A young lady that’s planning a move to Merida asked me what I’d do differently, if I had a ‘do-over’.

And in today’s post I’ll share that one thing.

#1 on my list would have been to …

Take a Local Class in Merida to Learn How to Speak Spanish

That’s the #1 thing I would do differently. In fact, I would encourage you to start before you even arrive. If you’re 1-year away from making the move here, start immediately. Don’t wait.

And once you arrive, sign-up for local classes immediately (or at least get with a local teacher).

I took classes from a tutor and it was very helpful, but I didn’t stick to it long enough. After a few weeks, I was out. But those few weeks of classes helped me out a lot. Knowing that, I would have forced myself to stay in the class and continue lessons for at least the first 3-months, and then take more one-on-one lessons to refine and keep on top of what I learned.

Learning the language, or at least learning the basics to communicate simple wants and needs can be a game-changer for you.

I’ve seen countless people leave Mexico due to the frustrations of not being able to talk or understand what’s being said. This can be overwhelming and could be the breaking point for most.

I met a lady last week who was soooo excited about moving here from the US, but after arriving during an exploratory visit, she started to doubt if she could really do this–all because of the language barrier.

I get it … When I was in Colombia a few years back, I almost left to go back to the U.S. because I got so frustrated with not being able to understand or communicate.

I had to remind myself I’d only been in Colombia less than 3-days and that it’s unreasonable to expect to know what folks were saying … I really had to convince myself to stay. It’s that serious ya’ll and you shouldn’t underestimate how overwhelming this can be to your psyche.

My wife cried when she couldn’t order a hamburger at the restaurant … I mean she was balling.

The lady I mentioned a moment ago looked disappointed and doubtful when she couldn’t tell the waiter what she wanted to eat. I could tell her spirit was slightly broken as she struggled to communicate. When I’m out with clients, I often stay outta the way so they can get a real feel for what’s coming …

Sometimes they get mad because they felt like I allowed them to like a fool; and they did, lol…

But I do that because I don’t want anyone walking away with a false sense that this is a walk in the park.

It’s not!

The reality is that learning Spanish will be a game changer for you. When I first arrived in Mexico I kept telling folks you can get by without knowing Spanish (and you can ‘get-by’) … And that’s all you’ll ever do is ‘get-by’.

Your quality of life is greatly enhanced the sooner you learn. I’m able to say that now because after being here for a while, I see the drastic difference with just the little bit of Spanish I know now, versus when I first arrived.

Yeah, I could do little things here and there … And yeah, I could get by, but my God; there’s an entirely different world that opens up to you when you learn this stuff.

There were some classes I wanted to take but I couldn’t because I didn’t speak Spanish. The fact of the matter is we are in Mexico and they speak Spanish here. It’s going to be difficult to do certain things without knowing the language.

Truth is, it sucks standing in line not knowing what the cashier is saying. Depending on the scenario, I can gather and piece together what’s being said when I hear certain words and phrases, but that gets old after a while. I’m tired of trying to wing-it.

At some point, it just makes sense to buckle down and learn this language. Once you do, there are many places across Central and Latin America you can visit or live in with much more ease.

Another factor to consider …

If you’re trying to keep your costs/expenses lower, learning Spanish will help you with that too.

For example, when I go to the doctor or need medical services done, it actually costs more money to deal with English speaking doctors. English professionals tend to charge much more than many of their local counterparts.

When I go on these apps to find local doctors, I’m able to see their prices on their profile page. And in many cases, the prices are drastically different for English speaking docs.

Also, I’m limited to who I can see when I’m only seeking English docs. Even some of the docs who do speak English, they will not treat or have a session with you in English. They’ll tell you they can only speak in Spanish during their session (perhaps it’s something they do to limit their liability due to somethings being misinterpreted).

So at the end of the day, you really limit yourself in the quality of care you can receive when you’re limited to only choosing from a pool of 2-3 English speaking doctors, versus choosing from 50 of them; most which are probably more qualified.

It’s been fun and comical getting by with my limited Spanish the first couple years, but now it’s at a point where it’s important to grasp this language thing. It can be learned if one takes the time to learn it.

