Life and Travel in Puebla, Mexico

Tag Archives: expat interviews

From Francis, who came here from the UK.

  1. How long have you been in Puebla? 17 months
  2. Why did you decide to move here? My girlfriend is from Puebla. One of us had to make the move….
  3. What are you doing now? Teaching English mainly but other odds and sods as and when they crop up.
  4. What do you find difficult about living here? Battling with antiquated (or at least very slow) administrative systems. Worrying about personal security on a daily basis.
  5. What do you really like about it? Many things. Firstly, the weather. It is obviously much better than what I am used to and although there is a rainy season, the rain doesn’t usually hit until late afternoon so the days are still fine. Secondly, the days are relatively long all year round. In the UK, the sun sets at 4pm in the winter which I can’t stand. Here, we have daylight until approximately 7pm every day of the year. Thirdly, the people. They are generally very warm and extremely hospitable. I have lived in many different cities and countries but I have never really sensed a community feel like I have here. It’s nice to get on with your neighbours! Finally, I like the size of Puebla and I like being able to move around pretty easily and quickly. Having lived in London before moving to Mexico, it is definitely something I appreciate. It doesn’t take an hour anymore just to go out and meet friends!
  6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here? Go for it.
  7. Favorite food here? Tacos y quesadillas árabes. Stuffed chipotles. Chiles in general.
  8. Favorite drink? Agua de fresa from Michoacana.
  9. Favorite activity? Eating.
  10. Favorite place? Hmmmm….there are lots of fantastic places to visit, so much to see. Highlights would be Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guanajuato.
  11. Favorite holiday? Día de Muertos.

Francis

 


From my friend Shaye:

1. How long have you been in Puebla?

In total, around three years. I studied abroad for a semester in college, came back to teach English for a year after I finished my undergraduate degrees, and returned about two years ago more permanently.

2. Why did you decide to move here?

Having a Master’s degree in International Development with concentrations in Latin America and Research and Evaluation, living in Mexico has given me the opportunity to continue studying, researching, and building my skill set in the region I have most studied. Additionally, my husband is from Puebla and my relocation here made the most sense at this point in our professional and personal lives.

3. What are you doing now?

I am currently working toward my doctorate degree in Political Economy of Development at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla with support from the Fulbright program. My research track is Public Policy, the State, and Development and my dissertation research is on higher education regionalization in rural Puebla.

4. What do you find difficult about living here?

I still struggle with all the bureaucracy here. Whether it’s visiting the immigration office or even just dealing with things at the university, I become easily frustrated with the excessive paperwork, waiting, and general inefficiency involved. I also haven’t quite adjusted to the “favor” culture, which can be related to the bureaucracy issue. Sometimes people act like they’re doing you a favor and make it seem like you owe them something for it, when they’re really just doing their job.

5. What do you really like about it?

I love experiencing all the diversity that Mexico has to offer. The regions and towns differ in traditions, food, landscapes, and culture in general, so you can always discover something new in this country.

6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here?

Do as much research as you can and if possible talk to people who live or have lived here before. However, in my experience, finding a place to live and work is usually accomplished best in person. Keep an open mind and give yourself a couple months to fully adjust.

7. Favorite food here?

I like pretty much any antojito – quesadillas, memelas, tostadas, tlacoyos, chalupas, chilaquiles, tacos de carne asada. Tortilla or Aztec soup is also one of my favorites and during the Christmas season I love the stuffed chipotle peppers, too. I recommend hitting up the local markets as well—there are so many fruits I’d never actually seen or tasted before, like prickly pears, pitaya, pitahaya or dragonfruit, guavas, maracuya or passion fruit, and the many varieties of mangos.

8. Favorite drink?

I like almost any fresh juice they make here, and also agua de jamaica, which is hibiscus flower soaked in water and sweetened with sugar. I also love micheladas and cheladas (beer with fresh lime juice and/or a mix of salsas). Cocktails with mezcal are becoming increasingly popular and are worth trying, too.

9. Favorite activity?

My favorite thing to do is to pueblear, or visit small towns. Puebla has a lot of pueblos mágicos, which are “magic towns” as deemed by the government for tourism purposes. Usually these places have eco-tourism (waterfalls, ziplines, hiking, etc), indigenous populations, and/or archeological ruins.

10. Favorite place?

It’s hard to pick just one place in Mexico! I’d say my favorite pueblo so far is Cuetzalan. The town is really beautiful and there are a lot of things to do nearby, like hike to waterfalls, explore caves, and see ruins. As far as cities, Mexico City is crazy in terms of the number of people and size, but has so much to offer. I also really liked Queretaro, Guanajuato, and Guadalajara during my short weekend visits there. My favorite beach places are the small towns that haven’t been over developed and commercialized yet, like San Agustinillo en Oaxaca.

