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How happy would you be living in Mexico?

In order to get some useful guidance, we asked the experts what they thought; not only expats who moved here, but also the Mexicans who were born and live

here and who have watched us expats and who have come to conclusions of their own about the subject.

In addition to the comments from the others, you’ll see several comments from the young Mexicans who work for me at Best Mexico Movers. (After all, they’ve helped more than 500 people move to Mexico, so they’ve had a “front row seat” for much of it.)

Even though the people I quote come from some very different perspectives, let’s see if there are some common themes.

I’ll put my comments at the end.

Alfonso Galindo, Best Mexico Pet Movers

Alfonso was born and raised in Santa Barbara California, and moved to Mexico more than a decade ago. He has been involved in several real estate development projects and many other businesses in Mexico. He currently runs a service bringing expats’ pets to Mexico.

“Don’t rent long term or buy a house when you first come to Mexico. Instead, travel to several different places and experience the differences of living there. It’s not just the climate or architecture that are different, but the people are also different. Mexico is a big country and there are lots of cultural nuances.

Laura Aguilar, Personal Moving Assistant for Best Mexico Movers

Laura was born and raised and lives in Mexico. She has traveled extensively, has friends all over the world, and lived in New York City for three years. Laura assists the clients of Best Mexico Movers with their move.

“Mexico is a country in which rules are not always that strictly enforced; as a friend from Washington once told me, ‘Rules in Mexico are only suggestions.’

“This can be both good and bad at the same time, depending on the circumstance and your perspective. I advise you to take advantage of the culture, learn to appreciate the chaos, and discover the creativity of Mexican people trying to make it their own way, creating some mexicanadas in the process.” (Author’s definition of “mexicanada”: an improvisation that somehow, sometimes inexplicably works, is usually very creative, and not conforming to any pre-determined rules, structures, or procedures.)

Mariana Lange, Mexico Relocation Guide

Mariana was born in Mexico and immigrated to the US. She has a passion for helping people move to Mexico and does so through her guide and services.

“Living in Mexico is amazing – the people, culture, food, weather, and lower cost of living make it a dream for expats. It’s less stressful, and life is better overall! But moving here isn’t just about packing your bags and hopping on a plane. There’s some legal stuff to figure out, and dealing with Mexican rules is tricky, especially if you don’t speak Spanish or have a pro helping you. We’ve seen our fair share of those who wish they did more research.

“So, when it comes to the legal stuff, be careful about getting your advice from random people on Facebook or YouTube. Trust the experts who know what they’re talking about. Do your homework and make sure you’re getting advice from reliable sources with accurate and up-to-date information. This helps you avoid problems and expensive mistakes later on. Moving to Mexico will be an amazing experience, but making informed moves ensures your relocation is smooth and stress-free. Over the years we’ve helped thousands of foreigners move to Mexico the right way, and have learned that taking the time to navigate the details of moving to Mexico carefully can save you from expensive mistakes.”

Oscar Martinez, Personal Moving Assistant for Best Mexico Movers

Oscar was born and raised and lives in Mexico. Given that Oscar has assisted in several hundred moves and worked closely with our clients (not to mention that he is very observant), he’s come to some conclusions.

“Don’t get frustrated. It might be a new and different country with a different culture and language, which can be difficult, but you can always decide to see the good and positive side, and you can always learn the culture, traditions, and local habits.

“Go with the flow. Ask local people for recommendations. Go out, get to know new places, and even if it’s not what you’re used to, try new things. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t like it, and that’s OK. Just don’t do what it turned out that you didn’t like anymore and move on to try other things.”

Thonda Oliver, Coldwell Banker Encantado

Thonda runs a real estate company in San Carlos, Sonora for more than 20 years, so she came here long before most expats and has seen a lot of changes in her little town.

“Mexico is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It offers more beach coastlines than any other country. There are no homeless Mexicans, because the Mexican family culture is to take care of your own.

“Mexicans are taught at a young age that displaying work ethics is important to represent their family with lots of pride. This is what I tell people that makes Mexico such a great place to live and be.

“However, if you expect living in Mexico to be like living in the USA, it is not, and you cannot change it to be like the USA. This is land of manana and things are done differently.”

