What Blueberries, Shrimp, Auto Body Repair and Housekeeping Can Tell You About Life In Mexico

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Although you don’t know me, here’s a fun riddle that could apply to lots of people, and maybe even you:

“Guess what these four things have in common for the author of this article: blueberries, shrimp, and the services of Raul (my local auto body shop owner) and Maria (one of our housekeepers).”

Before you answer, assume that I like blueberries, shrimp, impeccable dent repair, and an immaculately tidy, close to hygienic house with my clothes freshly laundered and folded, all by someone other than me.

What these things have in common, at least for me, is that they are all luxuries I would have been reluctant to buy in the US because they were too expensive. Either that, or I would have bought them anyway, but then experienced at least a tinge of remorse, which in turn, would have diminished my happiness, which was supposedly the purpose of buying them in the first place.

None of that is true now that we live here in Mexico.

I buy all these things and more here in Mexico with reckless abandon, a clear and happy conscience, and a good amount of Joie de vie.

Jet Metier with seafood vendor in Mexico
Jet Metier with seafood vendor in Mexico

Put simply, living here in Mexico takes the edge off lots of things, including the stress of buying otherwise luxury items and services. Let me give you some accordant examples.

Like lots of people, I like to eat blueberries. Perhaps you do, too. Let’s say you’re in the US and would like to buy some. How much would you buy and how much would it cost you?

I remember buying an amount so small from our local US supermarket that it looked like the clear plastic package was about three inches by three inches side to side and a depth of about one blueberry deep. In some places, I could actually see right through the package to the other side. I probably could have counted each blueberry without opening the package and it would have taken me perhaps 15 seconds.

Jet Metier with ″Maria″ in Mexico
Jet Metier with “Maria” in Mexico

In contrast, over here in Mexico, I pay the equivalent of less than USD $4 for a liter (about 34 ounces; more than a quart) from one of several vendors on the street. Of course, at that price, I don’t just buy one liter. How many do I buy? Let’s just say that my levels of copper, beta-carotene, folate, choline, vitamins A and E, and manganese are more than adequate.

Let’s move on to shrimp. I grew up in California, as a child probably not quite reaching the level of middle-class. As such, for our family, shrimp was a luxury to be eaten effectively never and only enjoyed by other, “wealthy” people. Well, here in Mexico by all relevant evidence, it looks like I’ve arrived in the wealthy class because the price of shrimp here (we live up in the mountains, five hours by car from the ocean) is substantially less than half of what it is in the US. I had eaten shrimp so rarely before moving here that I never really even knew before moving here if I even liked shrimp. Now, I’ve had it so often I can make a relatively good case for the best ways to prepare it.

I still eat way more blueberries than shrimp, because I still like blueberries more. Perhaps you would indulge in different culinary pursuits, but the overall point is

Liter of blueberries in plastic container
Liter of blueberries in plastic container

that, here in Mexico, items we normally associate with luxury are so reasonably priced, it’s like you’ve been magically transported to an alternative reality where either everything is half off (or more) or your income has been wondrously doubled by the Happiness Wizard, without you doing anything other than changing your geography. You’re the same person; you’re just eating a good amount of blueberries and shrimp, and you’re enjoying it way more.

Let’s move on to something that is a bit less of a luxury and a whole lot less fun— getting a dent repaired on your car. When I lived in Arizona, just before moving here, I backed into a wall at low speed, causing a relatively small indentation in the rear end of my car.

When I write “relatively small” I’m talking about the size of the dent, as opposed to the cost to repair it.

I forgot exactly how much the estimates were, but I remember them to be around $1,100 or $1,300. One of the reasons I don’t remember how much it was is that I didn’t get it repaired in Arizona. It made me a bit more than annoyed to pay that much for what should have been a minor repair. Also, I was moving to Mexico soon, so I could see what the repair would cost there.

After bringing that car to Mexico, I visited Raul, the sole proprietor of a local body shop. After rousting Raul out of his hammock and paying him the equivalent of $60, I couldn’t even tell you where the repair was; it was that good. Result: savings of more than $1,000 in my pocket, which is the equivalent of 300 liters or 111,000 blueberries (I did the math) — enough to fill up my bathtub here in Mexico so high I could literally bathe in blueberries with the savings (while eating shrimp!).

Author indulging in seafood tostada in Mexico restaurant.
Author indulging in seafood tostada in Mexico restaurant.

But even more importantly, I was able to replace the feelings I would experience in the US fearing or needing bodywork (somewhat equivalent to the seven stages of grief— shock and denial; pain and guilt; anger and bargaining; depression, etc.) with the following three stages in Mexico: 1) nonchalance; 2) followed by mild amusement; 3) followed by a good amount of happiness and gratitude that I wasn’t feeling what I would feel in the US.

Speaking of gratitude, this brings me to our housekeeper, who I’ll call Maria, whose services are a luxury I would not have indulged in at least as often when living in the US. As I’ve written before, Maria is just like a mother who takes care of you, but without the guilt. In addition to treating Maria as best we know how (which is just common human decency and being able to treat people well is one of our joys in living here in Mexico) to do a good amount of our house chores, all we have to do is pay Maria, which makes Maria very happy. And because the going wage for Maria is roughly 10% to 20% of what we would pay in the US, we can easily afford to keep Maria employed while giving my wife and me lots of free time that otherwise would

have been spent mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, folding clothes, and lots of other related chores we no longer have to do, so instead, we can do other things we enjoy more.

Seafood vendor Manuel with Jet Metier
Seafood vendor Manuel with Jet Metier

So, what’s the bottom line? Here in Mexico, the blueberry and shrimp vendors are happy, Raul is happy, Maria is happy, and my wife and me are happy… and less stressed. I’d like to tell you more, but I can hear that the blender has just stopped, and my smoothie will soon be ready.

Yum…

Full disclosure: the author owns a moving company, Best Mexico Movers. This could have influenced his view of blueberries, shrimp, car repair, and other topics related to living in Mexico, but he doesn’t think so.

Chuck Bolotin
In 2016, my wife and I decided to try life abroad; selling, giving away, or putting into storage anything that wouldn’t fit into a large, white van, in which we and our two dogs toured the best-known expat areas in Mexico, staying in vacation homes along the way, all while knowing very little Spanish. More recently, I created Best Mexico Movers to move our clients’ household goods to and from Mexico. It is from this background and perspectives that I write for you about life and retirement abroad. I hope you enjoy it.

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