Moving to Mexico: Transitioning from Tourist to Resident

My wife and I had vacationed in Mexico over 30 times before we finally ended up moving here full time in 2015.

Although we were very familiar with the Riviera Maya — at least from a tourist’s point of view — visiting a place and living there are two very different things. Moving to a new country is a huge adjustment and there is definitely a substantial learning curve to work through.

For those of you who are pondering making the move, I’m going to share some insight in to what you might expect if you move down.

The First Six Months

The first six months will likely be the most exciting, and at times frustrating period of your transition.

You’ll undoubtedly arrive eager to get established quickly (everyone does) and that’s where enthusiasm can easily turn into frustration. You’ll become aware that your timeline to get established (e.g. obtain visas, buy furniture, get bank accounts) is not realistic and everything is going to take much longer than you anticipated.

You’ll soon learn that when someone tells you that they will do it mañana it doesn’t mean tomorrow, it means someday. Don’t get frustrated…..just be patient and things will eventually get done.

If you don’t speak Spanish, that will only slow the process further and you’ll find yourself communicating through Google Translate and sign language. One friend of ours who had only been here for a week said that she felt like an infant because she didn’t know how to do anything and she couldn’t talk to anyone.

Depending where you move to, you might feel a little lonely and isolated. That didn’t happen to us because we moved to an area with a substantial English-speaking expat population. Once we met one or two of them, they introduced us to dozens of other expats.

During this time, it’s not unusual for people to get a little discouraged and question their decision to move to Mexico. The important thing is to remember that this transition period is only temporary and that it will get better — much better, in fact.

The Second Six Months

By this point, you’ll be getting into the swing of things and you have several tasks marked off of your to-do list. You’ll stop questioning why the milk and eggs are not refrigerated at the grocery store and you’ll be more comfortable in your new surroundings.

You’ll have more time to explore and find cool places outside of the tourist areas. You’ll be more relaxed in your surroundings and spend more time enjoying yourself.

After the First Year

Once you have a year under your belt, you should be well established in your new home, have several friends, and be receiving locals discounts at your favorite hangouts. You’ll probably have several local contacts on your Whatsapp list, including your doctor, and be offering advice to newly arrived expats.

This is when Mexico truly feels like home and you no longer question if moving to Mexico was the right decision.

Personally speaking, our second year was 100% better than our first — and the first one was pretty awesome. We’re now working on our third, and so far, it’s a best year yet!

Let’s Wrap This Up

When Linda and I moved to Mexico, we promised to give it one year before making the decision whether or not to stay forever. Of course, it didn’t take that long but that doesn’t mean that it was a seamless transition. We worked through the phases described above and it was all 100% worth it.

If you’re planning on moving to Mexico from another country, it’s important to come with an open mind, patience and a positive attitude toward change — because you will encounter a lot of it.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul

Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget.

In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul’s articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

26 Comments on "Moving to Mexico: Transitioning from Tourist to Resident"

  1. The biggest sign that you’re a resident vs a tourist is not going to the beach everyday )) Somewhat joking.

  2. Suzanne Monette Corey | October 29, 2017 at 10:56 am | Reply

    I would just like to be able to find cream for my coffee in Mexico. Do they not make that there. I always seem to end up with whipped cream.

  3. monica peloquin | October 29, 2017 at 11:11 am | Reply

    yes indeed itr,s quite the run around to apply for a visa for temp permanent and arrange for a moving with a container and finalize all the papers at home in Montreal…yet the gray cold weather here now shows me the way out of here and into sunshine Mexico,…See you in December and would love to invite you both for a coffee at Café Choux Choux, right in front of my place .It,s a great breakfast café with organic eggs and good pastry as the owners are from Paris.,

  4. THE VISA
    To keep things straight in my own mind, I begin to call the Visa, I get from the Consulate USA, a 30 Day Visa (that’s how long it’s good for) and the Visa I get in Mexico, the Permanent Temporary Visa (although that’s a misnomer. It’s good for one year).
    I ask three different officials, if I can get the Permanent Visa in Morelia and they all tell me that I must go to Guadalajara or Mexico City. But I think, ‘That is ridiculous. Morelia is a CITY the size of Austin, Texas.’ And besides I am stubborn.
    There are three Immigration offices in Morelia, so I set off with all my documents. The third one says, ‘Claro, why were you confused?’ As if this particular office was the clear choice to everyone.
    I did have to go across the street to buy a check to the Mexican Government, as the offices do not accept pesos.
    But it is done and I know where to go next year!!!
    The F2 FORM, that many banks will ask for to open a banking account (something I highly recommend, as it saves many transfer fees and confusion and delays) DOES NOT exist. It is an outdated term. When they ask for the F2, they are really asking for the Permanent Visa.
    When dealing with the Mexican Bureaucracy, I just have to remind myself of the same types of hoops that the USA government makes me jump through and the years I have wasted On Hold).
    You will never have all the right documents to get the job done the first time. I consider my first two or three visits as a information gathering excursion. A Dry Run.

