Celebrating Thanksgiving in Mexico

Thanksgiving turkey at Lol Ha Restaurant in Akumal (Source: Keith Burkhart)

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving and, as is the custom, I received messages and calls from friends in the old country wishing me a happy turkey day.

One of those calls came from a longtime friend of mine who could never figure out exactly why we decided to make Mexico our full time home. I would continually run down the long list of reasons: lower cost of living, great healthcare, improved quality of life…etc., etc.

He always seems skeptical when I say that there isn’t a single “thing” that I miss from the States.

Just to be clear, I am talking about “things” and not “people”. The patented, politically correct response to any question about what you miss from your home country should contain that disclaimer: “Other than family and friends, I don’t miss anything.”

To be honest, I haven’t missed many people because everyone keeps visiting us here in Mexico. In fact, we get so many visitors that we had to start tracking them on a calendar so we don’t double-book.

Okay, I got off on a tangent there — back to the story about my friend.

The Story

My friend always seems determined to find something that I miss from the U.S. and he thought he found it in Thanksgiving. Here is a little excerpt from our conversation on Thursday:

“Hey, I know they don’t have Thanksgiving in Mexico,” my friend said. “So I’m just calling to remind you that today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.”

“Thanks for keeping me updated,” I replied.

“Yep, we’re having a big get-together today. We’ll be having turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce — the works!” he bragged.

“Sounds delicious.”

“I guess you miss food like this living down there. So tell me, what do you have planned? Heading to the beach to eat tacos or something?”

“No, we’re having a big Thanksgiving get-together today, ” I answered. “We’ll be having turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce — the works!”

He was clearly surprised to hear this. “What? I thought they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving down there.”

“We live in area full of American tourists and expats, so it really isn’t much different than living in the States.”

“And, you can get the same food?” he asked.

“Of course. As a matter of fact, several local restaurants even offer a special Thanksgiving menu with all the fixings.”

“Okay, fine.” He sounded bit annoyed by this point. “I thought I had finally identified something that you missed from here.”

“Well…I miss my family and friends,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah — I know the speech. Okay, have a great Thanksgiving.”

Let’s Wrap This Up

Spending Thanksgiving south of the border has a few advantages: 1) every restaurant is open, 2) there are no lines at the grocery store, and 3) you can eat your turkey on a warm Caribbean beach while sipping a cold Mexican beer.

That last one is truly something to be thankful for.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

46 Comments on "Celebrating Thanksgiving in Mexico"

  1. A wonderful couple here in Puerto Morelos sent out open invitation to join them in a fantastic thanksgiving feast. They had to put a stop to the requests….35 people came….they provided the turkey and ham and everyone brought a dish we were asked for. Wonderful way to meet new friends!

    • That’s great, Lis. There was a community function here with about 50 people but we didn’t attend. Instead, we went to two separate events at friends’ homes. Living in Mexico can be socially demanding at times…lol.

  2. I do miss Costco and great customer service in the US. I miss the honesty system that I don’t need to count changes and don’t need to store my bags in grocery stores or Office Depot. There are things I will not miss and miss in both the US and Mexico. Happy holidays!

    • We have Costco, Sam’s Club etc. where we are. As far as counting change, I haven’t been cheated yet. I must look mean or something…lol.

  3. Steven Burgess | November 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm |

    Paul, love your blog! We’re in Cancun right now and I’ve been reading you posts for the last year! My wife and I plan on retiring here in about 5 years and cannot wait! In the last 2 years we’ve been to Playa once Cancun 3 times and have booked Playa in Jan and Puerto Morelos in April. The info you provide has been helpful and reassuring! Keep it up!

    • Hi, Steven. Thanks for following the blog and for the kind words. Who knows, we might even be neighbors some day when you retire 🙂

      Have a wonderful vacation!

  4. I really enjoyed your commentary regarding Thanksgiving in Mexico…..thanks!

  5. There is so much to be thankful for! The short time we have been here, we are in total accordance with your thoughts about Thanksgiving
    in Playa!
    Who really wants to be toiling in the kitchen, while everyone else sits around chatting ( I have done that for many years)! And now, I am rewarded with this wonderful way of living!
    Thanksgiving is every day, not just one Thursday per year!
    By the way, having a Mexican dinner for our Thanksgiving was great! Evelyn

  6. joan allison | November 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm |

    Thanksgiving in Nuevo Vallerta was just like home as we celebrated under a huge palapa with a large group of friends. Everyone brought or made something so it was “over the top”. We have been doing this for at least 7 years. As I told all of my friends there, This is my extended family.” Joan

  7. Suzanne M Same | November 26, 2017 at 1:50 pm |

    I am always surprised at things that gringos miss in Mexico like double stuffed oreos that they ship from the US. I find your blog very encouraging for me as only going into my 2nd year Temporale so far. My accidental town of SMA is a
    bit too expensive for me but I can tell from your blog I will find my way. Thanks.

