Guest blogger Michelle Velez takes us through the four stages of falling in love with Mexico, and the importance of finding friends along the way. Read more about Michelle here.
As a New Yorker living in Mexico City for a year, I definitely struggled to adapt to life in this new city at first. I am a Princeton in Latin America Fellow working at an international non-profit to promote high impact entrepreneurship in Mexico, and though “me enamoré” (I fell in love) with Mexico City, the process certainly had stages. Whatever stage you find yourself at right now, know there are always options to help make your experience in Mexico, however long or short, to be a social and inspiring one.
The first stage I like to call the “wide-eyed stage”, where everything was new and exciting and I barely understood what was going on (despite studying Spanish for 10 years previously, majoring in it in college, and visiting my family in Mexico multiple times). I would try to catch the main ideas of conversations, not knowing the Mexican words and expressions. And after spending time in Panama during college, it took me about a month of living in Mexico City to get used to conjugating verbs in the informal “tú” form instead of the formal “Usted,” as people tend to use “tú” more often here in Mexico compared to Panama where I only ever used “Usted.” And I tried all of the food (yum) and I visited all of the relatives and my life was a whirlwind of new and unfamiliar experiences and I was on cloud nine.
Then stage two hit. After a few months, I had found a routine in my life, but I felt lost. I had gotten myself sick from trying too many new foods at once, I didn’t know anyone outside of work and my family, and while I could finally participate comfortably in Spanish conversations, Mexican lingo and all, I didn’t feel quite connected to anyone. This lost feeling just swelled inside me, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Then I stumbled upon Meetup.com. Cue stage three.
Stage three was a combination of finding myself and finding good friends. I am by nature someone who thrives on meaningful interpersonal connections, and Meetup helped me find those people. I think the thing about Meetup that really helped is that you are no longer the only person looking to make new friends and meet new people when you go somewhere: everyone is doing the exact same thing! I found things I was interested in that were familiar to me (a vegetarian group, a book club) and things I had never tried before (a pre-hispanic ruins explorer group, a meditation class, a yoga class). And soon enough I had met the most incredible people from all over the world, people who spoke English and Spanish (and Spanglish) and who like me were looking for friendships to help them in their transition to a new country/city/neighborhood/etc.
Stage four caught me by surprise. It happened in one of those moments when it suddenly dawns on you that you are good friends with someone: a never-ending dinner conversation, a girls-night-in with a bottle of wine, hysterical laughter over a Rosca de Reyes (a Three Kings Day cake), joking in the jungle while looking for butterflies and only finding “media mariposa” (half a butterfly). I finally feel comfortable being myself and have found a group of very different friends who I can trust. Now, by no means is stage four an end point; I have continued meeting new people and learning new things about myself since then, constantly striving for stage five, whatever that may be for me. But I write this to let anyone new to Mexico or the city know that while at sometimes it seems impossibly difficult, humans are made to adapt and connect, and with time, you too will pass through your own stages of transition to living in (or visiting) Mexico.
I am currently a co-organizer of a Meetup group called Museums of Mexico City with another expat friend I met through Meetup. Since Mexico City is home to over 150 museums, we figured it would be a shame to live here and not explore at least some of them. We have led previous groups to Diego Rivera´s Studio in Coyoacán and the Museum of Modern Art in Chapultepec Park.
I cannot recommend Meetup.com highly enough to help facilitate this transition process (and meet some pretty cool people along the way). It is completely free to sign up and after entering your location, it shows you groups that are in your area, allowing you to join whichever ones strike your interest. Meetup.com is very English-speaker friendly, but also very international. I encourage all of you to not only search for groups that you think you would fit in, but also to find groups about which you have no previous knowledge, but are interested to learn.
Best of luck with your adventures in Mexico! Bienvenidos!
Readers interested in finding English-language Meetups in Mexico City should visit our What’s On calendar of events – Meetups, including Michelle’s, are regularly posted under the “Social and Community Events” heading here.