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The Secrets of Happiness in Mexico Revealed by the Experts

- January 16, 2024

If you’re wondering how happy you would be living in Mexico, you’re not alone. Many people have the same question, and we wanted to help you find the answer. That’s why we asked the experts for their opinions; both expats who moved here and Mexicans who were born and live here. They have seen us expats in action and have some insights to share with us.

You’ll also hear from some of the young Mexicans who work for me at Best Mexico Movers. They have a lot of experience helping people move to Mexico, so they know what it’s like.

The experts have different backgrounds and perspectives, but maybe we can find some common themes among them.

I’ll share my thoughts at the end.

Alfonso Galindo, Best Mexico Pet Movers

Alfonso GalindoAlfonso Galindo, of Best Mexico Pet Movers
Alfonso Galindo, of Best Mexico Pet MoversAlfonso Galindo

Alfonso is from Santa Barbara California, and he moved to Mexico more than 10 years ago. He has worked on many real estate projects and other businesses in Mexico. He now runs a service that brings expats’ pets to Mexico.

He says: “Don’t commit to a long-term rental or buy a house right away when you come to Mexico. Instead, explore different places and see how it feels to live there. Mexico is not just about the weather or the buildings, but also the people. Mexico is a big country and there are many cultural differences.

Laura Aguilar, Personal Moving Assistant for Best Mexico Movers

Laura Aguilar, of Best Mexico Movers
Laura Aguilar, of Best Mexico MoversLaura Aguilar

Laura is a Mexican who lives in Mexico. She has traveled a lot, has friends all over the world, and lived in New York City for three years. She helps the clients of Best Mexico Movers with their move.

She says: “Mexico is a country where rules are not always followed very strictly; as a friend from Washington once told me, ‘Rules in Mexico are only suggestions.’

This can be good or bad, depending on the situation and how you look at it. I suggest you embrace the culture, enjoy the chaos, and discover the creativity of Mexican people who do things their own way, making some mexicanadas along the way.” (Author’s definition of “mexicanada”: a solution that somehow, sometimes surprisingly works, is usually very creative, and does not follow any rules, structures, or procedures.)

Mariana Lang, Mexico Relocation Guide

Mariana Lange, of Mexico Relocation Guide
Mariana Lange, of Mexico Relocation GuideMariana Lange

Mariana is a Mexican who moved to the US. She loves helping people move to Mexico and she does that through her guide and services.

She says: “Moving to Mexico can be tricky. First of all, there are different laws you need to know. On top of that, there is a language barrier when dealing with the laws. That’s why you should not listen to random people on the Internet or Facebook. Trust the experts who have done the research and know the right way to do things. Do your homework and you’ll avoid the headaches and costly mistakes later on.”

Oscar Martinez, Personal Moving Assistant for Best Mexico Movers

Oscar Martinez, of Best Mexico Movers
Oscar Martinez, of Best Mexico MoversOscar Martinez

Oscar is a Mexican who lives in Mexico. He has helped hundreds of people move to Mexico and he has worked closely with our clients. He is very observant and he has some conclusions to share.

He says: “Don’t get upset. It may be a new and different country with a different culture and language, which can be hard, but you can always choose to see the bright side, and you can always learn the culture, traditions, and local habits.

Go with the flow. Ask local people for advice. Go out, discover new places, and even if it’s not what you’re used to, try new things. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t like it, and that’s OK. Just stop doing what you didn’t like and move on to try other things.”

Thonda Oliver, Coldwell Banker Encantado

Thonda Oliver, of Coldwell Banker Encantado
Thonda Oliver, of Coldwell Banker EncantadoThonda Oliver

Thonda has been running a real estate company in San Carlos, Sonora for over 20 years. She moved here long before most expats and has seen her little town change a lot.

She says: “Mexico is a gorgeous country. It has more beaches than any other country. There are no homeless Mexicans, because they take care of their families.

“Mexicans learn from a young age that working hard is important to make their families proud. That’s what I tell people who want to live and be happy in Mexico.

“But if you think living in Mexico is like living in the USA, it’s not, and you can’t make it like the USA. This is the land of mañana and things are different here.”

