.
For a more modern — and complete — church, head to Mérida Cathedral, aka San Ildefonso Cathedral.
Modern is a relative term here, as the cathedral is one of the oldest in the Americas and dates to around 1598. Look down for foundational stones from a Mayan temple and up for Renaissance-era architecture.

Where to chill

One of the best things about Mérida is how many different kinds of activities are packed into a small area. Besides history, ruins and food, there’s also a great beach culture in Progreso, about 45 km (29 miles) away from downtown.
On weekends and in the summer, this area is packed with families and hotels and rental houses sell out way in advance, so plan carefully.
If you just come out for the day, stroll along the malecon (walkway along the waterfront) and then break for a casual lunch at Flamingo’s, where you can sit in a plastic chair, wear flip-flops and eat fresh-cooked fish that were caught just that morning.
Progreso Beach's malecon has gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Progreso Beach’s malecon has gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico.
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Many of the former haciendas built by wealthy Spaniards are a considerable way out of town.
However, one way to get this langorous feeling while still being in walking distance of the city center is to stay at the lush Rosas Y Xocolate hotel on Paseo de Montejo, which is a member of the Design Hotels of the World group.
The neon pink-painted open air courtyard frames a shallow swimming pool that changes colors throughout the day as the sun sets and the interior lights shift.
But if you’re lucky enough to stay the night there, ask for a room with a bathtub – they are made in an elegant old style where water is poured into a stone-hewn tub via a “bucket” on the wall. It’s as beautiful as it is relaxing.

Comida tipica

Yucatecans have a reputation for independent spirits, and sometimes other Mexicans joke that they think of Yucatan as a separate country.
Their rich, varied food scene is definitely in a class of its own.
To get started, settle in at La Chaya Maya, a local establishment likely to have lines around the block (they recently expanded to a second location to handle demand).
Cochinita pibil is a popular request at La Chaya Maya.

The “specials” section is a good place to get started — look for lime soup (with peppers, turkey, cilantro and crunchy slivers of tortilla chips), panuchos (small fried corn tortillas topped with chopped turkey and vegetables) and papadzules (flour tortillas stuffed with chopped up hard-boiled egg, with a pumpkin and epazote herb sauce).
For a more casual evening out, Mercado 60 is an open-air food hall with a range of options from classic Mexican to Brazilian churrascaria, pizza and solid vegetarian options, plus craft beer.
Finally, for a splurge, the best spot for a fancy dinner is Kuuk, whose twelve-course tasting menu is a stunning, multisensory take on Yucatecan dishes.
Though the menu changes seasonally, you can count on local ingredients like beans, corn tortillas, shellfish, tamales and fruits like guava and mango paired in unexpectedly delightful ways — and there’s always Yucatecan chocolate at the end.

Why Lake Chapala, Mexico?

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By Michaela | Retire in Lake Chapala

Unless you have a serious aversion to Mexico, Ajijic, on the shores of Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, is one of the finest places on the planet that you could consider retiring to. True, it’s not the commercial advertisement of a hot bikini clad body sipping a margarita on the beach, but it has enough development, a large expat community and a perfect year around climate to make settling here easy and stress free.

After having traveled to other Central American countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua searching for a pleasant climate to call home, Ajijic, Mexico has check marked all the boxes on my wish list. When you look at all the factors of what makes an ideal retirement destination for year around living you find that there is a world of difference between retiring to Lake Chapala verses other retirement destinations such as Boquete, Panama; Cuenca, Equador; Grenada, Nicaragua; or any other country in Central America. Hands down, Lake Chapala beats the climate options, commerce options, ease of travel to and from USA or Canada, and quality health care options compared to these other destinations. Heck, they even have all the things we love such as Walmart, Costco (Guadalajara), Autozone, etc. Even Amazon.mx!

Lets look at some of the things people look for in a retirement destination:

Climate
Likely the #1 reason why so many choose Lake Chapala as their retirement destination. Lake Chapala has an incredible climate with with an average temperature of 72 degrees F (21 degrees C). Rains happen only in the summer and then mostly only at night. How awesome is that?

Cost of Living
Cost of Living is about 35-50% of what it would cost to live in the U.S. or Canada. Assuming you own your own home, have 2 cars, and eat out/entertain (2-3 times/week), you can expect to pay about $19,000/yr USD per couple. Some even live here well on Social Security at $15,000 /year.

