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A TALE OF TWO LIFESTYLES IN GUADALAJARA

An Expat’s 5-Year Journey from Country Club to Local Life


Note: This article is free for all, TWIG members or not! It was written for TWIG by 77-year-old Australian, Bob Wilson.



Guadalajara is a diverse city. I had no idea how much it differed from area to area when I first visited in 2018.


As a 72 year old Australian, at the time, who had lived and worked in USA over forty years I had been fortunate to travel to over 30 countries, see the sights and learn a little of their history and culture.


I had never visited Mexico. Then late 2018 I was invited to speak at a convention in Guadalajara.


I jumped at the chance and armed with a translation app on my phone (my only Spanish words I knew were Si, No and Gracias) I flew to Guadalajara and checked in to my hotel.


In this article you will learn:

🌟 My experience starting in the Country Club area

🌟 My experience moving to the Nueva Galicia area

🌟 My new life settling in Los Molinos

🌟 All the interesting people I've met on my 5-Year Journey!


Thanks for joining me in recalling my adventures in Guadalajara. Let's start!




MOVING TO GUADALAJARA

 

Hotel Santiago de Compostela, across from the Park of Two Churches in Centro Historico, introduced me to Mexico. An excellent location to explore the inner city, listen to street entertainers, walk to the Cathederal, and sample traditional Mexican food at the breakfast buffet.


Thanks to sponsors who translated for me, the convention went well and in the days before returning to Kansas City they took me to places of interest around the city. I was impressed!

Nobody knew I was planning to move from Kansas City. Old sporting injuries had taken their toll on one of my ankles. In Kansas City it was too hot in summer, and freezing cold with ice and snow in winter. I spent most of my time indoors. It was time to make a move.


In researching Guadalajara I found the climate could be perfect for me. No extreme temperatures and a relatedly short rainy period each year.


I had planned to move to Cairo Egypt. I visited Egypt several times since 2015 and had plenty of friends there. But Guadalajara had a more temperate climate and was only a few hours to fly and visit family in USA.


In the coming months I made two short visits to Guadalajara to look around the city and learn if I could survive with limited Espanol while I learned the language.


I shared my plans with my two sons in Kansas City. To my surprise they thought it was a great idea. As one said “If it will make you happy dad, go for it. If you find later it was a mistake you just buy a ticket and fly back north of the border.”


The rest is history. I sold my furniture, cars etc, gifted the rest, and flew to Guadalajara with clothes, my computer, and personal effects in five suitcases.



LIFE IN COUNTRY CLUB


Fortunately, a few days before my flight a friend in Guadalajara contacted me with news on an apartment she had seen near Country Club. The owner, a Mexican citizen, had been born in Missouri, and agreed to hold the apartment until a few hours after my flight arrived. After seeing the small one bedroom furnished apartment I had my first “home” in Mexico, signed the 6 month lease the next day, and moved in.


Country Club proved to be an excellent area. Close to Plaza Patria with banks, restaurants and department stores. Good restaurants and mini markets within walking distance, and a short Uber or Taxi ride to higher end restaurants in Providencia and Centro entertainment and historic areas.


Country Club is an area where many affluent families live so, while apartment prices were higher than in some other areas (my one-bedroom apartment was $9,000 MXN per month plus utilities. Today it rents for $14,000 MXN) police and private security vehicles seemed to be everywhere to help me feel safe in the new environment.


Landlady Anna introduced me to the local restaurants and stores where she shopped.

We also went to the wonderful Abastos market every two weeks to stock up on food and necessities. A great place where restaurants and small markets buy their meat, fruit and vegetables, and other products to resell. A place everyone should plan to visit.


After 18 months in Country Club accumulating more possessions, I needed more space and moved to a house south of the city in Nueva Galicia, near Santa Anna.


 

LIFE IN NUEVA GALICIA


By this time most of the friends I spent time with were people who spoke Ingles and worked in restaurants and local tiendas.


The son of one of these friends saw a “se renta” sign on the back of a house close to Av Lopez Mateos and within walking distance of a soriana and small tiendas. Good rentals don’t last long so when Sergio finished work, we contacted the agent, visited the unfurnished house, and agreed to sign a lease for 12 months for $13,000 MXN per month.


