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 features Arielle Newman. Arielle moved to Playa del Carmen 12 years ago after traveling to the Riviera Maya organizing yoga retreats. She has made a fantastic life for herself here in Playa del Carmen and owns one of the area's most reputable and best loved yoga studios, Yoga by the Sea.

Expat Interview Arielle NewmanAbout you

Q: Where are you originally from and where in the Riviera Maya are you living now?

A: I've lived in Hawaii, Australia, Los Angeles and Kansas City before moving to Playa del Carmen. 


Q: How long you have you lived there and what made you chose that area?

A:This November will mark my 12th year living in Playa. The beautiful beaches and warm weather are what seduced us to move here. I had lived at some beautiful beach locations before, the North Shore of Oahu and Bondi Beach in Sydney, but nothing compares to the super white sand beaches and aqua water here in the Caribbean part of Mexico.


Q: What made you chose the Riviera Maya as a place to live? Had you visited the area many times in the past? What attracted you to Mexico and this region?

A: I had been conducting yoga vacations and yoga retreats in Akumal and on Isla Mujeres to yoga students from the US and Canada for four years before deciding to move here to live full time. The easy going pace was appealing as well as the weather. I'm a sun flower not a snow queen!


Q: What did you do for a living in your home country? What do you do here?

A: I was a yoga teacher, choreographer, and writer in the US and have continued to do the same here. 


About the area

Q: What do you enjoy most about the Riviera Maya?

A: The biggest draw for me for living in the Riviera Maya is being able to swim in the warm and silky waters of the Caribbean Sea. That, and not having to put on a coat, hat, sweater, boots, and scarf  to go outdoors in January!


Q: How's the quality of life? Is it what you expected or have you been surprised by anything?

A: I like the people of the region; for the most part they are friendly and pretty laid back. And I love the cultural richness of Playa being an international community with people from all over the world. You hear so many languages spoken here walking down the street. It's also a young town. People are physically active at every age, which fits in well with my business, Yoga By The Sea. 

I like that I can walk, ride a bike, or take a bus or taxi anywhere I wish to go.


Q: What have the downsides been in your move? The biggest challenges?

A: I think they are similar to any new place you move to: finding new doctors, dentists, and vendors that offer goods that you prefer. Cooking is a passion for me, and I love it that we have organic produce and specialty products like pesto, arugula, and olives from Italy here now. Twelve years ago, it was a challenge to find a variety of fresh vegetables and cheeses.


Q: What do you miss most about your home country when you are here?

A: I miss family and friends when I'm here. But I've been lucky that many of them are now coming to Playa on a regular basis in the winter months, so I get to see them then. One year, when the US was having a particularly severe winter, it was like a revolving door at 'Case de Newman.' Our extra bedroom got a good work out that year.

Aside from people, I miss odd things like crisp cole slaw, Lipton's ice tea, live American football games, and first-run art house movies. Although the Riviera Maya International Film Festival that we've had the past couple of seasons has been a nice boon for a cinephile like myself. 

Expat Interview Arielle Newman

About living here

Q: Which are the best places to live in this region as an expat? Any specific area you would or would NOT recommend?

A:  Even though Playa has grown quite a bit, I still enjoy living here. I like the amenities offered, the restaurants, the services. People who want more of a secluded living experience would probably prefer Tulum, which is where we go when we want to "get away". :-)


Q: How do you rate the standard of living accommodations and services?

A: My belief is that your standard of living is affected by the whole environment that you live in - so I count clean air and the natural negative ions from the water, the fresh tropical fruit and doing yoga daily part of a great "standard" of living.

The standard of home repair and maintenance services (such plumbing), can fall below what one might be used to. Communicating in Spanish to an electrician finds me consulting the dictionary to look up technical terms specific to the job. 


Q: What's the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

A: The cost of living here is about the same as in Kansas City, or other mid-size midwestern cities in the US. Food is about 10-15% less expensive, electricity quite a bit more. High quality towels, linens, and other cotton goods are hard to find and expensive when you do.


Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Do you socialize mainly with other expats or do you have a lot of Mexican friends?

A: I'm outgoing and curious about people so I tend to meet people easily. I have made friends from a variety of countries which is also in part to me teaching yoga at my studio.


Q: Do you find Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya safe?

A: Yes. Very.

Yoga by the Sea

About working here

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?

A: No, however there can be a month or more wait for paper work to go through.


Q: What's the economic climate like in the city. Is there plenty of opportunity to work as an expat?

A: There was a low point for about three years with the economic recession, but there are a lot of people back visiting Playa on vacation.


Q: Was it difficult to start your own business?

A: I was fortunate to fall into the opportunity to use beautiful sea-view yoga studios with beautiful vistas of the Caribbean Sea. There's nothing like doing yoga with the sound of the waves in the background and birds flying by over the palm trees. I feel blessed to be teaching yoga in settings so conducive for peace and relaxation.


Q: Tell us about your business and how it came to be?

A: I've been teaching yoga for a number of years and I'm blessed to have graduates from my Yoga Teacher Training certification courses interested in teaching with me. We offer a range of classes from Yoga for EveryBody, to Ashtanga Yoga which is a vigorous form of yoga that concentrates on strength building and stamina. We offer Yoga for Pregnancy, Yoga For Kids, and a lovely Sunset Yoga which is a terrific way to end your day. There's one teacher who teaches Vinyasa Flow and presents Yoga for Athletes Workshops. She has won many of the competitions in the Riviera Maya race circuit here. There's another who is terrific with the more spiritual side of yoga.

In the end, what could be better than to bring health and well being into the lives of others? I endeavor to present a comprehensive and professional teacher training courses, the next one of which is November 8 - December 8, 2013 and is approved by the Yoga Alliance. 


Q: What differences have you found between doing business here and back home? What was the most surprising difference, either positive or negative? 

A:  Teaching yoga reminds me of the phrase, a rose is a rose is a rose. Downward dog is the same in any language: hands down, bottoms up.


Q: What do think it takes to be successful here?

A: It's helpful to have patience and perseverance to be successful anywhere.


Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?

A: No


Q: How would you rate the healthcare by cost and quality?

A: Good and well priced.


And finally...

Q: Is there any specific advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?

A: I would advise new arrivals to the Riviera Maya to soften your expectations around how much you think you can get done in a day. When we first came here, we wrote out pretty robust "To Do" lists.   After some trying days, we realized that if we could get two or three things accomplished successfully on any one day, we were having what we've come to term, "A lucky Mexican Day."

Q: Have you ever considered moving back to your home country and if so, why?

A: No, this is my home. Yo estoy contenta.


Q: What brings you the most joy and keeps you here?

A: Meaningful work, a loving husband, nice friends and a terrific beach keeps me happy and very grateful.

Arielle Newman Yoga by the Way 


Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.