Living Abroad in Mexico with Julie Doherty Meade

1. How do you suggest finding employment? Is it tough to find a job?

There are plenty of opportunities for native English speakers to get legal jobs as language teachers, but you’ll find expatriates working in a wide range of industries in Mexico, including tourism, media, business, and real estate. You can find job listings in the local newspaper or on websites, but word of mouth is often the most effective way to get a gig. Personal connections are very important in Mexico.

2. Where are the best places to take Spanish language courses?

There are excellent, inexpensive Spanish language schools throughout the country. For a good education coupled with the opportunity to practice your language skills in the real world, I’d recommend a medium-size city like Oaxaca or Querétaro, or a university town like Guanajuato or Xalapa.

3. Name a few of the top expat-friendly destinations.

There are foreigners from across the world living happily in every corner of Mexico, from the sparkling shores of the Caribbean to small pueblos in the state of Oaxaca. There are particularly large and well-established U.S. and Canadian expatriate communities San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Ajijic, and throughout the Baja California peninsula.

4. Are there any health risks to be concerned about?

Generally speaking, there are few health risks associated with life in Mexico. Many people are concerned about food safety, but a few simple precautions will generally eliminate any serious risk: thoroughly wash all leafy vegetables if you are going to eat them raw, drink purified or bottled water, and (at least until your stomach adjusts to the new environment) eat at restaurants rather than street-side food stands. If you do get ill, a local doctor can prescribe appropriate medication.

5. What are a few surprising local customs you’ve learned that one should know about?

Mexican society is generally very polite. In a restaurant, for example, it is not uncommon to make eye contact and greet other diners when walking to your table, often by saying “buen provecho”—an expression similar to “bon appetit” in French. It is also common courtesy to say “buen provecho” to other diners at your table before you begin eating.

6. What advice do you have for families with small children looking to move to Mexico?

Warm and family-friendly, Mexico is a great place for children to grow up, learn a second language, and be immersed in a foreign culture. Childcare and household help are generally inexpensive and widely available in Mexico—which can be a boon for parents. Since many foreigners send their kids to private schools (public options are available, but it can be more complicated to get a spot in the class), it makes sense to research educational options before making the move.

7. How do you suggest finding the right place to live?

If you’re trying to decide where to relocate, plan a trip! From region to region, you’ll find a surprising diversity in the cost of living, housing options, job market, shopping and food choices, and accessibility to airports and transportation, among other factors. That said, many people fall in love with a certain part of Mexico and decide to follow their heart, regardless of whether or not their new home meets all the requirements on their relocation checklist.

8. How did you make friends? Did you find the locals welcoming?

Most expatriates live full and integrated lives in Mexico, with many holding jobs or opening businesses, marrying into Mexican families, making lasting friendships, and sending their kids to local schools. In my own experience, speaking fluent Spanish was an enormous asset in building relationships, understanding the culture, and generally getting the most out of my life abroad. I feel fortunate to have formed many of my closest and most cherished relationships in Mexico.

9. What advice do you have for students studying abroad?

There are lots of opportunities for college-level study in Mexico, including an excellent program for foreigners operated by the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico. Foreign students will likely have the most memorable experience in a big college town, such as Guanajuato or Xalapa, where you’ll find an abundance of cheap eats, independent bookstores, cultural events, film festivals, and raucous nightlife.

10. Any advice for solo expatriates?

You’re not alone! Many expatriates (myself included) move to Mexico on their own. For solo expats, moving to a city with a large foreign population can ease the transition.