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Op-ed: Does Mexico hate digital nomads? | Tales of a digital nomad in Mexico

Hola! My name is Trisha, and I have been a digital nomad in Mexico since 2018. This post is not a guide but an op-ed to answer your burning question: do Mexicans hate digital nomads?

📧 Hi Trisha! I found your content on Instagram and I love your unique voice! I see that you are a digital nomad in Mexico so I wanted to ask you: do Mexicans hate digital nomads? I feel like we are not welcome anymore in Latin cities like Mexico City, Medellin, or Buenos Aires. I want to be respectful when I travel there. Do you have any tips since you live there? Thank you for your content!

Miles W., United States

Hola Miles!

Originally, I was just backpacking in Mexico in 2018, and I was granted a residency visa in 2021. Right now, I no longer call myself a digital nomad in Mexico, but your question is super valid. I get asked about this a lot!

Please note that this article is based on my experiences, and I am not speaking for the Mexicans. These are my own opinions. I also included some facts here so you can see and find your balance.

My first tip is if you are a digital nomad who knows how to behave in another country, you’ll be fine, the Mexicans don’t care, really. But I can see that you are from the United States and 95% of this is actually directed to Americans.

I hope you make it to Mexico City because it’s one of the most marvelous cities in the world despite the bad press it gets regarding safety. Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below and please, don’t use my blog solely for research. Dig deeper!

XX, Trisha

digital nomad in mexico

Do Mexicans hate digital nomads?

Again, this is not an answer from a Mexican but from someone who has been a digital nomad in Mexico. I have visited all 32 states and observed how Mexicans behave towards digital nomads.

Most of Mexico lives off tourism. They love tourists because it brings them income. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only reason Mexicans welcome digital nomads. In general, Mexicans are warm people.

Mexicans are generally known for their warm and welcoming nature, often extended to tourists visiting the country. Hospitality is a key aspect of Mexican culture, and many locals are eager to share their traditions, cuisine, and history with visitors.

However, as with any country, individual experiences may vary depending on location and personal interactions. There are many towns in Mexico that are still not that Western and tend to hate tourists. But that percentage is really low.

Mexico has a rich cultural heritage spanning thousands of years, with influences from ancient civilizations like the Maya and Aztecs, the colonial period, and more recent history. The warmth of Mexican culture can be seen in their vibrant celebrations, such as the Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo, as well as in the importance placed on family and community ties.

As a digital nomad in Mexico, it is important to be respectful and open-minded when visiting Mexico or any foreign country, as this will contribute to positive experiences and interactions with the locals.

Personally, I do not think that Mexico hates digital nomads but they only respond to our foreign behaviors. Continue reading below to understand what I mean.

Our behaviors as a digital nomad in Mexico

Most digital nomads who come to Mexico behave like they are still back home. There is a sense of entitlement among digital nomads and thinks that they can just go live in a country because they have the job and the money.

Sure, Mexico’s economy will thrive more with digital nomads, but even without it, Mexico’s tourism numbers never plummet despite the ongoing debate about safety in Mexico. Funny how many Americans ask, “is Mexico safe?” yet, there are 1.6 million American immigrants in Mexico.

Here, we are not superior beings. The Mexicans are. And yet most foreigners behave here like they own Mexico. There are very few who would learn Spanish or practice local customs.

I live in Cabo San Lucas and I know this to be true. Many digital nomads and immigrants here behave like Baja California is still part of America. So they did not really change their behavior even if they already moved here.

They still do their customs back home because they feel like Mexico is an extension of America. But really, it isn’t. If you are smart enough and you look at the map, you will see that Mexico is another country. And Baja California is definitely NOT part of the United States.

Let me give a more concrete example what actually happened to me. I have many travel planning clients who come to Cabo to party, get drunk, and have some fun.

If you look at the Mexican culture, the Mexicans do the same in their daily life. They love to gather, drink, listen to music, grill some asado, etc. Mexicans are festive people and they will find an excuse to celebrate absolutely anything. Even a dog’s birthday.

In that regard, if you come here to party, the Mexicans don’t have a problem there. In fact, they will be there to make you extra drunk if you already aren’t.

All over the world, Mexico is known to be a drug country so many gringos think they can just shout “I need drugs! Who has drugs?!” on the street. There is no judgment here if you want drugs, but please don’t take a megaphone and announce it on the street that you are looking for drugs.

The American news broadcast is also not wrong, but it is incomplete. Most of the stories about Mexico are NOT WRONG BUT IT IS INCOMPLETE. They never say that the gringo got into trouble because he/she outrightly, was looking for drugs publicly.

