Moving to Mexico is exciting! Just make sure that while you’re focused on your new home, you avoid these mistakes expats make in Mexico.
You want to make your transition as smooth as possible to avoid headaches and surprise expenses. You can learn from others’ mistakes on what not to do. Here are a few:
1. Relying On Facebook Groups for Legal or Medical Advice.
I always see this happening on the many “Move to Mexico” ex-pat forums or Facebook groups.
And it makes me shake my head when I see all the ill advice or misleading comments others make. People post some important legal questions and get 150 comments in every direction possible.
I get confused reading through some of the comments, and I’m not even the one asking the questions. It’s a mistake ex-pats make in Mexico too. I get it; people are looking for quick information—the path to least resistance.
No one wants to sit through hours of their research or pay a lawyer. But this is one of the big mistakes ex-pats make in Mexico.
The problem is that you may be making some important decisions about moving to Mexico with bad advice. And too often, I see this as the main reason some people make costly mistakes.
There are too many “experts” out there who are quick to answer your question without really knowing what they are talking about. Facebook is a great social tool for many reasons, but it shouldn’t be your only source of information when making a big decision like moving to another country.
2. Sharing Too Much Information Too Soon
You might have the best of intentions to make new friends with the locals or other ex-pats. However, I caution you not to share too much personal information with strangers. You never know who is going to take advantage of you.
For example, don’t share personal information like your monthly pension amount.
I see this online ALL THE TIME.
Don’t share your total income unless you are applying for a mortgage or talking with your immigration lawyer; you shouldn’t share this information with anyone outside your home.
It’s also a good idea not to invite total strangers into your home unless you have gotten to know them. One of many simple mistakes ex-pats make in Mexico is innocently sharing private information with the wrong people.
Telling strangers about recent purchases like big electronics are reason enough for someone to break into your house.
When you have a house cleaner or gardener over, it’s okay to be friendly and ask about their general life. However, it would be best to not share how much money you make or be too flashy in front of them.
GROUPS ONLINE ARE GREAT FOR BUILDING A COMMUNITY BUT NOT FOR LEGAL ADVICE.
The problem is that the readers making decisions based on these ex-pat forums are often ill-advised. It’s not only the person asking the questions that get poor advice; it’s all the other people reading the comments. Facebook is a great social tool for many reasons, but it shouldn’t be your only source of information when making a big decision like moving to another country.
*Now, about flashing wealth. These are a few tips:
- Don’t leave your purse or personal belongings unprotected when you are out and about in public.
- Don’t have your phone out in crowded spaces while walking around. And always have your bag across your body.
- When you go to an ATM, make sure no one is following you.
And then again, I think most of these apply worldwide. Most of the crime in Mexico is a crime of opportunity. Be aware of your surroundings always, and you’ll be fine.
3. Renting Before Seeing
With today’s technology and accessibility to things like Airbnb, it’s never been a better time to have flexibility in where you can stay.
If you like a city, you can stay at a few Airbnb for 1-2 months while you scope out neighborhoods.
This is important because you’ll never know what it’s like to live in a part of town unless you spend many days and nights at that location. You might love how a house looks on the inside and outside, but you might dislike the street noise at 10 pm. (something you might not have noticed when you saw it during daylight hours.)
If you like a neighborhood but can’t afford to stay at an Airbnb in the area or there isn’t one available, then make sure you drive by the neighborhood at different times of the day.
But most importantly, don’t rent a place without seeing it first.
This is a serious mistake I see ex-pats make in Mexico.
Pictures can be deceiving, and online rentals can mislead you. And people can be deceiving too. I’ve seen or heard from too many people told by a realtor or landlord that they need a deposit before the person even sees the place!
That’s a no-no! For starters, you have no idea if the rental property is to your liking. But most importantly, you have no idea if you’ll ever see this person or your money again. Which is why you should always see a place in person and have a lease before sending any deposits.
Make the best effort to scope out an area before being locked into a contract long-term. At the very least, have the agent or person you trust to send you a walk-through video showing you around the rental.
Learning from others could save you a lot of time and money.
4. Moving to Mexico Before Visiting
I personally wouldn’t move to another city or country sigh unseen. But I hear people do this a lot.
They sell their house and all of their stuff back home. And when Mexico doesn’t meet their expectations, they must start over again.
That can be catastrophic if you’re on a limited income or have serious medical issues that prevent you from moving around too much. Moving to a new country isn’t like moving to another city in your state.
Moving to a different country means different laws, languages, and other customs and traditions.
One of the advantages of having a U.S. or Canadian passport is you can live in Mexico without applying for a residence visa for up to 180 days. This gives you plenty of time to scope it out before you sell all your things back home.
Some of the most popular cities in Mexico with Ex-pats are
- San Miguel de Allende
- Mexico City
- Los Cabos
- Puerto Vallarta
If you have an idea of the towns or cities you would like to scope out, consider a private relocation tour. Our Mexico relocation tours are a great way for you to sit back, relax, and let someone else do the driving- while you get to do the exploring.
Plus, our private relocation tour guides are NOT realtors. So there is NO agenda to sell you real estate or timeshares.
5. Try and Integrate Into The Culture
It can be comforting to meet a ton of English-speaking ex-pats in Mexico.
