What A Very Interesting Drawing Can Tell Us About What It’s Like To Live In Mexico As An Expat
Superficial observations and shallow thinking can lead to all sorts of faulty conclusions that could negatively impact the decisions we make in our lives. Take, for example, the question of if you should move to Mexico.
Please take a look at the drawing to the right.
What do you see?
Do you see the young woman?
Or do you see the old woman?
Whichever one you see, you may find it extremely difficult to see the other one, but trust me; it’s there. Whichever one you do see, if you’re like most people, you will have difficulty seeing the other one. Try again. If you still can’t see the other one, you may want to ask a friend. Whenever you do see the other image in the drawing, it can be pretty shocking— it was there all along; you just didn’t see it. Two realities / one drawing.
Now let’s talk about how we can use this drawing can help to understand a few of the different aspects of living in Mexico as an expat.
The first one we’ll discuss is healthcare in Mexico.
It is not at all unusual, after I post an article about how I’ve experienced great healthcare in Mexico, that I get a snarky comment like, “Well, if the healthcare is so fantastic in Mexico, how come Mexicans are coming to the US for healthcare?” (Because these comments are written, you can’t hear the self-satisfying snort that would most likely accompany the end of such a comment, but I suspect it’s there.)
Understanding the answer to the question would require that the person asking the question distinguish the young woman in the drawing from the old one. The healthcare system in Mexico is great, for those in the private system and who, by Mexican standards, have money. That would include the vast majority of expats, because, by Mexican standards, a very middle-class American has lots of money. Believe me, most of us who live in Mexico in most circumstances are not coming to the US for healthcare; quite the opposite. The cost and the quality of the healthcare we can receive in Mexico is one of the main reasons we moved here.
However, the healthcare system in Mexico is not great for poor Mexicans, but as an expat, you would not be subject to the same healthcare in Mexico as the field worker making the equivalent of USD $10 per day. Remember, as an American expat, you are, from the perspective of a poor Mexican working the field, a rich foreigner. And rich foreigners (as well as rich Mexicans) have superb healthcare in Mexico; for 90% or more illnesses, the healthcare in Mexico is much better than the healthcare for a middle-class American living in the US, even for the same price, which it definitely is not. For those 10% of cases that cannot be treated in Mexico as well as in the US, if you are a Mexican with lots of money (which are the ones you hear about), you may very well choose a US hospital. Overall, however, healthcare in Mexico is perhaps 75% less expensive than in the US and at least as good. Therefore, for most American expats, in most cases, when compared with the US, the healthcare in Mexico is the young woman in the drawing.
Next, let’s consider of the weather at the beach in Mexico, for example, in famous vacation spots like Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, etc., and where my wife is pictured to the right, near La Paz, in Baja California. Many times, tourists visit these places in the winter, when it is quite cold and snowy in the places like Chicago or quite rainy and dismal in Portland, which is where they came from. As a result, when they arrive in Mexico in January, they’re thrilled with the contrast. They may even think, “Wow, this place is so beautiful and so nice and warm compared to where I just came from, I should move here full time!” In effect, they only see the young woman.
But what happens after they move to the beach in Mexico and the summer arrives? Well, then it’s a different story. For one, it’s quite a bit warmer. For another, if you stay in these Mexican resort towns during the summer, year after year after year, you may get a bit tired of the heat, and in your newly revised psychological state, you may start to see the old woman. Or maybe not; perhaps you will love it. The overall point is, the weather at the beach in Mexico at the resort cities I mentioned does change from winter to summer, so you should be aware of both possibilities—the young woman, and the old one, too.
Furthermore, not all American expats who relocate to Mexico move to the beach. Some move to places in the Mexican Highlands (like us), which can have really, really good weather, pretty much all year long. Mexico is a big country, with lots of different climates; you can pick the weather (or the beach) that best suits you.
If you’re following me, you’re getting good at seeing more than one view of the drawing.
As a third consideration, let’s think about violent crime in Mexico.
The person who only sees the old woman in the drawing believes that, because there is cartel violence in Mexico, ipso facto, Mexico is a violent place and therefore, if you live in Mexico you would encounter lots of violence.
The person who can at least imagine the young woman as well as the old woman would be able to understand the reality a bit better. That person may ask the follow up question, in essence, asking if there is more than one way to see the drawing: Is it true that the violence is uniform? The answer to this is: No, the violence in Mexico is not uniform.
Cartel violence is committed mostly against those involved with drugs, prostitution and other illegal activities. As an expat living in Mexico, do you plan to be involved with drugs, prostitution and other illegal activities? If you do not, then this class of violence wouldn’t apply to you.
Also, just like any place on planet earth, it turns out that your physical location is a big determinant of how likely you are to be a victim of violent crime in Mexico. To take the US as an example, you would be more than 30 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime in Baltimore, Maryland (violent crime 98.6 per 10,000 population / old woman) than in Irvine, California (violent crime 3.2 per 10,000 population / young woman). Lesson for an American living in the US or any other place in the world, including Mexico: if you want to avoid violence, don’t go to those parts of the country that are 30 times more violent than other places.
Bottom line: if you’re interested in the possibility of increasing the quality of your life by moving to Mexico, consider the drawing above, and then observe and research a bit deeper. If you can see both images in the drawing, you can come a lot closer to the truth, and then, you can make a much better decision… and be a lot happier.
Steve Hansen, Vice President, Underwriting, Architects & Engineers/Contractors Professional Liability, Tokio Marine HCC – Cyber & Professional Lines Group,…