You likely hear myths about retiring or living in Mexico when you talk about the country to others. See if you recognize hearing any of these ideas from past conversations.
1. Mexico a very religious and conservative a country.
False. Mexico is young. One third is between the age of 12 and 29. Things are changing accordingly. It's not the same country as it was even a decade ago.
While still more religious and conservative than the U.S., don't make false assumptions. I notice very little difference between myself and my Mexican peers in terms of being progressive about gay rights, divorce and women’s rights.
Even though a Catholic country, those declaring themselves Catholic has declined from 88% (2000) to 72% today.
The divorce rate is between 20-29% overall, and higher in couples forming after 1967. Same sex marriage is legal in many parts of Mexico, including Mexico City. Personally, I have found Mexicans more tolerant than Americans of differences in sexual orientation and dress.
Mexicans have more respect for religion, even if they don’t attend church and are not practicing catholics. They are less bitter than Spaniards about the church because they have not experienced the same history of corruption, abuse and overall brutality from the church as Europe.
2. Mexico is a dangerous country.
False. Or maybe I should say no more dangerous than ours. Plenty of statistics support that if you eliminate the half-dozen or so “hot spots” of drug-related violence, Mexico is safer. The U.S. State Department does not use the same standards for rating safety in Mexico as they do Europe and other countries.
It’s not that Mexico doesn’t have problems with violence (as does the United States). The problem is that what you read in these advisories creates a sense of alarm so completely out of proportion to the truth about Mexico as to render them ridiculous. Advisory reports lack the nuance to make them valuable.
Mexico’s most crime-ridden places are not expat destinations. In fact, many major U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Detroit and Washington D.C., have much higher murder rates than any of the cities an expat is likely to visit, much less live in. Don't read the headlines. Read expat forums and reports from people who actually live there.
3 When you take buses in Mexico, you have to ride with the chickens.
False. City buses in Mexico are privately owned. On the same route, one bus will be nicer or inferior to the previous bus, but you won’t encounter any chickens. The main buses you should know about are the private buses that go between cities. These buses are nicer than our bus lines. They are clean, very safe, have lounge seating, televisions and sometimes even serve a sack lunch.
Your bags are tightly monitored. I once left a laptop bag on one of the overhead compartments on a private-line bus. It was recovered. I noticed a number of potentially valuable items also carefully stored in their lost and found office, and everything required identification for retrieval.
4. You will often get sick from contaminated food in Mexico
False. Surprisingly younger people are more likely to be visited by Montezuma’s Revenge than older people. Often defined as a “traveler's” disease younger people get sick more often because they are more adventurous.
Most people in the United States these days wash their produce. In Mexico, you are advised to take the precaution of soaking vegetables in water with a few drops of Microdyn (or a liter of water with a few drops of Clorox) as well.
I must confess that I don’t always remember to do it and I have never been ill in Mexico (as of September 2018). The caveat to that is that I buy all my food at Walmart, not open markets. I cook almost all my own meals. My single friends in the United States get sick just as frequently as my expat friends do, and in both cases it is almost always likely from restuarant food alhough There's no way of knowing that for sure.
5. You can’t buy coastal property in Mexico
Almost all the owners of this oceanfront complex are American or Canadian.
False. Foreign individuals or companies can have 100% control of a property in a restricted zone through a real estate bank trust, known as a fideicomiso.
The bank serves as the trustee and acts as on behalf of the investor in transactions involving the property. The investor is the legal beneficiary of the trust. The bank holds the title and the investor retains the right to control the use of the property.
Trusts are established initially for 50 years and can be renewed.
Anecdotally, when I lived in a 80-unit condominium complex on a beach and almost all the owners are Canadian and American.
6. You don’t need to speak any Spanish in Mexico as most people speak at least some English.
False. Many Mexicans speak enough English to get them by in their jobs, but outside that limited range of topics. You will need to resort to pantomime and facial expressions if you don't speak the language (I jest, but you do need some Spanish). Check out our Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online for the most painless ways of learning the language.
Even if you live in expat havens like Lake Chapala or San Miguel de Allende (once coined Mexico Lite), you will need some Spanish to navigate within the Mexican culture at times.
The difference between our country and Mexico is how little Spanish you need to make Mexican friends. I ask you, how many friends do you have in the U.S. who speak very little English?
Denver Spanish practice group. Most of the members are over 40.
In Mexico, expats with barely passable Spanish can have Mexican friends. That says worlds about how much friendlier and more open Mexicans are.
7. You are too old to learn a second language.
Au contraire. Studies on brain plasticity indicates that older adults not only can learn a second language, but in experiments when factors of time are controlled, adults actually learn faster than children.
Children have fluidity in expressing their world of balls and cats. They can’t explain global warming or how Americans feel about their guns in English like you could after a year or two of practice.
My favorite Spanish practice partner speaks very good English and did not start learning until he was 61 years old, about three years ago. Mexicans are far more tolerant of bad Spanish than Americans are of poor English.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how many friends you have that don’t speak English as well as a native ( I too am guilty of this). I have a half dozen close Mexican friends. My Spanish is far from native.
8. If I run out of savings, I can always move to Mexico and live on my Social Security.
Immigration regulations issued in 2012 changed the income requirements for the Residente Temporal and Residente Permanente to approximately $1,890 (U.S.) a month for singles and $2,835 for couples based on an exchange rate of 13 pesos to the dollar*. The amounts do vary by what state you live in.
The highest Social Security payout at age 62 is $2,025 and the average pay-out is approximately $1,340 at age 66.
If Mexico is dangerous, it’s not for the reasons you think. - Ventanas Mexico
"How foreigners can purchase property in restricted areas" by MexConnect
"Divorce rates around the world" by Business Insider
Next up: Learn a second language, or any challenging material, with these tips.
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About the author:
Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico.
She is also author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. The difference between the experience of an expat who speaks Spanish and one who doesn't is night and day. Get started today with lesson plans that are different every day.
"If Only I Had a Place" is a guide for the aspiring expat on how to rent in Mexico, luxuriously and economically. Includes a listing of rental concierges in the most popular expat destinations.