It is estimated that nearly one million expats live in Mexico, and the most popular places in order of total number of expats are the Lake Chapala area, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, Merida, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, and Cancún. San Miguel de Allende has as many as 10,000 expats living here full-time or part-time in this municipal area of roughly 150,000 people. So, there are a lot of gringos in this area … and that’s not counting all the other gringos (like me) who pour into this area as tourists. I have never in my life seen so many trinket shops and stalls selling a lot of the crap that ends up in thrift stores all across America. To be fair, there are also a lot of vendors who are selling nicer Mexican products such as pewter pieces, pottery, leather goods, clothing, etc.
I own a lot in an over 55 community in Phoenix, and many of my fellow owners are snowbirds from the Midwest, Northwest, and Northern parts of the U.S. Not to over-generalize and be too stereotypical, but many of these retiree snowbirds look and dress alike. However, here in San Miguel de Allende there is an abundance of retired expats who don’t fit the mold, such as people wearing flowing and colorful clothing, long gray hair in pony tails, uncoventional piercings in various parts of the body, and tattoos … many tattoos. I guess that anyone who decides to live in another country is already living outside the box, so I am not surprised by the people I see. I almost feel not hip enough, and I even have a #1 buzz cut. Today I paid Sonja the barber 40 pesos plus a 10 peso tip (approximately $2.80) for a fresh new buzz cut, but maybe I should have asked her to cut some designs into my buzz to make me look more cool. Oh well, I will only be here another 2 weeks so maybe I can escape before my fellow expats think I’m a little nerdy.
I’ve only been here a week, so I should wait before I give this place my final assessment. Nonetheless, I don’t believe that I would pick this place to retire. The nearest airport is at least an hour away, and Mexico City’s airport is 3.5 hours away. The topography in this area is kind of boring and barren. Some things are a bargain (like my haircut), but many other things are not. Yeah, there are a lot of fancy restaurants that cater to expats and tourists, but you also pay U.S prices. The local golf course looks pretty nice, but green fees during the week are $60 and over $100 on the weekends. I walked by a newly remodeled 3 bedroom condo in the center of town today, and I persuaded the contruction dudes to let me look around inside; on the way out I saw the real estate posting on the window indicating that the price had been lowered to $550,000 … that’s U.S. dollars, not Mexican pesos. You can find all the yoga classes, massages, reiki, and various other pamperings that you desire, but again you are paying roughly what you’d pay in the U.S. One of my primary reasons for planning to live abroad is to significantly lower my cost of living (particularly health insurance), but I don’t think that is possible here in San Miguel de Allende. I do, however, plan to get me another $2.80 haircut before I leave town.