11. Favorite holiday?

I really enjoy the Day of the Dead traditions. My husband and I put up an altar every year to remember loved ones.

 

At the Cascadas de Quetzalapa, which are between Chignahuapan and Zacatlán here in Puebla state.

At the Cascadas de Quetzalapa, which are between Chignahuapan and Zacatlán here in Puebla state.


From my friend Ana Paula, who is French-Portuguese.

  1. How long have you been in Puebla?

I have been living in Puebla since June 2007.

2. Why did you decide to move here?

The first time I came to Puebla was for a student exchange program with the university UPAEP (Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla). It was my first time in Mexico. I decided to study in Puebla because it was well located and I could move and travel very easily throughout the country. I met a lot of people, among them my current boyfriend. Long distance relationships are difficult, therefore one year following the student exchange program I came back to Puebla and decided to stay.

3. What are you doing now?

I am a French teacher at a private high school in Puebla

 4. What do you find difficult about living here?

Although you live for a long time in a foreign country, you always feel that there are cultural differences between your culture and the culture of the new country. I think I am well adapted to Mexico, but there are still some difficult things about living here such as: machismo, the lack of entrepreneurship or initiative, the fear to express their ideas or opinions, the lack of solidarity at work, the importance of the appearances and overwhelming superficiality (overall in the “Poblana” society), the slowness of administrative processes and in the day to day life style.

 5. What do you really like about it?

I love Mexicans for their happiness and their great generosity (“mi casa es tu casa”= “my home is your home). They have strong bonds with their family. They do not feel as stressed as European people. They enjoy their life fully. I love the Mexican folklore and admire the pride they feel to be Mexicans. I think Puebla is a wonderful city for its colonial and colorful architecture and its perfect climate.

6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here?

Prepare your arrival:

– Get contacts (for a job,to find a place to live, etc)

– Gather information on Mexican culture and lifestyle

– Be open-minded and patient to understand Mexican culture

 7. Favorite food here?

Tacos, ‘esquites’ (Mexican snack of grains of corn which are boiled in salted water. It is served in small cups and topped with lime juice, chile powder, salt and mayonnaise) and ‘chiles rellenos’ (green chiles stuffed with cheese).

 8. Favorite drink?

Mezcal (beverage made from the maguey plant or ‘Agave’)

 9. Favorite activity?

I love walking in the colonial downtown and through several parks of the city.

 10. Favorite place?

In Puebla: Puebla, Atlixco, Cuetzalan

In Mexico: Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mayan Riviera, Chiapas

 11. Favorite holiday?

I love the syncretism of the Day of Dead between Spanish and pre-Hispanic cultures and Mexican traditions for Christmas holiday.

 

anapaula


From my friend Nick, who is from the US.

  1. How long have you been in Puebla?

I have lived here since August, 2013, but since 2008 I have been back and forth in the city, studying and visiting for short periods.

  1. Why did you decide to move here?

I decided to move here because the people are very nice and I wanted to increase my knowledge and fluency of Spanish as I was/am planning on higher studies in Spanish.

3. What are you doing now?

I teach English at a private high school in Puebla and take classes in Nahuatl in order to fully immerse myself in the culture of Latin America and to be a better teacher, not just here, but in the US if I decide to return.

4. What do you find difficult about living here?

I think the most difficult thing is trying to balance all the things I would like to do with all the things I have to do. It’s frustrating knowing I would like to try to go somewhere or try something new, and then to have to work. Also, it’s not difficult to find people to talk to, but it can be difficult to find people to do things with as the city is quite spread out.

5. What do you really like about it?

The people are great, friendly and very helpful and patient. And the food is delicious.

6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here?

Research the area, the culture, and think about yourself, too.  Many people when they live abroad get homesick and thus don’t enjoy the experience as much as they could or should.

7. Favorite food here?

Tacos, memelas, tostadas, enchiladas, mole, pipián, bread from Zacatlán (sugary bread filled with sweet cheese),  and tlayoyos.

8. Favorite drink?

In terms of alcoholic drinks, Xtabentún and Pox are quite good, as well as numerous drinks I’ve had in Zacatlán (the apple pop is good, and I don’t drink pop very often!)

9. Favorite activity?

I like to just walk around the city center. It really is a beautiful city. I also like to travel within the state of Puebla and the country of México to get to learn new things, new places and new people.

10. Favorite place?

  Zacatlán, Cuetzalán, Chignahuapan, a bunch of others I can’t remember.

11. Favorite holiday?

So far I would say Day of the Dead, but there are quite a few left to experience!

At the beach.

At the beach.


From my friend Isaiah, who is from the US.