Rents run at $500-2500 USD/month with a normal range of $700-$1200 USD for year long leases that can include some or all of the utilities such as electric, gas, cable, water and trash, gardener and maid. Remember too, there is no need for heat or AC in the home.

Personal services are a quarter of the cost of the US (maid, car driver, personal care, concierge – $2-4/hour). Auto mechanic a quarter to a third of the USA cost. Haircut – $3.00, Car wash – $3.00.

Lifestyle
Imagine living in a real Mexican Village complete with plaza/churches/festivals/parades, boating/kayaking on the lake, hiking in the mountains, discovering ancient artifacts (caves, pyramids, petroglyphs), lazing the day away in thermal baths, visiting rustic rural villages/farms, and even enjoying world class shopping, 5 star restaurants and the opera in the second largest city of Mexico, Guadalajara. Now this is living your retirement years to the fullest!

Entertainment
There is a huge entertainment schedule weekly with live music every night at some restaurants throughout the village.

View
A 400-year old village with cobble stone streets and church bells ringing, colorful murals and homes, mountains, Mexico’s largest lake (50 mile long, 12 miles wide), ever blooming flowers, birds galore, butterflies, palm trees, and more.

Health & Health Care
Once you are acclimatized to the altitude, you will notice a significant feeling of increased vigor.

You’ll eat healthier than ever before with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables from roadside stands and the weekly organic farmers market. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to eat less processed foods while living here as all foods are prepared on a ‘as ordered’ basis with fresh ingredients.

The health clinics in Ajijic are just minutes away with English-speaking doctors ($15/visit) and full service hospitals and specialty centers are located in Guadalajara along with many forms of alternative medicine offerings both in Ajijic and in Guadalajara.

Convenience
You can walk to most anything from Ajijic and a drive of more than 5 km (3.1 miles) from the main street (Colon Street) seems totally unnecessary.

For those times you desire something special, Guadalajara has other options such as Sam’s Club, Frescos and Costco. You can find anything in Guadalajara, Mexico’s 2nd largest city, that you could find in the USA (theater, opera, a zoo, Home Depot, etc.)

 Vacationing
Mexico is huge country with a surface area encompassing more than all of Central America combined so there is more ground to cover for travel options and exploration.

You have access to a lot of climate zones too, from true desert to true jungle with jaguars and crocodiles. You can enjoy semi cold winters and snow, or sweltering, humid summers, or dry searing desert heat all within a couple days drive and depending on the season.

Flights to anywhere in the world is a breeze while living in Ajijic with only a 30 minute drive to the airport. Once there, flights to the U.S. and Canada are frequent and well priced.

Mexico is bound on either side by the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans, offering the Lake Chapala expat a variety of beach options. In fact, Mexico has 9,330 km (5,800 miles) of coastline! The Pacific Coast village of Cuyatlan is the closest and only 3 hours away, Manzanillo 3.5 hours and the Caribbean can be easily accessed through the Guadalajara airport with direct flights taking you to Cancun, Cozumel and Chetumal.

So what are you waiting for? If you can afford only one move or don’t have time for trial and error, make it Lake Chapala!

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Opening A Business In Mexico

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By Christian Reeves | Escape Artist

Today the US Dollar reached $18.57 Pesos in Mexico and experts are estimating that the dollar will only go up in the coming days. In recent years more and more Americans have taken advantage of this spike in value by vacationing in Mexico, crossing the border to shop, and even starting a life south of the border.

American business men and women have benefited the most from the current state of the dollar in Mexico as more and more companies are starting to open operations in Mexico. Forget all the hype around Trump… that just applies to import / export businesses. If you are in the service business, our operate online, then you can move to Mexico without any new tax costs.

Since NAFTA, many of the restraints placed on Americans seeking to operate or invest in businesses in Mexico have been erased. The process will become even easier in the upcoming years as Mexico is starting to recognize the necessity of foreign investment. Foreign investment in Mexico reached 15,645.2 million dollars in the first half of the year, an increase of 8.8% compared to the preliminary figure for the same period of 2016.

Mexico is the easiest country in Latin America to start a business as its faster and much less complicated to do so. In some cases it only takes a day and zero dollars to begin running your own company. Still, there are some steps that you must complete in order to comply with the Mexican rules and regulations established to help you begin.

Request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE).

The first step in creating a company is to submit a request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where five possible business structures are listed in order of preference for the company. This is done to ensure that there is no company already established in the country with the same corporate name.

