Things No One Tells You About Moving to Mexico
Relocating for a job is a common enough occurrence; unfortunately, it isn’t commonplace enough to get a real hang on what it’d be like to move to another country without a little research. My advice is not to take a lot of other people’s experiences at face value, because unless the person has legitimately lived in Mexico they’ll just be giving you a tourist’s point of view or parroting what they’ve heard in the media.
You won’t really know the full extent of what awaits for you once you arrive at your new home, but there are a few things that—at least from my experiences living in Mexico—aren’t mentioned or are misconstrued when the subject of relocation to Mexico is the topic of conversation. I’m here to set the record straight.
No one I’ve spoken to ever seems to get a firm grasp of the day to day social customs that most Mexicans take for granted. Sure, most people hear about how people in Mexico kiss hello and (sorry to any readers with a strict sense of person space) may even embrace acquaintances, but little is often said about the social interactions that shape what life is like out there. Like in some European countries, small talk is a must. When entering a shop, office, practically anywhere really, you’re expected to either greet the person running things (cashier, secretary, etc.) upon entering the business, or make a point of exchanging pleasantries while you make your purchase/appointment/whatever else you could be doing. Not to do so is considered rude, and since you’ll probably be frequenting the same establishments often, you don’t want the proprietors to think of you as a brusque outsider. A simple “good morning” goes a long way.
Eating is another area not many people talk about other than to mention how great a particular dish was, but the fact of the matter is that how you eat is important too. Maybe in your native country you wouldn’t be caught dead eating without utensils, this isn’t always the case in Mexico; some foods, like tacos, are meant to be eaten with the hands and using a knife and fork to consume one might make you seem snobbish or fussy. If you aren’t sure what foods require cutlery and which don’t, just take a look around at those eating around you.
If you’ll be toting your children with you, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Most of the non-Mexican people I know share the misconception that Mexican children are misbehaved. Not true. Mostly. Generally, as with most anything involving children, behavior should be assessed on a case by case basis, but I can say with certainty that even the most menacing of children will stop causing trouble long enough to pay you their respects with a kiss on the cheek. “Saludos” are a big part of social interaction, and children are taught early to politely say hello to adult acquaintances. I can’t really comment one way or another since I grew up with this custom, but a friend who visited my family recently said she thought it seemed very “grown-up” of my young cousin to greet her that way; however, this was said before he made a rude noise and ran away laughing.
Water and Safety
Two of the most common things you’ll hear before your move are: “Don’t drink the water!!” and “Be careful, it’s so dangerous!!” Both of these statements need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Yes, a lot of Mexico’s water isn’t safe to drink straight from the tap, but at my in-law’s house in Sinaloa the tap water isn’t only safe, it’s delicious. Ask the landlord or realtor of your new home before investing in copious amounts of bottled water.
If safety is a concern, I’m here to calm your fears: the media sensationalizes gang violence, but for the most part all you’ll have to do is show good judgment. Don’t wear flashy jewelry or flaunt any valuables you don’t want targeted, and don’t wander around alone at night or follow any strangers to their cars. This is how I live both in the US and in Mexico, and I’ve gotten by without any incidents.
One of the most important things about relocating to Mexico is to learn the language. Tourists tend not to notice the importance of learning Spanish because most vacation destinations have employees that speak English. The truth is that while you might be able to get along without studying Spanish, if you want to flourish in your surroundings you’ll definitely need to learn a bit. Luckily, we can help you with that. Contact us for information on Spanish classes in your area, or take our Language Level Test to gauge your current knowledge of Español.