- Mexico is home to more American expats than any other country in the world.
- But if you’re thinking of packing up and moving to Mexico, there are a few things you should know first.
- We spoke to an expat blogger and other Americans who moved to Mexico for their best advice.
Whether they’re moving for retirement or perhaps to work in Mexico’s emerging tech scene, it’s clear why the country has become an attractive landing spot for Americans. Most of the country has a great climate, the cost of living is low, and geographically, it’s as close as you can get to the US.
But if you’re thinking about packing up and moving to Mexico, there are a few things you should know first.
We spoke to expat blogger Stephanie Kempker and three other Americans who moved to Mexico to find out their best advice for others looking to do the same.
Here are eight things they wished they’d known before moving to Mexico.
You should rent before you buy
It’s important to find out whether you like it before you put down roots.
Elliot and K.S. Fine were living in Mexico City when they decided to buy a house and move permanently to a nearby city with a large community of expats. Though they are happy in their new home, K.S. Fine recommended spending at least six months renting in your new city before you buy.
Kempker agreed with the idea.
“I would tell anybody to go first and see how they like it.” Kempker told Business Insider.
“Mexico is much louder and goes much later than the US,” she said, adding that depending on where they live, Americans might encounter noises like fireworks, roosters, and barking dogs more frequently than they do back home.
Moving your furniture may be prohibitively expensive
It’s much wiser to leave the furniture behind and save on the shipping, and then buying new furniture when you arrive.
“When people move, by far the majority of people sell everything and just pack suitcases and go down,” Nelson said.
As a US citizen, you’ll still have to pay American taxes
“There’s a misconception that if you live abroad, you don’t have to pay taxes,” Kempker said.
But US citizens do still have to file US tax returns, even if they are permanent residents of Mexico.
For digital nomads, there’s a tax benefit: the foreign earned income exclusion may exempt the first $100,000 of your income from taxes. You still have to pay US self-employment tax if you’re self-employed, however, Kempker said.
You need to learn Spanish before you move
Not surprisingly, life in a non-English-speaking country becomes significantly easier when you learn the local language.
By learning Spanish ahead of time, you can avoid isolating yourself in what Nelson calls “expat ghettos.”
“The most successful people who move to Mexico take the time to learn at least a little of the language,” Nelson said.
Furthermore, Kempker said that learning the local language can lead to more money in your pocket, as the best deals on everything from apartment rentals to goods at the local market are negotiated in Spanish.
“Not only does it enrich their experience, it enriches their bank account,” she said.
It’s important to get the right health insurance
Kempker said misconceptions about health insurance are common among US citizens who move to Mexico. Many people think they only need travel insurance, but this covers emergencies only, not chronic health problems or pre-existing conditions.
“Some travel insurances are actually invalidated in your country of residence,” Kempker said. However, she added that health insurance that covers you abroad “is actually a lot cheaper than plans in the US.”
One caveat: These policies generally don’t cover treatment in the US. If you’re thinking of making the move, you may want to consider medical evacuation insurance that would cover the cost of medical transport to the US in case of a serious emergency.
Nelson noted that Mexico has a growing number of elder care homes, and many of them offer excellent care at much lower prices than comparable facilities north of the border.
Banking can be frustrating
American expats who are unfamiliar with local procedures might experience frustration at the pace of certain tasks, like opening a bank account, in another country.
“Things that should not be so complicated sometimes are very complicated,” K.S. Fine said. “You have to be super patient. You can’t have expectations that things are going to be like they were back home.”
Kempker agreed that banking is a particular challenge in Mexico. She suggests signing up for Santander Select or a comparable select program at another bank, which can allow you to skip long lines and comes with additional perks.
Expect some homesickness
“A lot of people have this idea that they’re going to move abroad and they’re going to be expats and it’s going to be wonderful,” Kempker said. “It’s important to prepare for the fact that you’re going to have lonely, homesick moments.”
“Things are going to go wrong, just like they would at home,” she said.
The people are warm and helpful
News reports tend to focus on crime in Mexico, but the news doesn’t offer a full picture of what life in Mexico is really like, Nelson said.
KS Fine said the people are warm, friendly, and receptive to newcomers.
“People go out of their way for you,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kempker said she’s come to love Mexican culture and its “appreciation for the little things, like having meals together, enjoying your free time, not stressing too much.”
“Those are great things that I think almost any American needs to learn a little more of,” she said.
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