Expat Responses to the Pandemic


Human nature is endlessly fascinating and given the pandemic it has been interesting witnessing the foreigner’s response to the situation as opposed to many Mexicans.

Mexicans here in San Miguel de Allende run the gamut with at one end my dancing pals that haven’t left the house since day one and others that don’t think the virus even exists.  Naturally, most fall in between with the desire for safety weighed against the need to support the family.

The Mexican brother/sister team that help me some mornings each week I offered to pay at the start for duration of the virus.  They’ve been with me for years and know me well enough to know I’m good for it unlike many other Mexican employees let go by a foreigner.  We expats will claim on social media to be paying our employees during this time though I’ve yet to meet a Mexican employed by an expat that can back up that claim.

Anyway, my sibling team begged me to allow them to keep working as my house was so quiet and calm compared to their’s, crowded with relatives out of work.  Growing up in a large, Irish Catholic family I understood that desire for moments of peace.

Foreigners, assured with the steady payment of a pension, are motivated differently.

My Louisiana neighbor locked her door with arrival of the virus only opening it for home deliveries and great travel deals.  She’ll head off anywhere and anytime if the airfare is auspicious.

A buff Toronto pal locked his home to all and only left to “go potty outside” for his dog until the gyms opened back up, then he was front and center, first in line.  His rationale was being at a gym made him happy in way nothing else did.

Another had used the time to set-up a food bank for his neighborhood.  Always an advocate of reaching out to help directly, I applauded his efforts.  He stated it wasn’t just because feeding others is the right thing to do, it was also an insurance of sorts.  Hungry people break in looking for food, or things that can be sold for food, in ways those with full tummies aren’t motivated towards.

However, being served food motivated my fellow expats in ways I hadn’t imaged.

For example, I had no clue how many foreigners had no clue how to cook and based their entire existence on when, what and with whom the next meal was coming.  As one stated “I love a great kitchen to leave the light on when I go out to eat.”

Across social media requests for who delivered, who was open, who had outdoor seating and such flooded the internet.  Not just simply curious requests but desperate pleas on where their next meal would come from.

I had assumed folks that didn’t learn to cook in their childhood learned by experience.  Like cleaning, it simply isn’t that hard of a skill to master to a survival level.  I was wrong.  Expats are frantic to have someone cook for them!

In real estate news are the foreigners I’ve met that flocked to San Miguel de Allende during the virus as long term rents were now plentiful and at a fraction of the previous cost.

In a similar boat are the expats that planned on spending a month or so in San Miguel de Allende before test driving other cities to retire to only to find themselves, with the virus, stuck here.  They, like many permanent residents, have joined me on free hiking tours around town in recent weeks if only to get out of the house for a bit.

My weakness I thought would be dancing as I do miss it so and it always puts me in a great mood.  I’ve avoided dancing with anyone but the dog (and he only likes rumbas) but miss my family so.  My kids are all fine and dandy while approaching thirty and avoiding the pesky issue of making me a grandfather.  It’s my siblings that concern me and I’m going against all advice to the contrary to visit them.

We all have our weaknesses and I learned long ago it is best to acknowledge and accommodate them before their presence blows up in our faces!

by Joseph Toone