  5. Very good info, Paul. I’m not moving yet, but I leave later this week for a 5 month stay. Guanajuato first this time for language school !

  6. Are there any ExPats in Morelia? Maybe? Let’s get together!

  7. We are Two weeks new to Chelem. We have begun to experience what u describe. We want our home our way, now! Thanks for the timing of this article. Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.

  8. May sound dumb BUT why don’t the milk and eggs go in the fridge? I always ask this and it’s just a given I get a smart answer. And why no coffee cream ? There are cows ! Thanks for a REAL answer.

  9. Charles Wilson | October 29, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Reply

    Thanks I love your blog !!!!!

  10. How appropriate for us! We just made the transition from Florida to Playa del Carmen! And we are having the frustrations and bewilderments you describe. We know we absolutely made the right decision, but every once in awile a thought enters our mind, did we!? Your blog offers big reassurances! And it makes us feel a lot better. Thank you Q-Roo Paul!

  11. Hi, in one of your blogs I read that you use discount cards here in Q Roo. How can I obtain these discount cards? Do I need to be of a certain age to get these cards? Thank you

  12. Kristia Snider | October 29, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Reply

    Great, honest advice!

  13. Thank you again Paul. I enjoyed it the first time around too. I have also used extracts from it at the LCS Information Desk and gave you credit. You produce a great blog even though you are frequently a bit smug……

  14. Angela and James Saunders | October 30, 2017 at 8:11 am | Reply

    We have 7 days under our belts (well, not really wearing belts 😉 and have accomplished quite a bit and met new friends alone the way, Everyone is so helpful. There have been some challenges, but mostly the cure has been patience! Thankfully your blog prepared us and put us in the right frame of mind. Was GREAT to spend time with you and Linda yesterday and look forward to many more good times!!!

  15. Great stuff, and very true! We’re two weeks into our move to Cancun and trust me, it’s been a whirlwind, especially when you don’t have a local #. Our biggest problem so far is providing Home Depot, Actual and Dico with my US telephone number for contact information for deliveries. Well, they couldn’t connect to my phone, so they didn’t bother delivering our merchandise. We’re hoping it arrives this week (we had to get someone who speaks Spanish to call them to verify all of this). My suggestion is to immediately get you a cheap cell phone with a local number when you arrive. Now, will they speak English when they call you? That I can’t answer…

  16. Although I absolutely have experienced the frustration. Having been here in Playa Del Carmen 3 months, frankly I find the sense of “no urgency” very refreshing. I’ve lived my whole life (birthday tomorrow 64 yrs) on a schedule and I didn’t move here to replicate that life! Viva Mexico!

  17. My suggestion to new arrivals, don’t get mad, don’t get frustrated, just get a cold beer instead!.

  18. Very well put! Paul..
    Hasta Manana… compadre.!

  19. Has anybody else gone Nuts over the NUT Number (Numero Unico de Tramite). Well, just in case, let me tell you to save you much heartburn. You get a NUT when you apply in Mexico for your One-Year Temporary Residency Visa. It is NOT your Passport Number nor is printed on the page that Immigration puts in your Passport Book. It is your personal Mexican Identification Number. And it comes on a not-very-important looking piece of paper with your One-Year Visa. Easily overlooked in the pile of papers you have taken to and received from Immigration. The number starts with six “0”s.
    IT IS IMPORTANT! As you will learn when trying to do any official business, like opening a bank account. Write it in five different places and then memorize it. (I did.)
    I will not bore you with the anxiety I went through trying to figure out what a NUT Number was and how I finally had to go through every piece of papers I owned to find it.
    (See my Post entitled” Never Ship Anything to Mexico”.)

  20. You know you’re a resident and not a tourist when you automatically throw your toilet paper in the trash can.

  21. Here’s an important, morbid, yet necessary tidbit. If you are staying in Mexico until Death-Do-Us-Part, you are going to have to make some decision about your remains. There is no embalming in Mexico. Bodies go into the ground within 24 hours. So what if you don’t want to be buried in Mexico. I have planned to have my body cremated and then have my relatives come pick up the ashes at their convenience. So you’re going to need a Carta Poder (see Paul’s Blog on Carta Poders) to authorize somebody to deal with the Crematorium.
    PS: shipping a body to the United States within the 24 hour time window is a nightmare and extremely costly.

  22. I won’t have gotten past my first Taco Stand without your Blog. Thank you and keep it coming!

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