Even though I am originally from Mexico, we moved to the United States when I was 7. So, you could easily say I am more American than Mexican. However, I grew up in Brownsville, TX, which borders Matamoros, Tamaulipas. My middle school and high school had about 80% of kids from Mexico whose families lived in Matamoros, Monterrey, and other northern cities. We all spoke Español.
I also spent every single summer since moving to the U.S. (3 months) in Mexico City, Queretaro, Playa del Carmen, and Morelia, visiting my family. So, truly, my whole life and upbringing were very Mexican. We weren’t even allowed to speak English at home because my mom didn’t understand it- For 13 years, we lived in Brownsville, TX, and my mom never once spoke English. That’s how much an extension of Mexico’s South Texas is.
Why is this relevant?
Well, it wasn’t until I moved from South Texas to Tampa, FL, that I realized I had never really experienced an authentic American life. As a Mexican in the United States, I realized that assimilating required embracing their ways, which meant learning proper English and respecting the culture. Then I moved around with the military to Germany and then to Italy. And wow- was that a culture shock!
Initially, it was a challenge transitioning from Latino culture to the culture of Tampa and then from Germany to Italy. So, trust me, the experience of being an outsider in an unfamiliar territory is very familiar to me.
And when I landed my first professional job in the U.S., there was definitely some culture shock. Everything you hear about American life unfolded for me in a few years even though I had lived in the U.S. most of my adult life.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I genuinely understand the hurdles you encounter and the adjustments your family must navigate when transitioning to an entirely new country and culture. I’m familiar with the frustration of struggling to communicate with a pharmacist or a cashier and understand different bureaucratic processes all while not speaking the language.
And I am also aware of the importance that once you start living in Mexico you will need to change your mindset to truly integrate. I know this because I had to change my mindset several times throughout my life to integrate into a community I was not familiar with.
How To Better Integrate As An Expat in Mexico?
For instance, connecting with locals, understanding their traditions, which may vary from Southern Mexico to Northern Mexico, embracing their cuisine, and appreciating their behavior are just a few essential aspects. Avoid assuming that locals can anticipate your thinking due to your foreign status.
Don’t assume they understand your desires, and above all, discard any anticipation of special treatment solely due to your American origins. Many expats arrive in Mexico with preconceived notions that life will be similar to their experience in the United States, but reality sets in.
Understand and expect deviations from the familiar when living in Mexico. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that Mexico has a more logical approach to certain things. But you may also be frustrated to learn that Mexican bureaucracy can be old school or just very different than you’re used to.
And then some might face disillusionment because they assumed their lifestyle wouldn’t change. And when it does, they can’t overcome the shock of being an outsider. Remember, deciding to move to Mexico is a gutsy choice, and if you’re willing to adapt, it will reward you tenfold! You will experience a beautiful culture, a friendly nation, and a gorgeous country.
But, at the end of the day, your attitude shapes whether the transition is smooth or hard. Embrace the flow; expecting Mexicans or Mexico to change isn’t realistic.
Consider A Visit First
Spending several months here can offer insight into daily life, aiding your decision-making process. Reflect on the objectives you intend to achieve by moving to Mexico. Will this transition enhance your life, or are you reluctant to embrace change?
Exploring potential schools and seeking out family-friendly activities is crucial for families with children.
Perhaps Mexico will fulfill your expectations, or perhaps it won’t align with your desires. The outcome depends on your willingness to transcend your native culture and explore Mexico’s opportunities and advantages.
We’re all familiar with the exorbitant healthcare costs in the United States. I can assure you that healthcare in Mexico is more affordable, but more importantly, you’ll be treated like a decent human being, especially if you are in good health.
Take Queretaro or Puebla, where organic produce is abundant and budget-friendly. Local eateries offer good homemade meals for as little as $4-6 USD. Public transportation is also budget-friendly.
Reasonable costs are achievable if you’re aware of where to look. That’s why mingling with locals, supporting the same establishments, and sharing mutual respect are to your advantage. Treat them kindly, and the sentiment will be reciprocated. Rude behavior begets the same treatment. The key is understanding that Mexico isn’t the United States; your approach determines your success here.
And if you want someone else to show you around, consider a Mexico relocation tour– with a local who will take you on a private tour.
THE DO’S and DON’TS
Learn the Language: Communication is smoother with a basic grasp of the language. You needn’t be entirely fluent, but familiarity with essentials like ordering groceries or requesting a bill at a restaurant is beneficial. Especially in emergency situations, you want to feel confident you can ask for help.
Engage with Locals: While meeting with fellow expats is natural, don’t isolate yourself. Remember, you might require assistance more often than they do. Befriend the fruit vendor, get to know the pharmacist, and talk to your local taxi drivers. Building a community starts with getting to know the people in the community.
Participate in Community Service: Contributing to your new community through charitable activities fosters a sense of belonging and purpose. Seek out the local charities that could use a helping hand.
Respect the Locals: Approach interactions with restaurant staff, medical personnel, and store employees with courtesy. Their assistance is vital, and being respectful enhances cooperation. Remember that rudeness gets you nowhere in Mexico- the only thing it will get you is kicked out.
Obtain Residency and Work Permits: If you plan to live in Mexico, secure the appropriate visas. A temporary residency in Mexico is attainable and cost-effective. And comply with Mexican laws, obtaining the necessary permits for work or entrepreneurial endeavors.
Expect Special Treatment: Refrain from presuming special treatment due to your expat status. Standing in line and abiding by local customs apply to everyone, regardless of origin.
Criticize the Culture: Speaking negatively about Mexican culture is impolite and disrespectful. If Mexico’s ways don’t align with your preferences, reconsider your decision to stay.
Draw Comparisons to the United States or Canada: Avoid making direct comparisons between Mexico and the United States/Canada. These nations have distinct histories, upbringings, and mindsets. Embrace Mexico for its unique history and traditions rather than expecting a replica of your home country.
Mexico is an adventure waiting to be embraced! With an open mind and positive attitude, your experience can be enriching. Challenges are inevitable, but remember that your journey is about embracing the differences. Life won’t always be seamless, yet you choose Mexico, so the responsibility lies with you to adapt. Enjoy your remarkable journey, and make the most of your time in Mexico!