Why is Everyone in a Bad Mood?

Beryl Gorbman

Have you noticed it? The comments on websites are snippier, people are impossibly rude and impatient in traffic, harder cliques are forming, locals no longer like foreigners very much, and more of the expats seem to be going into social retreat. Foreigners are talking more about leaving the Yucatan. I have a few theories, some contributed by friends, on why this mood is so acute in Merida.

Cheer up!

1. The weather. This unrelenting spate of extreme heat and draught has taken its toll on everyone. Even those who like to tough it out, and say, “I don’t mind the heat,” have to admit that this is a bit much. I understand that the ERs are full of people with heat stroke. The heat makes me feel like a prisoner in my home, car, and stores and theaters, where I can be in the a/c. I was thrilled to be in the dentist’s office (Dr. Claudia on Calle 53) where the a/c is marvelous. It is not fun to take a walk, and probably not very good for many of us. Favorite restaurants are no longer pleasant. If you drive outside the city, you see that most foliage is brown and dying.

If you use a/c in your home, the costs of electricity are greater than they are in the USA.

2. The City continues to grow and change. There are so many new immigrants from other parts of Mexico that the characteristics that used to make Merida feel so incredibly friendly and neighborly are disappearing. A few years ago, if I walked from my house in Santa Ana to the zocalo, virtually everyone I encountered on the street would say hello (I always had to be careful with buenas dias and buenas tardes, as everyone seemed to know exactly when the clock passed noon). Now, people stride past at close quarters without making eye contact.

The City has grown huge, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it is losing its charm. When I bought my house, I was the only foreigner on my block, and now there are no more native Yucatecos. Women no longer sit outside in rocking chairs in the evening.

There are entire new colonias springing up where Yucatecans are in the minority, edged out by immigrants from DF and other cities. My friend Mary tells me that in her neighborhood, xxxxx, where her neighbors are long-time local homeowners, she still retains the pleasant aspects of the old Merida.

The traffic has become horrendous. The City is trying to come up with solutions, but it will take years.

Americans are no longer the rich guys. Yes, we used to appear to have more money than almost anyone else, and people were anxious to accommodate our whims. But now, we look like paupers next to the fast-growing super wealthy Mexicans in Merida. We are not big deals any more. We are socially and financially outclassed by a huge sector of the new population.

3. The real estate crash. It’s difficult to sell a house in Centro where many foreigners live, especially if it is listed at over $200,000 USD.

Many gringos fell in love with Merida, sold their homes in the USA, and invested in their dream homes in Merida, specifically in Centro. But just like in the caving real estate market in the USA, the homes here have plumetted in value. To add to the problem, the new gringo arrivals spent a lot of money on renovations, frequently going way over budget, as they discovered more and more things that they wanted fixed or changed in the the renovation process.

So if you bought a home five years ago for, say, $400,000 and spent another $200,000 renovating it, and have divested yourself of your home in the USA, you are now left with a Merida home that could sell here for perhaps $350,000 after you’ve spent $600,000. It’s a painful thing to sell a home at a huge loss. So you have a choice. Put it on the market where it will sit for a very long time, or cut your price drastically.

4. The cost of living in Merida has gone up. A chicken costs the same in Merida or Duluth. A lot of produce is as expensive or higher. Utility bills, except for water, are the same or higher than in the USA. A doctor visit that used to cost $30 now costs $60. Gasoline prices are high. Eating out is the same or more than in the USA if you are looking for something besides panuchos or tortas. Coffee actually costs more here. It costs $16 to get into Chichen Itza. The only thing that remains a bargain are the property taxes. (Shhhh) But then, we have to pay fidecomisos every year (lease agreements for our houses which we can’t actually own outright in Merida).

You can still get your garden shears sharpened for a dollar.

You can visit exquisite places for nothing.

5. Some gringos want to return to the USA. Because of the heat, and the predictions that summers will be permanently hotter here, plus being disappointed by the local medical services, plus the changing nature of the City, many foreigners want to go back to the USA. The thrill is gone. They are tired of struggling in Spanish, dealing with various service personnel, fixing the ever-occuring leaks, going through the agony of licensing cars and getting annual immigration documents and so forth. They find that the local health care system isn’t all it’s cracked up to be unless you pay privately out of pocket. Some people find that the climate is bad for their health (heat and humidity, added to dust).