  8. Truth be known, I never really liked turkey. So having a Mexican Thanksgiving was a perfect excuse to substitute Cornish Game Hens. Other than that, all the other dishes were full on TG fare. I will say, my Mexican guests were very leery of the cranberry sauce!

  9. Carol Ann Torres | November 26, 2017 at 2:13 pm |

    A big thumbs up to you. I read your blog every day it comes in and love it. My husband and I have visited Mexico over thirty times and have found the small writers and artist colony of Ajijic, on the banks of Lake Chapala. I attend the annual Lake Chapala Writer’s Conference each year and it has been helpful in my authoring two women’s fiction books, now on Amazon. Kudos to you for your big decision. Carolena Torres (and Joseph Torres) in Northern Oregon where it is pouring rain right now.

  10. Edith Henneberg | November 26, 2017 at 2:13 pm |

    Sounds like you had a great day – counting the days now until our month on Isla Mujeres!

  11. I really enjoy your stories. We are Canadians with a small home in Cabo San Lucas.
    Our friends think we are crazy going there with all the crime. Most of them winter in Arizona where everyone owns a gun and they elected a Monster for president!!!
    I feel safe being smart in Mexico!

    • Mexico is a great place to live but a lot of people who live in the U.S. or Canada just don’t believe it.

  12. Barbara Gorski | November 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm |

    Paul – Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving story. We are here in Minnesota and were thankful that the weather was “really nice” [in the 40s F]! We stepped out of the traditional Thanksgiving last year and went out for dinner. My husband, daughter and I enjoyed it so much we did the same this year. Now, we don’t have “elderly” relatives [hell, we’re in our sixties! How much older could be “elderly”???], so we don’t have to worry about folks being offended that we are breaking from tradition.

    Part of what I am so looking forward to when we move to Tulum within the year is experiencing new holidays and customs and bringing ours with us to share. Today I am grateful that I can close my eyes, take a deep breath and remember what sand in my toes and ocean air in my senses feel like! I miss Tulum and can’t wait to be there in mid-December for a week!

    Happy Holidays and keep being grateful; the world needs that attitude!

    • In the 40s? I never miss the cold. It was 69 degrees when I woke up today and I was freezing…lol.

      It’s almost December, so you’ll be down here before you know it!

  13. Ethel aka Fran | November 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm |

    Paul and Linda, glad you had a nice Thanksgiving. Another beautiful day in Paradise!

  14. Well, there are many things I do miss in the US. For example, I do miss that in the US there are NO gringos prices to cheat foreigners. Everyone pays the same prices and won’t be cheated left and right. I miss in the US that online shopping is so easy and there are tons of deals available. I also miss in the US that I never ever bribe anyone whereas it’s completely normal to bribe, even including to government officers like cops, in corrupted countries like Mexico. There are many nice things to say about Mexico and USA, as well as many things that people don’t want to talk about.

    • Barbara Gorski | November 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm |

      Steve – I absolutely understand your comments. AND…I have to respond to a few of their points. Regarding the online shopping and easy shipping, I do wish shipping/mailing in Mexico was a bit more regulated as I often want to send things to my Mexican friends. However, there are many online price differences depending upon things such as your zip code and how frequently and when you purchase from them. Just this morning my husband and I both received mail from the same company. My husband’s “special” was a “thank you for his recent purchases; mine was a “we want you back” because I haven’t purchased from them in a while. My offer was MUCH better than my husband’s…seems like it should be the other way around.

      Also prices differ if your “know someone in the business.”

      And, maybe tourists prices should be higher. If we can afford to visit/move, we probably are in a better situation to pay a bit more than local Mexicans who make MUCH less than most Americans.

      And there is certainly enough corruption in the USA to keep all of us annoyed.

      Okay, enough rant on my part. I do understand and find those same things surprising whenever I experience another culture. I just don’t want to let the thought be out there in cyberspace that others in North America aren’t engaged in those same things.

  15. I love your reference to the “Old Country”! Really am enjoying your blog, as I look toward retirement in 3 years and 4 months! Thank you so much for the wonderful information and your honesty about life in Mexico. Can’t wait to visit in March 2018 and start looking at communities in which to relocate.

