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 so you avoid headaches and surprise expenses. You can learn from others’ mistakes on what not to do. Here are a few:
1. Relying On Ex-Pat Forums For Advice.
I see this happening all the time on the many “Move to Mexico” ex-pat forums and groups online. It makes me shake my head. I see people post some pretty 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, though; people are looking for quick information—the path to least resistance. No one wants to sit through hours of their own research or pay a lawyer. But this is one of the big mistakes expats make in Mexico.
GROUPS ONLINE ARE GREAT TO BUILD 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.
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 of your home. It’s also a good idea not to invite strangers into your home unless you have gotten to know them.
One of many simple mistakes expats make in Mexico is innocently sharing some 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 for you to be friendly and ask them about their general life. However, it would be best if you didn’t share how much money you make or be too flashy in front of them. Flashing wealth out in public is always a bad idea, by the way, especially in bigger cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara.
ALWAYS BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE ON THE PHONE.
*Now, about flashing wealth. These are a few tips: When you are out and about in public, don’t leave your purse or personal belongings unprotected. When you’re walking around, don’t have your phone out in crowded spaces. 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 to anywhere in the world. 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 AirBnBs, for 1-2 months at a time 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 the way 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. Make the best effort you can to scope out an area first before being locked into a contract long-term. It could save you a lot of time and money to learn from others and the mistakes expats make in Mexico.
4. Moving to Mexico Before Visiting
I don’t know what situation anyone could be in that they move to a country site unseen. But, I see people do it. A LOT.
They sell their house and all of their stuff back home. And when Mexico doesn’t meet their expectations, they have to start all over again. That can be catastrophic if you’re on a limited income or if you have some 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 completely different laws, different 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 6 months. It should give you enough. You can avoid this and other mistakes expats make.
Some of the most popular cities in Mexico with Ex-pats are Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, and Puerto Vallarta.
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 expats 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 wellbeing as well as their family’s.
CHICHARRONES FROM A BAG ARE A DELICIOUS STREET SNACK IN MEXICO
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 school 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 own 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.
7. Not Applying For Residency
As a tourist, you can come to Mexico and stay for up to 6 months. 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 mistakes expats make in Mexico.
If you plan to live in Mexico for longer than 6 months, you should apply for a residence visa. There are some benefits like driving, having health insurance in the Mexican social plan, and permission to work.
The Mexican residency costs and process is pretty straightforward and easy. In fact it is so easy to apply in the U.S., that most people end up not using an immigration attorney.
If you found this article to be useful, please share it with someone you know is interested in moving to Mexico and the mistakes they can avoid.