Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - About 8 years ago we moved our family to Mexico. I wrote an article then about the trials and tribulations of the move and thought it would be timely to give an update.
When we moved to Puerto Vallarta our kids were 4 and 5 years old so we felt the timing made sense for the transition to a new country and a new culture. And, as it turns out, we were right. The kids picked up Spanish with ease and quickly became fluent. Their Spanish is perfect and they can switch between English and Spanish - depending on who they are speaking to - on a dime. As for their parents? Well let's just say that it hasn't been as fast for us to master the language. The proof is when our kids give us blank stares when we speak to them in what we think is perfect Spanish!
Finding a School That Meets Your Needs
In my last article I wrote about the terrific private school options for children in Puerto Vallarta. Because all schools are not the same, if I had to start the process all over again I would likely be more thorough in my analysis. There is a standard Spanish curriculum that all schools are required to follow, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.
So, when it comes to choosing a school, my advice is to make a checklist of the elements that are most important for your child to thrive. Make a short list of the three schools that fit the bill. And most importantly, if timing permits, visit those schools to experience what they have to offer firsthand.
If the school you choose is not in the neighbourhood in which you live, it can be a challenge for kids to hang out with their friends after school. When we grew up, our school was in the neighbourhood in which we lived and our school friends were our neighbours. So it was very easy for us to get together after school once home.
Our place in Puerto Vallarta was a 20 minute drive from school, and there were no similar-aged kids in our condo. So we needed to make a concerted effort to get to know the parents of our kids' school friends and plan out play dates in advance so that our kids could stay connected with their friends.
The typical school day starts early, sometimes as early as 7:15, and ends at around 2:30. While our kids would love nothing more than to spend the rest of their waking hours on their "devices" we made sure that there were non-electronic-based activities for them to participate in after school.
Advanced gymnastics programs are typically not offered at schools, due to the need for proper equipment, but group programs can be found at private gyms for around 125 pesos a week ($7 USD).
Learn About the Culture
On one of our first days in Puerto Vallarta we decided to walk through the neighbourhood to one of our favourite restaurants. On the way we met neighbours who were having a birthday party for their child. The parents gave our children two beautifully decorated eggs. We said gracias and continued our walk to the restaurant - my mother and I protecting the two eggs so as not to break them. When we arrived at the restaurant, so proud that the eggs made it, our waiter told us what the eggs were for. These eggs are meant to be smashed over someone's head so that the confetti inside comes out.
There was a lot for us to learn.
Go With the Flow
When coming to a new country there can often be a tendency to expect things to be as we were accustomed to in the country we moved from. And when things are not, the result is frustration. Kids can sense and feel their parent's frustration and from the beginning we did not want that for our kids.
Of course it's easier said than done, but when in a situation where the process doesn't quite make sense, or when something is taking a bit - okay a lot - longer than it did back home, my advice is to take a deep breath and be thankful.
Thankful for the beautiful warm weather; thankful for the gorgeous landscape from the ocean to the Sierra Madres; thankful for the warmth of the people of Mexico; thankful for being welcomed to a county and city like no other.
Warren Brander is an expert real estate agent working with Remax in Puerto Vallarta. He can be reached at 322-200-2253, or by email at warren(at)remaxinpv.com. You can also check out his website for a great selection of Puerto Vallarta condos and homes for sale at WarrenBrander.com. To learn more about Warren Brander Real Estate, click HERE.