In November of 2015, we made the surprising and last minute decision to leave Rio de Janeiro and move to Puebla, Mexico as expats.
A week later, my now-husband had arrived for his first time ever in Mexico, and for his new job (and our new life) in Puebla.
After a LONG month apart, as I spent a few weeks finishing things up in Rio and then a few weeks in Costa Rica, I joined him in our new home for my first time in Mexico (outside the whole American spring break/Cancun area).
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was surprised at what I found.
My First Impressions of Puebla, Mexico
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Is this… Arizona?
this feels Arizona-y to me (aside from the volcano smoke). what do you think?
Seriously, I felt like I landed in Phoenix or Scottsdale. The architecture, the colors, and the vibe of the city felt very Southwestern to me. The wide open roads, the flat landscape with the mountains (er, volcano) in the background, all reminded me of Arizona. Even restaurant interiors – modern yet earthy – sometimes make me forget I’m in Mexico and not AZ.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: It is COLD!
do you see these bundled up restaurant patrons? She’s wearing a thick scarf, and him a winter hat
Having spent 3 years out of the frigid north of Michigan, and 3 years in the tropical climates of Thailand and Brazil, the chilly cold temperatures of 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) in Puebla shocked me.
“All of Mexico isn’t warm like Cancun?!”
It was fun to buy flannel PJs, slippers, cozy blankets, and knit sweaters, though!
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: V sounds like B
I studied Spanish in high school, and a bit in college, but as you probably know I suck at languages. That being said, I do know a bit of vocabulary and I can read Spanish quite well.
Listening though, WHOA!
My biggest surprise was that no one understood when I said “vegetariano” – only “begetariano”. All the words that have a “v” on paper actually sound like “b” to my American ears. I have to say “Begetariano”.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Just whoa. (That volcano view though!)
(also seen above where I feel like it looks like Arizona. It’s pretty enough to show you twice)
I loved my ocean view in Rio, my city view in Bangkok, and even my cozy Heritage Hill street view in Grand Rapids, but having a real, smoky volcano as part of your skyline is just otherworldly. At night, the sun sinks into the horizon, lighting up the sky in a romantic rainbow of warm colors, and the volcano provides a purplish black contrast… while the “Estrella de Puebla” lights up like a true star.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Avocados are errrrrywhere
In Brazil, avocados were super seasonal and sometimes I could only get the big, hard, flavorless ones (that Brazilians put in “vitamina” smoothies!), and don’t get me started on the avocado situation in Bangkok… or lack thereof. there was once a 2 month no-guacamole crisis throughout every Mexican restaurant in Thailand, I know because I tried them all and my guac cravings hit an all time high.
In Puebla, every super market has avocados. Every restaurant has avocados. Everywhere you turn – AVOCADOS! Guacamole heaven.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: There’s All-American everything… EVERYTHING.
You can’t drive 5 minutes without seeing an American superstore or restaurant.
Want Walmart? Don’t worry, there’s 3!
IHOP, Subway, Pizza Hut, or Applebees strike your fancy? They’re all there, in multitude. (the only difference? the semi-automatic-weapon-armed guard standing outside to make sure you don’t try to grab a power tool and run in Home Depot)
This goes for American brands as well. Since leaving the US, I’ve been missing almond milk SO bad and just avoiding milk at all (no thank you, thick sugary soy milk in Thailand and in Brazil – YUCK)… but when I stumbled across Silk Almond Milk, my favorite milk, in my favorite brand, in my favorite number of calories (only 30 per cup, yes please) I literally danced with joy.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Food is cheap
3 curries, rice, naan, and a bunch of drinks at a fancy schmancy restaurant for under $30 – Adrak House!
Whether you’re having a nice dinner and drinks date out, or buying all the goodies your heart desires at the grocery store, food is ridiculously cheap. At a super lux Indian restaurant with flawless modern presentation, gorgeous decor, and a photo menu just for drinks, we stuffed ourselves silly with coconut rice, naan, and 3 main curries (seriously – they needed a wheelbarrow to roll us out) and more fancy schmancy drinks and beers than I could count. In the US, the meal would have easily been $150, and in Rio, $100. We paid $30. (all figures in USD)
Our weekly grocery/household bill for tons of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of “expensive” beloved American imports, and
more than a fair share of wine and beer always comes to wayyyyy less than $100 for 2 grub-loving foodies and a really particular pooch.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: The apartments are unreal for the value
I have a chandelier and a Beauty-and-the-Beast bookcase. In my living room.
Compared to what we got for $1000 a month in Rio (hint – not a lot)… the apartments in Puebla are positively PALATIAL.
For less than what we paid in Rio, we got a gorgeous loft style apartment, fully furnished in gorgeous modern furniture… and the balcony of my dreams. Along with that volcano view I so love.
After a brief jaunt living in Mexico City, I’m now back in Puebla, and again struck by the same (still true) first impressions that hit me over a year ago.