A recently released research study, “Expats in Mexico: Expectations, Worries… and How It All Turned Out” provides several fascinating insights into not only the motivations of those who moved to Mexico, but also their apprehensions.Conducted by my company, Best Places in the World to Retire, the study surveyed 1,129 expats currently living in Mexico, had a margin of error of 2.9%, and is available for free download.
The top two reasons for moving to Mexico were not a big surprise to most people— “Better weather” (84.5%); and “Lower cost of living” (83.1%). But what was surprising was that the next three most popular answers for moving to Mexico were all idealistic, and for those of us who remember our psychology classes, right at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
• “A simpler, less stressful life” (at 81.6%, less than 3% from the top answer);
• “A less materialistic or more meaningful life” (49.1%); and
• “A more romantic, exotic, or adventurous life” (37.5%).
Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if people in general (not just those who moved to Mexico) would have the same desires, but we do know that those who moved to Mexico did act to make their desires happen.
We also know that life in Mexico is generally considered to be more “laid back” than north of the border, that the weather can be better than many areas north of the border (certainly in winter), and that, apples to apples, it costs significantly less to live in Mexico than north of the border.
Better weather and more disposable cash certainly can reduce stress, make life simpler, and provide the time for all those other more desirable life balance/ self-actualization desires. We theorize that perhaps what is not as obvious is that having more available cash can actually provide the opportunity for a less materialistic life. For example, if you have more than enough money to live how you want, you just don’t have to think about money as often.
The respondents to our study provided some additional context through the comments they made. Here is a small sample.
A senior female from the US now living in Baja California reported, “In the U.S. prices are too high for everything and the political climate is terrible. We left to escape all of that stress and worry. We found a perfect, quiet, non-political atmosphere here.”
“I moved here because most people in the US have forgotten how to truly live, be happy and grateful for what they have,” wrote a middle-aged female now living in the state of Yucatan.
“I wanted to live a simpler life, raise my youngest to understand that there is a lot of world out there and many different cultures to explore and be a part of!”, explained Mari Fortier, a 25 – 44-year-old female from the US.
Winning first prize in the “humor / we’re glad it worked out that way” category was this comment from a senior female now living in Puerto Vallarta: “I was going through a bitter divorce. One day I realized that the stress was affecting my health and that I should either kill my ex or move to Mexico. Mexico won!” (Thank goodness.)
We then asked our respondents to identify their top fears about moving to Mexico. By a very slim margin, the top worry our respondents had was “I may not be able to speak or learn the language or get by with English,” an apprehension held by 31.3% of our respondents. However, it was the second most popular answer, at 31.1%, that surprised us most— that they had none of the worries listed. Evidently, more than 68% of our respondents had no significant worries at all.
How could this be, even accounting for our belief that expats in general tend to be more adventurous, less worried people? After all, in a previous study in which we asked the same question to expats in Panama, Belize and Nicaragua (also available for free download), only 20.8% answered that they had no concerns prior to moving.
After reading our respondents’ comments, we developed a theory: a high percentage of our respondents had already spent a good amount of time in Mexico on vacations before they moved, so they already knew what to expect, and as a result, weren’t worried about what it would be like to live there. This is useful, first-hand information for those not as familiar with Mexico as many of our respondents— that those who have personal experience don’t have many worries.
Here are some of the comments:
“Extensive research and multiple visits eliminated any concerns I had,” reported a senior woman living in the Yucatan. “I discovered that I not only was giving up absolutely nothing, I was gaining many appreciable upgrades to my style of living.”
Dee, a senior female living in Mazatlán for more than 10 years, wrote, “I had no qualms about moving, because I had visited many times. But many of my friends were concerned, asking ‘Aren’t you afraid?’”
After digging deeper into the details of the data on the answers to the question about their fears before moving to Mexico, we found these two results that played against type:
• 54.5% of the answer “None of these [worries] apply” was provided by women, while men provided the remaining 45.5%, making women 19.7% less worried than men.
• Other than for the fear of not being able to access high quality healthcare, in general, apprehensions tended to stay relatively constant or to diminish with the increasing age of the respondent. So much for older people being afraid and young people being fearless!
Along with the many other interesting, more specific findings and details you’ll find in the study, these were some of the hopes and fears of our study respondents before they moved to Mexico. After they moved, did our respondents find what they were looking for, and on the negative side, which of fears came true? We’ll uncover that in our next article.