A Stranger in my Own Land

woman in a chair on a beach

Adapting well to living in Mexico can have its drawbacks

As the exit door opened and I stepped out, a blast of hot air blanketed me and immediately I felt a joyous sense of having arrived “home”. But not home in the traditional sense of the word, such as in the land where I was raised, but more the kind of feeling that one has in your heart when you feel at ease and complete. It’s the same sense as when one falls in love or at the birth of your child. Yes, that one.view from wing of airplane to airport

Of course, this feeling didn’t suddenly come over me this year when I returned from two months visiting my family up North. Not at all. Rather, it’s been growing exponentially over the past eight years, becoming stronger to the point where now, although I love visiting my family and friends, I don’t wish to spend any more time away from Mazatlan than is necessary. I now feel like a stranger in my own land each time I go back to Canada.

Perhaps it’s that I have adapted too well to my community here. Learning to speak Spanish enough to converse with people certainly has helped. And I can truly say that I enjoy the sounds (some call them noises) of the street. Traffic honking, people announcing their goods for sale as they pass by, children playing on the street, random fireworks displays, banda music till the wee hours and the occasional barking dog (ok, maybe that one is not so good). I live in the downtown area, so it’s always alive with activity.

In my previous community in the North, the only sounds I ever heard were the whir of lawnmowers during the summer; and the buzz of snowblowers in winter. No dogs barking, no children’s voices, no one having random parties at their home. In many ways it was an ideal neighborhood for the majority that enjoys absolute peace and quiet. But for me, it felt like I was living in a cemetery and I was increasingly feeling isolated. I wanted to hear life going on around me, even if I wasn’t directly participating in it, and that is exactly what I got when I moved to Mexico. Some would say, I may have got more than I asked for, but to me, it’s all relative.

Here in Mexico, I have come to feel truly complete. But when I go North I feel like a duck out of water. I often feel like a stranger in my own land. When visiting my home country of Canada, there are many rules to remember. Like, only crossing streets at the lights because you can get fined for jaywalking; or that the buses won’t let you board even if you are just ten feet away from the stop and are running and waving madly at them! (Yes, I really did that.) One of my more cynical observations, when I was there last time, was the list of “NO’s” placed predominantly as you boarded said public transportation. I understand why these are needed but at the same time I wondered why don’t they also list PLEASE DO’s such as “feel free to smile”, “say hello to a fellow passenger” or even “enjoy your day”!

And it’s not just the rules up North that are frustrating to me, because many make sense and are for our safety; it’s that there’s just too darn many of them to the point where nothing has been left to common sense. It’s all been legislated! In many ways, over legislation has taken away our ability to think for ourselves. And, even though Mexico may have pretty much the same rules and regulations as we are accustomed to in Canada or the USA, enforcement here, some would say, is lax; whereas I look at it as that we are still allowed to exercise our common sense. Example: there is an extremely large hole in the middle of the sidewalk due to the collapse of a manhole cover. Common sense… be vigilant and walk around it in order not to fall in. Legislated sense… place caution cones around it and hire a fluorescent vested flagman to warn people about it until it is fixed.

But don’t get me wrong, there are definite positives about life up North. On the flip side, it is rather nice, when sourcing out supplies, that they can be easily located and sent to you in no time at all using dependable delivery and online sources. I love that I can manage my life and work requirements entirely online. Finding parts, accessories or some oddball gadget is easy; as is booking event tickets and online banking. So knowing that you can rely on certain systems and processes does have its value, I won’t deny that. I will say, however, that Mexico is catching up in that regard but it is a slow process and sometimes my techy side gets a little frustrated. 

However, all in all, I wouldn’t trade living here for the conveniences of up North. Of course, I’m still relatively “young” and who knows what lies ahead as I age (a common worry for the majority of us foreigners living here), but I am willing to take my chances on a country and people that I have now come to love with all my heart and soul. Viva Mexico!

