23.8.11

Living as a Foreigner in Mexico

If you’re thinking of moving to Mexico to live there, this article might interest you. It is particularly tailored to those who want to live down here on a limited budget.

After having traveled the world extensively for 10 years I settled down in Mexico in 1989. In my case it wasn’t really intentional, I basically just got ‘stuck’. I found work as a language teacher, tried it out, found that I liked it, and developed myself along that path. Later I set up a language institute in Mexico-City, which I ran for about 5 years before moving to the province. I now dedicate myself to teaching German and English, and I like it just fine.

I’m telling you this so that you can see that yes, it can be done. You can actually start off with very little resources, and by working hard. Mexico is in many respects still the land of opportunity, but you have to know your way around.

If you are a person approaching retirement age and are looking for a place outside the US to live so that your pension would give you more purchasing power, I wouldn’t recommend Mexico per se. Yes, the cost of living is lower in Mexico, but not that much lower that it would justify leaving the US. Unless you want to while away your time on a beach in the south of Mexico, sleeping in a hammock, enjoying the sun and the sea. But that’s only enjoyable for so long. In fact, it wears off pretty soon.

But if you’re a writer, let’s say, or you are developing an online presence in order to make some profit through your online businesses, then moving to the south of Mexico would definitely cut down on your overhead. You can find simple, clean housing maybe close to the beach. If you can do without cable tv and shopping malls, that would be the right thing to do. Just stay away, or better don’t get even close to holiday resort towns like Acapulco and Cancun, to live there would turn out to be more expensive than anywhere in the US.

There are plenty of undeveloped strips of beach along the west coast, between Acapulco and the Bay of Huatulco, for example. As long as you stay away from the mainstream tourist sections, you should be okay.

I would suggest that you at least try and learn some Spanish. You should manage the basics. You have to be able to go to a grocery store and buy your stuff. Many Mexicans in and around the big holiday destinations speak English, but remember I’m advising against moving to those places. Outside these areas English is not very common, and if you move to a small town or village you won’t find hardly anybody who speaks English. He or she that does will find YOU to practice their English. But you still have to go to the drugstore, pay the electricity bill, hire a taxi, etc.

If you fit the profile of the type of person I am describing here, you’ll find a pretty large expatriate American community in Oaxaca-City, for example. If you are not used to living in a foreign country, and you, at least initially, have problems with the local language, you will find that you soon start yearning for some good old American company. As humans we need to talk to other humans, like it or not, and there are many people who have returned to their home country because they couldn’t cope with the loneliness. It’s simply not enough to say ‘Hi’ to a Mexican neighbor every now and again. And if there are two of you it doesn’t really solve the problem, because most likely you’d get on each other's nerves pretty soon because there is no one else to talk to. So either learn Spanish, get some of your friends to come down with you, or find a place where other Americans live.

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