Drafting the Constitutive Act.

Once the SRE gives the approval and determines the applicable Business Structure, the Constitutive Act must be created. This document is the one that gives life and stipulates all the general and basic aspects of the company: company name, objective, type of company, administration, duration, etc. Once the company is created, the Constitutive Certificate must be notarized before a Notary Public.

Registration before the Tax Administration Service (SAT).

When the Constitutive Act is created and legalized the next step is with the Tax Administration Service, the Mexican equivalent to the IRS. From this register, the Tax Identification Number is obtained, which contains the Federal Taxpayer Identification Number (RFC).

Registration in the Public Registry of Property and Commerce (RPPC).

The next step is to appear before the Public Registry of Property and Commerce  in the state and city where the company will be registered, as well as its purposes, objectives and commercial goals. For this process the presentation of the Constitutive Act is required, the RFC and the power of attorney that allows the legal representative to carry out actions for the company.

Registration with the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS).

Next is to subscribe your business to the Mexican Institute of Social Security. Even if it is a company in which only the employer exists as the only worker, since it will be necessary for him to make his personal contributions to his Social Security accounts. Also, if you have not done it in time, you may be liable for a fine by the IMSS.

Registration before the other required Government offices. Depending on the commercial activity that the company will perform, you may be required to register to different government organisms, the most common being: Ministry of Health, Secretariat of Ecology and Environment, Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, etc. At this point you must also fill out all municipal or state permits that are required in the geographical area in which you seeks to establish.

It is worth noting that, as in the United States, there are many grants that the government gives to new business, you’ll have to look up and see which one applies to your type of business.

Tax Considerations

The corporate tax rate in Mexico is 30%, much higher than the United States thanks to President Trump. Even so, many US export service business are moving to Mexico for lower wages and overhead.

  • An export service business is a company that provides a service from Mexico to people or companies outside of Mexico. For example, affiliate marketers, outsourcing, and internet businesses.

Because of the high taxes in Mexico, we usually suggest you also incorporate an offshore corporation in a low or zero tax country such as Panama. Clients will pay the Panama corporation and you will bring into Mexico only the money you require to operate the business. That is to say, the business in Mexico will break-even or have a small taxable gain.

Note that this only works if your clients pay the Panama company and not the Mexico company. Mexico’s tax authority is likely to deny a deduction for expenses paid to a Panama company.

Also, US citizens should draw their salary from the Panama company maximizing the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

Please keep in mind that these tax suggestions apply to ordinary business income. I am not considering passive income, capital gains, or cryptocurrency trades.

How to Learn Spanish

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By International Living

The very best way to enjoy the culture of any country is by being able to speak the language. If you’re contemplating a move to a Spanish-speaking country, you must start with planning on how to learn Spanish. You don’t have to be fluent. You don’t need to be perfect every single time. But you do need to master a few basics.

Beyond being able to order another cerveza (beer) and ask where the bathrooms are (and those are important, of course) you might want to be able to talk to the locals…to ask for directions and get to the places you want to visit, to go about your daily errands and generally make yourself understood.

Why should you learn Spanish? Because you never know where it will take you. Not only is this important for your comfort but it will greatly enrich your experience traveling or living abroad. And it will earn you a great deal of respect from your local friends and neighbors.

Here are three very different experiences from expats learning Spanish abroad.

Adventures and Feeling Younger Learning Spanish Overseas

By Michael Sump

When my wife, Suzanne, and I retired, we loved the free time, but we found filling it with something meaningful a bit tricky. We wanted to tackle new goals and new activities and avoid flabby waistlines and flabbier minds. We were determined to make the most of our time.

We started by exploring the United States in a small RV. We visited most of the national parks and stayed active by biking and hiking. Along the way, we discovered that we didn’t need as much stuff as we owned, that a more minimal life was liberating, and that we no longer wanted our house of 25 years. This was followed by the “Great Purge,” as we spent a year downsizing and selling the house.

After two years as full-time nomads, we realized—in the time it takes to blow an engine—that it was time to try something new.

We had circled the globe dozens of times in our work lives, but we had never crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere. So we decided to explore South America. But we wanted to pick up enough Spanish, so we could ask for directions to the bathrooms, order a beer, or give an address to a taxi driver.

For the last four years, we have been Spanish students on the move. We’ve spent time in 12 countries in Latin America and have found the people to be warm, friendly, and welcoming. Our travels have been a blast, but the schools and their contacts have lent structure to our voyage of discovery.