  1. How long were you in Puebla?

I was in Puebla from February 2006 to August 2006 and have returned to visit a couple of times (2007 and 2009, I believe).

  1. Why did you decide to move here?

A friend of mine—a certain blog proprietress—were hanging out at our alma mater while I was visiting and she mentioned she was moving to Mexico. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with my job at the time and basically figured “Why not?” I was young and inclined to foreign travel, wanted to improve my Spanish, and have always loved Latin America, so it just made sense to jump on this opportunity.

  1. What are you doing now?

I live and work in New York City, providing sustenance and lodging through job-related payments for my wife and child.

  1. What did you find difficult about living here?

There were a lot of things that were annoying or hard to adjust to, like public transportation’s nonexistence or general differences in cultural values (especially since Puebla is fairly conservative and I was—and am—fairly liberal), but it wasn’t particularly difficult. At least “difficult” isn’t the right word. As I mentioned, I was young and rather flexible. I didn’t have a significant other, didn’t have anyone but myself to provide for, and I was interested in seeing and learning about Mexico, so it was mainly easy to exist. Certainly being an adult in a foreign country is difficult from a social perspective unless you have a particular in with a variety of groups (this is true where ever your home country is as well, of course, but at least in that instance you are fully communicative in your native language and probably have some family or friends somewhere that are able to provide a level of support that may not be available abroad), but it was a pretty care-free time for me given my particular situation. If I were to narrow it down to one particular thing that annoyed me the most, I’d say that it was the constant lateness of nearly everyone for every occasion. That, I understand, is cultural and personal, but it definitely drove me batty!

  1. What do you really like about it?

Well, the food is pretty extraordinary, but I think I just liked it for being itself. It was different, it was new, it was constantly showing me things I didn’t understand or didn’t know about and that was fascinating. I’m assuming that would have worn off if I’d stayed for longer, but I was only there for 6 months, so it remained capable of surprising me throughout my stay.

  1. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here?

If you’re fair-skinned, take a lot of sunscreen!

  1. Favorite food here?

Quesadillas con chorizo. Mmmm. They were good just about everywhere, but I particularly liked the ones from the woman near the craft stalls in the center of town. They were delicious, if never quite as big as the ones you found farther from the zocalo.

  1. Favorite drink?

Non-alcoholic: ice cold horchata on a burning hot day.

Alcoholic: Palomas (tequila and grapefruit soda)

  1. Favorite activity?

I’m not even sure. I was there during World Cup 2006, so I was pretty into that, but for regular occurrences, I guess going to see the variety of things around town, like the mini volcano or Chelula’s pyramid, was pretty fun. Traveling up to the forts was interesting, if somewhat overgrown and strange if no one else was around. [Note: The Fuertes have been rennovated since Isaiah was here, and are no longer overgrown or rundown. The area now features wooden walkways, scenic overlooks, an artificial lake, and even colored lights that pulse inside the fountains].

  1. Favorite place?

The Zocalo. Shade and people watching is an amazing thing. I spent a lot of time there given the whole “everyone is late” thing…

  1.    Favorite holiday?

            I visited for El Grito once and that was pretty fun given the downtown festival and the general party atmosphere. I’ll go with that, though the Cinco de Mayo festival was pretty neat too.

 

Isaiah, remembering the time he spent in Puebla.

Isaiah, remembering the time he spent in Puebla.


I’d like to start posting interviews with other foreigners and expats living here. For the first one, I’ll start with myself:

  1. How long have you been in Puebla? Since 2007.
  2. Why did you decide to move here? Because I had studied abroad here, I already had some job contacts, so I decided to see if I could start my English-teaching career in Puebla.
  3. What are you doing now? I teach English and English Literature.
  4. What do you find difficult about living here? Getting anything done that involves paperwork, but especially anything that involves the bank (and paperwork).
  5. What do you really like about it? The laidback attitude, the family culture, the food, and the sightseeing.
  6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here? Make sure you’ve got your important documents apostilled and notarized, and that you know where you’ll live and how you’ll be getting your visa. Also, brush up on your Spanish.
  7. Favorite food here? Pretty much all of it except anything made with sheep or goat meat.
  8. Favorite drink? Rompope is really nice. And non-alcoholic “Rusas,” which are made with Squirt, lime juice, ice, chile powder, and a stick of candied tamarind, and “tepache,” fermented pineapple juice that is best served ice cold with chile and lime, will taste like glory on a hot day.
  9. Favorite activity? Sightseeing
  10. Favorite place? The mountains of Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl, and La Malinche
  11. Favorite holiday? Day of the Dead and Christmas
Walking my dogs at a park.

Walking my dogs at the Ecoparque Metropolitano.