Teaching in Mexico City: Englishman David's Story

There were customs that David had to get used to when he first moved to Mexico from England almost ten years ago. But he has pretty much adjusted to life in Mexico City now, where he works as a translator and a teacher of English. Here he gives us a glimpse of his expat life in Mexico, where the people are friendly and the food is terrific.
David and Katia
David Bevis

-Where were you born?
Shoreham-by-Sea, England

-In which country and city are you living now?
Mexico, Mexico City

-Are you living alone or with your family?
I'm living with my Mexican girlfriend. My family all live in England at the moment.

-How long have you been living in Mexico?
I've been living in Mexico for nine years now.

-What is your age?
I'm 34.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Mexico?
It happened by sheer chance. I happened to be living in a shared student house in Sheffield (England). One of my housemates was Mexican, and she asked me if I wanted to teach in Mexico. I think it was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made - I said yes within half an hour!

Mexico City Cathedral in the Zócalo (Central Plaza)

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
It was hard at first. The first school didn't want to pay for my papers, and later on I had to pay lawyer's fees. These days it's quite easy, as all the information is publicly available via Internet and I do the paperwork myself.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
It was difficult, as medical care is quite expensive here. My school now gives us the basic medical insurance, but it took a long time to happen.

-How do you make your living in Mexico? Do you have any type of income generated?
I teach English to executives and do translations.

I got the teaching job at the school I'm with now through friends who were living here at the time. I think living in a guest house with other teachers really helped there. It also helped that I'd studied English at university and had taken a teaching training course while I was in my first job here. These days, I'm doing quite well in the school, and recently volunteered to set up their website.

The translation came about because I'd bought my girlfriend an art magazine and she noticed that it had English translations at the back. I wrote off to the editor, and they gave me a trial. I'd never done translations before, so I must have done something right, because they kept giving me work! I think I was lucky to start off with an editor, because most of the translations I do now, which are contracts, don't get checked until they reach the customer, so I have to know exactly what I'm doing.

A former monastery in Desierto de los Leones

-Do you speak Spanish and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I speak Spanish fluently now, but when I arrived I knew almost nothing of the language. I think I started taking classes within about a week of arriving here, just to understand what the other teachers were gossiping about in the staff room! Seriously though, I think it's very important to speak the language of the country you're living in. It shows respect to your host country, and the locals are so much friendlier if you make the effort to speak their language.

It's important to observe local customs too, but they take time to learn. I remember it took me a while to get used to the more "tactile" greetings they have here. A Mexican friend had to explain to me that women would get quite offended if I didn't kiss them on the cheek when saying hello or goodbye. Men also have to shake hands with other men for greetings and farewells, or give them a brief hug if they're friends. Those weren't really typical customs for me.

A trajinera (punt) in Xochimilco

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course I miss them! I see them once a year, but not for very long. We keep in touch via e-mail and I have an account which lets me call them over the Internet. The telephone service here is very expensive, so the Internet has been a real boon in that sense.

I like going out with friends to bars or restaurants, but if people start dancing I get worried! I have trouble dancing salsa or cumbia, things that involve learning steps, so my girlfriend insists that her friends teach me every time we go out. I think I'm a lost cause for dancing!

-Do you have other plans for the future?
At the moment, I'm trying to help my school grow so that we can get some more clients. I'm also working on a novel, which has been put to one side for the moment. Hopefully, I'll have time to do some writing soon.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
My girlfriend and I are renting a three-bedroom flat at the moment. It costs about MX$5000 a month. In my area, to buy a home of the same size would probably cost around MX$1,000,000.

-What is the cost of living in Mexico?
For things like food, I think it's fairly cheap. Certainly, going out for a meal doesn't cost as much as it would back home. However, electronic equipment costs about the same here as in England, and when I compare things prices on the Internet, they're much cheaper in the States.

-What do you think about the Mexicans?
I think Mexican people are very friendly on the whole, and they tend to treat foreigners very well. The friendliness can be surprising at first, if you've just met someone and they're already inviting you to their home. This is just exuberance, however, and they probably don't actually expect you to show up on their doorstep! I think it takes time to get to know people in any country and that's just as true here.

The Botanical Garden of the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Mexico?
The positive aspects are that life in Mexico is never dull! However, in my case I have to travel quite far for some of my classes, so there never seems to be enough time in the day. Other negative aspects are corruption, and the slow pace of bureaucracy. The weather is much better than back home, though, and I really enjoy taking trips outside the city, as there are some great places to visit nearby. Mexican food is superb, and I don’t think I’ve tasted even half of the typical dishes you could find here. Finally, as I said before, the people are great.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Mexico?
Be patient! Most things don't happen overnight in Mexico and you can't expect people to hurry up just because you're in a hurry. You also have to be flexible, and prepared to try doing things you're not used to.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Mexico?
I have to mention my school's site first, as I set it up for them! The school's name is Gardner English and they’re at www.gardnerenglish.com. Finally, I've found Mexico Connect (www.mexconnect.com) to give quite helpful advice on subjects such as visas and living in Mexico.

greetings from Pa. USA

angloamericano's picture

Hello there, my name is Richard and I live near Phila Pa. I found your Mexico city reflections to be very interesting and informitive. I am interested in teaching English in Mex. City. I never finished college, but have experience teaching ESL and would be interested to know if it would be possible to teach privately. I have a small monthly income and would like to be able to supplement it. I'm also a musician with a lot of experience playing and teaching Jazz, blues and Pop. My girlfriend lives near the airport in Mexico D.F. and we just spent 5 great days together in Acapulco. My Spanish is pretty fair and though I may make grammatical errors, I'm always understood. I hope to hear back from you and all the best. sincerely, Rick

Saludos desde Pennsylvania

angloamericano's picture

Hi David, my name is Rick and I live near Philadelphia Pa. I have a Mexican girlfriend living in Mexico D.F. and I thinking of going there to be with her, and possibly teach English. It seems like these schools , such as the one where you work, are good possibilities. The question I have is, what certifications does one need? I have a few years of college but never graduated but have experience teaching ESL and guitar. I noticed that this interview is 3 years old, hence, I don't know if your situation has changed, but I hope to hear from you. sincerely, Rick