The Reason Why We Still Buy Computers in the U.S.

When we moved to Mexico, we only brought one laptop computer with us and I was usually the person using it. Linda preferred to access the Internet via her Kindle Fire or her cellphone and never had much use for the computer  — but that all changed shortly after we started this blog.

Within just a few months, we started receiving a dozen or more emails a day from readers asking us questions about moving to Mexico. With only one computer in the house, we had to take turns answering emails when we had a break from our daily routine of living life to the fullest.

It was clear that we needed to buy another computer to increase proficiency.

We headed down to the nearest Walmart and bought an inexpensive laptop. Since we were only getting it to answer emails, we didn’t need anything fancy.

Linda and I both speak Spanish so it wasn’t a problem that all of the preinstalled software was set to español by default. We switched a few programs to English and left others the way they were. We speak Spanglish at home, so it makes sense that our computer would reflect that language choice.

The Keyboard

When we bought the computer, we noticed that several of the keys were different; however, since the majority of the keyboard layout was familiar, we didn’t think it would be a problem — we were wrong.

Linda possesses excellent typing skills, specially when compared to my two-finger method (patent pending). Nevertheless, this new keyboard configuration effectively thwarted her efforts to quickly crank out well-articulated email responses.

When she was responding to emails, I would hear a few seconds of rapid typing followed by profanity. This pattern would continue for a few minutes until she grew frustrated enough to switch over to the old laptop.

Where is the @?!!

One afternoon, Linda was booking our next trip on her new computer when she arrived at the box requesting her email address. She started scanning the keyboard for the @ and found it sitting on the lower right hand side of the Q key (shown below).

Linda wasn’t sure what magical combination of keys would make the character appear on the screen but she tried the most likely ones: Ctrl+Q, Alt+Q, Shift+Q, Alt+Shift+Q, Alt+Shift+Ctrl+ Q…. but nothing worked.

Linda called me over and we both stared at the keyboard like two cavemen staring at fire for the first time. That’s when she noticed a small key to the right of the space bar called “alt gr” — that was the one.

Of course by now, the website had timed out and she had to start all over again.

The Solution

We decided that life was too short for this type of aggravation and we gave the laptop to a local woman that we know. She is a single mother raising a school-age child, so we knew that they would put the computer to good use.

We ended up buying an inexpensive laptop on our next trip back to the States.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I realize that this post was a little long considering the topic. I woke up particularly early today and had some extra time to kill before Linda woke up. Thanks for understanding.

Well, enough of that. It’s a gorgeous day here in the Riviera Maya and there is a beach chair with my name on it. Hasta Luego.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul's articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

42 Comments on "The Reason Why We Still Buy Computers in the U.S."

  1. You gave away a computer because you didn’t like the keyboard?! You can buy USB US keyboards for US $10.

    • We didn’t want to use a separate keyboard that plugs into the laptop. That would be more to carry when we travel. We do most of our blogging etc from the beach or while traveling.

    • I’m sure it was not affordable to the person he gave it to. Also, a persons generosity to someone less fortunate is usually just as rewarding to the person doing the giving.

  2. Hope your Florida town escaped damage, Paul

  3. We are just a month away from moving to Ajijic and your advice is always welcome. Keep posting this really good advice.

  4. This made me laugh out load because we went through exactly the same thing – even staring at the keyboard hoping something might change. Unlike you however, we hooked our laptop up to our TV and made it our designated streaming computer. We also learned that ALT>64 produces the @ symbol. Don’t quote me on that. It might be CTRL>ALT>64. At any rate. One of those combinations works, too.

    Linda Z
    La Paz, BCS, MX

  5. Rocco and Carla | September 22, 2017 at 9:09 am | Reply

    Thanks for the post, Paul! I’m wondering… did you have to pay any fees when you were importing the new laptop/computer into Mexico? Were there any duty type fees you had to pay?

    Thanks!
    Rocco and Carla

    • No, we never paid anything. We routinely buy clothes and other things in the U.S. and bring them back to Mexico with us. Our neighbors do the same thing without any trouble at all.

  6. I agree……the USA computers are much easier to use if you have used that all your life and
    doing a lot of typing. On the desk top computers, I have just bought the USA keyboard with
    an extra on hand…..and that works well too.
    Thanks for all your good info

  7. We consider ourselves “techno idiots” so we wanted our computer to be in English because even then we have a lot of trouble when some thing small goes wrong. however we often need to answer emails in Spanish and need that squiggly line over the Ñ si we bought a spanish keyboard.

