Moving abroad has gone from “are you nuts!” to “I need to learn more” in the space of one generation. As international travel has boomed, so have doors opened to overseas living, especially for North Americans whose travel has included both Asian and European exploration. However, it’s Mexico for living that draws more attention, due to factors such as connectivity, culture, and Mexico’s unique “foreign yet familiar” experience. Mexico has no shortage of myths, compounded by American media, popular culture, and our own experiences on “fly and flop” beach vacations. So, let’s demystify some common beliefs about Mexican living.
Some most common myths about Mexico are as follows:
Everyone wants to live near the beach
This tendency to explore living where you’ve vacationed is very normal. Why wouldn’t you want to spend more time in the coastal places you’ve enjoyed? For many, beach resort living check all the boxes. What some fail to consider is how a high season vacation (Dec-April) doesn’t give you a true look at the climatic challenges of year-round living. Unless you grew up in a place accustomed to high temperatures/humidity, it’s likely your “paradise” will require indoor, air-conditioned living from May to October. That can add to your expenses (electricity) and how your embrace outside living. What’s the solution? Consider Mexico’s higher elevations for “spring-like” conditions year-round.
Foreigners can’t buy real estate in Mexico
The Mexican constitution of 1917 addressed foreign power invasions and put specific restrictions on land ownership. International borders and seacoasts became protected zones. Decades later, a “trust” system was created. That system allows foreign nationals to “own” a bank-held instrument that’s good for 50 years and renewable. This “fideicomiso” is used quite effectively by foreigners. It is to purchase and control coastal and border zone real estate. Outside of these restricted zones, buying real estate as a foreigner is a “fee simple” process, executed via Mexico’s Notarios (who act on behalf of the buyer and seller). No “trust” is needed for these exchanges.
Moving to Mexico is about ‘sacrifices’ and giving up familiar comforts
Well, this was certainly the case prior to the signing of NAFTA in 1994. By the early 2000s, the economic integration of the US and Mexican economy was well in stride. Any city in Mexico bigger than 150,000 residents will very likely have a commercial zone filled with familiar American box store brands. Just about anything you were looking for back up north is now available (with some brands less available). This access to familiar products is a game-changer for many exploring overseas living. Add to this Amazon.mx, and you won’t be without your back-home comforts.
Mexican health care is ‘third world’
The stereotypic view of Mexico as a “third world” country is one that’s hard to let go of. Medical care is particularly susceptible to this view. Mexico has a three-tiered Mexican care system. The top-level (private hospitals, clinics, and labs) is “first world” in every sense of the word. Ask just about any ex-pat their experiences with private doctors and hospitals, and you’ll hear raving reports. A challenge for those over 65 will be securing a private hospitalization policy (very hard to acquire). If you’re under 65, you can continue to be underwritten. It is with rising yearly costs as you age. Most ex-pats “straddle” their US/Canadian care with the Mexican system. Doctor visits, lab work, and medications will cost 40-70% less across Mexico. These are usually paid out-of-pocket.
You can live in Mexico for next to nothing
Some overseas living media has for decades portrayed Mexico as “cheap” living. It can be, but not without sacrifices to your location (resorts are more expensive) and lifestyle (you won’t be wining and dining much). Rents have escalated as more foreigners discover Mexico. Inflation is running (2022) at around 7%, gasoline is costing close to $3.75 a gallon (Mexico uses a liter system), and basic foodstuffs (especially imported items) are costing more. Mexican services (menial labor for example) remain very affordable. To expect to live as a single on under $1,000 US you will be making location and lifestyle sacrifices. Get educated about what things really cost.
Mexico is too hot and humid for me
This is a common refrain, based on coastal visits. Once you climb into the Mexico highlands (half of Mexico is over 4,000 feet), the temperature and humidity fall to the point that winter mornings (Dec-Jan) can be cold. The one exception to coastal temperatures being uncomfortable is the Tijuana-Rosarito-Ensenada corridor. It’s the same weather as San Diego!
Mexico is too dangerous
Headlines and media reporting can give the impression Mexico is nothing by a giant “narco nation”. There were 30,000 homicides across Mexico in 2021, with the vast majority centered in border states and other regions (including places like Cancun and the Riviera Maya and Guanajuato) where the narco versus military bloodshed is tragic and pervasive. So, the first rule of living in Mexico: don’t start a cartel! Are foreigners victimized or targeted in Mexico? For violent crime very, very rarely. In a typical two-year period, the number of US citizens being victims of homicide (and excluding border states) is less than 20 individuals. Given Mexico attracted over 40 million visitors (pre-Covid), the numbers are in your favor.
Start looking at Mexico through a different lens, with Mexico for Living as your guide. If you can start seeing Mexico beyond the resort’s all-inclusive walls, an extraordinary lifestyle migration opportunity awaits.