Expats in Mexico: study reveals why they moved and how it turned out.

Mexico News Daily | Saturday, October 28, 2017

Expatriates in Mexico: what’s the attraction?

Why foreigners migrated to Mexico and whether their expectations were met

Why do expatriates move to Mexico?

Weather, cost of living and a simpler lifestyle were the top reasons offered by the vast majority of expats contacted for a new survey. In Expats in Mexico: A Research Study it was revealed that most of those who relocated to Mexico saw their expectations met and were happy they moved.

Completed by 1,129 expats, the survey offers insight into the motivations, expectations, concerns, experiences and opinions of people who have moved to Mexico to live, either to continue working or to retire. This study was conducted and published by Best Places in the World to Retire, which describes the report as “a must-read” for anyone considering moving to Mexico. “This study contains the answers to the most basic, most interesting questions about people moving to Mexico. Why did they do it? What were their expectations? What were their fears? What surprised them? How did it all turn out?” said Chuck Bolotin of Best Places in the World to Retire. By all accounts, the move to Mexico worked out well for most. There were several clear-cut winners among the reasons why expats decided to move to Mexico:

  • over 80% of respondents cited better weather, a lower cost of living or a desire to have a simpler, less stressful life

The next three reasons cited — albeit at considerably lower percentages — were:

  • a desire to have a less materialistic,
  • more meaningful life,
  • a more romantic, exotic or adventurous life or
  • to have better access to less expensive, quality health care.

Other, more specific factors were revealed in respondents’ comments; “I wanted some place where I could easily return to the United States,” said one Mexican resident, while another expat cited “freedom, fewer rules, regulations and red tape,” as the main reason he decided to move to Mexico. 


As for the reality, over 80% said that they had achieved a lower cost of living and enjoyed better weather but the third top reason cited for moving to Mexico — the desire to have a simpler, less stressful life — proved slightly more elusive with just over 75% saying they had actually achieved it.

Still, a significant majority of people responded that they had achieved their motivating goals for moving to Mexico, indicating that most were happy with their decision to move. Interestingly, women reported that they had achieved their goals at higher rates than men had. Overall, the survey data showed that most people’s expectations were largely met and in many cases exceeded, especially with regard to access to high quality, low-cost health care.

In respondents’ comments, working expatriates cited having a healthier work-life balance as an advantage of living in Mexico while many also stressed the emphasis placed on spending time with family as a positive aspect of the Mexican culture. The survey found that respondents’ primary concern about moving to Mexico was not being able to communicate. Thirty-one per cent said they were worried they would not be able to speak or learn Spanish or get by in their daily life with only English. However, the same percentage said they were not worried about any of the concerns suggested by the survey.

The next biggest concerns were missing family and friends, underdeveloped infrastructure, health care accessibility and insecurity; although it is worth noting that none of those issues worried more than 25% of those polled. “I didn’t have any worries . . . I don’t believe in borders so I thought, if Mexicans can live here, we should be able to as well,” said an expat resident, while others said that previous visits or research they had done prior to moving allayed any fears they might have otherwise had.

Just over 70% of respondents said that none of the fears or concerns they had about living in Mexico came true. Slightly more than 10% said they missed first world goods and services while just under 10% said that infrastructure including internet, roads and electricity was substandard. All other concerns registered single-digit percentages of around 5% or less and notably, just 3.3% of respondents said the ability to communicate remained a concern for them after they became established in their new home. Only 4.5% said security was a concern. One respondent said, “. . . having lived in Mexico for over 10 years I can tell you Sonora is safer than Arizona,” making a similar point to the Baja California Secretary of Tourism who recently said that tourists are safer in Baja California than California.

A Yucatán resident said that living in Mérida “is fast becoming more and more like living in Florida.”

A resounding 76.5% responded “very much yes” when asked whether they would make the same decision to move to Mexico if given the opportunity to do so.

Over half of respondents said that living in Mexico was much better than they expected and when combined with those who said that it was a little better, the proportion reached almost three-quarters of those surveyed.

Around 22% said it was about the same as they expected and less than 4% of respondents said that living in Mexico was worse than expected.

Another respondent complained, “the biggest problem in Mexico is the expat folks that want to fix Mexico.”

Over 80% of people said that they enjoyed life in Mexico “much more” or “a little more” than in their country of origin while the same percentage also said they were “a lot less” or “a little less” stressed living in Mexico. A similar percentage said they were “much happier” or “somewhat happier” living in Mexico.

Is anyone planning to go home?

41% said they had no plans to return to their country of origin, and just under 40% said they hadn’t made any plans or were unsure. Just over 7% said they either planned to return soon or in the next five years while 13% said they would only return whey they were very old or if they were sick.

Among other comments, several respondents cited improved medical services as a factor that would enable them to stay longer in Mexico, while another said “spread my ashes out there with the whales”. Yet another noted that “the Mexican culture honors the elderly and treats them with so much compassion.”

The full survey can be downloaded here.

Mexico News Daily

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