Moving to Mexico -A how to guide for beginners
Moving to Mexico might be one of your goals, but we will say it is not for everyone. Not everyone finds what they think it will be like and not everyone makes a success of it. In this honest guide, we will talk about how to make a moving to Mexico a success, overcoming the obstacles and making your transition easier.
What type of people move to Mexico?
There are basically four groups of people that move to Mexico. You have the:
- People that like the culture and weather climate.
- Those that are looking to live abroad, but want an affordable location.
- People looking to move somewhere, kind of escaping or running away from something.
- Internationals, digital nomads and younger people that can work online and move around.
Most people fall in these categories. Mexico gets a little different group of foreigners moving to it because of cost of living factors, weather, proximity to the United States and Canada, as well as ease of visa process. If you move to Mexico you will eventually meet people from all of the above mentioned groups. If you are looking to move to Mexico, you probably identify with one or more of these groups as well.
What things should you do before moving?
Moving to another country is a big step. In the not too distant past, people moving to another country boarded ships to most likely never return to their home country. Nowadays, it is much easier, but still a big step to adjust to a new culture (see our article about culture shock in Mexico) and system of how things are done. This will require a lot of preparation before going. That leads us to our first topic.
Read Read Read!
The more you know, the more you will be prepared and will assimilate. That is, if the information you read is good. There are thousands of people that have moved to Mexico and blog about their experiences. Some are location specific and others are more general information about living in Mexico (see our guide for moving to Playa Del Carmen here). There are also videos online that can be helpful as well. Many of the things you will learn might be simple things that you have never thought about or help you tackle the bigger issues.
A great resource can be online chats or Facebook groups. Location specific Facebook groups are easy to join. You will have access to hundreds of topics and up-to-date information about the area you are looking at. For example, in Playa Del Carmen there is the Facebook group Expats and Locals in Playa Del Carmen. There are over 9000 members and it can be very helpful for people moving to Mexico. You can ask other like minded people about their experience and opinions about everything from schools for kids or electronics repair. Of course on any online forum, there are things to alert to. We will talk about this next.
How not to get shamed off the internet
If doing research for moving to Mexico will be your first foray into the online world, there are some guidelines you should know about. Here are some tips for you:
- Do a search on the chat or group page. This can answer your question fast and not repeat the same questions that are asked over and over.
- If you don’t find an answer after a search, it can be helpful to state “I searched but did not find the answer”. This simple statement can help avoid some of the typical rude comments you get. People will see that you put forth some effort already to answer your question.
- It is very easy to get snide comments from members of the chat or group. There are all types online and you should not get upset with bad comments. Just remember, don’t fight over opinions. They are just that and there is never a winner. Take what you need and leave the rest online. Many groups have rules to avoid rude comments, but not all enforce them or some people push the line.
- Remember there are all personality types online. Being a good member of a group pays off when you need help. You can always pay it back when you have more experience living in Mexico and help others that follow in your footsteps.
Plan on where to move to in Mexico
Mexico is a very large country with many varied areas. You can choose between the Caribbean side or the Pacific, mega cities to tiny pueblos. There are desserts and lush tropical climates also. Besides geographical location and size of population there are things like the type of culture. If you are a laid back type of person or culture vulture, this will direct you to more specific areas of Mexico.
In the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, there are many places people move to. The two sides of the peninsula are very different. Quintana Roo State is more modern, touristic and beach centric. Yucatan State and Campeche State are more cultural, traditional and laid back. There are small towns, cities, and beach towns on both sides of the peninsula. For a breakdown of why people choose different areas of this part of Mexico, see our article about where expats live.
Do exploratory trips to Mexico
Most people will come to explore an area to see what it is like. Even if you do tons of research online, it is still different in person. It is also different when you spend a week (one vacation) and actually spend some time in an area. If you have narrowed it down to an area or two, why not plan some trips to visit. Here are some tips for you if you are able to do this.
- Ask some locals or expats that live in the area to show you around.
- Stay in areas that are more residential. This will give you more a feel of the place. Using Airbnb is good for this rather than the most popular touristic hotels in the center of town.
- Do some of the things that you will need to do like visiting the supermarket and shopping. This will help you learn about prices and what is available.
- Do your own research about budgets. Most everyone asks what is the cost of living for a place. There really is no answer for this since there are so many standards. It is best to see what things cost and find people that are in a similar situation as you to know more about cost.
Prepare your belongings and what you will take
Almost 95% of people that have moved to Mexico will tell you to sell most things and just bring a small collection of personal items. For the most part, it is easier to replace things that fit the climate and your new space. It is also easier to buy new things after you move to Mexico. See our guide to what to move to Mexico with here.
