In our Expats In Mexico annual reader surveys and monthly polls, expats say the people of Mexico are one of the key reasons why they love living in the country. What makes the Mexican people so warm and friendly?
Over the years, major U.S. travel magazines often have named Mexican cities the friendliest in the world. Last year, readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine ranked San Miguel de Allende the friendliest city in the world. San Miguel came in fourth last year when Travel + Leisure magazine readers voted for the friendliest cities on earth. Puerto Vallarta also has been a past recipient of the magazine’s friendliest global destination.
And recently, Internations – a global online community of expats – surveyed 13,000 expats from 188 countries to determine which countries are the most welcoming for expats. It came as no surprise that Mexico was ranked third in the world, just behind Portugal and Taiwan. Internations said, “Feeling at home abroad comes easy to foreign residents when being surrounded by warmhearted locals.”
Nearly nine-out-of-10 expats surveyed by Internations said the people of Mexico have a friendly attitude toward expats. About three-fourths said it is easy to make local friends and just under 40 percent of expats living in Mexico said they would like to stay in the country forever.
Those who live in Mexico or visit the country regularly can confirm that the Mexican people we know or meet each day radiate friendliness and warmth. Local people unfailingly smile and offer a greeting when you pass by. How often does that happen in your home country?
But how can this be in a country where corruption, crime and violence and high poverty rates are discussed daily by media in Mexico and around the world?
We found many of our answers in the World Happiness Report 2018, an annual publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which contains rankings of national happiness for 156 countries and analysis of the data from a group of independent experts.
The study used three happiness indicators:
- Life evaluation. Respondents rated their quality of life on an 11-point scale.
- Positive affect. Respondents told interviewers whether they frequently experienced enjoyment, laughter and happiness on the day before the interview.
- Negative affect. Respondents told interviewers if they frequently experienced worry, sadness or anger on the day before the interview.
Mexico ranked twenty-fourth out of 156 countries in the happiness study. Finland was ranked first, followed by the Scandinavian countries and followed mainly by northern European countries, reflecting the economic advantage of those countries. Costa Rica finished thirteenth in the happiness rankings and eleven other Latin American countries were in the top 50.
Additionally, the study looked at the happiness rankings of foreign-born people living in the country, or expats. Mexico ranked tenth in the world on this measure.
The unusually high number of Latin American countries in the top 50 led to further analysis of the data to determine why countries most often known for unstable governments, corruption, crime and violence, unequal income distribution and high poverty rates were happier people than countries with many more advantages. In fact, Latin American countries consistently scored higher on happiness and other well-being indicators than other countries with comparable income levels.
The study said that Mexico and other Latin American countries score well in the happiness research because relationships are very important for people’s happiness, and that positive relationships are “abundant in Latin America.”
The Latin America region is home to a distinct culture where close interpersonal relationships and enjoyment of life predominate, the study said. The culture that has emerged is the nurturing of warm and close relationships with family, relatives and friends and generally a disregard for materialistic values.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries that share a common language and culture, family and friends are everything. For example, the study said, in some cultures you are expected to leave your family as soon as you reach adulthood, while in Mexico people tend to live longer with their parents and do not necessarily leave their family when they become adults.
“By living longer in the family, people extend their companionship with those they grew up with, and with whom a close and long-lasting relationship already exists,” the study said. “It is also common to find elder parents living in their adult children households.”
Family members in Mexico also play a central role in raising children, particularly the elderly who help raise their grandchildren. Mexicans strongly believe that the family must play a central role in raising kids, as well as taking care of the elders. Mexico is ranked second in the world on the measurement, “Watching children grow is the greatest joy.”
In addition to the U.N. study, Mexico’s National Statistical Office (INEGI) also has started measuring subjective well-being indicators. It recently reported that Mexicans have very high levels of family satisfaction, scoring nearly nine-out-of-10 on a 10-point scale.
So, family and social foundations are clearly the underpinning of happiness in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, according to the World Happiness Report 2018.
We also took a look at another measurement of happiness called The Happy Planet Index, which is an index of human well-being and environmental impact that was introduced by the United Kingdom-based New Economics Foundation (NEF) in July 2006.
The Happy Planet Index measures four key indicators:
- Well-being. How satisfied the residents of each country say they feel with life overall.
- Life expectancy. The average number of years a person is expected to live in each country.
- Inequality of outcomes. The inequalities of people within a country in terms of how long they live and how happy they feel.
- Ecological footprint. The average impact that each resident of a country places on the environment.
Mexico ranked second out of 140 countries on the Happy Planet Index in 2016, the most recent study, just behind Costa Rica. The authors of the study said, “Well-being in Mexico is higher than in neighboring USA despite Mexico’s economy being almost five times smaller.”
The smiles of Mexico you see every day come from within a happy people who cherish family and friends and are generally satisfied with their lives. A key reason why you call Mexico home.