If you could quickly find and have what you wanted in Mexico, life would be easy! Right? But we all know this isn’t the case.
When you start looking for things in Mexico, it will likely be challenging at first. Finding everything from up-to-date information, to household goods, to specific contacts, and so on will be a new process for you. Plus, you’ll have to translate everything from Spanish to English at the beginning. And that is a guaranteed learning curve.
But I want to empower you! I want to help you figure out where you can find some everyday things in Mexico.
Before You Ask “Where Can I Find…?”
Believe it or not, you’ll find everything you need in Mexico. Mexico is a huge country with the second-highest GDP per capita in Latin America. The people in Mexico like to spend. And for you, this means you’ll find almost everything you need in Mexico.
But there are also a lot of things you won’t find. Either due to little variety, practicality, custom, tradition, or because they are crazy expensive. But I want to help you! My goal with this post is to give you ideas. Help you take some tips out of the way of life here. Because I know it may seem to you that moving to Mexico and learning the way of life will be a bit daunting.
What do I mean?
I belong to hundreds of different expat groups and forums in Mexico. And the one thing I see the most is “where can I find …?” Usually, there are a lot of helpful answers (and then some snarky, unhelpful ones too). But I want to help you be better prepared to be a bit more resourceful. Because I know you’ll feel good when you find things on your own. I know you’ll feel like you’re getting the hang of living in Mexico!
Before you ask, “Where can I find (insert item)” there are a couple of things to consider.
Is what I’m looking for something that you would find in a typical Mexican household? What segment of the population might use this? Is it called something different in Spanish?
By segment, I’m referring to income such as minimum wage, middle class, or upper-middle-class individuals. I guess the word to use would be demographics.
Shopping Is Done Differently in Mexico
Face it- most of us come from homes built of wood with carpeted interiors. Regardless of whether it’s a small town or a big city. We’ve always cooked in modern kitchens with all the electric amenities you could desire. We see these things as practical for our lifestyle and culture. Likewise, living here in Mexico, practicality and culture run deeper than you can imagine.
Houses made of cement with tile floors, a hand juicer, an electric cooktop, and a small fridge are as sophisticated as it gets. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but the word demographic comes right back to explain the differences.
Your resourcefulness and research got you to this website. And it will further get you to live in Mexico too. You are in Mexico because you want to live by design, not by chance. Now…take that resourcefulness and put it to the test.
Because Mexico isn’t the internet-driven economy we might be used to in the states or other parts of the world. You won’t be able to google everything and find which store carries it and what five other stores have similar items nearby.
So, I encourage you to go out and find what you need and want to make your life easier. Sometimes it will be easy. Sometimes it’ll be a challenge, and you won’t find it in one visit. But you will always learn something new. And it’ll not only help you discover what’s in your neighborhood. But it will also help you realize how you can find things in Mexico.
Start In Your Own Backyard- Your Local Shops
Facebook groups are fine. They can be very helpful, but they can also be counterproductive. They certainly have their place when you’re doing research. But the real challenge is figuring it out on your own whenever possible. Every time you need a new item and you don’t know where to look, tell yourself, “I can do this.” Give yourself the confidence that you can search for things on your own.
If you are looking for practical Mexican goods such as food disinfectant, a specific medication, a certain spice, etc.- start in your own backyard.
Local shops, markets, grocery stores, and even street vendors have a wide array of traditional items. Head out to where the locals shop. This will not only help you make a direct impact on your local economy but is the cheapest way to buy food. But there are also big box grocery stores. Some of them are local chains and some are national chains- get familiar with the ones in your neighborhood.
Check out one of our relocation tours if you need help figuring out where the locals shop before you permanently move here. The goal of this tour is to give you a local perspective to help you save time and introduce you to the way of life in a specific city. That way, you hit the ground running when you move to Mexico.
Also, try to remember that Mexicans shop based on a specific need. And the longevity of the item is a big factor. A lot of Mexican homes don’t have the giant freezers or fridges we’re used to. So they buy what they need for the next few days and make frequent stops at the store.
For example, in Playa del Carmen, the demographics are a good mix of minimum wage earners, middle class, and upper-middle class. The population is about 375,000, with a fast-growing expat community chomping at the bit to find things for their new homes. Wherever you live in Mexico, the same shopping techniques will apply.
Tips When Looking For Things in Mexico
- Learn the word for the item you are looking for in Spanish. Remember, Mexico’s official language is Spanish. If you want baking powder, you’ll find it in the supermarket’s baking aisle. But it is called polvo para hornear in Espanol. Looking for a vacuum cleaner? The word is aspiradora. Many items you may need and want have names not even close to their English counterparts. Google translate is amazing for this.
