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Adjusting to the Expat Life in Mexico

Moving to Mexico
Credit: Harriet Murray

Adjusting to the expat life in Mexico takes time and effort. Many times, a very simple experience or interchange with a Mexican, can throw you into alienation, confusion or surprise from encountering unfamiliar surroundings.  This is a normal reaction.

You can overcome the feeling by practicing patience and keeping a sense of humor.  You will find that getting enough rest and physically adjusting to the climate goes a long way in improving your mental attitude to help you adapt to a different culture and cope with your new surroundings.
Living in a new community is quite different from vacationing once or several times a year.  Events will happen that you are not prepared for and may surprise you.  Know that this is a normal experience that happens to everyone.

Prior to moving to Mexico, you may not have been able to fully appreciate the expat experience. Had any one of us been more aware of the other person’s situation, we could have been more understanding and more helpful.

4 Steps to Help You Adjust to Mexico

1.   Compile a list of names of recommended doctors, dentists, and hospitals.

2.   Get a map of the city and walk, take the bus or drive around to find the stores and services that you will need on a regular basis.

3.   Compile a list of phone numbers.  Who do you call to report telephone or electricity out of service?  You will want to learn the telephone numbers or addresses of the electrician, plumber and carpenter.  If you have pets, you will want to research the name of veterinarians and pet supply shops.  Where do you buy the pet food your “best friend” needs?

4.   If you want to attend church or religious services, you need to research what is available and ask for recommendations.

Learn the Language

There will be many opportunities to find fellow Americans or Canadians or English-speaking natives.   The temptation will be to follow a pattern of only speaking your native tongue. This common language can make your adventure easier in the beginning.  It can make it more difficult in the long term.

You can develop a barrier to meeting and learning from other people who don’t speak English.  If you only socialize with English-speakers, you will limit your experiences.  You will not be living an adventure but living in an expatriate outpost.

Helpful Reminders

1.   You should keep your legal papers of ownership where you can find them.  If you purchase a home, you will have an escritura, which in many cases will be a fideicomiso trust, if you live in the designated Federal Zone. You should know where the bank is that handles your trust and how you pay their annual fee. Some banks allow you to pay locally and some require payments in another city.

2.   Always get correct receipts and save them. In almost all cases, you are going to need your ORIGINAL RECEIPT in order to have ANY rights to your claim of payment.  Know the difference between a temporary receipt, a factura and a nota.  Be sure you put the utilities in the name of the owner as shown in the deed.  Keep all the original receipts, whether or not you personally pay them.

This article is based upon legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences in the Puerto Vallarta-Bahia de Banderas areas. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of Mexican real estate conduct his/her own due diligence and review.


  1. Hello Harriet. Thank you for your very informative article. My husband and I are planning to move to San Miguel late this year after I retire. As a RN for 38 years, I like to be prepared, and your article is very helpful. Take care and stay safe!


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