Another author’s note: If you look in your Spanish-to-English dictionary, it will tell you that “manana” translates to “tomorrow”, so when someone tells you that it will be done “manana”, you would translate that to it will be done tomorrow. However, in Mexico, we all know that “manana” doesn’t really mean “tomorrow.” It means “not today.” There’s a big difference.

Hannia Alcala, Director of Operations for Best Mexico Movers

Hannia was born, raised, and lives in Guadalajara. She spent her time abroad to study in Australia and currently runs the operations for Best Mexico Movers. Like Laura Aguilar, she has friends all over the world.

“The best advice that I can give you, and what will make you enjoy this beautiful country to the fullest, is to try to learn the Spanish language; this will help you experience the country and its culture in a different and more complete way.”

Michael Nuschke, Owner, Focus On Mexico

Michael has been running in person tours of the Lake Chapala area for more than nine years.

“One of the things I do at the beginning of our educational ‘move to Mexico’ programs is to ask what are the top reasons our attendees are considering a move to Mexico. While weather is always one of the top three reasons (Lake Chapala is at 5,000 feet altitude and has great weather nearly year-round), another key reason people state is the lower cost of living.

“In this area, there is one factor I find most people do not consider, namely ‘currency risk’. While your income comes from retirement pensions or investment accounts in US or Canadian currency, most of your expenses while in Mexico will be in Mexican pesos. When your income is in one currency and your expenses are in another, you have ‘currency risk’ – namely the risk that the Mexican peso could appreciate against your home currency.”

Greg Custer, Choosing Mexico

Greg has been visiting, writing about and living in Mexico and South America for thirty years. In 2007, he started his firm to “help people explore the realities (truths and myths) of Mexico for Living.”

“If you’re coming here mostly for good weather and cheap living, you’re missing out on Mexico’s mega advantages over other Western Hemisphere destinations, the big one being Mexico’s cultural and natural diversity. Only here can you find the foreign and the familiar across so many settings: urban, resort and village. It’s like no other place, and it’s right next door.”

Brighton West, Almost Retired in Mexico

Brighton (accurately) describes himself as “an unflappably friendly 51-year-old guy with flowing blond hair sharing his time between La Paz Mexico and Portland Oregon.” Brighton is the host of Almost Retired in Mexico, a YouTube channel that shares “tips, tricks and lots of inspirational stories for people who want to move to Mexico sooner rather than later.”

“Move to Mexico NOW! Most expats I meet wish they had moved south sooner.

“Maybe start with extended vacations into different parts of Mexico to determine the best place for you. Rent an Airbnb for a month in an area where other expats live. Staying at an all-inclusive on the beach is great fun but doesn’t help you decide if this is a community you want to move to.

“Or, like my wife and I did, take a weekend trip to a city you’ve never heard of (La Paz, Baja California for us) and buy a beach house on a whim. We now live half-time in Mexico, and it’s been the best impulse buy of our lives!”

Lee Steele, Yucatan Magazine

After moving to Merida, Yucatan several years ago, Lee started a quarterly lifestyle magazine that now has more Facebook followers than any English-language media in Yucatan.

“Don’t expect it to be as cheap as it seems. You have to really feel a connection to the culture before you thrive. So don’t just come to Mexico to save money. Come because it’s awesome.”

Jack Brady (Jack supervises our client’s unloads in the Merida area.)

Jack moved to Mexico in 2021. He “values connecting with people more than connecting with things.” Jack says his “passion is meeting people.”

“There will be an inevitable culture shock. Try reading about it before and adjust to it.

For example, I’ve learned the hard way that in most places in Mexico you can’t flush toilet paper, pedestrians don’t have the right of way, and stop signs are optional for drivers. What I do now is to pretend that all drivers are 14 years old with no driver’s license, because that’s pretty much how it feels. Doing so makes me more careful and less mad, and when I get on an Uber or taxi, I try not to look out the front windshield, only the side windows.

Doing this reduces my anxiety and is a pretty minimal accommodation, given all the other good things and people here.”

