Here is Part 3 of a series of articles I wrote now running in The Yucatan Times this week.
Expat Insights Part III: Language and other issues in Belize vs. Mexico
Stewart Rogers is an American expatriate who lived in Belize for two years before relocating to Mahahual, Quintana Roo, where he has lived for the past four years. He is webmaster for the web blog, http://www.costamayalife.com. The blog is sponsored by a real estate company in Mahahual. He has written a series of four articles on his move to the Caribbean and on lifestyles in Belize and Mahahual. The articles are appearing in The Yucatan Times for four consecutive days. This is Stewart Rogers’ story in his own words:
This is part 3 of a series of posts I am writing comparing living in Mahahual, Mexico to living in Belize. First off I want to say Belize is a very beautiful country and has a lot of nice people. I still have some friends that live there, mainly in Corozal. With these posts I am not trying to shed a negative light on Belize, and all its problems, only comparing my experiences and how I personally see Belize compared to Mexico.
If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought I would ever end up living in Mexico, much less Mahahual, the answer would have been a solid no. I have always wanted to live on the Caribbean, and around 2001 I started doing research on the internet about leaving South Carolina and all I read was how great Belize was. The Mexican Caribbean was never even a consideration in my mind, in fact like a lot of other people from the USA, I did not know Mexico was on the Caribbean Sea. All I thought about was how to get to Belize.
Myself like a lot of other people from North America, liked the fact that English is spoken in Belize, and the USA dollar is accepted currency. That is one of the main reasons a lot of Expats pick Belize to live or retire. English is spoken everywhere, and on official documents, street signs, menus and a lot of other things are in English, and most of the media, newspapers, radio and television stations are primarily in English. Spanish is widely spoken and unofficially it is believed it is the more popular language, as the Latinos have now become the largest single ethnic group in Belize.
In my opinion, that is the single biggest reason that North Americans (from USA and Canada), pick Belize to live or retire. That is the reason I did. But guess what, if that is your main reason considering Belize to live or retire, English is spoken almost everywhere in Mahahual and Quintana Roo, and practically up and down the Mexican Caribbean coastline in places like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Mahahual, and everywhere that cater to tourists.
Because of the cruise ship port in Mahahual, almost all the locals in town speak English, or some form of it. When I first got off the bus in Mahahual my Spanish was not all that good (and for that matter still not great today), and I found out that everybody I met in town spoke English. In fact so much English is spoken in Mahahual, my Spanish has not gotten much better, because I speak English all day. At night I go to the stores and places and have to use Spanish there, but besides that I speak English most of the time. All the people who work at the Costa Maya Port have to speak English, ( a lot have lived in the USA), to deal with the cruise ship tourists, so there are a lot of English-speaking locals around Mahahual and the surrounding villages.
Also I have learned in Mexico, and especially Mahahual and Chetumal, if you know how to count in Spanish, and know some key words, you can get by just fine. Most of the Mexican people are very helpful and will try to help you out if you try to converse with them in Spanish, and not shun you away like a lot of time happens in the USA. They respect the fact you are trying to speak their language. (Side note-I once saw a man from the USA cuss out a taco stand guy here because he did not speak English and the guy did not how to order a taco in Spanish).
So if you are considering retiring or living in Belize solely on the fact that the country speaks English, you might want to look into Mahahual and Costa Maya, Mexico. It is on the Caribbean Sea, like Belize, has much more beautiful beaches, and it is a whole lot cheaper to live than Belize.
In the next upcoming post on this series “Belize vs. Mahahual, Mexico” I will compare cost of living, health care, food (unless you are rich, Belizean food sucks), crime, safety, and other factors. If you have a certain thing you would like to know about feel free to comment or ask a question on this post.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Yucatan Times.
Thanks for reading, Stewart Rogers
Stewart E. Rogers Jr. originally from Greenville South Carolina, grew up in Germany, Japan, and all over the USA. University of South Carolina 1980 BA in Journalism. Now a resident of Mahahual, after living in Belize for 2 years, he loves the Caribbean, eat, work, live with Mexicans and Mayas. Loves Mayan ruins and history. Expert on Belize and Quintana Roo. Not your typical expat. Webmaster at www.costamayalife.com.