Communicating in a foreign country can be a daunting prospect, especially for those who have not traveled outside the area covered by their native tongue. There is the difficulty of day-to-day communications with service providers, shopkeepers, and other resources locally, and there is the difficulty of communicating in the more general sense of keeping up with the news, staying in touch with family and friends, and following your favorite soap opera or sports team. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by either.
First, the local language. It is Spanish, but not quite the same Spanish as you would speak in Spain or Puerto Rico or Argentina. It can be easy to learn for some, extremely difficult for others. EVERYONE SHOULD TRY. It is a basic courtesy to the citizens of the host country to speak their language. When foreigners visit Canada or the United States, the locals expect them to speak English (or French in Quebec, or Spanish in some parts of the U.S.). If you are planning to settle in Mexico permanently or part-time, learning Spanish should be a priority. It’s a great way to get involved in the country immediately, and what else have you got to do? There are a myriad of ways to get started. Local teachers offer classes or private instruction. Schools in Guadalajara can tailor a program for your level – including boarding with a Mexican family. Other schools elsewhere in the country offer intensive immersion classes that will get you into the flow quickly.
The reaction you will get from locals when you address them in their language will be so much more positive than when you speak English to them. And you will avoid a lot of misunderstandings when you can make requests or understand responses in Spanish. Certainly, a lot of Mexicans speak English. However, they do not all speak it well, nor understand it completely. If you can speak Spanish, however poorly, you are doubling your chances of communicating effectively in Mexico.
General communications are similar to what you would have found back home before the era of de-regulation. TelMex is the telephone monopoly. Basic service costs about $20 dollars per month for 100 calls. If you make more than 100 calls, there will be a small surcharge per call over 100. If you rent or buy a house without a phone line in it, be prepared for a 2 – 3 month wait to get one installed.
This leads to the next service - cell phones. It seems as though every Mexican has a cell phone. There are a multitude of services available, and they all offer many levels of options and equipment. You may want to get your cell phone set up first, then see if you really need a land line. If you are out a lot, a cell phone may work much better for you.
Long distance telephone, especially out-of-country calling, is very expensive via TelMex. However, options exist. Many cellular phone plans now include calls to the U.S. and Canada. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) plans can be set up with high-speed internet service. There are also call-back services at Lakeside which allow you to pre-pay for your calls and then go through regular phone lines to reach a long distance line. As more and more of these options appear, the cost tends to decrease.
Internet service is readily available in Mexico. Again there are a variety of service providers depending on your needs. TelMex offers both a regular and high-speed service through the phone lines (the high-speed service is actually wireless). Cable TV companies offer high-speed broadband internet as part of their service packages. Private internet providers also have wireless service available. Costs are similar to what you would pay back home.
Television reception at Lakeside is a little different than what most of us are accustomed to. Because of the mountains surrounding the lake, basic antenna reception is not very good. A cable service is available in most areas with programming in both Spanish and English, the latter being limited primarily to movie channels, but with a few sit-coms and sports programs as well. Most foreigners subscribe to satellite TV service. There are several services available and local installers to set them up.
Mail service is available in Mexico, but is not very reliable. Private mail services exist and are quite reliable. They use the Canadian and/or American mail service to a depot in a border town, then a courier service into Mexico. Direct courier service is available both for outbound and inbound letters and packages and is very reliable. Some of the local clubs have “buddy” mail service – anyone traveling north is requested to take letters (with postage affixed) to drop into the mail box once they arrive, and sometimes to pick up letters or packages for delivery when they return to Lakeside.
Spanish language newspapers are very prolific in Guadalajara with four dailies competing for readers. They are all available Lakeside along with two local papers, one weekly and one monthly. English language papers are available on an irregular basis in some local bookstores, and a local weekly paper is published each Friday. Two English language monthly magazines are also published at Lakeside.
Radio reception is not great at Lakeside, but once over the mountains toward Guadalajara, it improves markedly. There are many stations broadcasting out of Guadalajara, with the usual range of programming. While the commentary is all in Spanish, much of the music played is English.