Kiko Caballero (one of my neighbors)

Kiko Caballero (known here as “Tio Kiko,” or “Uncle Kiko”) has lived in San Carlos, Sonora, since 1984 and has worked with and among expats the entire time. Kiko says that sometimes, “Mexicans don’t worry too much about time and are much more relaxed about rules.” He says that, in order to be happy, expats have to be more patient and to spend more time living, as opposed to following rules.

Kiko says that the most important thing for Mexicans is friendship. “We are with our families, we have friends, and we want to be with them. Mexicans like to have music, to have parties, to have good foods, to go and play on the beach, to go swimming. If it rains, we get wet. It’s that simple.”

From a Mexican perspective, Kiko says that too many rules make for a boring life. “You don’t need to be perfect”, says Kiko, “You just have to be alive.”

Chuck Bolotin, CEO of Best Mexico Movers

In addition to some other good advice, here are the themes I saw (and agree with):

1) Mexico has a different culture than the US or Canada, and you need to know beforehand if you will find this to be a good thing or a bad thing.

2) You should at least try to learn some Spanish.

3) Don’t come to Mexico if the only reason you’re doing so is that it is less expensive.

Here’s a little elaboration:

1) When Americans and Canadians move to Mexico, as you read above, most will find a culture that is less concerned with punctuality and perfection and more concerned with interpersonal relationships than they experienced NOB (“North of the Border”). Also as was stated above, you are not going to change Mexican culture, so complaining about it only makes you more frustrated, it makes you more unhappy and it makes you more unlikeable.

If you can do it, a better course of action, as stated above, is just learn to see the good

in the Mexican culture, relax, and try to become less of a Type A. Your blood pressure will go down, you will be more pleasant, and you may even learn that aspects of the Mexican culture are actually better and more appropriate for living here in Mexico for many things, and perhaps even better for life in general, irrespective of where one lives.

I’ll give you an example. In the US, if a truck were blocking my way on a one-way street because the passenger had to get out to unload a few items, I would be very unhappy. Here, I just wait those few moments and enjoy the day.

The wisdom of my new reaction to this can be seen in my emotional health, and also in my realization that, in Mexico, I may have to do exactly the same thing as that truck driver later in the day and I would appreciate that everyone else didn’t honk their horns, curse at me, give me bad looks, etc., and instead, just acted patiently and perhaps even gave me a friendly wave. It’s just how life works here. We don’t get all that worked up over items like this.

Once you get used to it and learn to embrace it, from my perspective (and hopefully

yours, if you’re going to be successful living here), it’s very nice because you’re much less worried about “doing something wrong.” People are much more forgiving here for all sorts of things that would be horrific NOB.

2) You also read lots of comments above about learning Spanish. Please don’t worry if you botch your Spanish. The Mexican people are thrilled and honored that you are even trying. Let’s honor them as well by trying to learn their language, at least a little bit. Doing so will spread goodwill, make you lots of new friends, and make your life here much, much more enjoyable. You will be able to integrate into the larger community here (not just the English-speaking expat one), be less isolated, be better

in an emergency, and make lots of very good friends, like Kiko. (Yes, you absolutely can and should make friends with the local Mexicans. They are very warm and accepting.)

3) Don’t come to Mexico if the only reason you’re doing so is that it costs less to live here (which it does, by a lot, and I speak from personal experience). Why? Because if the only reason you come to Mexico is because it costs less, the cultural differences and your isolation as a result of refusing to learn Spanish will cause you more unhappiness than the happiness you will gain from the money you save, with the result that you’ll become the stereotypical ”Angry Gringo” who everyone here has encountered and tries to avoid. However, if you do embrace the advice from the experts here, the undeniable fact that it costs a lot less to live here will be really nice “icing on the cake” and create a reinforcing virtual “tornado of happiness.” (Again, I speak from personal experience. Having a better life, a better lifestyle, and a lower cost of living all at the same time is really nice.)

If you are thinking about coming here, I hope you take the advice above seriously. If you do wind up coming, our hope for you is that you enjoy the lower stress, the wonderful weather, the time to undertake those hobbies you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the time for, and the friendly, warm, welcoming people, all with a few less rules and a nice financial benefit thrown in.

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