Many foreigners who have never set foot here assume that Mexico is a 3rd world country. The term “3rd world” has been loosely thrown around for decades in relation to a country’s socioeconomic status. But Mexico is NOT a 3rd world country- and here’s why
But first let me explain the definition of “Third World Countries”
If you follow pop culture or watch any Hollywood movie from before the early 2000s, you’d assume Mexico is nothing but dirt road pueblos, has a generally poor economy, and its citizens are Spanish speaking cowboys riding horses around town.
In fact, Hollywood has even admitted to putting a sepia filter in post-production when a movie takes place somewhere in Mexico. This is to give the audience the idea that it’s old, deserted, and distant. Like something you’d see in a western movie.
But nothing could be further from the truth!
Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that Mexico isn’t a perfectly manicured country. You might see broken sidewalks, poorly placed electrical wiring, and sometimes you’ll even see a perfect mansion next to an unfinished house in a major city. Some areas in Mexico are faced with extreme poverty. However, to assume that Mexico lacks technology, is old, or that there isn’t money is very wrong. Mexico actually has the 15th highest GDP in the world
What Is The Definition Of 3rd World?
It has nothing to do with economic development, mortality rates, and all the other things that people think a third world country is. So although technically Mexico is by definition a 3rd world country, it is most certainly none of those other things.
Mexico has a thriving economy, an incredibly developed infrastructure, and low infant mortality rates compared to most of the world.
Let me explain why Mexico isn’t what most people think a 3rd world country is.
Mexico’s Modern Infrastructure
Mexico isn’t this wild west territory that you see in movies.
Most cities, even the small ones, are modern with great developed infrastructure. In fact, most of Mexico is modern enough that living here won’t make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.
International and National Airports
For example, the airports in Mexico are modern. And this isn’t limited to only international airports. Although the more traffic an airport has in Mexico, the more likely you’ll see many amenities in it. But most airports have access to waiting areas at their gates. They have cafes, gift shops, air conditioning, and plenty of other things we’re used to seeing in more developed countries.
Mexico’s Modern Hospitals
Many hospitals in Mexico are state of the art when it comes to equipment and services. Their operating rooms look like any other operating room in most western countries.
I’ve had surgery on both my eyes in Mexico in a private and modern hospital. I had a private room with a flat-screen TV, a very comfortable bed, a recliner for a family member to wait with me, and a nice view of a beautiful courtyard. I never felt like I was in some undeveloped country.
I had 3 meals delivered to me daily, and although I wasn’t very hungry because of the pain medication, the food looked fresh and was always a la carte. My eyelid surgery in Mexico City was only $800 USD. I got a quote for the same surgery in Austin TX and they wanted $5,600 USD. The lower cost of things in Mexico doesn’t always mean it’s lower in quality. And although I am fluent in Spanish, my doctor did speak English. She spoke plenty with my husband (who speaks zero Spanish) while they waited for me to wake up.
Some of the top hospitals in Mexico are often compared to the top hospitals in Europe when it comes to infrastructure and equipment. In fact, a lot of doctors in Mexico have done most, if not all of their studies, in the U.S. or Europe.
And if you’re thinking about getting dental work in Mexico, you can find some pretty modern dentist’s offices too! Recently, I got my teeth whitened and was very impressed with my dentist’s equipment. Considering that she charged me about 1/10th of the price I would’ve paid in the U.S.. And not only did she open her clinic for me on a Saturday night, she also made sure to follow up personally the next day to make sure I didn’t have any pain!
Mexico Has Modern Malls
If you walk into a mall in Mexico, you’d think you’re in any major city of the U.S. or Canada. You’ll see high-end stores like Massimo Dutti, Gucci, Coach, and the like in bigger cities. But if you’re not shopping for high end clothing you’ll also find retailers like GAP, Guess, H&M, Dairy Queen, Petco, Costco, and some of the most common chains you’re used to seeing in the U.S. or Canada.