In many of my YouTube comments, people who are still living in the States will make snarky comments about why I haven’t learned Spanish after being here for a while.

They say all this while yet, I’m still out here making it work and living my best life! I’m here putting myself out and making myself vulnerable in an effort to share my ups and downs so others can take or learn from my good and bad experiences.

One of the primary reasons I hadn’t buckled down in learning Spanish is because of ‘Life’. Since arriving to Mexico, we’ve had a lot of life changing events to happen.

I had an emergency surgery and was in the hospital for 7-days. My daughter Haley required emergency surgery as well.

Haley was also diagnosed with schizophrenia since arriving to Merida; and for the last year, we’ve been in and out of the hospital for the bulk of our time here for that.

It can become challenging to find the time when you have ‘life’ going on; and it’s hard for people to understand why when they’re looking from the outside in.

I’ve mentioned this before, it ain’t easy moving to and living in a new country. You don’t just show up and life continues on as before. Not at all.

Now, single folks may have more time on their hands than say a family of 4,5, 6 or 7. A family will have a lot more responsibilities than 1 or 2 people. 

We have to keep our kids occupied … Help them with homework (homeschool). Help them assimilate and so on.

It’s not easy starting over in a foreign place and this is the stuff other content creators don’t share because it’s not popular… They want to convince you it’s easy and fun to travel and live abroad.

Moving abroad and ‘STAYING’ abroad are two different things. Anybody can move abroad … The real challenge is if you can actually stay and build a new life. Most folks don’t make it past the first year; because it’s hard ya’ll!

Some days you’ll wonder if it was a good idea to move abroad. You’ll wonder if you’re messing your kids up, lol … You’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with you!

But that’s all part of the game when you make the decision to Move Abroad and Thrive!

So … if I had to do it all over again… I’d immerse myself completely in learning Spanish from a local school in the country you intend to live in (or start taking lessons form an actual tutor online right away before you arrive).

While online apps may help a little bit, it won’t be nearly as good as learning from locals with a local tongue … So much gets lost in translation when learning from these apps.

Plus, they don’t come close to sounding like the locals you’ll be hearing from once you land. It’s like everything you learned in school and from the apps goes straight out the window when they actually start talking to you. They sound NOTHING like the apps, lol!!

So yes, learn some of the basics from the apps:

  • How to count
  • Basic greetings (hola, buenas dias-tardes-noches, como estas, gracias, de nada, a usted, a ti, con gusto, hasta luego, etc)

But take an immersive class with a small group of people and just go all in. Once things slow down a bit and Haley gets more stable, I’m going to take one of these immersive classes. For now, I’m gonna start with private one-on-one lessons; I wish i stuck with the one I started with when I first arrived. I’d be so much further along.

Merida has quite a few Spanish language schools to choose from

One thing to remember … There’s all sorts of Spanish (Spain, Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Panamanian, etc). Each has it’s own dialect, flare and jazz … So its important to take lessons from a local in the country you plan to visit or live in.

In Colombia (Medellin), when you say ‘Thank you’,  they’ll respond with ‘Con Gusto’, which means ‘With Pleasure’ …

They don’t say ‘Con Gusto’ where I’m at in Mexico. They simply say ‘De Nada’ (thank you). Or they’ll often say … ‘a ti’ or ‘a usted’.

In Merida, when you walk out of the store or leave, they’ll say ‘Hasta Luego’ (see you later)… I’ve never heard them use that phrase in Colombia. It’s almost like they use it to say, ‘thank you, see you again soon.’

So, all Spanish is not equal.

Don’t be trying to learn Mexican Spanish from a lady in Peru. And don’t be trying to learn Colombian Spanish from a local Mexican.

Words and phrases have different meanings and these subtle differences matter.

When you arrive to Merida, do a Google search for some of the local Spanish schools here. They have quite a few. Read the reviews and get feedback from others that have taken local classes.

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About the Author

Cartess Ross

Hi... I'm Cartess Ross, the publisher for Move Abroad and Thrive. If you're considering a new life abroad and wish to chat, feel free to book a consultation with me by CLICKING HERE.

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