Expats all over the world will often say, “I wish I had made the move earlier” and talk up their better life abroad. According to a recent survey though, expats in Mexico are the happiest of them all.
InterNations, a global network for expatriates, interviews its members about life abroad every year. What do they hate? What do they love? What could be better? The 2022 survey included over 11,000 people from 177 nations, living in 181 countries or territories around the world, and this year’s best place for expats to live turned out to be Mexico.
While we always have a degree of doubt when it comes to sample surveys (159 expats living in Mexico were surveyed for this one), with our editor in Guanajuato and associate editor in Mexico City, we can attest to the truth of many of the rankings for Mexican life highlighted in the report.
Pros and Cons of Living in Mexico
The country ranked highest on the friendliness of its people and the ease of making friends and settling in. Despite a flurry of recent articles about locals in Mexico City rejecting the swarm of digital nomads coming into the capital in a few choice neighborhoods, it seems that expats feel pretty welcome here overall. The survey reveals that expatriates in Mexico also have more than the average number of local friends: 28% say they have mainly local friends vs 17% globally.
People are also pretty happy with their work lives, with decent pay, an open business environment, flexibility, and lower than average weekly hours (37.7 hours on average versus over the 40 hours a week in most countries surveyed.) But some of the things people complained about you could probably guess without even reading to the end. The number one concern is safety and security. Even though it should be noted that only about 20% of ex-pats said they felt unsafe (1 in 5), it’s still quite a big jump from the global level of 9%.
Whether that perception is based on first-hand experience or reading the daily newspapers (full of, don’t get us wrong, very real stories) is hard to tell. Most statistics claim that violence in Mexico is rarely aimed at tourists or foreigners in expat communities.
Other complaints include lack of infrastructure for walking, riding a bike, or even driving. You only have to go down a pot-holed road in a colonial city or try to ride your bike in the capital to understand these concerns.
An additional complaint, demonstrating a priority shifted in the face of climate change, is that the country doesn’t take protecting the environment seriously: “37% believe that the government does not support policies to protect the environment, compared to 18% globally.” Everything from air pollution to littering gets mixed into people’s general gripe that there isn’t much conservation-mindedness in Mexico. The InterNations expanded its environment section of questions this year specifically because of growing concern over climate change.
One aspect that offsets this though is the very reasonable cost of healthcare. While many older foreigners buy health insurance that will cover them locally and/or back in their home country when visiting relatives, routine medical care is inexpensive enough to just pay for in cash out of pocket.
Great Food and Attractive Prices for Expats in Mexico
Other reasons why people love Mexico are of course the food, a cuisine catching fire all over the world, as well as leisure and entertainment options. Mexico has some of the best tourism infrastructures in Latin America, especially when it comes to high-end travel, so it makes sense that traveling, touring, and exploring here is better than in other destinations.
Then there is the perennial reason for moving to Mexico, especially for anyone living on a fixed income, of cheaper prices in comparison to Europe and the United States. This is not true in every part of this big country though. While life in Mexico can be quite affordable, certain places once thought to provide reasonably-priced living options are no longer quite so accessible (like San Miguel de Allende, Tulum, or Baja California). Still, food, goods, services, and transportation are all comparatively inexpensive, with services and transportation often subsidized and some food price-controlled so as not to price people out of the basics.
It is thrilling to be able to buy a beer for just a few bucks or a delicious taco for less than a dollar for people coming from much more expensive countries, but it’s important to remember what is cheap for you might not be cheap for others. Those ugly tourists that people talk about all the time? They are the ones that go on and on about cheap everything is! They’re not having to make a living in the local currency to afford what’s around them.
Overall, expats in Mexico are self-reporting to be one of the happiest bunches of immigrants around the world, and with a million or two foreigners living here already–depending on who you ask–it’s not surprising to hear. Mexico’s time zones lined up with the United States and these days, high-speed internet is widely available. The climate is more pleasant than much of the USA and Canada year-round. With culture and cuisine like nowhere else, the draw to for expats in Mexico will likely only grow.