With some Spanish skills, your world will expand, your competence will increase, and you can choose whom to hire and how you will travel. On our first trip to South America, we visited Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile.

Going back to school in your 50s and 60s is an enlivening experience. It’s a wonderful way to meet young, energetic people. Their “my whole life is ahead of me” enthusiasm can extend to those of us whose lives are mostly behind us. Shouldn’t life be as exciting and full of possibilities for jubilados (retirees) as for the jóvenes(young people)? Our studies have made us feel younger and more mentally healthy.

Thanks to the schools we’ve attended, we have friends all over the world. We watched a fellow student sing in the Lima Opera Fest, and we’ll soon head to Bogotá to see a classmate’s newborn son.

There are also immediate advantages. You’ll have better access to local knowledge and services. A few bucks go a long way with a local seamstress, cobbler, or artisan, if you can describe what you want.

Travel can be tough on luggage and on shoes; locals can repair them for a few dollars. It’s much cheaper than back home.

You also have a way to handle emergencies: the doctor, a dentist.

When my tooth became infected in Chile, I was able to talk to the dentist about what was wrong and what we could try before submitting to an expensive treatment.

We started our language journey with five months in Costa Rica in 2014. We chose Costa Rica because it welcomes U.S. citizens and was close to home. We used Heredia, just outside San José, as our base for exploring the rest of the country, and we attended a highly ranked school (see sidebar).

We couldn’t have chosen a better place to start. Costa Rica is small and one can get from the Pacific to the Caribbean coasts in a day, or stop in the middle to explore the mountains, volcanos, and wildlife of the highlands. We also made trips to adjacent Nicaragua and Panama. Our immersion into the language was enhanced by two “home stays,” where our Mama Ticas kept things lively and introduced us to traditional foods and the tico culture.

The next year, we headed to South America. On our first stop, we fell in love with a school in Peru’s capital, Lima. It has become our “home school.” The teachers are talented and eager, and it’s located in an unbelievably beautiful place. Miraflores is a suburb of Lima that sits atop a tall cliff over the Pacific Ocean. A malecón (promenade) 300 feet above the sea winds through a string of parks for six miles along the coast.

Miraflores is both clean and safe. We are comfortable walking around, even at midnight.

We spent the next seven months exploring, including vacations to Easter Island, the Galápagos, and Tierra del Fuego. In the Galápagos Islands, you have such amazing access to sea lions, penguins, blue-footed boobies, and tortoises, that it’s easy to forget they are wild.

But what we enjoy most is being able to experience a city beyond the tourist route. We rent a local apartment, we shop in the local markets, we explore local venues. We walk everywhere, and we both weigh considerably less than when we started this adventure.

After South America, we headed to Europe (including three months in Spain). We found the Spanish of the motherland somewhat different, but we had enough basic vocabulary to get around. We spent the rest of 2016 traveling around non-Spanish-speaking parts of Europe.

Our next trip was to Mexico. To knock off some rust, we hired tutors (another useful approach) in Mexico City. After a month, we went to Guanajuato. This is a gem of a college town, surrounded by steep hills that any hiker would enjoy. We spent six months wandering around Mexico and even took a three-week journey into Cuba.

In Cuba, Spanish was crucial, because very few people speak English. It enabled us to work directly with providers, rather than having to rely on a costly, government-structured tour. Best of all, we were able to find out what the Cubans really think. They are incredible people who’ve experienced great hardships. They’re careful about what they say but will loosen up over a shot of rum and a Cuban cigar.

After a short visit to the States, we are now back in Peru. We’re meeting interesting people of all ages and catching up with old friends. One of our friends owns a leather workshop and is making me two hand-tooled belts, all leather, and better than any I’ve ever owned. I saw the tanned hide being cut and watched the workman handstamp the leather, using tools made from old automobile valve lifters. It’s costing me just $3.

We’ll be down here for another six months. This time, if we do our homework and keep practicing, we may cross the line into feeling truly bilingual.

The Challenges and Joys of Learning Spanish

By Janette Sullivan

When I moved to Ecuador almost four years ago, I did not speak a word of Spanish. Well, I could say “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening,” but that was pretty much the extent of it. I had decided before I moved that learning Spanish was very important to me, in order to better integrate into the culture here.

