With Mexico’s amazing beaches, interesting history, friendly locals and great quality of life for expats, you can see why it’s one of the top countries for foreigners to set down roots and live the Expat life. I myself have been ‘living the dream life’ here in Mexico for almost 3 years now.
However, moving to a new country is never easy, and with language barriers, extreme weather, and a completely new pace of life, it can be a little overwhelming. But, with over 2 million Expats already living la vida loca in Mexico, we all want to know “what’s the secret?”. Luckily for you guys, I have all the answers! I will talk you through everything you need to know about the language, weather, cost of living, healthcare, housing and job market in Mexico.
Cost Of Living
Due to the low value of the Mexican Peso compared to the currency of developed countries; the Pound, Dollar and Euro, the cost of living in Mexico is low. Expats coming from these developed countries can enjoy a much higher quality of life in Mexico, so long as they are still earning money in their own currency.
The basic cost of living is much lower than in Europe and the States, especially in regards to locally produced food and textiles. However, some expenses can actually be slightly higher here in Mexico. Utilities such as electricity and water can really rack up the expenses, especially in the summer months, and buying white goods can be a total rip off in some areas. Imported items that would usually cost you nothing to buy back home will also cost you an arm and a leg in Mexico, so you may need to think rethink your favourite brands.
The cost of living also depends on the area you choose to live. Rent in big cities or tourist areas such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun or Monterey, will cost you a lot more than the smaller, more traditional towns. The same goes for groceries, public transport and clothing. However, here is a rough guideline of costs in Mexican Pesos:
- Bread $25
- 1kg Apples $30
- Cereal $27
- Nutella $45
- 1kg Chicken $85
- 6 pack beer $120
- Soap $15
- Double bed spread $500
- Suncream $190
- Sanitary towels $40
- Toothpaste $40
- Toilet paper $35
- Pair of jeans $250
- Basic t-shirt $150
- 1lt Gasoline $14
- Month rent on a 1 bedroom apartment $7,000
- Month water and gas $400
- Month electricity $500
The main language throughout the whole of Mexico is Spanish. Some areas also speak English to a very high standard, however some don’t speak one word. In tourist areas you can find some Mexicans who speak German, French and even Russian, although I admit this is rather rare.
If you took a few Spanish lessons in school, or if you picked up a few words on your last trip to Spain, it’s not going to cut it! The Spanish used in Mexico is very different to that used in Spain, to the point that some of my Mexican friends don’t actually understand Spanish people. Mexicans use a lot of slang, and in small towns speaking in Spanish is often the only way to earn their respect.
I would recommend taking a few Mexican Spanish lessons in your home country before you make the move, or purchase a self learning program such as Rosetta Stone. After all, you are choosing to live in their country, it’s only natural to learn their language.
A few phrases to get you started are:
- Que tal? – What’s up?
- Una chela por favor – A beer please
- Hola Güey! – Hey dude!
- La cuenta por favor – The bill please
- No manches! – No way!
The weather in Mexico is extremely varied depending on the area you are choosing to live. You can find tropical forests, white sand beaches, water filled valleys, dry deserts, and snow-capped mountains all within hours of each other.
Coastal areas of Mexico such as the Riviera Maya, Baja California and Riviera Nayarit, are usually hot and humid all year round, with July through September being the hottest months. Further inland and north to Mexico city, Hidalgo and Monterey, you will find the weather can get fairly chilly, and at night downright freezing.
For those of you that love tropical beaches and hot weather all year round, I would suggest the Caribbean cost line. For those of you who prefer more distinguished seasons and cooler, less humid weather, I would suggest one of the more northerly cities.
Contrary to popular belief, Mexico has one of the strongest economies in the whole of Latin America! It is a place for budding entrepreneurs, artists, and the business minded to create successful companies and careers. That said, entering this growing economy isn’t always easy for a foreign person, and it usually goes hand in hand with a lot of strenuous, frustrating visa applications.