This house was larger, 2 large bedrooms, 1 ½ bathrooms, spacious kitchen, dining and living area with a large patio. It was in a coto with 24 hour security, club house, swimming pool and playground for children… but I was to learn most of the people stayed to themselves and did not mix or communicate much with neighbors.


I used Victor, a reference from Facebook, to move my personal possessions, then bought furniture needed from local stores and facebook marketplace.


All seemed good but with time pollution from the high traffic roads nearby became a problem. An oily dust constantly covered the patio and back windows were always kept closed.


During my time in Nueva Galicia my circle of friends grew a little, mostly again through locals I met in tiendas and restaurants.



LIFE IN LOS MOLINOS


Knowing I was looking to move, one friend mentioned her sister changed jobs and had to move from Los Molinos and would be renting her family home. She warned that Los Molinos was a typical Mexican community. She doubted any foreigners lived there.


Fraccionamento Los Molinos is a small town in the hills above Zapopan and Tesistan. Only 5,000 residents, 2,500 houses and approximately 80 local businesses, mostly family owned. I was pleasantly surprised on my first visit.


The two level house was in a secured coto with fifty others. The administration had all houses painted to match and took care of the gardens and playground for the children. It had a larger kitchen, dining and living area, 1 ½ bathrooms and two bedrooms upstairs. Monthly rent was $5,000 MXN, a bargain compared to other places I had lived since arriving in Mexico.


Once again Victor and his assistant moved all my furniture and personal effects to the new location. They were fast, careful, and set everything in place ready for use.


Only a few of my new neighbors spoke any Ingles but it soon became obvious I had found a great community. Using broken Spanish and translation apps several neighbors soon offered suggestions for best wifi and internet companies to use in the area, and suggested local tiendas to buy food.


There is an OXXO mini market on the street a few minutes away to buy food and essentials. I do not have a car so initially I took Uber to Walmart 10 minutes down the hill to stock up on anything I needed.


I take walks around the area most mornings to explore the area and check out the family businesses I could use. There is plenty of variety: farmacias with doctors offices, carcinerias, tiendas selling fruits and vegetables, mini markets, ferretarias (hardware stores), shops selling bread and pastries, plenty of restaurants, and a gym/sports club with swimming pool.


The biggest surprise, considering I am obviously a foreigner, was how friendly locals are. When we pass in the streets there are plenty of nods, smiles, and greetings “Hola”, Buenas dias” and “como estas”. Something I rarely found in other areas I had lived.


Very few people are fluent in Ingles but when they get to know you, and feel comfortable trying, they  gradually open up. The children are less reserved and love the opportunity to practice the English they learn at school… only to return home where everyone speaks Spanish. In family businesses it was most often the youngsters who paved the way greeting me in English and asking simple questions. Something a few of the parents follow. They loved it when their efforts are rewarded with “bien ingles”… “das lecciones en la escuela?” (Good english. You do lessons at school?)


Around this time my friend Maruja, who I met on a visit to Medellin Colombia, came to spend time with me in Los Molinos. We helped each other with our languages. She could translate for me when shopping, and with her outgoing personality it certainly helped build more friendships to have a woman in the mix.


Turn the clock forward ten months and we are settled in my chosen pueblito, enjoying life amongst the locals, learning their culture, and gradually working on my Espanol.


I still enjoy visiting friends from other colonias around Guadalajara and in “Gringoland” around Lake Chapala, but I return home feeling like I visited an amusement park where everything looks like you are in Mexico but menus and signs are mostly in English, and everyone speaks that language. Something is missing.


Many of the business owners and other people I’ve met have become friends and we often meet at homes or restaurants for fiestas that last well into the night.


These people are friendly, helpful, fun loving, and very protective of their friends and family.


They have shown me another side of life.



A FEW PERSONAL TAKES ON MY EXPERIENCE….


I prefer to live amongst the locals as opposed to Expat communities. The people are in general more humble, friendly, and helpful… and protective of their family and friends.


Safety in Greater Guadalajara, and when I travel to other cities around the country, has never proved to be an issue. If you use commonsense, do not act entitled, dress conservatively, and stay away from drugs and questionable areas, I feel safer than in other countries I have visited. Of course you can always be in the wrong place when disaster strikes anywhere in the world. But petty criminals go where the pickings are easiest, especially the tourist areas where visitors act stupidly or let down their guard.


