Everyone in the world seems to have an opinion about Mexico.
Be it about the culture, Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), burritos or safety of the country, people always have something to say.
Personally, my idea of Mexico was always centered around food. I absolutely love guacamole and quesadillas. Come on, who doesn’t? And Mexican food is by far my favorite in the whole world!
When I moved to Mexico, however, I quickly learned that this amazing country has so much to offer other than incredible food.
Mexico is a popular country for adventurous souls willing to move abroad. It’s especially enticing for Americans and Canadians, because dollars go a long way when converted to pesos mexicanos.
If you’re considering jumping on this bandwagon, there are several things you should know before moving to the country of the Mariachis.
12 Things No One Tells You About Moving to Mexico
Mexico Will Exceed Your Expectations
1. Mexico is safer than the news makes it seem
When I tell people I used to live in Mexico, one of their first questions is always about safety.
It makes sense. The news paints Mexico as a place focused on the war between drug cartels. What the news doesn’t show is people living regular lives without being directly affected by the drug business.
Mexico has over 130 million inhabitants, and the majority live normal day-to-day lives. There are certain regions to avoid, but as an expat, you’ll probably stay around major cities full of other foreigners and tourists. You can easily avoid visiting the poorest or most dangerous regions in the country.
Even in many places around Ciudad de México (Mexico City), the capital and biggest city of the country, you can relax. Just use common sense and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
2. Everything can be found in Mexico
When picturing Mexico, many people’s minds jump to beaches.
But beaches are just the beginning.
Mexico is a geographically diverse country. Lakes, jungles, majestic cities, incredible landscapes, mountains—you can find it all in Mexico.
The country offers the perfect mix of modern lifestyle and traditions.
Mexico has hundreds of cities and towns with their own history, pyramids, historic sites dating back to the 13th century and, of course, unique natural beauty. You can go from the desert to a paradise beach in a matter of hours.
3. Mexico is usually cheaper than the United States
Mexico is an affordable country for Americans, Canadians and Europeans. You can eat at a casual restaurant for around five USD, get gas for around three USD and buy a new bicycle for a little under 130 USD.
If you’re considering retiring or working for an American company in Mexico, you’re in an even better position. Earning US dollars while moving south will make you feel like you’ve won the lottery!
Expect a much more comfortable life converting everything to pesos mexicanos (Mexican pesos).
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Mexico Will Feel Like Home Quickly
4. Mexico is the perfect expat destination
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Mexico was how often I heard people speak English!
Turns out, the expat population in Mexico is quite high, with more than 1 million expats living all over the country. Most of them are Americans, due to the proximity to their mainland.
While Mexico is a great destination for any foreigner, it’s especially convenient for Americans.
Flights are cheap to go back and forth from the United States. You’re also in the same or similar timezone as your family back home. If your family’s from the East Coast in America, you might even be able to drive back home in a few hours, cross the border and get home before dinner.
It’s the perfect place to settle down in a new country while still being relatively close to your loved ones.
5. You can learn Spanish on the go
Mexico is the country with the highest number of Spanish speakers in the whole world. If you want to learn Spanish, there’s no better place to move!
Wondering where to start?
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If your Spanish is already pretty advanced, there are still things to learn! Mexicans communicate using country-specific slang, so learn slang as you go to impress the locals.
Mexicans love to teach foreigners how to sound a bit more Mexican, and there’s no better way to bond with your new native friends than this. They’re also keen on learning English, so the exchange can be mutual.
Get ready to make yourself a whole new Spanish-speaking identity in your adopted country.
6. Mexicans are friendly and ready to help
Forget the fearful idea that Mexicans are all dealing with illegal substances or trying to rip you off.
In fact, after living in more than 10 countries around the world, I can assure you most Mexicans just want to help you out.
When moving to Mexico, put all the bad stories the media tell you aside and try to have a fresh perspective. Make sure you’re not forming opinions based on stories you’ve heard from other people. Open your heart to Mexicans’ friendliness!