And people miss their families up north. Relatives may not be rushing to the torpid tropics to visit them as they had hoped.

A certain proportion of people from the north who fall in love with Merida have always wanted to leave after a few years. Now it is harder because people can’t recoup their real estate investments and if they sell at a reduced amount, they can’t afford to buy the homes they want in the USA or Canada. They are stuck with staying here and hoping things change, or going to the USA, leaving their Merida homes in the hands of costly caretakers and renting places in northamerica.

Being hot, stuck and unhappy makes people cranky.

Mall Chinese food special - $6

People crowding to the a/c mall to eat bad overpriced food on a hot day

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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29 Responses to Why is Everyone in a Bad Mood?

  1. Lile says:

    The one time I visited Merida, I swore never to return because of the mosquitoes and humidity. However, the photos that you post remind me of the exquisite beauty and history of the region.

  2. lynne says:

    speaking of vacations I’m off to Ketchikan on the 29th. I’ll be thinking of you in sweltering Merida while I’m on a boat layered up in 52 degrees. I saw a chart a couple days ago that showed Seattle’s climate will be much like Vegas in 2045. keep cool.

  3. Alan from Mérida says:

    Wow! Sorry your experiences have turned sour.

    Hey, I hate the heat, am here for my Yucatecan wife. Still, I find folks friendly. I walk my two lady dogs four times daily. I exchange greetings with both the regulars and newcomers. The flowers and trees make my north Mérida neighborhood a place of beauty. As for the temperature, I can partially “beat” it by swimming in our pool, a luxury we could not afford back up north.

    As for prices, such as in restaurants, etc., being at the stateside level, hmm… have you been stateside recently? You may be in for a shock. Besides, cannot remember fresh mameys available in Philadelphia — at any price. And the Yucatecan avocados beat the Hass avocados (besides which, I could never buy a Hass avocado that was not rotten back in the states). Sweet jicama? Only here in the Yucatan.

    As for real estate prices, when folks have unrealistic expectations of continuous appreciation after buying into a bubble, well, they can get burned, whether up there or here.

    Just when I conclude there is no hope for the lack of a civic culture here, the city of Mérida surprises me by finally banning discos from stationing stadium-volume loudspeakers outdoors to attract customers — and ruin neighborhoods. And the near-by discos appear to be in compliance! And the state government comes along and passes a massive, new traffic law — that makes sense! There is hope after all!

    Yet, again, when I find myself asking myself what I am doing here, all I have to do is see my wife’s happy face, and that cheers me up.

    • BG says:

      I didn’t say my experiences had turned sour. I’m saying there is a pervasive malaise that seems to be affecting a lot of people. I go to Seatle regularly and find that restaurants are more reasonable there, unless I go to silly, pretentious places. Also coffee is a lot less. I don’t like mameys. I do, however, like fresh corn and peas and crisp apples. And I don’t like Yucatecan avocados. We have jicama in Seattle in every grocery store. Not as huge, but good.
      Of course people can be burned by buying into a high real estate market here or there. My point is that if you have sold out in the US and then after a few years here, you decide you want to go back, you’ll have a hard time.
      I am very happy with the Merida symphony, the ballet performances, even the concerts in the parks. And some of the restaurants employ truly talented troubadours, so I have no problem with finding quality arts here. Plus there are good museums and galleries. And I guess things are different in your north-end residential area, because we downtown have booming, deafening music coming out of clubs until all hours. And if you’re unfortunate enough to live near the Paseo, you just need to go to the beach for the weekend to avoid the racket.
      But i don’t mind the noise. I’m a New Yorker at heart. We can sleep through anything. I’m not talking about little annoyances anyway. I’m talking about substantive issues like climate change and economic depression. Not avocados.
      For our Mexican neighbors, I think the pressure of the upcoming elections are throwing a pall on things too. Like, will they have their jobs after the election? What basic changes will occur that affect them directly?
      BUT – I’m glad you’re happy.