Most people will also tell you not to bring a vehicle from outside of Mexico. There are a lot of restrictions and taxes that concern importing a car. It might be nice to use the family car because you are used to it, but normally it is better to sell it and get something in Mexico. Tip: Some vehicles not made or sold in Mexico have no parts available in Mexico. This can really complicate owning a car imported every time you need repairs.
If you have decided to move things on a cargo ship we have this company for you to look into. They leave from Panama City, Florida, Houston, Texas, and Tampa, Florida and arrive into Progresso, Yucatan in Mexico. The name is Linea Peninsular. You can see their website are: http://www.lineaships.com/en/linea-peninsular/
Get your immigration work ready
There are some people that “live” in Mexico on a tourist visa. The current allowance is up to 180 days in Mexico as a tourist. However, if you are serious about moving to Mexico to live, it is good to have a residential visa. It can make life easier for things like opening bank accounts, getting a drivers license and buying vehicles.
It is possible to do the paperwork by yourself, but often having a facilitator will greatly ease you into the process. If your Spanish is not good or your case is a little more complicated, having someone help you is well worth the money. This is something you can do once you enter Mexico after you start your visa paperwork in your home country.
Tip: Requirements often change and even blogs and forums don’t always have the most current information regarding immigration. Be sure to consult the official Mexican website for the most up to date information.
How to behave when you arrive
If you remember back in our online tips for using chats and Facebook groups, we mentioned that there are all types of people in Mexico? This same advice applies to meeting people in person. There are really hard working people that move and still work, some are very smart, some are in it for the “vacation experience”, and you also can come across people that are depressed, liars, cheats, or downright not great people.
Have your guard up but don’t block everyone out at the same time. Be cautious and get to know people. After a while you can decifer better who is new friends material and others that you will avoid.
When meeting locals, also be open to new things. Most Mexicans are very warm and welcoming to outsiders. There will be those that like to charge more to take a little advantage of people not knowing better. Taking your time to get to know people and getting recommendations for other people really help you in these cases.
Don’t try to change the world
Some people feel that Mexico is behind a lot of other countries in how things are done. Concern can come from a good place in the heart but, understanding the culture is the first step. Understanding why some things are they way they are, will help explain some things to you. You might not want to change things to how you are used to, even if it seems or seemed good at one point.
Mexico has developed into what it is over thousands of years. Some expats come into Mexico like a wrecking ball ready to “make it a better place”. In the end, Mexico will most likely change you and not the other way around.
How to overcome obstacles to being an expat in Mexico
Living in Mexico is not all days at the beach sipping margaritas. There are still the daily routines of cooking, cleaning and shopping and other basic necessities. Then there are frustrations in getting things done like paperwork and dealing with utilities.
The first step of living in Mexico
The first step is learning Spanish. This is the most commonly spoken language in the country (besides dozens of other indigenous languages). No matter how much you drag your feet, it will greatly smooth your way into living in Mexico.
In some communities and areas of Mexico it is possible to get by with English. You will just miss out on being integrated into the local culture and miss things that can be important to you. It will also be less stressful to you, knowing you can communicate at any time, especially in an emergency. Just count on learning Spanish, because at some point, even of you avoid it, you will need to learn a good amount.
Life in another country
Moving to any country to become an expat will put you through many phases. You might be very excited at first, then lonely, then sad, and then more adjusted. See our article about the 5 stages expats go through.
Meeting people in Mexico
Since most people move to Mexico as a couple or single adult, you will need to look for a new circle of friends. You can stay in contact with all your old friends of course, but it will be more difficult to stay in touch and it is good to have friends close by. You will also have a lot of new experiences and knowing people that are in a similar place in their life, is a good basis for a friendship.
Meeting new friends can be a challenging. For one, there is the language difficulty. Another reason is, people are often in their worlds and circles don’t cross as much. Also, many people move to touristy places where there is a transient population. Even some expats are only there for half the year. This makes meeting people and making friends hard. For example, in Playa Del Carmen many say it is hard to meet people. This is why we wrote a guide for meeting people and where to go.
Stick it out
There will be times where you can feel like you made a bad move. No one wants to get to this stage though. This is where all the steps above help you get prepared for living in Mexico. Even if you plan and prepare very well for your new adventure, there will be days or even weeks where things just don’t go your way. Our advice is stick it out. This means that working on things often overcomes the little let downs. Life is pretty good in Mexico, and for this reason, thousands come every year to live in Mexico.
Remember, you might not make the best decisions at first when you move, but you learn and adapt. This also might mean where you decide to live in the country. Some are super sure where to move and then start looking around within Mexico. Nothing is written in stone. Some people of retirement age might want to do one move and be done with it, but you still might move again.
Mexico offers many great experiences. We hope with guides like this, you can make a success of moving to Mexico.