How To Be A GOOD Expat in Mexico

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.



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!

Mariana Lange

Mariana Lima-Lange was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She spent every summer visiting family throughout Mexico and is very knowledgeable about Mexican culture, lifestyle, and traditions. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

Reader Interactions


  1. Tony de Wit says

    Great article, thank you for sharing Mariana, many a true word spoken.

    • Mariana Lange says

      Thanks for taking the time to expressing your words – saludos amigo

    • Ingo says

      The don’t is pretty much universal and applies to any country. If you are an expat, a tourist or immigrant. In any case consider to be a guest and behalf like a guest. Not any different going to someones house respecting the host. Mexico ix now my third country I’m living in and I feel very comfortable, locals see how I respect and cherish the hospitality as well as what they do for me. I never compared one country to another. Anyone who doesn’t respect a host or host country should not be surprised never to feel home or even being accepted. When I do draw a comparison it’s not in a negative way but rather Positive because Canada is bloody cold and Mexico is cozy, also comparing food is not a bad thing but rather allowing Mexicans to introduce their food to me and I introduce European food to them and share each others cooking and enjoy. I still have to find al pastor sounds delicious. Everything also depends on how one talks, like talking to them like a friend or like they are inferior. I talk to everyone like a friend and acctualy stay away from expats because I want to integrate.

  2. Steve Marcus says

    Love this post.
    As someone who just retired and hopes to make the move to Mexico by myself, I know assimilating into the Mexican culture will be even more important since I won’t have another expat joining me on the journey.
    Now, if I could just figure out which area and towns in Mexico to check out first.
    Your videos make so many of them very appealing.

    • Mariana Lange says

      It’s important to assimilate. Just take it one day at a time so you don’t get soo shocked 🙂

  3. John William Young says

    Thank you, Mariana. Very nice article. I am already a Customer of MRG, but I hope this article gets shown to folks considering CMRG… Johnny Young (John.Young)

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Johnny! Good to hear from you. Glad you liked it.
      Yes it is a public article for everyone 🙂

      • Susan Gail says

        Great article, Mariana, and very accurate. I think it’s also important to remember that, as a newly arrived expat, you won’t have any idea of what’s “normal” or “customary” (unless you’ve spent a lot of time visiting your new home before you move). I find simply riding the bus to be a broad, yet wonderfully distilled, cultural education!

        • Mariana Lange says

          You are absolutely right Gail! Which is why it’s even more important to come with an open mind. Which eventually you will be filled with what is customary vs what is not 🙂

  4. John Campbell says

    Mariana very good article! – just got my visa stamp here on my own. now to plan a trip. within the next 6 months i must start my visit and at that time i will use your recommendation for an expediter (I have already talked with her and she seems very nice. Think I will try Ajijic for 3 months or so wich will be plenty of time there to take place. Next trip may do Ajijic again of course but might try further south in Oaxaca City or your last recommendation — San Cristobal. I seem to favor cooler mountain air to start but will try a beach later just to see if I like it. On the pacific side maybe a place can be chosen in the mountains thats close to a beach.
    (i am guessing your website will have rentals info – in any case thats where i’ll start – i’m thinking dec jan and feb) . thanks for the effort BTW – the guide is worth it!

    • Mariana Lange says

      That’s awesome! Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about San Cris.
      Saludos amigo

  5. Tom Herzog says

    Hi Mariana, Thanks for the good analysis of how to behave and what to keep in mind when relocating to another culture. I’ve had a lot of these thoughts jumbled in my mind and couldn’t get them sorted out clearly. Most of your ideas probably apply to any foreign culture so they are good to keep in mind for anyone leaving the U.S.

    • Mariana Lange says

      You’re right- this applies to anyone leaving their home country

  6. Anthony Blount says

    Thanks again Mariana, this was good information. I’ve already made up my mind and I’m starting my relocation process right now. I’ll keep you posted.

  7. Bakthavath Ranganathan says

    Thanks for the blog post. Your recommendation to provide volunteer services is an excellent way to learn spanish and mexican customs. I also think that I am going to attend a spanish church, even if a different religion. I will understand little at first, but that will change in a year or less.

  8. Michel Pelchat says

    Gracias Mariana por todas las informaciones , es muy interesante , ahora paso mis inviernos a Florida , pero me gusta mucha la gente Mexicana , voy a regresar a Mexico otra vez para ver si puedo encontrar un lugar que me veré a vivir

  9. Manito Armijo says

    Hi Marianna,

    You and my wife and I have had parallel life experiences regarding being an outsider, especially in early life.

    Your article is so important for success as an expat in Mexico. For those of us who have already spent extended periods of times
    in different parts of Mexico, observing visitors acting negatively while in Mexico was always embarrassing for my wife and me.

    We’ve noticed that language schools were offered in most of the places we visited in Mexico. I wonder, maybe cultural and historical sensitivity elements should be significant parts of all language courses? I especially believe that learning about indigenous peoples of Mexico can add to a expat’s fuller understanding of Mexican culture.

    I am grateful to you for this article. Who better that you, who has straddled the insider-outsider invisible boundary, can offer this sensitizing information for the rest of us.

    Todos nosotros somos Sus hijos,

    • Mariana Lange says

      Glad you think this is useful. Thanks for reading.
      Your wife sounds lovely 🙂

  10. Vikki says

    Well said Mariana! And so true! Gracias for a well informed article from first hand experience! Would love to share on our business page!

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Vicki- feel free to share the link 😉

  11. Dan Fehlig says


    Thanks for the insite.
    We are “newbies” to the Mexican Relocation Guide and have alreeady tapped your resouorces for an immigration facilitator as we are going for our Temporary Residency. We are anxious to get moving, but have matters to settle before we can make the move. Not the least of which is selling our house.
    Not to worry, we are not diving into “the deep end” without any Mexico experience. We have traveled around Mexico a fair amount of times and Ian actually lived a year in Mexico in high school.
    We are retired so our initial plan is to stay a month or so in various locations to get a better feel for the towns. Initially, our intent is to further explore the central highlands (Queretaro, San Miguel, Morelia) with additional possibilities being Pueblas, Oaxaca and Mexico City.
    We are looking forward to great relationship with you and your services.
    Thank you.

  12. Steve Woychick says

    Hi Mariana
    Thank you for all your content!
    I’ve visited Mexico I few times and always feel very welcome there. I strive to be friendly and respectful at all times and to speak Spanish as much as possible.
    I plan to spend more time there, but I don’t want to contribute to the rising cost of housing for the locals, increase their overall cost of living, be responsible for displacing anyone from their home, gentrification, etc.
    Besides renting from Mexican landlords, is there anything else I can do to be a considerate guest in Mexico? Thank you!

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Steve!
      I think everything you are trying to do is in the right direction.
      My biggest advice is to be familiar with the real cost of things so that you don’t accidentally end up overpaying which then becomes the new normal price

      That’s why we give you a lot of free resources on what things cost so that you can have a baseline of these things.
      Besides that, just keep being the awesome human being that you already are.

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