Ten days after I arrived, I enrolled in a fairly intensive Spanish immersion program. It was three days a week, four hours a day—no English allowed. I’m not going to sugar coat it…it was a challenge. There was a lot of charades going on for the first few weeks. But honestly, I think all those charades made the words stick better.

I had heard from someone that there was a young lady who worked in a local store that wanted to learn English. So I thought what a great way to improve my Spanish. I can teach her English, and practice my Spanish. We met in her store a few times a week, and then relocated to her house in the evenings. She was married with two little kids, so I learned a lot of little kid jargon. Before I knew it, I was joining her at her husband’s basketball games, and spending time with the kids.

Learning Spanish was a big learning curve, but before I knew it I was able to communicate fairly well. I was able to shop, exchange pleasantries, and even argue if needed. I went to school on and off for the first year, using the time off to actually practice what I had learned in school. (Spanish classes run about $8 to $10 per hour for an individual lesson, and $6.50 to $8 for a group lesson.)

I did, however, have a few blunders. One day, I asked a contractor working at my house if he would like a “child” in his drink instead of “ice” (hijo vs hielo), and I was constantly asking for “Thursdays” instead of “eggs” (jueves vs juevos). Mostly I just got funny looks, realized that I said something wrong and tried to correct it.

After a year of Spanish classes, I decided to undertake a home-stay in order to practice my Spanish. I had met a family who lived outside the city of Cayambe, high in the mountains. They were a fairly poor farming family, but generous people. The dad and kids all worked or went to school during the day, so I spent most of my time with Carmita, the mom. Every morning we worked the cows, cleaned the guinea pig cages, and did other farm chores. The whole time we would be chatting away in Spanish. It was a very interesting experience and really did help me learn more Spanish.

I try to incorporate several techniques into learning. I often find that I just like to venture out on my own and find people to talk to in Spanish, whether it is on the bus or at a restaurant. Also, I often tune the TV or radio into Spanish to listen to in the background. But, most important is that I fortunately have friends who find learning the language a very important quality, and we are constantly encouraging each other, sometimes even writing our emails to each other in Spanish.

I feel so much more confident and happy now that I am able to communicate. Like with anything in life, there is always room for improvement, so after nearly four years, I have gone back to school again. I find now that since I understand the language better, everything that I am learning at school is clicking so much faster. This time around has become very rewarding for me, which in return keeps me motivated to continue working up that learning curve.

How This Expat Improved Her Spanish Skills Through Knitting

By Warren Hardy

Margie is in her mid-60s and a retired school teacher from California. She is currently enjoying retirement in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. One day she was in front of her house knitting when two local neighborhood girls walked by. She was used to greeting them in passing but today was different. The girls, about 12 years old, walked over to Margie and watched her as she knitted.

Margie didn’t know the word for knitting in Spanish, so she said it in English and asked what it would be in Spanish. The girls told her (it’s tejer = to knit) and she taught them the word knitting in English. The girls moved on.

A couple of days later the same girls passed the house once again and saw Margie. The girls wanted to see her knitting. Margie brought out her knitting and a couple of chairs and the girls looked on as Margie got to work with her needles. Margie saw that they wanted to learn to knit and the school teacher in her kicked in. She invited them to come back and she’d teach them to knit.

“I will never forget the excitement I felt getting ready for my first knitting class,” Margie told me. “I got my materials together and when the girls arrived we sat down and went to work.”

Margie says most of the lesson was show and tell but soon the girls were teaching her knitting words in Spanish. “I learned the word for knot, needle, and thread,” she says. “And we went through all the colors. They learned the English words and I learned the Spanish ones.”

Margie and the girls were both excited about their knitting/Spanish class and so they met again and this time the girls asked if they could invite their sisters. “The next class, there were five students,” Margie says. “Each girl brought one of their sisters and even one of their brothers showed up.”

Margie says as the lessons went on she was getting more comfortable with the Spanish terms.  Over a year later, Margie’s knitting class has eight regular students. Not only is she learning Spanish, but she’s also been “adopted” by the girls’ families. “I’m invited to events with this family,” she says. “This is something that I cherish and would never have imagined in my wildest dreams. My Spanish, even though improved, still needs a lot of work, but that said, I do speak fluent knitting.”

Margie is not unique. Everyone can learn Spanish and as Margie’s story shows, you never know where learning even just a few important words is going to take you. No matter how lousy you think your Spanish is, there is always an opportunity for new friends and new adventures.

Original Source