Unlike north of the border you never have criminals mowing down shoppers at a supermarket or shopping plazas, or shootings at schools or churches. I feel much safer here than when I visit family up north.


If you live on a budget you find huge savings living amongst the locals. House and apartment rents are way less when compared to more affluent or Expat areas. For example, my house is $5,000 MXN per month. I have seen lesser homes in other areas for $20,000 - $25,000 MXN and more.


Living costs for electricity, water, and other services are lower, and food and essentials bought at local tiendas, tend to be 30-40% less than the large supermarkets. And the food is fresh, not frozen and thawed before you buy it.


You will often find excellent restaurants and eating places if you explore your area. Delicious Mexican and ethnic food, offered at budget prices. A huge contrast to food quality and prices at restaurants in the more affluent and tourist areas.


I recommend a few restaurants in my neighborhood:


👉 La Menuderia – Our favorite breakfast spot in all of Guadalajara. Friendly family staff and a great menu of Mexican and Vegan food, and will cook anything you care to special order. Most of the staff speak Ingles. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is very popular so best to arrive early if you don’t want to wait in line a few minutes for a table.


👉 El Pan Diario – An amazing bread and pastry shop where locals line up to buy. Tables in front are great when meeting for coffee and specialty pastries. It has become a meeting place for folks from other areas who visit Los Molinos. Our last Friday get together drew people from Canada, Argentina, Australia, USA and Mexico.


👉 Q’kis and Cakes – Renata is well known in the area for her elegantly decorated cakes and cookies. An excellent place to stop by for coffee.


Other interesting places and people:


👉 Club Deportivos Los Molinos – Local sports club with gym and swimmimg pool where I swim a couple of days each week.


👉 Crista: A local who offers online zoom seminars on personal development in Spanish. She has a big following in Canada and other countries.


👉 Ingrid Darnell: Gives talks on healthy eating habits, nutrition and natural medication treatments. WhatsApp: +52 1 33 2814 3163


👉 Victor (Mover): WhatsApp +52 33 2037 0197


Voila! Thanks for joining me in recalling my adventures in Guadalajara. I hope my experience can be useful to you :) ~ Bob Wilson


🎇The TWIG team wishes you the best life in our beautiful city of Guadalajara. We’re always here to help, if we can!

 

FAQ´S -

  1. HOW SAFE IS GUADALAJARA? Guadalajara is both safe and unsafe, depending on your lifestyle and choices. Numbeo safety index gives Mexico City a crime rating of 68.2 which is high. Guadalajara's is close at 62.2. If the crime rate comes higher than other similar big cities (Paris, London, New-York, Rome), in Mexico, most violent crimes are restricted to instances between criminal organizations. Reading about cartel activities in Mexico can be scary, however, unless you are extremely naïve or unlucky to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, as a tourist or expat, you have no reason to encounter criminal organizations, just like you don’t meet the mafia when traveling in Italy.

  2. What makes Guadalajara a safer place than most other big cities in the world? People’s kindness and helpful nature. Very low aggressivity and no mass shootings. Most Mexicans are non-aggressive (except behind the wheel), polite and well mannered. GDL has a great expat community ready to help. Check TWIG’s connect page for all the wonderful groups we recommend you join to get help, good advice and make solid friends.

  3. Is Mexico safer than the US? In this video Andrew compares Mexico to the USA and explains why Mexico is safer.

  4. How to Make Your Move to Guadalajara Smooth and Stress-Free? Sign-up to TWIG's Relocation Program and learn in 4 days what it takes other years. From where to eat, where to stay, what to see, and connecting you to all the top professionals you need for your new life, you’ll feel home in an instant.

  5. How can I stay updated on the latest events and attractions in Guadalajara? Subscribe to TWIG's free weekly newsletter to get the best of Guadalajara delivered directly to your inbox.

Want more of everything going on in Guadalajara? Subscribe to TWIG’s free weekly newsletter to get the best of Guadalajara in your inbox. And get the “Best of Guadalajara List” to know the top bilingual professionals in 30+ categories (from private drivers to doctors).



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