I lost count of how many times I struggled with public transportation in Mexico City and locals stopped to make sure I was hopping on the right train.
7. You can find your own tribe in Mexico
With so many expats and friendly locals, this tip might seem obvious. But it’s a crucial one!
You can make friends all over the country without much trouble, and this is going to make your stay much better.
Native friends and long-time expats will be able to help you out with bureaucracy and any other concerns you might have. They’ll also take you out to the best local bars and restaurants, introduce you to the top spots in the city and, of course, enjoy all this right along with you.
If you’re not the most extroverted person (fellow introvert right here) you should try Facebook groups, starting with Expats Living in Mexico.
Joining Meetup groups is another great way to meet people in your region.
You can sign up for a language exchange group or just go out for drinks with other people who are new in town.
Bureaucracy Can Make Life Difficult
8. Renting an apartment as a foreigner can be tricky
Mexico has plenty of rental flats available. However, it’s important to know Spanish to receive a better price. If possible, invite a Mexican friend to join the negotiation to ensure there’s no miscommunication.
If you want to rent a room in a shared space, it’s a fairly simple process. Paying a deposit of a month’s rent is normal, and sometimes there’s only a simple contract involved between you and the apartment’s owner.
If you want your own apartment, the bureaucracy can be a bit challenging.
You’ll need an aval (guarantor) that must be Mexican. This person will be responsible if you cause problems or miss a payment. In this case, you can find a Mexican friend willing to help. (Remember, Mexicans love to help!)
If you don’t know anyone yet, there are companies that offer this kind of service for a fee.
9. You should double check your visa situation
Unsurprisingly, you’ll need a visa to live in Mexico.
By law, you can stay in the country as a tourist for up to six months. You’re also able to make a visa run to another country, then re-enter Mexico for another six months. However, this visa doesn’t allow you to work in the country.
Before you leave your home country, you can call your embassy to request information about the Residente Temporal (Temporary Resident) Visa.
I suggest you start with the Residente Temporal Visa before applying for a permanent visa such as the Residente Permanente (Permanent Resident) Visa, the official immigrant visa.
10. Banking is still old-school
This setback can be a disappointment to expats who move to Mexico hoping banking will be as easy as in their own countries.
In Mexico, banking is usually done in person, and the queues are always absurdly long. To solve small issues, answer questions or even transfer money, you usually have to take care of things face-to-face.
Mexican bank employees might try to sell you digital services, but I wouldn’t bother paying. You’ll still end up standing in line at the bank the very next week.
Mexican Culture Is Incredible
11. Mexico will open your eyes to the world
Many foreigners use Mexico as an entrance point to the rest of Latin America.
Once you fall in love with Mexico’s culture, you might be ready to check out a few nearby countries with similar but unique cultures.
Even though I lived in Mexico, I spent a lot of time falling in love with other countries in Latin America where I could also speak Spanish and learn about different cultures.
If you’re anything like me, living in Mexico will make you want to travel all over South and Central America.
12. You might want to stay in Mexico
Since I left Mexico, there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t thought about going back. This is something you’ll realize pretty quickly: Mexico is addictive.
You’ll fall in love with the country and people, immerse yourself in the culture and gobble up the food. Mexico changed me for the better. I absolutely love this country and miss it every single day.
I might even go back soon.
So beware: Once you move to Mexico, you might never leave. Well, other than when you take those excursions around the rest of Latin America, of course!
As with any country, there are pros and cons to living in Mexico. However, the good easily outweighs the bad!
Now that you know what to expect, start researching the best places to live in Mexico! Start the process and enjoy your new vida mexicana (Mexican life).
Debbie Corrano is a digital strategist and writer. She works remotely while traveling the world full-time with her two dogs. Over the past few years, Debbie has lived in more than 10 countries, learned a few languages and worked with dozens of agencies and brands.
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