By KRISTINA MORGAN – BLC EDITOR
Note: The following article was written several years ago, but its content and the video below (also created and narrated by Kristina Morgan) remain just as relevant today.
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MISCONCEPTIONS: First-time visitors to Lake Chapala are frequently jolted by the number of misconceptions they brought with them. These include:
1) Modern conveniences don’t exist. WRONG! Just about everything you’ve taken for granted in your native country is available here. High-speed Internet service, indoor plumbing (complete with water purification and pressure systems), cable and satellite TV, high-speed internet (including WiFi and movie streaming), computers, VCRs, blue-ray DVDs, smart phones and other high-tech gadgets, cappuccino and espresso, state-of-the-art medical facilities, known name-brand imported products, and even retail outlets such as Wal-mart and Dominos Pizza (locally) or KFC, Applebee’s, Sears, Burger King and Office Depot (in nearby Guadalajara) are all available.
2) Everyone speaks Spanish. WRONG! In addition to the thousands of English-speakers from all over the world that have retired or relocated to this area, a great many Mexican nationals take pride in knowing how to communicate in English. Although it is highly recommended (and courteous) to learn at least basic Spanish, many expatriates never learn Spanish and get by just fine.
3) Everyone rides a burro. WRONG! Although you do see the occasional burro or horse being ridden alongside automobiles on side streets, most people get around by car or by using the excellent bus transit or taxi services here. Auto dealerships such as those found north of the border are as close as Guadalajara here, and knowledgeable mechanics and auto parts outlets are available locally.
4) Mexicans are lazy. WRONG! The native Mexicans value their leisure time, and that means a healthier, less stressful lifestyle. However, when it is time to work, Mexicans tend to hustle and make up for time lost taking a siesta or enjoying their daily life. The relaxed attitude toward time and promptness can be exasperating at times, though.
5) Mexico is a Third-World country. WRONG! For years Mexico has been classified as a Developing Country and long ago outgrew its Third-World status, although many foreigners seem to be unaware of this. Mexico has a rapidly growing middle class, and steps are being taken to improve the lot of those remaining at poverty level. The country is becoming highly industrialized (See more detailed articles on this in our Trends section.)
Lake Chapala Mexico Mythbusters
FACTS: Even though many fears about Mexico are unfounded, there are some genuine pitfalls. These include:
1) Don’t drink the water. With the exception of certain subdivisions which supply potable water, ground water in Mexico is usually not purified before being piped to homes. Water for consumption (drinking and cooking) can be readily purchased by the bottle, including large 5-gallon containers for home use. Ordinarily, the Mexicans themselves drink bottled water and restaurants serve purified water. Just don’t drink from the tap unless you are in one of many homes in the Lake Chapala area that is equipped with a whole-house purification system.
2) Choose your food carefully. The stories about tourists getting diarrhea are often true. Produce available in markets has not been pre-washed, so you will need to get into the habit of washing it thoroughly with purified water before eating. Anti-bacterial drops to add to the water are also available. A good rule of thumb is to avoid street food until your body has become acclimated to the food here.
It is interesting to note that a great many foreign visitors get sick upon returning home, if they have been in Mexico for awhile. It seems to be largely a matter of what the body becomes accustomed to. Bacteria found here in Mexico may not exist north of the border — and vice versa. It is usually exposure to an unaccustomed variety of bacteria that is to blame for gastric disorders. The best course is to eat normally while exercising caution and common sense. Should you develop unpleasant symptoms of gastritis, go to a reliable pharmacist. If fever accompanies diarrhea, consult a doctor. In lingering cases, it is wise to take a stool sample to a local lab for analysis, and then take the results to a doctor or pharmacy so that the correct medication can be prescribed.
3) Watch out for scorpions. Although a large segment of the foreign community have lived here for many years and never been stung by a scorpion, it is not uncommon (especially in rural areas) to come across a scorpion or other noxious insect. Many residents choose to spray their home regularly for pests such as these. It is a good rule of thumb to always check shoes before putting them on, and avoid going barefoot.
The fear of scorpions seems to be greatly amplified in foreigners; the Mexicans tend to chuckle over what they consider an exaggerated fear. In truth, most scorpion stings hurt terribly for awhile (similar to a bee sting) and then disappear. However, the neuro-toxin from a scorpion sting can cause a bad reaction in a very small percentage of individuals, particularly the elderly and children under age three.
Should you be stung and exhibit shortness of breath or other alarming symptoms, the local Red Cross has injections available to counter these symptoms. A dose of benedryl and ice on the site also helps. In many cases, people report that their symptoms have disappeared by the time they reach the Red Cross. Try not to be overly alarmed at the prospect. As stated, many people here have never been stung, even after decades in the area.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristina Morgan, BLC Editor
Kristina has lived and worked in Mexico and the Lake Chapala area for 17 years. Three of her four children were born and raised here, and are now north of the border furthering their academic studies. Kristina is an Unlimited License General Contractor and PR/Relocation specialist. Although she divides her time between Mexico and the U.S., her heart was claimed by Lake Chapala long ago.