To live and work in Mexico you need to have the correct visa. Although there are many foreigners working in Mexico illegally for ‘cash-in-hand’, the consequences of being thrown out of the country and banned for 10 years aren’t worth the risk to me. However, with a little planning and research, one can get their foot in the door without any issues.
1. Being sent over to Mexico by your current employer
Does your company have a branch office in the country? This is probably the most common and easiest route to a job in Mexico. Your current employer will usually pay for, and fill out the necessary documentation, so all you have to do is grab your visa, hop on a plane, and enjoy your new life in Mexico.
2. Working in Hospitality
Mexico being the beautiful holiday destination it is, there are many tourist zones throughout the entire country. This means that there are an abundance of hospitality jobs such as bar work, receptionists, waiters, hotel staff, and entertainment. If you’re snapped up by a hotel, then they will usually pay for and arrange your work visa for the duration of your contract.
3. Skills otherwise not found in Mexico
As the country is still developing in terms of it’s economy, there are still areas of industry that lack expertise. If you’re a skilled professional in areas such as engineering, communication or roles in the technical sector, you may be able to secure an invitation from a Mexican company. You will also need to have a good grasp of conversational Spanish for these kinds of roles.
4. Starting your own business
This option is probably the most difficult, but the most profitable. The difficulties come from the outrageously long and confusing application process to acquire the necessary documentation. A way to overcome this obstacle, which a lot of Expats now do, is to have a local attorney or business person skilled in these matters help you out.
5. Being a creative soul
Believe it or not, there is actually a lot of work, and a dedicated visa, for anyone wanting to come to Mexico to work with their art-form. Be it a musician, a painter, a singer or a poet, there is a visa that can help you live and work in Mexico, so long as you are bringing something new and profitable to the country. So all you aspiring rockstars don’t need to hang up those leather pants just yet.
Whether you’re renting or buying, housing in Mexico is fairly cheap compared to most other countries. In Cancun for example, you can get a nice, newly built, 2 bed apartment for $100,000. However, the quality of housing available, and the cost vary dramatically depending on the city, or even the neighbourhood you choose to live in. This is the same for crime rate and cleanliness. It all depends on the location you choose. I would recommend speaking to other Expats who live in the city you want to move to, or even to local real estate agents, to find the right neighbourhood for you.
There are two ways of finding housing in Mexico;: using a real estate agent or going it alone. The first is more expensive, but using a real estate agent will allow you to find the best areas to live quickly and easily, and they will be able to speak Spanish on your behalf. However, I believe the best option is to do the search yourself. This could mean walking the streets and making phone calls, searching online, or looking through the local newspaper. For this option you will need to have a good grasp of Spanish, or know someone who does, but in the end you will definitely save money.
A few things to remember when looking for housing in Mexico are:
- The rental market in Mexico is largely unregulated, meaning your landlord can raise the rent at the drop of a hat, and the tenants will have to pay it, or be kicked out. I’m talking things out on the pavement and locks changed.
- Each person with a visa to live/work in Mexico can only bring household items into the country on a duty-free basis once. So be sure to choose the things you want to move with very carefully.
- Contracts are usually in both Spanish and English, however, in court only the Spanish version will be considered binding. Be sure to double check this version, and make sure it matches up exactly to the English one.
One of the most important things to consider when moving to a new country is the level of healthcare. Luckily, in most cases, the level of healthcare in Mexico is pretty good. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of back room doctors, dentists and surgeons who have little to no training. But these practices are very easily spotted and avoided.
Most doctors and dentists in Mexico actually completed part of their training in the U.S, and many American doctors have studied in the larger cities of Mexico such as Monterey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Every notable city in Mexico will have at least one, if not two, first-rate hospitals, and they will usually be much cheaper than in your home country.
There is an option in Mexico to pay for health insurance, and some jobs will come with this benefit. However, most of the prescriptions in Mexico will be around half the price of your home country, and a general trip to the doctor will only set you back around 500 Mexican Pesos.
Are you thinking of moving to Mexico? Let me know what your concerns are in the comments below!
Stay Salty x