Have you lived long enough in Mexico now that you’ve started feeling like a stranger in your own land too? Share your story with us in the comments below!

Ana Fernandez

Just a potluck gypsy living the good life in sunny Mazatlan, Mexico!!

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9 Responses

  1. Judy McNab says:

    What a wonderful read, Ana! After my sweet hubby passed away in November 2013, my friends in Mazatlan, Bill & Kathi, invited me down to Maz to get a break away from everything. I went in February 2014 for about 2 weeks and fell in love with the place, the friendliness of the people, the food, Olas Altas, Isla de la Piedra, Zaragoza Mercado on Saturdays, the laid back attitude of everything there. Since then I have been returning for 2 months every year. I would love to stay longer but I have 3 dogs here in Canada and I really get “separation anxiety” if I am away any longer. :0) I am quite “long in the tooth” but if I was younger, I think I would look into buying a place in Maz…..I am too old for that now so I will just be happy renting a place every year. Maybe someday, when my dogs are gone to heave, I will look into staying down there for a longer time. Viva Mazatlan…and the Venados….love the baseball games too! :0)

  2. Emily says:

    Great article! We love Mexico and have enjoyed our nearly two years here, but unlike you, the noise, the late-night parties, ATVs, screaming kids whose parents don’t seem to notice or care, and loud music are all getting to be too much of a good thing! Perhaps because we’re getting older and have enough difficulties sleeping without these added challenges.

  3. Doug says:

    Five months in mazatlan. Seven months in Edmonton. Nice blend. They booth have their advantages. One might say best of two worlds. Sometimes a quick trip to Mexico to get something done and sweat a little is good summer break.
    Yes viva Mexico.

  4. Vera says:

    I’ve lived in Canada for the past 20 years. Moved here with my husband and two kids. Few years ago we went for the first time to Puerto Vallarta and fell in love so much that we had to visit again in not even a two months. That second time, we decided that we are coming same year to spend 5 months and see how we going to adapt. And that exactly what had happened. I’ve resigned from my job, my husband took sabbatical from his job.
    We were there! Our friends couldn’t believe what we had done! And we felt at home, at ease. It was great. Maybe because we are originally coming from the smaller country in Europe, maybe because Canada has so many rules and regulations, that people forgot how to think for themselves? Maybe that I was impressed of how people are happy just being outside and soaking up the Sun rays! We were not tourists, we were pata salata, locals. I’ve enjoyed bus drives with the common people. How they care about their babies! I haven’t seen one stroller in the street. They carry their babies in their arm’s!! And I loved it!
    I felt comfortable! I felt at home!
    We are here in the North Canada, we are still not people who can retire, but we are hoping to fulfil our dream, sell everything and move South in the nearest future.
    When I have a hard day at work or I have my blues, I open my pictures and transfer myself from here to there. I can still remember the ocean breeze on my face, I can still remember the feelings that I had, the people chatting in the busses after their day off work. I feel that I left my home, and I’m here, counting the days when I’m going to return.
    Mexico in my ❤️

    • Ana Fernandez says:

      So well said, Vera! And when you mentioned the babies, I remembered something else. How the families here walk around so proud of their children and are happy when you interact with them. One incident I recall was when I was walking by a young man with his infant baby and said (in Spanish) how beautiful the child was. In a heartbeat he handed the baby over to me to cuddle! I was in heaven! In Canada, I rarely feel comfortable enough to do such things.

  5. Theresa says:

    I really enjoyed your article. Although I have only spent one winter in Mazatlan, your words resonate with me. I look forward to another winter there in Mazatlan!

  6. Marion Dewar says:

    I feel very similar emotions going north Ana…a different culture, people are adventures in a different way…a more save life style. Very boring for me. North does not feel home anymore. Missing the colorful, happy, friendly mexican people. No expectations here in Mazatlan…low stress level and every day is full of suprises. At times…i don’t know what day it is. Mexico gives me peace, contentment, happiness and adventure! LIFE IS GOOD!

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