As you read this, keep in mind that one person’s junk is another man’s treasure. In other words, what may seem like a positive to one person, may make someone else turn up their nose in disgust. The same goes for these pros and cons. With that caveat in mind, let’s address some of the most commonly agreed upon the pros and cons of Lakeside living.
1. Well-Developed Infrastructure
When I first arrived, the only Internet provider was in Guadalajara. Emailing required making a long-distance call. Today we have multiple Internet, mobile phone, and dish providers from which to choose. We have gone from one traffic light to more than ten, although many are often not in working condition.
In addition to the unique Lake Chapala Society (read more in the Lake Chapala Society post), there are two movie theaters, one gambling casino, a Walmart, the Lakeside Little Theatre, an auditorium which attracts world-class entertainment, restaurants with a wide selection of international cuisines, English-speaking churches of different denominations, an American Legion, multiple tennis courts, two golf courses, several gyms, and over 100 organized activities for interests of all kinds.
Lake Chapala’s climate is renowned and results from Lake Chapala’s warm waters which moderate the daily and seasonal temperature variations, from the surrounding mountain ranges, and from the mile-high elevation. There are basically two seasons: the rainy season from mid-June to late September and the dry season. Average annual temperatures range from 46°F to 68°F (8° to 20°C)in December (the coldest month) and from 54°F to 90°F (12° to 32°C) in May (the hottest month). The average annual temperature is 69°F (20.5°C).
3. Cost of Living
If I asked how much it costs to live in San Francisco or Toronto per month, how would you answer? It depends. It also depends here. Let’s take a look at housing. You could pay $90,000 US or $300,00, or a million dollars for a home here. You can rent for anywhere from $300 US per month to $5,000 per month. It depends on your wants, needs, and lifestyle. My property taxes on a $300,000 home are about $200 US per year. Doctor visits range from $15 to $50 US, depending on their specialty. Dinners range from $8 to $25 US. You can eat tacos for less than a dollar. Maids’ and gardeners’ salaries range from $3-$6 US per hour.
4. Health Care
We are fortunate to have several medical clinics and the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) with two emergency locations at Lakeside. These facilities are prepared to handle non-life-threatening medical emergencies and will transport patients to the appropriate hospital in Guadalajara for more extensive treatment. Hospitals in Guadalajara are equal to some of the best in the world. Both private and government-sponsored insurance plans are available. Most doctors at Lakeside speak English and many still make house calls. They are well-trained, professional, caring individuals.
More and more assisted-living facilities are being built to serve the aging expat population, and because the Mexicans respect the elderly and infirm, care here is much less expensive and often of much better quality than it is north of the border. Dr. David Truly, an academic who has studied the expat migration into Mexico for years, predicts a flourishing business in assisted living and nursing home care in the Lakeside area as boomers age , retire and plan to die in Mexico.
Although the press has been creating fear based on drug-related Mexican crimes and violence, there is precious little crime at Lakeside. Most is theft which occurs anywhere there is disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Even crime in the larger Mexican cities pales in comparison with crime rates in large cities north of the border. Expats here feel safe walking the streets.
Some expats choose gated communities; others prefer to live in the villages where they feel their Mexican neighbors keep an eye out for them. For those more concerned with safety, there are home security companies available at Lakeside.
There’s a reason that artists, writers, musicians, potters, and other creative people have flocked to Lake Chapala for decades: it’s the incredible beauty and light of this place. Without smog and with a backdrop of broccoli-textured emerald-green mountains (in the rainy season), the tranquility of Lake Chapala, the breathtaking colors of year-round flora, brightly-colored murals and the whimsically-painted homes and businesses, there aren’t many places which can compare to Lakeside in beauty.
Lake Chapala is only a 30-minute drive to Guadalajara’s Miguel Hidalgo International Airport (GDL) and about an hour from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. With a metropolitan population of over seven million people, you can find most anything there, be it Costco, Sam’s, Radio Shack, Home Depot, Sears or McDonald’s. It’s a three- to four-hour drive to the west coast beaches and about an eleven-hour drive to the nearest Texas border city.
The mile-high altitude provides relief from the overpowering heat and humidity of the sea-level coastal towns, but it can be difficult for people with certain heart and respiratory problems.
I spent my first month here in the middle of the village and simply could not sleep at night because of the cacophony of noises: roosters, dogs, donkeys, motorcycles, church bells, fireworks, and music until 3 a.m. People who live in the village insisted they get used to the sounds over time, but light sleepers should consider choosing a neighborhood away from the central villages.
3. Village Living
The cobblestones cause any number of “falling down” accidents. Newcomers need to refrain from window shopping while they walk, but instead should stop first and then look.
There aren’t too many restaurants or activities open after 9 p.m., including the buses and taxis. For later nightlife, a trip to Guadalajara is a better option. Some people come to Lakeside first and end up moving to the “big city;” others migrate south from Guadalajara to Lakeside. It’s different strokes for different folks.
The more Spanish you learn, the better your experience will be living at Lake Chapala. That said, there are folks who have lived here for 40 years who know little more than gracias,buenos días, and cuánto cuesta. They get by because most of the Mexicans who provide products and services to the gringo community have learned the words of their trade in English. There are several venues available here for learning Spanish—from private and group lessons to computer and audio lessons.
5. The mañana factor
Mexican people live in the moment. That sometimes translates to a great deal of frustration. If a worker is expected at 9 a.m. on Monday and doesn’t show up until noon on Tuesday, it may be because his sister-in-law’s daughter needed a ride into Guadalajara to choose a dress for her quinceañera. His family’s need may be more important than meeting a work commitment. Type A personalities get frustrated when they can’t control the things they can north of the border.
Although it’s much better today than it was 15 years ago, and every morning you will see Mexican women sweeping up in front of their homes, garbage is still strewn along the streets, there’s dog poop on the sidewalks, horse and donkey poop on the streets and it simply is not pristine. We forget sometimes that in the 1950s, before Lady Bird Johnson, folks in America still threw garbage out of their car windows. Each year is better.
7. Bureaucracy and mordida
This is a cash society. Bills are paid in cash. Credit cards are accepted by only a few of the larger hotels and restaurants. Computers are just beginning to be a part of day-to-day business operations and most service and goods providers aren’t yet using email. Lines are often long and it sometimes takes multiple trips to complete a simple errand. Some traffic cops still detain you, wanting mordida (a bribe). Mexico is not the United States and it is not Canada. It can be frustrating–especially for Type A personalities. Many of them never adjust.
Lake Chapala, however special it is to those of us who make our homes here, is not for everyone. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself. In order to determine whether it is right for you, plan to spend at least two weeks here so you can begin to understand the culture and lifestyle at Lakeside.
The Mazatlan Post