One of the things that we expats in Mexico (and probably expats anywhere) get asked constantly via web boards is “What should I bring with me and what should I leave behind when I move?” While expats as individuals have individual answers, of course, here are some of mine.
Bring your good cookware. While there are some fabulous ceramic cooking pieces that you can buy down here at probably a much lower price than you can get them elsewhere, stainless steel pots and pans are very expensive, at least around Guadalajara. Before I moved down, I bought one of those cookware sets that they were selling on QVC and I am so glad that I did.
I’ve been lucky in that all three of the furnished places I’ve rented have had such things as microwaves, blenders, dishware, and flatware. And two of them have provided cookware. But I’m still glad I brought my own, because I knew how to use it and as it gets battered over time, I don’t have to pay to replace it for my landlords.
Since I love word games and logic problems and pretty much pencil and paper games of all kinds, I am so happy that I ordered two very large boxes of Dell PennyPress puzzle books to cart down here. [And, yes, that's one of my first ever commercial "plugs," but I totally stand by it!] I purchased two 40-book packets and those lasted me for two or three years. Then a couple of years ago when my friend Jonnie drove up to the U.S., I ordered two more big boxes of them and I still have puzzles upon which to work.
Hand-in-hand (literally) with the puzzle books go some really good mechanical pencils with No. 9 lead refills. To paraphrase the old ad for Timex watches, they take a licking and keep on writing. And they’re almost impossible to find down here.
Between the pencils, the No. 9 lead refills, and the puzzle books, I’ve been able to amuse myself for an amazing amount of time. So if you’re a word/math puzzle aficionado, keep these things in mind and save some space for them if you’re driving to your destination. Mailing the books would be pretty much cost-prohibitive. I checked it one time and the postage for one box of 40 puzzle books was, as I recall, about $42US and that’s without the duty that the government and/or the mail service would charge!!
And, yes, I know you can find all these things online for free or way less than $42US, but I like to work on them in bed at night, and I don’t want to drag the computer in there. (However, I am willing to entertain your suggested replacements, because I KNOW some of you will have some! And, no, Joe J., I don’t mean suggested replacements for things to do in bed instead of puzzles!)
While it seems like almost daily we get access here around Lake Chapala to things we might be missing from our homelands, there are still a few things that seem to be impossible to find or which cost a great deal more down here (like flannel sheets from L.L. Bean). I’ve mentioned before that in the five years that I’ve lived here, I find that I miss less and less from the U.S. I think that’s primarily because I’ve found perfectly adequate substitutes, but also because my tastes have literally changed over the years.
So what I might bring with me were I moving to Mexico today might be different than what I moved with me five years ago. For example, I’m pretty sure that I would bring a Kindle or some other Ereader with me instead of the two HUGE boxes of books I brought. But I’ve never regretted the space they took up because not only did I have things to read, I had books to exchange at what pass for our local English-language libraries (e.g. Cafe Magana, the American Legion,, and, mainly, my friends).
I’ve written previously about photos and souvenirs and gifts that I’m glad I brought, each of which has provided me with a little taste of “home.” But I must say that many of those things have now been shifted into the background in my home to be replaced with new photos, souvenirs, and gifts that remind me that my home is now in Mexico. You’d never be able to convince me to give away the going-away album my friends at Petrified Forest gave me when I left for Mexico, but it’s the photo of Kathi, Jonnie, Sher, and I that sits on my dresser in the frame that Jonnie especially picked out for us.
And while my pink flamingo pens from Everglades National Park are still in my cup from Death Valley, it’s my corn husk Virgin of Guadalupe made by a woman in my pueblo of San Cristobal Zapotitlan that has pride of place in the living room.
My friend Shep gave me a set of Death Valley playing cards that we actually used today for games at my house, but otherwise they’re stored in a drawer. However, last year’s Christmas gift from Kathi, my Virgin of Guadalupe backpack, has never missed a trip to IMSS with me or to immigration because it’s my “lucky bag.”
So if you ever immigrate, or even move far away from your home, I suggest that you bring not only what’s practical, but what you care about, and keep in mind that the longer you’re gone from “home,” the more likely your definition of “home” is to change.