Expats in Mexico: study reveals why they moved and how it turned out.
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.
Expats in Medico: A Research Study found too 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.
The 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 it worked out well for most.
There were three 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 Mazatlán resident, while an expat living in Puerto Vallarta 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.
While the vast majority of comments about living in Mexico were overwhelmingly positive, there were some negative responses. One Yucatán resident said bureaucratic processes “can really try your patience” while another in Baja California Sur complained that the cost of living was high, specifically citing electricity and water costs.
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.
However, living a simpler, more stressful life was one exception as a lower percentage actually achieved the goal compared to the percentage of people who cited it as a motivation for moving to Mexico, although the difference was minimal.
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 a quarter 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 a resident of Puerto Vallarta, 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 despite statistics indicating that this year is likely to be Mexico’s most violent in two decades.
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 tourism secretary 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 while a further 16% said “probably.”
“I don’t know” and “probably not” both came in at under 4% of respondents and just 1.6% responded “absolutely not” to the question.
A recurring comment from respondents was a recommendation to potential new expats to rent in Mexico initially before deciding whether or not to buy a house.
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 a lot worse or a little worse than expected.
One Puerto Vallarta resident said that “other than the drug wars, it’s better than I expected” while another respondent complained that “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?
Forty-one per cent 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 the comments: “spread my ashes out there with the whales” from a resident of Puerto Vallarta while a Lake Chapala expat said, “the Mexican culture honors the elderly and treats them with so much compassion.”
Several other respondents cited improved medical services as a factor that would enable them to stay longer in Mexico.
The full survey can be downloaded here.