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Mexico Is the #2 Best Place in the World for Expats  

colorful streets
Credits: Jose Luis | Adobe Stock images

InterNations, the largest global community for expats, today released its Expat Insider 2021 Survey showing Mexico is the #2 best place in the world for expats.

Mexico, a perennial top five place for expats to live (it was #1 in 2019), beat out 57 other countries, but was nudged out of the top spot by Taiwan. The study shows Mexico performs extremely well across the board on all survey measures, except for a slightly below average ranking for quality of life. Fellow Latin American country Costa Rica ranked third this year.

Kathrin Chudoba, InterNations
Kathrin Chudoba

For insights into Mexico’s top-rated performance, EIM spoke with Kathrin Chudoba, the head of content and communications for InterNations.

EIM: Why don’t we kick things off by having you tell us a little bit about what the Expat Insider 2021 Survey is?

Chudoba: Thank you, Robert. We have been conducting our survey annually since 2014. It’s one of the biggest surveys on living and working abroad worldwide and provides information on various aspects of expat life, as well as some demographic data.

The way it works is that survey participants rate up to 37 different aspects of life abroad, and they rate them on a scale of one to seven. We ask respondents about their personal satisfaction with these aspects and consider both emotional topics, like finding friends, and more factual aspects, like career opportunities. And we consider them with equal weight.

Our respondents are, of course, many of the InterNations members from around the world. This year, 12,420 expats took part, representing 174 different nationalities living in 59 different countries and territories. So, it’s a really diverse group of people. But the survey is also open, so if you want to share it with your expat friends who are not InterNations members, they also can participate.

In Mexico, we had about 230 respondents. Generally, we require a sample size of at least 50 respondents per country and this year, 59 countries or territories qualified.

EIM: What are some of the key reasons Mexico ranked second in your 2021 survey? it seems to be a perennial top five country.

Chudoba: It is indeed. With a second place overall, Mexico performed really well this year, especially when it comes to the ease of settling in and the financial aspects of living in Mexico. There are, however, two areas where Mexico doesn’t perform that well.

For example, we have the working abroad index where Mexico only places 22nd this year. It also has weaker results in safety and security, which is one of the areas where Taiwan ranks really high. Mexico’s excellent rankings are mainly in ease of settling in and the financial aspects of living in the country.

EIM: What does ease of settling in mean?

Chudoba: We have different indices in the survey, and one of them is the ease of settling in index. That index is based on four sub-categories: feeling at home, finding friends, friendliness and language.

Artisans in Mexico
Credit: Leigh Thelmadatter

Mexico places first for both feeling at home and for finding friends. This means that expats in Mexico find it especially easy to get used to the local culture. They feel very much at home in Mexican culture. They find it easy to get settled in Mexico and to make friends, both in general as well as in the local population, which is perceived as being very welcoming to expats.

Moving abroad can, of course, be very stressful. There are negative factors. If the local population is perceived as unfriendly, or if you are experiencing culture shock, that can make the experience even more stressful. It’s really easy to underestimate these factors. I think only researching the hard facts about a country before you move there probably won’t tell you how you will be accepted.

So, as someone who has lived abroad for many years, I feel that it’s really important for us to talk about these things. Knowing how easy it is to settle down, to feel welcome, to feel at home there can affect your well-being abroad, and fun. For expats in Mexico, luckily that doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. They settle in really easily. And that’s mainly due to the friendly people in Mexico.

EIM: I want to talk a little bit about another ranking, personal happiness. How is that measured?

Chudoba: That’s a good question. In the survey itself, we have the personal happiness sub-category that is measured by two factors. One of them is how happy expats are in general with their life. So again, it’s a rating question and here 89 percent of expats in Mexico say they’re happy, and that’s compared to a global result of 75 percent, so there’s a big difference. And then there’s a second part to that, which is also how happy they are in their relationships with people, with their partner, with their spouse. But, of course, that only applies if you have a partner. You don’t have to answer that question, if it doesn’t apply to you.

Dan Burton in Baja California
Credit: Dan Burton

There are so many external factors that play into personal happiness. We have not examined them in terms of is there a statistical correlation between the personal happiness ranking and other factors that are rated really high. For example, job satisfaction or happiness with the local climate, leisure options and all of the things that personally make you happy.

EIM: Mexico was number two worldwide in personal finance. That was your measurement. What does that mean? And why is it important to expats?

Chudoba: It’s based on two different sectors. One is are expats satisfied with their financial situations and the other is are they satisfied with their disposable household income. What we’re asking is whether the disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover all living expenses. In Mexico, an astonishing 90 percent of expats say that it is. And that’s compared to a global average of only 77 percent. About 8 percent of expats in Mexico say financial reasons were the main motivation to move to the country, compared with 3 percent globally. But 40 percent say they are motivated by lifestyle reasons.

EIM: Would you say that Mexico would be a perennial number one each year if it wasn’t for its ranking on personal security?

Chudoba: We cannot say that for sure because there are various measurements in the quality of life index, including personal security. There are some other factors where Mexico doesn’t perform well above average, such as public transportation infrastructure, the local air quality and also digital infrastructure. But you’re right, the safety and security sub-category is indeed Mexico’s weakness.

EIM: Kathrin, if you could sum up in one sentence why Mexico is such an expat magnet, what would you say?

Chudoba: I would like to answer that in the words of one of our survey participants, who I think sums it up perfectly. It’s an expat from Canada and he or she says, “it’s the history, the cultural diversity, the friendly Mexican people and the low cost of living.”

I think that’s a pretty nice summary of what we see in the survey results and also what we see from the comments by survey participants.

EIM: The bottom line is there are lots of great reasons to move to Mexico. Kathrin, thank you so much for your time today. It was a very enjoyable conversation.

Chudoba: Thank you, Robert. The Expat Insider 2021 Survey has much more detail on Mexico as well as all 59 countries we studied, if your readers are interested.