In the first of a new series, we look behind the numbers of the latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey. This month: why do expats get stuck into Mexico?
Two months to go. The one-way ticket perched on the living room shelf becomes harder to ignore and every expat starts to wonder: “Will I fit in with the locals?”
There’s no shortage of advice. Family, friends and colleagues all delight in sharing insights gleamed from South American gap years or long weekends in the Mediterranean. Everyone seems to be an expert on your new neighbours. Yet, as experienced expats know, the national clichés trumpeted by casual sightseers barely scratch the surface.
When it comes to fitting in with the locals Mexico is the stand out performer, where according to the latest Expat Explorer survey, 78% of expats feel they are integrating well with the local people and culture. A carnival of colour, spice and sun, Mexico is easy to love, but it’s the country’s contagious family values which endear the people to expats.
Which are the easiest cultures to integrate into?
Mexican families are usually big and it’s not unusual for aunts, uncles, grandparents and in-laws to all share the same neighbourhood or even the same home. Getting to grips with these values can be tricky for any outsider. The rules and mores have been passed down through centuries of folktales, often retold but rarely written down.
Creative Commons / Wikimedia commons (anonymous)
One such story is “El Principe Oso”, the tale of a young daughter who marries a ferocious bear to save her family. Realising the beast is a bewitched prince, she consults wizards, tricks the moon, narrowly escapes incineration by the sun, hitches a ride with the wind and finally defeats a wicked witch – all to free her grizzly husband. If the characters are fantastical, the fierce loyalty of the courageous girl is far from fictional. In fact it’s this very sense of loyalty which helps to keep Mexico’s ancient traditions and 68 different languages alive and well in the modern world.
Luckily for expats, Mexican families are always welcoming and it’s the workplace where this is most striking. One expat from over the border in the USA shared his experience of just that with us:
“Go with the flow - things move in a different and somewhat slower pace. Be prepared for more social interaction. Family is very important and you have to engage with your team on a personal level - get to know their family.”
Becoming part of the family is an important milestone to integrating with the Mexican people, but every country offers something unique. In our latest Expat Explorer survey, expats also celebrated New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and Canada as some of the easiest countries in the world to integrate into. Expats in Canada say they are liberated by their new home’s approach to diversity, with a government policy of multi-culturalism and one of the most celebrated gay pride movements in the world, it’s no wonder four fifths of expats quickly make local friends. In Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, expats are welcomed as much by their local sports teams as their work colleagues, while those in Brazil find themselves greeted with kisses from the moment they step off the plane.
Creative Commons / Neal Jennings
So don’t pay too much attention to those armchair explorers, the only way to truly integrate is by getting stuck in and making friends. Embracing a new way of life is a process of discovery that must be lived, not just learned.