The author explains: Mañana means “tomorrow” in Spanish, but in Mexico, it doesn’t really mean “tomorrow.” It means “not today.” That’s a big difference.

Hannia Alcala, Director of Operations for Best Mexico Movers

Hannia Alcala, of Best Mexico Movers
annia Alcala, of Best Mexico MoversHannia Alcala

Hannia grew up and lives in Guadalajara. She studied in Australia and now runs the operations for Best Mexico Movers. She has friends all over the world, like Laura Aguilar.

She says: “The best advice I can give you, and what will make you love this beautiful country, is to try to learn Spanish. It will help you understand the country and its culture better.”

Michael Nuschke, Owner, Focus On Mexico

Michael Nuschke, of Focus on Mexico
Michael Nuschke, of Focus on MexicoMichael Nuschke

Michael has been giving tours of the Lake Chapala area for more than nine years.

He says: “One of the things I do at the start of our ‘move to Mexico’ programs is to ask why people want to move to Mexico. Weather is always one of the top three reasons (Lake Chapala is at 5,000 feet and has great weather all year), but another reason is the lower cost of living.

“But there is one thing that most people don’t think about, and that is ‘currency risk’. Your income comes from pensions or investments in US or Canadian dollars, but most of your expenses in Mexico will be in pesos. When your income and expenses are in different currencies, you have ‘currency risk’ – the risk that the peso could get stronger against your home currency.”

Greg Custer, Choosing Mexico

Greg Custer, of Choosing Mexico
Greg Custer, of Choosing MexicoGreg Custer

Greg has been visiting, writing about and living in Mexico and South America for thirty years. In 2007, he started his firm to “help people discover the realities (truths and myths) of living in Mexico.”

He says: “If you’re coming here just for good weather and cheap living, you’re missing out on Mexico’s huge benefits over other places in the Western Hemisphere. The biggest one is Mexico’s cultural and natural diversity. Only here can you find the foreign and the familiar in many different places: city, resort and village. It’s unlike any other place, and it’s right next door.”

Brighton West, Almost Retired in Mexico

Brighton West, of Almost Retired in Mexico
Brighton West, of Almost Retired in MexicoBrighton West

Brighton is “a super friendly 51-year-old guy with long blond hair who splits his time between La Paz Mexico and Portland Oregon.” He hosts Almost Retired in Mexico, a YouTube channel that shares “tips, tricks and lots of inspiring stories for people who want to move to Mexico sooner rather than later.”

He says: “Move to Mexico NOW! Most expats I meet wish they had moved sooner.

“Maybe start with long vacations in different parts of Mexico to find the best place for you. Rent an Airbnb for a month in a place where other expats live. Staying at an all-inclusive on the beach is fun but it doesn’t help you decide if this is where you want to live.”

Lee Steele, Yucatan Magazine

Lee moved to Merida, Yucatan a few years ago and started a lifestyle magazine that has more Facebook fans than any other English-language media in Yucatan.

He says: “Don’t think it’s as cheap as it looks. You need to really love the culture to do well here. So don’t come to Mexico just to save money. Come because it’s amazing.”

Jack Brady (Jack supervises our client’s unloads in the Merida area.)

Jack Brady
Jack BradyJack Brady

Jack came to Mexico in 2021. He says he “cares more about people than things.” He says his “passion is meeting people.”

He says: “You will have some culture shock. Try to learn about it before and adapt to it.

For example, I found out the hard way that in most places in Mexico you can’t flush toilet paper, pedestrians don’t have priority, and stop signs are more like suggestions for drivers. What I do now is to act like all drivers are 14 years old with no license, because that’s how it seems. This makes me more cautious and less angry, and when I take an Uber or taxi, I try not to look out the front window, only the side ones.

This lowers my stress and is a small price to pay, considering all the other good things and people here.”

Kiko Caballero (one of my neighbors)

Chuck_Bolotin_with_Pemex_attendants_in_Baja_California
Chuck Bolotin with Pemex attendants in BajaJet Metier

Kiko Caballero (also known as “Tio Kiko,” or “Uncle Kiko”) has been living in San Carlos, Sonora, since 1984 and has worked with and among expats all this time. Kiko says that sometimes, “Mexicans don’t stress too much about time and are more relaxed about rules.” He says that, to be happy, expats need to be more patient and to live more, instead of following rules.

