Every week, I answer dozens of emails from
people interested in moving
to Playa del Carmen. While I am always happy to give my point of view....my perspective on life here as a foreigner.....I thought it might be fun
and informative for "Life's a Beach" readers to get to know some more
of the folks who have made the big leap into expat life. We
began a series of interviews with local business people and
families who have moved to Playa del Carmen whose journey may be of interest to those still in the planning stages or even those just dreaming about it. Unlike other expat
interviews found on the web, we know all of these people personally. If you are planning to
move to Playa del Carmen, they just may be your neighbors! We may not
necessarily see eye to eye with everyone we interview but each of these
interviews will be published unedited and in their entirety. As such, I
imagine that this particular series will be interesting to follow and
prompt quite a few comments and questions.
This Expat Interview, the first for 2013, features Susan de Lima. Susan moved to Playa del Carmen at almost the exact same time as we did. She was one of the first people we met here in Playa, back in the good old days at Captain Dave's on 10th. We have been friends ever since, celebrating our successes and lamenting and laughing about the bumps in the road along the way. Susan is the owner of UNO Events and Catering and most recently opened UNO to Go. She is also the Head of Operations for Taste of Playa.
are you originally from?
A: The amazing country of Canada
are you living now?
long you have you lived here?
you move with a spouse/children?
but I did make the move with a dog
made you decide to move here?
reasons....Canada is great but where I am from very cold! Due to genetics, my
body does not respond well to cold climates so this seemed like the perfect
place to be. My employers in Canada started a program that allowed employees to
take up to a year leave of absence and return to their job. Say no more! I
applied to the program and left for a year, never to return.
did you do for a living back home? What do you do here?
was a prevention education consultant in my last job. When I relocated to
Mexico I knew that this was not going to be something that I could continue
here. I followed my passion for entertaining and cooking to become an event
coordinator and caterer. More recently, I expanded this to provide my clients
with home cooking to take away.
do you enjoy most about your new hometown? How's the quality of life?
mostly enjoy the beach lifestyle and the fact that I now know all my neighbours
and then some! Playa del Carmen, although growing rapidly, is still the quaint
"small town" place that I grew to love when I first came on vacation over 15
years ago. It is a friendly, safe atmosphere where you really get to know
the quality of life? Is it what you expected or have you been surprised by
A: I am most surprised of how little one really needs. Downsizing from a large
home to a small condo seemed daunting at first. "What about my stuff?!" Guess
what, you don´t really need very much too really enjoy life and living. Bikini
and sarong (sunscreen too!) and you are good to go. I have found an increase in
the quality of life; especially from being around others who are doing the
have the downsides been in your move? The biggest challenges?
would say language has been the biggest challenge. I believe it is completely
up to yourself to immerse yourself in the language and culture but in Playa it
is very easy not to as most people speak English. Through having a business and
a desire to learn about the culture and language this has been a positive
challenge. There are bureaucracies that prevail but I believe that is true in
any country. Some are funny, some are ludicrous and always a topic of
conversation among expats.
do you miss most about home?
be honest, not much. When you live in a beautiful Caribbean place there is no
shortage of visitors. I would say I miss my friends and family most from Canada
but in all honesty I probably see them more with better quality of time since
About living here
are the best places to live in this region as an expat?
to the beach! I have only lived in what is known as central Playa del Carmen
where there is easy access to the beach, shops, restaurants and bars.
do you rate the standard of accommodations?
on your budget very nice accommodations can be found here.
the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
find it comparable to Canada. Quality clothing is expensive here and any
products that are targeted to foreigners. Going out, in my opinion, is about
the same to many places that I have traveled to.
would you rate the healthcare by cost and quality?
Canadian, many believe that we have the best healthcare in the world. The
average Canadian pays immensely for this service which is seriously flawed. I
have embraced private insurance and feel that the cost and quality is amazing.
I recently had Lasik eye surgery with great success at less than half the cost
in my country.
are the locals like? Do you socialize mainly with other expats or do you have a
lot of Mexican friends?
locals are friendly and nice. A good majority of my socializing is done with
expats, however, through the years many Mexicans as well. Playa del Carmen is a
somewhat unique place where even most of the Mexicans are not from here so you
have a melting pot of foreigners living here and Mexicans from the entire
country. This allows for interesting cultural conversations!
it easy meeting people and making friends?
be a personal thing!
you find Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya safe?
but within reason. I feel safer here than in many cities probably because so
many people know each other here. That being said, it is a city which will have
a certain level of crime.
About working here
you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
took several months to obtain my working visa and starting a corporation. It
was done with relative ease.
the economic climate like in the city. Is there plenty of opportunity to work
as an expat?
appears to be good and a constant stream of new ones opening. In my experience,
I don´t believe there are many opportunities to work as an expat (except in
teaching) unless you start your own business.
it difficult to start your own business?
really. There are specific companies that assist in this for a fee and to me
us about your business, UNO Events and Catering, and how it came to be?
my leave of absence from Canada I knew that I did not want to go back but faced
the reality of what would I do here?! I actually hosted a pool party bbq which
I catered myself. Due to the friendly nature of Playa, someone brought a friend
who property managed many vacation rentals who loved my food. Thus my business
Q: What differences have you
found between doing business here and back home? What was the most surprising
difference, either positive or negative?
have never had a business...always an employee so everything is new for me!
do think it takes to be successful here?
believe, like anywhere else, hard work
there any specific advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
research (blogs, websites, books), volunteer, LEARN SPANISH
you ever considered moving back to your home country and if so, why?
brings you the most joy and keeps you here?
ocean and quality of life