  4. peg says:

    Well I can definately say that the heat is getting to me… lol I can’t take it anymore, and i already have enough stress in my life!! LOVE GOING TO THE MALL!!! Besides there is a Prada store at Altabrisa’s now. So many things i want! Have you thought about getting a beach house.

  5. I hear you Beryl. There is something in the air that smells of uneasiness. It’s not just Merida either; we are bombarded by bad news, no, horrible news, from around the globe each and every day (that’s why I no longer buy the newspaper and rely on Twitter for the important stuff) The corrupt politics – local, state, federal – and incredible impunity of criminals can’t be helping either.

    But one can make a difference in the way you perceive things by the way you choose to act and perceive them. Keep smiling, and most everyone will smile back. That sullen cashiers day will be brightened by a funny remark or a personal, unexpected question.

    Great and timely article, saludos!

    • Mao_Junior says:

      So true! We live in the incredible era of negativity and sarcasm! I’ve never seen a period so thick with doom and gloom. Granted, there are reasons for this rampant negativity, but I’m a firm believer that the world is on the precipice of something truly special in terms of growth. We are just dealing with a few hiccups. Great article! Such a pleasure to read something about Merida other than the usual Real Estate backed websites that speak only of the splendors of Mexico. Does an influx of DF immigrants also eventually bring DF style crimes?

      • Mao_Junior says:

        If I may add one thing: It has been my opinion that far too often expats and foreign buyers of Mexican real estate prefer to shun the realities of Mexico because it doesn’t coordinate with their visions of living a cost-effective lifestyle in the grandeur of a colonial home in beautiful weather. Dreams based more in the ethnocentricity of living life in a higher social class in someone else’s country rather than attempting to live similarly to the host nation. Those dreams quickly turn to resentment when a litany of problems most be dealt with starting out but not limited to constant narco news, rampant corruption and hellacious insects that care little for the beautiful oasis you have built with painstaking detail to specially ordered tiles!

  6. Bob Bruneau says:

    On Jun 24, 2011, at 2:42 PM, Bob Bruneau (from PV via Seattle) wrote:

    Hi Beryl, interesting to note the changes in your part of Mexico compared to Puerto Vallarta. We are dealing with fear; fear of crime, the possibility of violence due to cartel influences. You didn’t mention that as a reason some of the expats want to leave. In Vallarta, we can still get fruits and veges at a fraction of what they cost at QFC. I regularly go to the Mercado and get two huge bags of goodies for around 150 – 160 pesos. And so good too. Our office calls to doctors cost 500 pesos max. The reason I bring some of this up is that when I’m in Seattle this summer I’m going to do a seminar that used to be called “Purchase in Paradise”, but now I think I’ll change it to “Steal a deal in Paradise!” Like Merida, the properties have dropped a good deal in price. Some people are desperate to sell. So it seems to me like opportunity time here. Fortunately, we don’t have the non-stop heat and humidity. Vallarta has perfect weather with no rain from mid Nov. to mid. May. After that, it starts to heat up at night. Vallarta has grown a lot too, but we have a high range of mountains right behind the town, so the growth has gone northward out to and beyond the airport. The whole Bay of Banderas is developing. The economic hard times in the states has translated into very slow sales here. The Canadians have been buying some however. I just think for baby boomers and soon to be boomers, A person can live for less in Mexico. At least here.

    Always good to hear from you. You write clearly and succinctly. I may someday have a book up my sleeve. We’ll see. Best to you, Bob

    (Bob is/was my long-time real estate agent in Seattle. And he’s a wonderful piano player.)

  7. Dany Ream says:

    Please…just say the heat is getting to you, that so depressed me! And just as we get ready to close on a house at the beach! We WERE going to buy in the city,but …the noise,heat,traffic scared us away. Besides,we’re only minutes from Merida! BTW we waited for the prices to drop and got a great deal! It’s all an adventure,no matter what my age, and these days…what is perfect???
    Dany Ream

    • BG says:

      Congratulations on your house! The beach is so much better. We were up on the coast today and it was delightful. I hope you are very happy there.

  8. Maja says:

    I’m aware of your talents and facility to give information in the third voice. I like it and am better informed of reality in Merida…. I think some readers interpret superficially, read as your personal feelings, not the atmosphere you’ve gatherered and/or want to share. It’s definitely more a professional dispassion, the eye from above – yet still intimately involved, rather than the “never-say-negative” of many Meridians.

