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Living in Mexico: Q&A
As you plan your move to Mexico, there will be many questions you'll ask youself that need to be answered. This guide contains a list of key questions and answers people most frequently ask in relation to living in Mexico.
Foreign people move to Mexico for a whole variety of reasons, some professional, some personal, or a combination of both.
Some people move to Mexico to retire, especially so because the climate is ideal for retired people in many places around Mexico, enabling them to take full advantage of their spare time.
Thousands of foreign professionals arrive in Mexico every year, as part of a secondment with the company they are working for. A lot of American, British and Japanese corporations have offices and / or manufacturing facilities in Mexico, and it is very common for their managers and senior managers to be seconded to Mexico.
Although the reasons that people make a conscious decision and choose to live in Mexico under their own steam are many, common themes include:
- The opportunity to get access to a new culture and different way of life to theirs;
- A better quality of life;
- A slower pace of life in an environment with more time to appreciate people and culture;
- Better climate and surroundings;
- The desire to live in a foreign country and learn a new language and appreciate foreign culture;
- To get away from complacent or familiar surroundings to something new, friendly and culturally rich;
- Taking up an opportunity to work in Mexico and gain a valuable cross-cultural working experience.
Living in Mexico is very different to living in the USA, Canada and Europe.
Although English is spoken in tourist centers, big hotels and resorts and professional establishments in bigger cities, it cannot be considered 'common'. You would need to learn some Spanish to get by day-to-day, unless you lived in the expensive, gated 'expatriate' communities and only socialized in those circles.
Bigger towns and cities offer all of the amenities you would have access to in most towns back home: supermarkets, shops, restaurants, entertainment, nightlife, etc.
Generally speaking, Mexico's pace of life is slower than that of the US and Britain, especially in comparison to major cities in those countries. Things are promised, but not always delivered at the promised time (ranging from the new table you ordered to the gardener showing up) - this can be frustrating - but once you understand that it is part of the culture, you begin to relax into it and adjust to the calmer rhythms which exist in Mexico.
Mexican people are extremely warm and friendly. In smaller communities especially, they will make you feel welcome and help you where they can. Mexican people love foreign lands, and they love to hear about different people and places. The more effort you make to integrate yourself into their communities and their way of life, the more receptive they will be to you, and they will appreciate the fact that you have made the effort to do so.
Mexico's culture has a rich history, and is solidly based around family, religion, people and tradition.
The Mexicans are a very proud people: proud of their heritage and proud of their accomplishments. They know that there is much to do to make Mexico better, and they may sometimes criticize lots of different things about it, but deep inside they are very patriotic and a very proud people.
Family is a central theme in Mexico, and a cornerstone of the culture. It is not unusual for three or sometimes four generations of family to meet up for afternoon lunch (la comida), sit around the table, talk, gossip, laugh and joke with each other. This is not a special event: this is family life as usual! At the weekends, parks, museums, and local attractions are packed with families enjoying their free time together.
Mexicans are extremely religious and very fatalistic. This is in contrast to some aspects of 'westernized' culture in which people generally feel that they are in control of their own destiny. A large number of people in Mexico still go to church, and it is common to see the Christian crucifix and images of the Virgin Guadalupe in people's homes, public buildings, offices, cars, taxis and buses, etc.
In terms of aesthetics, image and status, Mexico is 'traditional' - formal dress for those higher up the corporate ladder is a status symbol, as is the car they drive. Professional titles are important here. Anyone with a professional degree should always be addressed with the title of Licenciado/a, (or their professional equivalent): see the links below about social and business etiquette for more details.
People here will sooner be diplomats, than to give you an absolute "yes/no" answer to a question. This makes everyday situations, as well as business negotiations, distinct to those in the US and Europe, for example.
Commitment is possible, but perhaps not in the way you would get it in back on home ground. There is a saying that in Mexico, 'yes means no and no means maybe'. This is a very good analogy of the way Mexican culture deals with the concept of truth: after living here a while, you come to understand that matters and situation are not immediately as clean cut as you may like them to be.
