The Reality of Moving to Mexico

So you want to Move to Mexico? There’s no one way to do this since every person’s situation is different, so rather than offer advice, let me share with you how I made my move.

I was in my late-30s when I decided to move to Cancun. I didn’t move to be with someone or for a job. I moved to be in a warmer climate and for a culture change, something I’ve always enjoyed as a seasoned traveler.

Within my first week I had contracted the lease of an old house for one year. I moved into my house, bought furniture and began my new life. The house was cute but unkempt. It was full of insects and the concrete roof leaked in two places. On the other hand, it had a large yard and was within walking distance to everything I needed. It was also inexpensive.

During the sixth month of my living there I hired a lawyer and applied for temporary residency, starting the process that would lead to my permanent residency. For a bit of a giggle here’s what the FM3s looked like back then. It reminds me of something from (the tv show) MASH.

After prepaying my rent for a year and doing a few repairs, it was time to find work. Unable to work locally because I lacked a work permit (and the were not offered then as an extension to your temp. residency the way they are now), I worked online, a route that began the most stressful four years of my life.

There was a recession which translated into more people  than work which resulted in poor pay when you did find something. I worked temporary jobs, often 7 days a week, for all four of those years.

I also went without all the comforts I knew before I moved to Mexico. I was without a car. I went from a convertible import to a dirty public bus. I was working all day in English so I still didn’t speak Spanish, which kept me cut off from the rest of my new world. I was in complete culture shock at the way things were done (and not done) and men were a nightmare to date due to cultural differences. Everything seemed a mess.

I missed my favorite foods and could not find suitable replacements. I was not able to go shopping or even take a day trip because I couldn’t afford it. If it wasn’t an absolute necessity, I didn’t have it.

After a year in Cancun I grew tired of the loud central scene, the street garbage and dogs that ran free and crapped everywhere. I was also tired of not having access to the beaches because the hotel zone, where the public beach access points were supposed to be, were  lined with hotels with few entrances. To hit a beach, I was going to Playa del Carmen. All that Cancun tourism made me crazy.

I packed my things and permanently moved to Playa del Carmen where I still live.

Three years later, when I picked up my permanent residency card from INM office I actually cried. I was beaming but I cried in relief. It was year five of my living in Mexico and I was exhausted. I aged 10 years during those hard four.

During that time, I found people would only help if there was something in it for them so I stopped asking. The truth was, I didn’t have anything left to give. I reached out to a handful of expats but quickly learned they were not really there to help. They were the first to sneak-stealing referrals, clients or jobs.

If you have to work here, the odds of being successful in these parts are slim, and for those who do make it, it’s tough. One of the most common words you’ll hear used around here is competitive. That is one of the few things that has not changed over the years.

Being a permanent resident meant I could take up a local job without permission, which I did for two years to make up for lost financial time. I was back working like a dog again, for myself on the side and full time for a company. While I’m now where I want to be, working only for myself, the reality is it took nearly seven years to get a decent life for myself here in Mexico.

Why didn’t I ever go back “home”, you wonder? Because there was nothing to go back to. I had no house, no possessions or job so had I gone back, I would just be staring over again in Canada. It made sense for me to stick it out here. On occasion friends would try to convince me to return, but oddly enough, Canada hit a second recession shortly after those conversations. I was glad for my stubbornness to stay and determination to make it work because I would have ended up right back where I started.

If you’re moving to Mexico and you’re not retired or otherwise financially sufficient, then you’re going to have to work at a local (low paying) job. At the end of the day, life here is not that different. At the end of the day, when you arrive home from work, dogs still need walking, dishes still need to be washed, laundry done, floors swept, garden weeded, house maintained, fence painted, fridge cleaned, groceries bought and bills paid.

It’s life.

Day to day life here is very much like to day to day everywhere else, so if you’re looking for an extreme change and you’re thinking moving to Mexico will be totally different and maybe somehow easier, you may want to rethink it.

Love, Roaming Canadian