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International survey ranks Mexico as a mecca for expats seeking friends

The security challenges facing the country do not eclipse the friendly nature of its inhabitants and the ease of forging new relationships

México
Young people relax in Parque España in Mexico City’s Condesa neighborhood.CLAUDIA ARÉCHIGA
Daniel Alonso Viña

Foreigners living in Mexico do not allow the country’s serious security problems to undermine their appreciation of its culture and the friendliness of its people. It is these aspects that have made Mexico the best place for expats to live for the 10th consecutive year, according to a survey by the InterNations platform, the world’s largest network for people living abroad. Once again, in 2023, it seems that, despite the constant complaints of locals regarding foreigners triggering price hikes and driving them out of city centers, the foreigners themselves remain overwhelmed by the welcome.

In Mexico, there are 1.17 million people from elsewhere — mostly from the U.S., Venezuela, Guatemala and Spain, according to a Mexican Government survey. And they stay because Mexico is rated the easiest country in which to settle legally, as well as being the friendliest as far as the locals are concerned. In fact, it is unparalleled when it comes to making friends, both with locals (91% compared to 67% globally) and with people from other countries (89% compared to 65% globally).

However, the incomers are not oblivious to the country’s security problems. Mexico is ranked 45th in terms of political stability, and 18% of expats do not feel safe here, a much higher percentage than the global average (8%). Besides the robberies and kidnappings reported by the U.S. State Department, there are other incidents that remain in the collective imagination, such as the death of American José Melesio Gutiérrez at the hands of drug traffickers. Melesio Gutiérrez disappeared last Christmas when he went to visit his future wife’s family in Zacatecas and was fatally attacked along with three others on the highway.

The InterNations survey involved 12,065 expats of 171 different nationalities living in 172 countries around the world. The majority live in Germany, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. Among the most common expat nationalities are Americans, British and Indians.

Mexico was highly rated by those surveyed not only for its friendliness and security concerns but also for its job growth opportunities, fair pay and respect for a decent work-life balance — something many locals would disagree with, given the country has only just introduced 12 annual days of vacation.

According to the survey, Spain comes second to Mexico as an expat destination, though the positive aspects valued by foreigners living in Spain are different. with nightlife and leisure opportunities standing out. Some 88% of expats are happy with the nightlife and 91% are happy with the access to sports. The climate is also a favored factor, although not as much as in Mexico, which ranks second on this score, compared to Spain’s third place. Foreigners living in Spain do, however, criticize the difficulty finding work with growth opportunities and the lack of local job openings.

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