Kiko says that the most important thing for Mexicans is friendship. “We are with our families, we have friends, and we want to be with them. Mexicans like to have music, to have parties, to have good food, to go and play on the beach, to go swimming. If it rains, we get wet. It’s that simple.”

From a Mexican point of view, Kiko says that too many rules make for a dull life. “You don’t have to be perfect”, says Kiko, “You just have to be alive.”

Chuck Bolotin, CEO of Best Mexico Movers

Chuck Bolotin, of Best Mexico Movers
Chuck Bolotin, of Best Mexico MoversChuck Bolotin

Besides some other good advice, here are the main points I noticed (and agree with):

1) Mexico has a different culture than the US or Canada, and you need to know before if you will like it or not.

2) You should at least try to learn some Spanish.

3) Don’t come to Mexico if the only reason you’re doing it is that it is cheaper.

Here’s a bit more explanation:

1) When Americans and Canadians move to Mexico, as you read above, most will find a culture that is less focused on being on time and being perfect and more focused on being with people than they were used to NOB (“North of the Border”). Also as was said above, you won’t change Mexican culture, so complaining about it only makes you more upset, more unhappy and more disliked.

If you can, a better thing to do, as said above, is to learn to see the good

Boy_sitting_amongst_watermellons_in_Ajijic copy
Boy in Ajijic sitting amongst watermelonsChuck Bolotin

in the Mexican culture, relax, and try to be less of a Type A. Your blood pressure will go down, you will be more nice, and you might even learn that some parts of the Mexican culture are actually better and more suitable for living here in Mexico for many things, and maybe even better for life in general, no matter where you live.

I’ll give you an example. In the US, if a truck was blocking my way on a one-way street because the passenger had to get out to unload some things, I would be very mad. Here, I just wait a few moments and enjoy the day.

I feel better and happier when I don’t get angry at things like a truck blocking my way on a one-way street. I know that in Mexico, I might have to do the same thing as that truck driver someday and I would want everyone else to be patient and kind to me. That’s how life is here. We don’t make a big deal out of things like that.

When I accept and enjoy this, I think it’s very nice because I don’t stress about “doing something wrong.” People here are more understanding and forgiving for all kinds of things that would be terrible NOB.

2) You saw many comments above about learning Spanish. Please don’t be afraid to make mistakes in Spanish. The Mexican people are happy and grateful that you are trying. Let’s show them respect by trying to learn their language, even a little bit. It will make you more friends, make your life here more fun, and make you feel more connected. You will be part of the bigger community here (not just the expat one who speaks English), be less lonely, and be better off.

Celebrants_at_Virgin_of_Guadalupe_celebration_with_Jet_Metier_and_Chuck_Bolotin
Jet Metier and Chuck Bolotin join celebrants at Virgin of Guadalupe celebrationChuck Bolotin

in an emergency, and make lots of very good friends, like Kiko. (Yes, you absolutely can and should make friends with the local Mexicans. They are very warm and accepting.)

3) Don’t move to Mexico just because it’s cheaper (which it is, by a lot, and I know that from my own experience). Why? Because if saving money is your only reason, you won’t be happy with the different culture and the lack of connection if you don’t learn Spanish. You’ll end up being the “Angry Gringo” that everyone here avoids. But if you follow the experts’ tips here, you’ll enjoy the lower cost of living as a bonus and feel a lot of happiness. (I’m telling you this from my own experience. It’s great to have a better lifestyle at lower price, it is very nice)

Playa_Tocolote Jet Metier
Playa Tocolote with Jet MetierJet Metier

Here is a possible way to rewrite the text in a friendly way:

We hope you find the advice above helpful. If you decide to come here, we wish you a happy life with less stress, great weather, more time for your hobbies, and nice people who make you feel welcome. And of course, you’ll also save some money and have fewer rules to worry about.

By: Chuck Bolotin

Source: Forbes