- Here are a few hints: If you are looking for something in a local store, be sure to add your location. For example, if I’m looking for a vacuum, I would search “vacuums in Morelia.” Taking it one step further, search for this in Spanish- “Aspiradoras en Morelia” And you will get much better search results.
- Explore the local mercados (markets). Take the time to go out and see what types of local shops are in your area. In Mexico, finding everything you need in one store is rare. And Mexicans are used to this way of life. So, you’ll see a shop for fruits (fruteria), one for meat (carniceria), one for baked goods (panaderia), one for tools (ferreteria), and so on. Many locals don’t venture far from home to shop. Tiendas are plentiful in many neighborhoods. Fruterías, Carnecerías, Queserías, Panaderías. Even electronics and appliances are local at Coppel and Elektra.
- Explore the more affluent side of shopping in your area. Higher-end goods will most likely be found at higher-end stores. Stores like Sears, still have a large presence here in Mexico. Liverpool is like the Macys of Mexico. Sanborn’s is a book store with high-end jewelry, small appliances, some household goods, and a restaurant on site. Palacio del Hierro is like the Nordstrom of Mexico.
- Chances are these stores are in larger cities and not in more rural parts of Mexico. Many foreigners don’t even realize there are some very big malls here in Mexico. But remember- demographics rule. The selection of higher-end stores is relative to the population. You will find nicer stores in Cancun than in Playa del Carmen. And you’ll find much nicer grocery stores in Guadalajara than you will in Lake Chapala.
- Shop on Amazon.Mx and MercadoLibre. These are the biggest online marketplaces in Mexico. Both ship safely and securely in Mexico. If you aren’t comfortable shipping to your Mexican address, you can ship to either DHL, ESTAFETA, FEDEX, or an Oxxo location for pickup. Many items can also be purchased from Amazon.com, and then shipped to your Mexican address. You’ll just have to pay for customs duties and additional fees. Just make sure the items are allowed in Mexico. All too often, shipments from outside of Mexico get held in customs for a variety of reasons. Incorrect duty, the item is restricted or banned, or a customs agent just doesn’t know how to process a specific item. Once that happens it’s cheaper to just return the shipment as the cost of a broker far outweighs the cost of the item.
- Still can’t find that special item? Mule it. Muling is common practice with smuggling drugs….true, but not in this case! There are Facebook Groups specifically created to help you get items into Mexico via someone who may be coming to your city from abroad. The item is shipped to them, and they carry it in their luggage or car for you. You can also count on friends and family. Once they know you live in Mexico, everyone will want to visit you! Load them up! let them bring the things you must have. It’s a small price to pay for a visit to paradise.
- Learn to compromise. Use what’s available, and adapt. I’m really sorry Chedraui doesn’t have your favorite baked beans. But they do have frijoles bayos, Heinz ketchup, molasses, bacon, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and so on. You can then make your own. See my point? Anything is possible!
On The Other Hand, Information Isn’t As Simple To Find
Finding household goods, spices, your favorite shampoo, your dog’s special diet food, etc., is simpler to find in Mexico. But unfortunately, information isn’t as easy to gather.
For starters, not every government office has an online presence. And if they do, they don’t do a good job of keeping the information on it up to date. And the ones that do have an online presence and keep their information up to date might not have anything in English for you.
So when you need to find out “How do I open a bank account?” or “Should I get an RFC Tax number?” or “Where can I go to get my INAPAM card?” or “How do I change my address with immigration?” and all the crucial information that you’ll need it’ll be important for you to get comfortable visiting these offices in person. But that can have its own set of challenges also. Most government offices don’t have English-speaking staff. That makes sense, right? I’ve never seen a Spanish-speaking staff at a DMV in the USA.
And even if they do have someone who speaks English, the process may be a bit more complicated than it may seem. That’s one of the biggest frustrations new expats have when they move to Mexico. The sometimes inefficiency of how government offices are run. You might get told you need x,y, and z paperwork to get your driver’s license. You spend hours gathering these documents. And when you come back to finalize the procedure, you find out you needed an extra document no one told you about.
That’s why we created Mexico Relocation Guide. The website not only gives you a lot of these free tips I highlighted earlier. But if you need additional help, we have a COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide with steps that are easy to follow. And a directory of trustworthy contacts in Mexico that will help you ensure you have an easier move.
That’s the goal! To empower you! To help you live your best life in Mexico!