But try NOT only to make friends with English-speaking ex-pats. And try to learn some Spanish.
Your new home is full of rich history, folklore, culture, and new life! You should be excited about learning to integrate into it as an immigrant.
This is one of the early mistakes ex-pats make in Mexico. But you can avoid it.
Learn some basic Spanish, and practice it often with your community. You will quickly see that this goes a long way.
You’ll get smiles and friendliness from the locals if you try to speak their language.
Shop at the local mercados (farmers’ markets) in town and learn to say some Spanish fruits and vegetables.
Buy some street food from local vendors.
Yes, shopping at Wal-Mart can make the transition to a new place smoother, but try and get out of your comfort zone.
Make friends with your local neighbors. Mexicans love to be friendly and will almost always want to know about your life with genuine curiosity. Small talk takes on a whole other body here. Small talk isn’t the usual passing by “hello.” Chit-chat in Mexico means asking your friends and neighbors about their well-being as well as their families.
Respect the local laws and customs, and life will be so much easier for you.
For example, in Mexico, it’s a common courtesy to say “provecho” when you are about to eat.
It’s a courtesy not to leave the dining table until everyone is done eating.
It’s courteous to acknowledge people in an elevator, bank lobby, or small space by saying a quick “Buenas.”
Or, for example, When you bring a bottle of liquor to a friend’s house, and there is some leftover, you never ask for it back.
In return, you will experience Mexico as the locals do. And they will appreciate you so much for it. Learning to immerse yourself in your new culture can be one of the most uncomfortable things you will do, but once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, you will see life in Mexico can be stress-free.
6. Expecting Mexicans To Speak English
A lot of young professionals in Mexico speak English. If you go to a bank, chances are someone might help you in English. But, it would be best if you didn’t assume that will be the case.
In Mexico, English isn’t taught in schools all over the nation.
Some private schools offer English classes, but most public schools do not. Unlike Europe and some parts of Asia, it isn’t typical for most people to learn English in school. Most Mexican professionals know English as a second language because they took classes in their free time at a language school.
If you want to ask someone if they speak English politely, you would ask, “Habla Ingles?” Don’t get frustrated if they don’t.
Instead, make friends with a local bilingual person who can help you navigate some critical situations, like renting a house.
But, most importantly, don’t make the same mistake many ex-pats make of not learning Spanish. You’ll never know when you might need it to save your life. I also recommend learning Spanish with online apps before moving to Mexico.
This will give you a head start on getting familiar with some words.
Learning Spanish will also help you avoid the Gringo-tax. Which is common in expat cities where English is prevalent. If you don’t speak Spanish and are not considered a local, you might get charged more for the same thing a local would buy.
This happens in rentals, restaurants, retailers, gift shops, etc.
7. Not Applying For Residency
As a tourist, you can come to Mexico and stay for up to 6 months or 180 days.
After 6 months, you are no longer considered a tourist and should apply for a residence visa.
Some people leave every 6 months and come back with a new tourist visa. The Mexican authorities have been cracking down on these loopholes and starting to negate entrance to these offenders.
The law isn’t clear on the amount of time you have to spend outside of Mexico to apply for a new tourist visa, so some people do get away with it, but it’s an exception, not the rule.
Remember when we talked about following the rules in your new home country?
This is one of the costly mistakes ex-pats make in Mexico.
Mostly because by the time some people have tried to legalize their stay in Mexico, the requirements are too strict and out of reach for many. And as laws change in Mexico, it is getting harder and harder to live here illegally.
Because people who don’t have residency in Mexico cannot apply for specific health insurance policies, some of them cannot get rentals or you cannot apply for social programs like IMSS or an RFC.
And without an RFC in Mexico, it is becoming virtually impossible to be able to make large purchases or even set up utilities.
If you plan to live in Mexico for longer than 6 months, you should apply for a residency visa.
And there are a lot of benefits to obtaining residency in Mexico. Even if you don’t plan on moving to Mexico for another 2-3 years, you should still get residency sooner than later. After all, you don’t have to live in Mexico to remain a Mexican resident.
But the rules can significantly change 2-3 years from now. My advice- apply as soon as you can.
Move to Mexico With Confidence
Living in Mexico will not only enhance your life by exposing you to new experiences, a new culture, and a new lifestyle. Living in Mexico means you have a better life for less!
We’ve helped thousands of people move to Mexico, and most of our customers report spending 30-50% less than they did back home. Without having to sacrifice their quality of life!
In fact, a lot of them report having nicer luxuries they cannot afford in their home countries.
That’s what we mean when we say you can have a BETTER life for Less in Mexico.
And because you’re a part of this Mexico Relocation Guide newsletter, you’ll always be one step ahead of other expats moving to Mexico who don’t have a plan and make all kinds of costly mistakes.
That’s why we created the Mexico Relocation Course.
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- Residency Visas
- Knowing How to Apply for Residency
- How to bring your household goods
- Driving vs. Flying
- How to get healthcare coverage in Mexico
- How the medical system works in Mexico
- What to know about taxes in Mexico
- How to find the best rentals
- Scams to avoid
- And a lot more!
Plus, we also give you access to our complete directory of contacts across Mexico that help make your move much easier.
We include contacts like
- Immigration Facilitators
- Rental Agents
- Healthcare brokers
- Medicare Advantage brokers
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