Mexico has a slower pace of life than most foreigners are used to, especially when compared with the USA, Canada and some countries in western Europe. The two notable exceptions are Mexico City and Monterrey. On the whole, Mexico is laid back, with emphasis on a cool, calm and collected pace. This can be frustrating to foreigners, especially to those who have grown up in fast-paced, 'customer-driven' environments and who have come to expect efficiency and punctuality as a given characteristic of life situations.
You need to fulfil certain criteria, to live, work, retire or both. Connect to the Immigration Page for full details.
The basic cost of living in Mexico is lower than that of the US, Canada and Europe, particularly for items such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, baked goods, and other miscellaneous grocery items.
Local and national pubic transportation is generally lower in cost than the US/CA and continental Europe, and much lower than in the UK. Competition has been introduced in the domestic airline market and low-cost airlines are beginning to make a significant difference to domestic air-travel fares in Mexico, which have hitherto been relatively expensive.
Utilities are more expensive in Mexico. Prices for electricity are high, compared with US and even European prices, due mainly to the lack of competition. Telephone services, both landlines and cell phones, are priced higher than the US and Europe; Telmex, the national telco incumbent, dominates the market, despite its PR work which attempts to play down this fact. The advent of internet telephony (e.g. Skype, Vonage) is begining to make long distance communications, especially, affordable.
Piped water is relatively inexpensive, but not always potable (drinkable). Decades of under-investment, combined with a widespread attitude of impertinence towards paying water bills has left Mexico's mains water system in poor condition. As a result, most people purchase bottled water, often in 20 liter containers. Bottled water costs hundreds, if not thousands, of per cent more per liter when compared against the price of potable tap water in the US, Canada or Europe.
A growing range of items, especially some types of clothing, domestic appliances, audio/visual equipment, technology (e.g. iPods, WiFi), computers, computer software and cameras are more expensive than identical items sold in the USA. Cars cost slightly more in Mexico than equivalent models in the US.
Gasoline and diesel is (currently) subsidized by the Mexican government and for this reason prices don't fluctate as much as those in the USA and Europe when oil prices go up or down on international markets. However, it is unclear how much longer Mexico will be able to afford to subsidize the price of auto fuels.
Rents in Mexico can be higher than in equivalent-sized US towns or cities if the place is popular or fashionable, particularly places within easy each of the US border and/or frequented by foreign visitors and expats. In less popular (or less well known / off the beaten track) towns and cities, you may find good quality accommodation at lower rents that you would pay for the equivalent space in the US.
Mexico has a centralized economy, that is, most of the country's economic activity revolves around Mexico City and environs. This makes the capital a relatively expensive place to live compared with most of Mexico.
Wages and Salaries in Mexico City are higher than those in the provinces.
See: Mexico Price Index of everyday items which gives you a good indication of prices in Mexico today.
Also See: Shops and Shopping in Mexico
There are many examples of Americans, Canadians, Britons, Germans and Japanese as well as citizens from other countries who have successfully moved to Mexico and enjoy a great life, independently, with their partners, their families or in retirement.
The common thread of the most successful 'case studies' is that these people strived to integrate themselves and their family within the Mexican communities where they lived: they learned Spanish, they accepted Mexico's customs, lived and shared in their ways and festivities. They gave up their 'old' ways, and accepted that 'things over here' are different, but not necessarily worse than 'things at home' - and for them - Mexico becomes home away from home; or even, just home.
It is this open-minded approach that is critical to really appreciate Mexico and enjoy living here.
Also See: Moving to Mexico
Moving to any foreign country takes research, planning and preparation. Mexperience offers a wealth of resources to help you:
Next, read the Guide to Practical Considerations for Living in Mexico. This will give you an excellent precis of the key matters you will need to consider and address when planning your move.
If you plan to retire, our guide to Retirement in Mexico will be an excellent resource for you.
In this Living and Working section you'll also find guides about Moving to Mexico, Society and Culture, Social Etiquette, Banks, Banking and Credit in Mexico, The Media, Healthcare in Mexico and Schools in Mexico for your children.
Connect to our Travel Guides and Mexico Essentials section to discover places all over Mexico. Use the Mexico Travel Reservations Center to arrange hotels, flights, insurance and other travel services...
Tens of thousands of foreign nationals live very well and very happily in Mexico. They have achieved their goals by planning ahead and by making considered choices.