  8. I’ve been searching for your Spanish Lessons for 10 years. Exactly what this gringa needed!

  9. Use settings to shift the keyboard to English and the @ sign goes right back to where it should be (upper case 2) as do all the other keys. This works for touch-typists and all others armed with a handy cheat sheet by their side..

    • Ah, thanks for the tip. We do that with our English keyboard when we need to a ñ or é but we didn’t think to do it with the Spanish one because I have no idea where (){} etc are without looking for them…lol. We chose the path of least resistance.

  10. I LOVED that story. Had me laughing here at my desk. My father lives, and has lived, in Ajijic for about 23 years now, and trying to use his PC drove me nuts ! I have also encountered some of the same confusion in the past – before cell phone connections were so easy & affordable – when trying to make quick email checkups on home and pets when in Cozumel. Thanks always for your blog !

  11. We have a spanish keyboard on our computer. We changed the setting to English. The physical keyboard still has keys for things that aren’t for English and when you press them you don’t get what is on the key. If you can type without looking at the keys than most of the key positions are in the standard location for typing English. I have the disability – visible keyboard – at the top of the screen for those situations when I’m stumped on where something is. I only use the visual aid once in a while. If your a hunt and peck typer than it causes more difficulty. If you can type without looking at the keys than a spanish keyboard isnt that much of a problem.

    • Thanks for sharing that tip. I can’t type without looking although I often, instinctively, know where something is….or at least think I do…lol.

  12. Also, a computer purchased in Mexico has a Spanish OS (Operating System) and unless one finds a Spanish speaking technician to work on it, we are SOL. Our laptops come to the States when we are here for “annual cleaning” – inside and out. We could never have a Spanish OS worked on in the USA or Canada.

    • Good point, Andrea 🙂

    • Spanish OS. I think you mean the language setting is set to Spanish. That setting can be changed to English. Luckily the letter keys are mostly the same (when you set it to english) and if your a good typist/touch typist than navigating the keyboard is doable unless you use a significant number of special characters. Most computers are Microsoft Windows or a Mac OS (yes I know about others like Linus but most people use the above two) in general consumer laptops and desktops. I saw multiple computers in mexico but never saw any that were a unigue Spanish OS but tons of windows and Mac computers with unique Spanish keyboards and the language option set to spanish as it’s default setting. You just set the language to English and it pretty well you standard Window or Mac OS. The worst aspect is the keyboard being non standard for English users.

      I’d agree that it easier to just buy something at home for use in Mexico on your next trip Stateside. Just remember to not have the computer in its original packaging or you might get charged for importing it.

  13. Your having to travel to the US for a laptop got me to thinking about this. I purchase a lot of things online and have the stuff shipped to my home. When I move to Mexico will I still be able to purchase things online?

  14. Your 2 finger approach (patent pending) made me laugh! It reminded me of my father
    who liked to say he typed like “A Marine”……search and destroy. 🙂

  15. Make your next laptop a Chromebook. These machines are amazingly simple to use, unhackable since everything is in the cloud, and way cheaper than an equivalent Mac or PC. WE have run my wife’s business on them for the last 5 years and have never had to resort to a PC…and tech support (me) has been reduced to almost zero.

  16. Can you order items, such as electronics, through Amazon in Mexico? And books, also, on Kindle! And is there a customs fee? Thanks!

  17. Been there, done that, felt the same pain…

  18. BTW, I bought a Logitech usb keyboard in Tulum, opened the box at home to discover that it was a Spanish keyboard. Windows 10 will let you change your keyboard setting so that the computer thinks you are using a US keyboard. That gets you halfway there. But sometimes muscle memory fails me, and confusion reigns when I look at the keyboard. My solution – made a copy of my old usb keyboard and keep it under my desk protector for reference. However, I will buy another US keyboard next time I am there!

  19. I put these on my wife’s laptop (with US keyboard), so that she can find the Spanish keys when the language is set to Spanish. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002F4HV0G/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  20. Thanks much for the advice. About to move to TAO and need to replace my Win7 old laptop – now I know to go through Amazon or bring one down – will also check the Chromebooks tho if I try to do some consulting, not sure if a Chromebook would be a good fit for me. Best regards row

  21. I’ve used a few internet cafes in Mexico and they are so inexpensive, less than $1 an hour. So the frustration over the keyboard layout stays at a minimum. Just use them for emails not for banking or online shopping.

  22. Thanks for the tips and the laughs, love your sense of humour!

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