After climate and connectivity, culture and community are the next two key criteria for selecting your new home in Mexico. These criteria affect the critical question “How will you spend your time?”
Whether you are coming to Mexico for retirement or working remotely, free time will accumulate and may challenge your overall happiness — unless you take time to find a place that “speaks to” your life’s bigger purpose.
Consider that if you’re in your 60’s and “retiring” you’ll likely have 25-30 years to embrace a fulfilling life. If you’re moving away from family and friends, there can be a harsh transition toward a busy and fulfilling life ahead. In my experience, the happiest foreigners in Mexico are the ones who find a genuine interest in local culture and community to express their appreciation and active engagement.
The resort, a village, or an urban area
Will you be happiest in a resort, a village or an urban area? This may be your first decision. Resorts can be wonderful but making friends in a place with large weekly fluctuations in arrivals can be challenging. A village may be peaceful and quiet, but fewer people and amenities may have you spending most of your time at home. Urban areas are pulsating and diverse, however, there will no doubt be logistical challenges (transportation) and a hectic pace.
It might be wise to explore the TOPIC Coast versus the Highlands. Click here and read through these stories. It may just get you thinking more broadly about your ideal setting.
Let’s break down some top locations for CULTURE. What does culture mean?
Mexico excels like a few nations in the world in terms of cultural diversity and complexity. When Europeans arrived in the early 16th Century, they found a vast “quilt” of cultural expressions and vitality, many dating back to the dawn of civilization in the Americas.
Three hundred years of Spanish rule brought devastation and new cultural forms as both natives and invaders had to adopt new ways of living.
Mexico is a fascinating laboratory of cultural evolution. Here are three remarkable places to consider, and the list could be much longer.
Culture of Mexico City:
Putting aside the issues of altitude, contamination, and calamity, CDMX is one of the world’s most embracing and diverse world capitals. It excels in sophistication (concerts, exhibits, museums, cuisine), historic “layering”, architectural expressions, modern art, and sheer grandeur. Living here comes with obstacles, but there are dozens of “pockets’ that can mitigate some of the city’s glaring challenges. If you doubt this, take an armchair adventure through some of our content; Click here…
In Mexico’s Indigenous southwest, Oaxaca is one of the world’s most diverse landscapes of biodiversity and culture. Of Mexico’s 2,500 municipalities, over 500 are in this one State. The city (over 500,000 residents) and surrounding towns are a tapestry of colorful artisans towns, Spanish architecture, archaeological sites, regional cuisine, mezcal distillers, and festivals. Living here is affordable (lower rents) and the Oaxacan coast beckons with Pacific beaches and bohemian charm. Living here means more “immersion” than other popular locations, and there are far fewer English speakers.
Living in Merida comes with tradeoffs (especially air-conditioned living from April-October), but foreigners flock to the city for its remarkable Mayan cultural assets, cuisine, “American” amenities and what’s considered to be the “safest” city in Mexico. Merida has grown to nearly one million inhabitants. Many have settled into colonial home restoration projects or start in quiet neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts. Merida and surrounding Yucatan state shout “foreign and familiar” better than just about anywhere.
Others to consider for cultural engagement would include certain “Pueblos Mágicos” and here’s an article about some of the best. If you haven’t heard of these places, use the SEARCH feature at this site or maybe ask some questions in the Activity Feed (on your left) to see what the group can share.
Mexico for Living: Community Highlights
Community of course means different things to different folks. If you have Spanish language skills, this opens a host of places where you can find commonalities with locals. For non-Spanish speakers, the community can mean finding areas of Mexico that have longevity hosting foreigners. These places can be home to cultural centers, service clubs, volunteering opportunities, sports clubs, and more ways to stay busy that you may have experienced back home!
As more and more foreign migration becomes a Mexico reality, communities of the recently migrated will coalesce and congregate in more settings. However below are three places where you’ll be able to fit right in making fast friends.
Community of Ajijic, Chapala:
This is the “birthplace” of Mexico living for Americans and Canadians. Dating back to the 1940’s, artists, writers, and military veterans began arriving and making their home in what’s been called one of the world’s best climates. Organizations like the Lake Chapala Society, Lakeside Little Theatre, American Legion and church/service groups of various flavors make this a very accommodating scene for the new expat. The town has surrendered some of its lakeside quaintness to waves of foreigners and “Tapatios” (from Guadalajara) wanting the area’s carefree living. There are half a dozen towns along the lake’s northern shore. The hillside and lakefront settings embrace outdoor living year-round. Yes, there’s some gentrification, and expats “overload” some of the lakeside communities. There are infrastructure challenges too. But once you fit in here, you’re likely to stay.
San Miguel de Allende:
A far more sophisticated choice awaits in Guanajuato State’s crown jewel. Here the elevation is higher, but so too is a Spanish architectural patrimony, restaurant culture, fine art galleries, and living the good life in one of Latin America’s most picturesque towns (population 140,000). SMA is a deserved UNESCO World Heritage site. Its English library is one of Mexico’s best. There is local English theater, concerts, festivals, and a genuine Mexican vibe to this place, enhanced by expats generally committed to making SMA a better place to live. Service clubs, expat meet-ups, a lively bar scene, and more add up to this being Mexico’s iconic colonial town for expat living.
For many of the same reasons highlighted above (but in a far different tropical setting), Merida is also a hands-down favorite for integrating expats into local life. There are organic markets, lots of house parties, a cafe culture, an active cultural agenda of music and dance, a university vibe, and lovely parks and plazas to meet up and make friends. Nearby towns and villages exude contemporary Maya living often in historic plantation towns from bygone eras. There’s also a nearby seacoast (Progreso), American box stores, fine museums, and so many iconic attractions (Chichen Itza and Uxmal for example) to keep your up-north friends and family envious (and coming back for visits).
Active beach scenes with popular expat congregation places would include Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos (San Jose del Cabo), Mazatlán, Rosarito/Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta and Progreso.