Robert Abuda, owner of Robert Abuda Salon in Merida, granted an interview with The Yucatan Times for this week’s series on prominent expats in Merida, “Expat Ave.” Here is what Mr. Abuda had to say:
TYT: How long have you lived in Merida?
RA: My partner Erich and I have lived in Merida for almost 7 years.
TYT: What attracted you to move here?
RA: After spending 3 years in Tokyo, Japan, neither Erich nor myself were ready to return to Canada just yet.
We thought we would build a vacation home here in Merida, live here for a year, and then use it as a rental property when we moved back to Toronto. Well we got settled in, started businesses, and we have made Merida our home now.
TYT: From where did you relocate?
RA: Tokyo, Japan.
TYT: How does Merida compare to other places you’ve lived regarding issues like security, services, medical facilities, air connectivity etc?
RA: Merida is a very safe city with outstanding standards of healthcare and services similar to the other countries we have lived.
I think it´s great that Merida now has the direct flight from Toronto via WestJet, as well as direct flights to some European cities. It certainly wasn´t the case when we arrived a few years ago, but I think Merida and the entire Yucatan Peninsula has really become a major tourist destination; and certainly with new amenities such as the upcoming Convention Center in the Hotel Zone as well as the new Music Museum on Calle 59 near the main cathedral, Merida is really becoming a massive Covention destination among Latin America.
TYT: Have you noticed improvements in any important areas during the time you’ve lived here?
RA: Absolutely, certainly with the renewal of a lot of the historic homes (both by foreigners and INAH – the Historical Association of Merida), as well as the renewal of roads such as Technologico, Calle 60, Paseo Montejo, Itzaes etc.
TYT: Would you recommend Merida as a place of residence to friends and relatives?
RA: Yes definitely. There are times it can be frustrating living in a foreign environment, but there are also wonderful things about it at the same time.
If I ever find myself overwhelmed, I have learned to step back and look at the situation as an outsider, see the humour in what is happening and know that in the end all will be resolved and you will have a fantastic story for friends.
TYT: How hard has it been to open the market in Yucatán, and what is the difference between Yucatecans and expats as target markets?
RA: Opening a new business is hard anywhere, especially these days. We are constantly bombarded by stories of Mom and Pops closing down in major cities like New York and San Francisco because of rising rents, and competiton from larger chains.
Those problems are just as evident here as anywhere else. A lot of the challenges in Yucatan are the same anywhere else. That being said, there is a recently emerging middle-class in Merida that makes upscale goods and services much more attainable to the general populations than in years before.
A lot of people assume that there is such a difference between expats and locals, but if you make a good product or provide a high and consistent level of service, the markets are very similar. People don´t mind paying for quality, but they absolutely refuse to pay for poor quality. Provide a high quality service and you will have a loyal and abundant clientele consisting of both the local and expat markets.
TYT: Have you found Mexico as an attractive destination for investment? Why?
RA: Mexico has been a very attractive destination for investment for us, not just an investment of our money but also of our so-called money-making years.
What is more precious than the investment of your 30s? Erich and I firmly believe that Merida has given us opportunities to invest for both our immediate, and also our long-term futures and careers.
We certainly would not have the standard of life that we do here, if we were living in Canada or North of the Border.
Relocating here, has enabled us to become leaders in our fields and take the most advantage of our 30s which hopefully will translate into our 40s and our life beyond that. We never forget how fortunate we have been to find a city and community that has enbraced us so warmly, encouraged us, and helped us grow into where we are today.
From both the local and expat communities we have received tremendous support and Merida feels like home.
Interview for TYT by Alejandro Azcárate
The opinions expressed in this interview reflect those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of The Yucatan Times.
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