    • BG says:

      Thank you. I am constantly surprised at the anger my articles inspire. I got a truly evil comment today and when I get those, I don’t feel I need to print them. Unbelievable. He called the Yucatecans inbred and lobotomized and the foreigners empty-headed bigots. I won’t tell you the rest, but it ended with, “now shut up and dance lest the mosquitoes suck the blood right out of your clammy flesh.” On one hand, these types of comments are borderline funny, but if you really think about it, the person has to be a psychopath to be that angry and riled up over a web article that did not attack him or anyone, but said that economics and heat are getting to everyone. Well, I guess he is in a bad mood too. And we do have more than our share of neurotic neighbors here.

  9. Gene Pogue says:

    In a dream, I think, there was good news everywhere. People liked sharing good deeds, thoughts and reflections with most everyone. The news story were not limited to the horrific or depressive. The sunshine, rainy days, wind blown trees it all felt good and had a purpose. Should I awake?

    • BG says:

      No, never change. It isn’t a matter of waking, it’s a matter of retaining your good perspective. Keep it at all costs.

  10. Jay says:

    Sounds like ” Debbie downer”.

  11. Rob says:

    They’re probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am.
    (A pause, as the fly lights on Norman’s hand)
    I’m not going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see… they’ll see… and they’ll know… and they’ll say… ‘why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly…’

    Ah, yes, there it is!

  12. Michael says:

    I have been contemplating a retirement move to Merida and read with much interest the comments to your posting and wonder if you would recommend Merida for retirement. In order to keep options open, I would plan to rent an apartment or small house if I were to retire in Merida. This would provide needed flexibility for a subsequent move to another country. Many of the comments referred to “the beach” as being a place to live, but what are these popular beaches.

    Thank you for your blog and I would gratefully appreciate any advice you could share.


    • BG says:

      I think that if you plan on renting, you’ll have an opportunity to see how you like Merida without making a huge financial committment you can’t withdraw from. Merida is a beautiful, gracious city with a lot to do, but where to retire is a personal decision. “The beach” refers to the towns along the Gulf coast about half hour’s drive north of the city. Again, it depends what you’re looking for – isolation or entertainment or social interaction, etc.

  13. Lorraine says:

    Someone sounds like sour grapes to me?

    Kudos to Alan! Now that is more like it

    • BG says:

      Sour Grapes has been in Merida on and off for 25 years. It’s my second home. You want to hear real sour grapes, listen to some of the Americans who moved to Merida and left in a year or two. The place just didn’t agree with them. I guess you can prefer whichever article you wish – it depends what you want to hear. The WSJ article was not about the sociology of expats, but about the attractions of the city, which are considerable. See my response to Michael, just a bit earlier.

  14. Lorraine says:

    I preferred your article in the wall street journal ‘MOVING TO MEXICO’ much more up beat! http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704741904575409562278449980.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

  15. Chuck Beaty says:

    I always read your blog with interest and I feel that you are being honest about some of the problems with living in Merida. We rented in Merida for awhile, then decided to move to Motul, where we also rent–very, very friendly place to live. We’ll soon build nearby on a few acres. It is wonderful to have Merida so close, but it is equally wonderful to leave the hectic pace of the big city behind as we head back to the bush. I think a lot of what we like about Motul is that it is still by and large a Mayan town. Sure, it doesn’t have the glitz and malls and restaurants that Merida has, but that wasn’t what we were looking for in retirement. When you have to have more “civilization”, it’s a short drive away. When I visit Merida now, it’s a culture shock–beautiful and magical, but not the Mexico we moved here for. I really can live quite comfortably without a neighborhood Starbucks.
    The only bad experience I’ve had in Motul was when an old woman became upset with me because I accidently flushed an iguana that she was trying to catch for dinner. I took her to Pollo Brujo for some grilled chicken and we both had a good laugh.

    • BG says:

      Good decision, to move to a medium-sized town. I’m glad you like Motul. It’s well located, not far from Merida and a lovely ride north to the coast.

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