  16. Here in San Carlos, Sonora we decided to splurge at one of the better restaurants in town who offered a complete Thanksgiving feast including an open salad bar AND an open desert bar. Arriving to cute handmade turkey napkin rings, the setting was beautiful, and everything was unbelievably delicious, including the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, so of course we made pigs of ourselves. We enjoyed our complimentary wine and coffee, as we sat looking out over the Sea of Cortez. All of this for my husband and I, including the tip. for only $40. And no family “personalities” to have to deal with. Nuff said!

  17. We celebrated with about 45 expats at Mayan Beach Gardens in Placer. 3 kinds of turkeys, ham, cranberries, the works. Even had Pavo Negra. We love it here. Yes we miss family and friends but they are starting to come visit.

  18. Barbara Ransehousen | November 26, 2017 at 9:04 pm |

    You, as a Gringo can help end corruption. Don’t pay bribes to get out of traffic tickets.
    Make a policeman write you a ticket, and keep on insisting on it. Eventually you may wear them down and they will write the ticket. You can pay it within 5 days and get 1/2 off. OR, they will see that you AREN’T going to pay a bribe, so they “let you off with a warning.” For one, I don’t intend to pay another bribe. We can try to NOT be a part of the corruption. Barbara, Chapala

  19. Your recollection of the conversation and your friend’s disappointment made me laugh out loud. Love it! Thank you for sharing.

  20. Niederegger Maria | November 27, 2017 at 5:48 am |

    Hi Paul,could we have a health insurance there when we over 75?

  21. Haril and Karen | November 27, 2017 at 10:37 am |

    I have to admit I was worried I wouldn’t get my turkey and dressing last week. The hotel went out of their way to provide. Next time we’re crashing your party though.

  22. Love your stories! I have been wondering if you ever contemplated living in a non-expat community? I think your experiences would be a little different being surrounded with more Mexican neighbors. In the past I’ve lived in both communities and there were disadvantages & advantages to both. When we come back to Mexico to stay I am undecided as to where we put our roots down. Security is something we think of often. Would you say a mainly predominant expat community is safer these days?

    • Hi Maryanne. Yes, we contemplated living in a local neighborhood but in the end, we liked the comfort and security of the gated community. The retired cop in me always prioritizes safety.

      Living in a gated community with live security dramatically reduces the chance of being burglarized. This is true no matter where you live in the world. We have friends who live outside gated communities here in Mexico and some of them have reported being the victim of burglaries or thefts. We travel quite a bit and we don’t want to have to worry if our place is safe while we are away. We have left our condo unlocked (not intentionally) as well as our car and have never had a problem.

      Living in an expat area doesn’t mean that we’re missing out on the local experience. We spend quite a bit of time outside of the complex and we have a lot of friends who are locals. It really is the best of both worlds — at least in my humble opinion.

  23. Dude, I visit Mexico all the time. This post seriously makes me want to move there. Although it was pretty damn warm here in Colorado. No beach, but I do have friends who ate their turkey on their deck.
    I love the Riviera Maya, but I’ve only stayed at AI’s, and usually at luxury, adults only. I just can’t picture what it would be like to do it all like real people do, every day. Did you always stay at AI’s before you moved? Or did you practice with rentals first?

    • Prior to moving down, our experience with Mexico was limited to AIs — although we did leave the resorts a lot to explore.

      We originally rented a place in Akumal but ended up buying it directly from the owner two months later because we absolutely loved the condo and the community.

      Mexico is a great fit for us and everyday life here is awesome. I think I’ll write a post about everyday life is really like. Thanks for the topic idea. 🙂

  24. Great article! We had a Thanksgiving feast at our home in San Miguel de Allende. I was amazed how easy it was to get a turkey. We had all the fixings too including stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Felt just like home, smelled just like home, tasted just like home. Oh wait, this is home!

  25. Hey Paul! Been reading your blog for few weeks now. Recently retired, don’t want to purchase but looking to rent. I think perhaps a visit is in order. Any information you could provide to maximize my visit would be appreciated. I was thinking about moving to Florida, however, it is still USA and I would very much like t move to a country to maximize my social security and military pension. I look forward tp hearing from you and am anxious to book a trip and check out the area..

    Thank you,’Dan

    • Hi Dan! Congratulations on your recent retirement. I recommend that you plan a trip to the Riviera Maya to see if it is some place that you would like to call home. Your money will definitely go farther here than it would in Florida; however, you don’t really see that savings when you’re here as a tourist.

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