Of course, American news will not say that which makes Mexico look really bad. In short, you will be in trouble in Mexico if you are looking for trouble.

Sadly, it is not a fact that is publicly known which leads many Americans to think that they will be kidnapped right away as soon as they cross the San Diego and Tijuana border.

Two things: Mexico is already fun without the drugs and if you want some, please do not shout on the streets or go to alleys you don’t know about. Do not raise your voice here at any cost because this is not America.

As a public person who shares her life, you will always see my activism posts about gender, our society, women, and every single world issue that makes me furious. I don’t have filters on social media. I say what I want about gender violence and how our women are treated in today’s society.

But, as a Mexican resident, I am not allowed to question Mexico’s government or to talk about any political issues that I don’t agree with. Believe me, my life in Mexico is not all about rainbows and unicorns — I have A LOT of opinions that I want to shout out loud about the Mexican government but I simply can’t.

Immigrants in Mexico are not allowed to go on the streets for political protests or lead these protests. Mexico can take away my residency if I do this so in this aspect, I shut my mouth diligently and don’t say shit until I become a Mexican citizen.

My point here is that I know how to behave in Mexico and this, I tell you, is one of the reasons why I was never mugged, robbed, or sexually harassed in Mexico. I blend in. I mean, I try my best to blend in.

👉🏽 See also: 50+ things I need to tell you about living in Mexico

(Some) digital nomads are very imposing

What I also observed here is that we want the life we have at home to be exactly like the life we have in Mexico. Not all, but some. I mean, why would you leave your country if you don’t want to change the way you sleep, eat, cook, and drink? Aren’t you better off staying there and not here?

When I was living in Sayulita, American neighbor X in his 60s always calls the police whenever there’s a loud party in our compound. Yep, these are the Mexicans as I said. They will play music until 4:00 AM.

This does not happen in my country and I am sure it does not happen in yours too. But Mexico is not our country. It is very normal here to be ALWAYS LOUD, I mean always so if you don’t want loud, Mexico isn’t the place for you.

Our neighbor X in his 60s always calls the police and the police be like, “what do you want me to do, sir?” It is not a criminal offence to play loud music in Mexico til 4:00 AM. Sometimes, even 11:00 AM the next day.

Sayulita itinerary
The best thing about living in Sayulita as a single woman is having an amazing Mexican landlord who always looked after me! They are also one of the oldest families in Sayulita.

For me, this is already white noise. I have trained and programmed my mind that this is the Mexico I chose to live in so this is the Mexico I will accept and live with. We can choose how to react towards situations like this, especially if it isn’t our country.

If you are irritated by it, maybe you should meditate. But I tell you, the Mexicans are not responsible for how you feel about loud music.

Most of this is solvable only by us, and calling the police is simply not the solution. Maybe the police will come and join the party. You really won’t win this loud battle. Accept it. Don’t fight it. You’ll be the one looking stupid in the end and you don’t want to be popular with your Mexican neighbors.

To be fair, if I am the one having a party in my house, the Mexicans won’t call the police on me. In fact, I will not hear anything from them, and they won’t even put on their loud music. I feel really respected here because I don’t even have to ask them to put their music down when I have guests. They do it voluntarily.

Learning Spanish as a digital nomad in Mexico

Sadly, not all foreigners learn Spanish when they move here. As a digital nomad in Mexico, I am very lucky to be fluent in Spanish before even moving here. Languages are my jam – I love learning any language!

I have been traveling around the world as a digital nomad for the last 14 years and I speak 7 languages. Many people say that “we’re not as smart as you,” but my language skills are 90% effort.

Learning a language takes time and dedication. You won’t learn a language for a week. As for me, I tried to speak Spanish everyday at the beginning of my journey, I lived with a Colombian family without English skills, I taught English in Argentina, etc.

Now many foreigners don’t feel the need to speak Spanish because most touristy areas in Mexico can speak English. Mexicans do not impose for you to learn Spanish because they also want to learn English from you.

day of the dead in oaxaca

The Mexicans are smart, actually. They use foreigners as a free English-learning class. I know this because I have many Mexican friends who work as waiters in bars. Some start the job with zero English speaking skills and after 3 months, I’d be so surprised how much their English has improved.

This happens in all of Latin America. They want to learn English so they can earn more money and can work in the tourism industry. This is why nobody imposes for you to learn Spanish.

As for me, I was very tenacious. When I was learning Spanish, I did not let the waiters learn English from me. I did the other way around. It’s funny how it’s sometimes a battle. When a Mexican hears your gringo Spanish accent, they will start speaking English.

