Expatme Experiences - Susannah Rigg
The Expatme Experience series continues with a great interview with Susannah Rigg, an "expat role model" one could say, based in beautiful Oaxaca/Mexico.
Susannah, originally from England, is the founder of Mexico Retold, an online blog that aims to show the "other side of Mexico". Susannah is also a freelance writer and supporter of various non-profit organizations in Oaxaca.
What's it like to be an expat in Oaxaca?
Interview, Susannah Rigg
Expatme: Hola Susannah! You have been living in Mexico for quite some time now, what brought you here originally?
Susannah: I travelled around Mexico back in 2005 and I absolutely fell in love with the country. I had always wanted to come here and when I arrived I felt so at home. I spent the next five years yearning to come back and eventually I gave up a doctorate I was studying for, quit my job, packed my life into about 10 boxes and booked a flight.
Expatme: Wow! Just like that? Did you know anyone before you moved here?
Susannah: I had two Mexican friends, one of whom picked me up from the airport, but really I had no plans or real idea about what I would do. It was very liberating and worked out wonderfully.
Expatme: What did your family say about your sudden departure to Mexico?
Susannah: To be honest they were just really supportive and they weren’t surprised since I was essentially obsessed with Mexico for so long. Sometimes, when I am back in the UK people ask me if it is dangerous here, since that is the only news that reaches the UK about Mexico, but most of my close friends and family read my blog so they see the other side of the story.
Expatme: The blog you are mentioning is called "Mexico Retold". Why is it important to "re-tell" stories from and about Mexico?
Susannah: The international news media very rarely report good news stories about any country and so the news that comes out of Mexico is very one sided. There are a lot of very complex and difficult problems here, I would never deny that, but there is also a completely different side to Mexico too. As I say in my blog, there is also the Mexico full of compassionate, expressive people. The Mexico bursting with flavour and temptations for all the senses. The Mexico that gets into your soul and never leaves. That is the story I want to tell.
Expatme: You live in Oaxaca and also sometimes in Mexico City right? Two very different cities. Is there anything in your opinion that both places have in common?
Susannah: I am based in Oaxaca but my partner is from Mexico City so I spend a lot of time there too. They are two entirely different cities; one a small colonial city with 300,000 people and the other a huge metropolis of over 20 million. I am not sure if there is much that unites them apart from being in the same country. I love them both passionately!
Expatme: When you first arrived here, what was the most difficult part for you to adjust to and to get used to?
Susannah: I think the thing that I still struggle with is that I will always be regarded as different. Physically I look different, because I am tall and blond and so sometimes I wonder if I will ever be accepted fully. Sometimes, I just wish I was invisible and could go about my day without being noticed. The other day, however, someone told me that when they first spoke to me they were wondering if I was Mexican and that made my day. So if I keep working on my accent, maybe one day I will pass for a Mexican?
Expatme: I think you kind of do pass as a Mexican already... What could have made your adjustment phase easier when startet your Mexican life?
Susannah: I would have loved to have had a great go to resource about visas, healthcare, insurance, taxes etc. All those things have been tricky to work out and manage. I would have loved to have (and would still love to have) resources tailored to me as a British person in Mexico as much of the info understandably is for US citizens.
Expatme: As safety is obviously a big concern for many Mexican expats; have you ever been in a dangerous situation since you live here?
Susannah: I remember being in Mexico City with my boyfriend and we were coming home late on the Metro. We suddenly discovered that there were no more trains and we were stuck at our connecting station. We had no idea what the area outside the station was like. Turns out it was not such a nice neighbourhood and we had to be escorted out of the station by a policeman. Like any big city, there are areas that you just don’t want to be at midnight and I felt a strong relief when I got in a taxi. Generally, I feel really safe in Mexico though. I just take precautions that I would anywhere.
Expatme: What was the strangest, weirdest or most different-to-home thing you have seen here so far?
Susannah: Oh gosh there are so many. Mexico is full of surprises from day to day. This is probably not the strangest situation but nearly everyday in Mexico I see a clown or many clowns. They are everywhere! I have seen clowns in arguments with they girlfriends, clowns driving cars, clowns crying, you name I have seen a clown doing it.
Expatme: Why is it worth coming to Mexico as an expat?
Susannah: There are so many reasons. The people, the weather, the culture, the beaches, the food, the fresh fruit and veg, the fiestas, the quality of lifestyle that you can have with very little money and the skies…they are just breath taking day and night.
Expatme: What is your number 1 recommendation for a newcomer expat to Mexico?
Susannah: Be open-minded and learn Spanish. Things happen differently here so be open to going with the flow. If you want things to happen how they happen in your own country, it is likely they won’t and you will feel frustrated, but if you just accept that it will be different you might enjoy the differences.