In my opinion, some of the malls in Mexico are nicer and feel way more luxurious than anything I’ve seen in Texas. For me, it’s a treat to visit these places because not only can you shop until you drop, but they are incredibly aesthetically pleasing.
Modern Entertainment In Mexico
You might be worried that moving to Mexico means you might not have access to any entertainment like you’re used to back home.
But if you’re seriously considering moving to Mexico, I want to give you some peace of mind. Some of the best and most comfortable movie theaters have ever been to are in Mexico. And what I love the most about going to a movie theater in Mexico is that it doesn’t break my bank and I get to eat popcorn, have a drink, watch a movie, and still pay a quarter of what it would cost in the U.S. And if you are retired, you get an even bigger discount on your movie tickets in Mexico.
Now, Mexico is a large country. And things like museums, theaters, and concert venues might vary a lot from city to city. Especially if you’re considering moving to a place like Ajijic or an even smaller town in Mexico. However, there is always a larger city nearby with plays, concerts, events, and exhibitions. In Mexico, you’re never too far away from a large city. Ajijic, for example, is only 30 minutes away from Guadalajara. Mexico’s 2nd largest city.
Grocery Shopping in Mexico
Grocery shopping in Mexico is no different than grocery shopping in most any developed country.
Grocery stores in Mexico have produce displayed on good merchandising racks. Their vegetables and fruits are fresh. Most grocery stores have a great selection of fine foods like imported cheeses, wines, and snacks.
One of the fanciest grocery stores I have ever been to is City Market in Mexico. They have locations all over the country, and you would think this is the Neiman Marcus of grocery stores. Everything in the store is so beautifully displayed.
But, of course there are also lower end grocery options. You can shop at the open air mercados that you see on T.V. and other media. It’s the most inexpensive way of buying groceries in Mexico, and the best way to make a direct impact with your local economy. But that’s a story for another post.
There are other grocery stores in Mexico aside from Mercados and City Market. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my article The Ultimate Guide to Grocery Shopping in Mexico.
Mexico’s Restaurants and Nightlife
Now, if you’re into fine dining, Mexico has amazing restaurants in every major city. Depending on your budget, tastes, and location, Dining is one of the funnest things you can do when you’re in Mexico. Dining out in Mexico is very common, and depending on the city, restaurants are oftentimes placed near pedestrian-friendly areas to attract foot traffic or take a stroll after dinner.
Fun Fact: If it’s payday (usually on the 15th or 30th of every month) you can expect restaurants throughout Mexico to be packed and loud. Dining out in Mexico is a whole experience- people really take their time when they go out for dinner. No one is in a rush to get the ticket, and you can expect to spend up to 2 hours.
Every city in Mexico has its nightlife, and the night is when most cities come alive! One of my favorite things about Mexico is that the nightlife isn’t reserved only to young people. Walk into most bars in Mexico, and you’ll see people of all ages.
So, What Is Living in Mexico Like?
Living in Mexico is unique. On one hand, the country is filled with colonial and old history in every corner. Go to any colonial city like San Miguel de Allende, Merida, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Guanajuato, etc. and you’ll see why it’s enchanting.
On the other hand, these cities always have a newer part of town that tends to have all the modern conveniences you’d expect in any big city.
Many people move to Mexico to maximize their retirement savings and enjoy a lower cost of living, but what they find is that living here enriches their lives! Not only do they have a better life for less, they are happier. The warmth of Mexicans surprises most expats who come here not knowing how amazing Mexico can truly be.
It truly is the best of both worlds! I encourage you to visit this land- my land. Visit Mexico and see for yourself why Mexico is not a 3rd world country. Even if the term is wrongly used- Mexico is amazing and it’s waiting for you.
If you’d like to learn more about living in Mexico, I’ve written the “Ultimate Living in Mexico Guide for Expats” 2023 edition. IT’S 100% FREE