At the beginning of my Spanish-learning journey, I didn’t have a gringo accent because I am not a gringa, but my Spanish sentences were not full. This also lead them to respond to me in English whenever I speak to them with my incomplete Spanish.

I’ll respond in Spanish, they’ll respond in English — it will go on and on until I have to tell them, “look, parce, I am learning Spanish so please help me and speak to me in Spanish.”

Parce is like “dude” in Colombia. After we establish that we will only speak in Spanish, they will speak Spanish to me all the way. Just ask and you will get.

But most foreigners are not like this. Most foreigners are actually ashamed to speak with a gringo accent or speak broken Spanish. In this regard, I think that Mexicans should also be at fault for gringos not learning Spanish.

As for me, personally, my rule of thumb is: if I don’t speak the language or do not even try to speak their language (whatever country), it absolutely means I do not have the right to live there.

Languages connect you to different cultures, and if you speak Spanish, as a digital nomad in Mexico, you won’t probably ask me if Mexicans hate digital nomads. You will find it out for yourself because you speak Spanish.

oaxaca day of the dead

Lastly, in any country you go to, your experiences will be different if you know how to speak their language. I have been welcomed in over a hundred homes in the last 14 years because I speak their language. That, for me, is an experience that not everybody gets to have when they travel.

I know many Americans, Canadians, and Europeans speak Spanish fluently and I do not believe that none of you are capable in learning basic Spanish, especially if you are a young digital nomad.

You just don’t come to Mexico to work. I know you have a busy day but please, put 1-2 hours of your time to blend in your chosen city and don’t spend the whole day on the computer. Go out and mingle!

If you want to be on the computer all day, you can just do that wherever you are from. I also understand if you are an introvert. There are many quiet places where you can go to chat with locals.

Most introverts I know avoid their fellow gringos so if you are this, sit at any bar alone and chat with the local bartender. That would be enough socialization for you, I assume. I made so many friends in Mexico just by doing this!

Finding housing as a digital nomad in Mexico

The biggest issue of today’s digital nomad in Mexico culture is housing. Many Mexicans (especially in Mexico City) were displaced because owners decided to rent it to digital nomads.

The money is lucrative. The money is actually triple compared to what they would get from Mexican renters. I had a Whatsapp group for digital nomad housing in Mexico City, and I decided to stop it in 2021 because I do not support this shit.

We don’t come to a country and steal their homes! They should be a priority here, but that is not the reality.

Many people ask me how I look for housing, and my answer is pretty simple. I speak Spanish. I will not go walking in a Real Estate office nor go to Craig’s List/Facebook to look for rentals.

puerto vallarta solo travel

I talk to my tortilla lady in the corner, I ask my gym instructor, and I chat with the cashier at Walmart — there are so many ways to find housing if you speak Spanish.

I shit you not, I have lived in more beautiful places than those you see on Airbnb or Facebook. Plus, the rentals I get are way cheaper. For example, here in Cabo, I live in front of the arch and pay $2,000 USD for a 4-bedroom, 2-floor house. Beat that.

Airbnb has ruined lives and displaced many families in Mexico. DO NOT SUPPORT AIRBNB, PLEASE. It is simply a company without integrity. It is a brand that does not care about the welfare of human beings but they are only focused on making money.

Please be a good human and unsubscribe from Airbnb. Do your part and make real-life human interactions to find your housing in Mexico. It is an extra effort but it is not difficult.

puerto vallarta solo travel
The travel blogging crew in Puerto Vallarta: ever since I invited them here, they fell in love with PV and never left!

If you want to be a real digital nomad, be more lively and live the cultures you visit. Contribute to the countries you are visiting by always supporting local and don’t use big commercial companies.

You are only making the rich richer and the poor poorer. And one day, when you lose your digital nomad clients and don’t have a job that will allow you to travel, you will realize that you’re one of those poor people who will just keep getting poorer.

That’s all of us because we don’t support each other but we keep supporting these big unsustainable companies like Airbnb.

🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources

Ras Bahadur Rai

Wednesday 7th of June 2023

Overall, Trisha's op-ed provides insights into the dynamics between digital nomads and locals in Mexico, emphasizing the importance of respect, cultural sensitivity, and integration into the local community.

Kay

Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

Thank you so so much for writing this. I recently had two friends move back to the USA from Mexico (both had lived in Mexico for YEARS) and we were discussing the impact of digital nomads (or even “temporary residents”) in Mexico. And I also want to eventually experience living in Mexico, it’s one of my favorite countries and I want to improve my Spanish, but I also want to do so in a way that is least harmful. As always, appreciate your perspective and insight!