Working In Mexico
You Can Work In Mexico -- Maybe
(Excerpted from Live Better South of the Border, 4th Edition)
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This section of the working in Mexico chapter of my living in Mexico book contains advice for those working in Mexico because they are being transferred by their companies, those who want to start their own businesses, and those who want to work for Mexican employers. Perhaps you’ve been “downsized” by your company. If you have gotten a good-sized severance package, maybe you would rather “retire” early where it will cost less to live. The possibility of working in Mexico exists, though it will take perseverance and determination. I don’t want to encourage anyone to drop out, but if you feel as if you’ve given it your best shot and aren’t getting anywhere, what have you got to lose?
Many of you move to Mexico not to retire, but to start a business, because you were transferred by your company, or because you want to work for a Mexican company. First, I’d like to discourage a couple of groups of employment seekers. Then I’ll get into who should work in Mexico and how you can do it. I’ll also give you some cultural clues so you won’t make a fool of yourself when doing business.
Opening a Bar
If you have experience running a nightclub in the States or Canada, this might actually work. It's a tough business anywhere and tougher in Mexico. About half the calls I get for consulting are from people who want to start a business in Mexico. Many calls on Monday come from someone who wants to buy a bar after spending a weekend in Mexico. Gee, I wonder how that came about? If that’s your idea, take two Al ka-Seltzer, wait until Wednesday, and if the idea still seems good, call someone else -- unless you know the business.
Waiting on Godot, er, Gringo
Another group that calls is those who want to work as waiters, bartenders, or cooks. Save your nickel. Here’s some free advice: Don’t even think about it. I know, you just got back from Cancún or Vallarta and met a gringa or gringo who was doing just that. Chances are there is more to the story. There’s probably a love interest involved, though it may be one-sided. And, she (or he) is working illegally. You cannot move to Mexico and take jobs away from Mexicans. Period. Before you start howling that it isn’t fair, that Mexicans move to the States and take jobs away from Americans, think about it. Without getting into the debate about whether they are taking jobs at salaries that our citizens won’t take, the reality is that they are working illegally too. In Mexico, the unemployment rate is horrific or else Mexicans wouldn’t have left their families to come to the States. Mexico is a lot more serious about enforcing their labor laws. Actually, money sent back to Mexico from the United States is the third largest source of income for Mexico (behind petroleum and tourism) and makes a couple of billion dollars for U.S. firms (and the USPS) that transfer the money. So, political rhetoric aside, there are economic interests at work here that keep this cycle going.
Have Tools, Don’t Travel
Skilled craftsmen, such as carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, or those with any connection to construction work (except architects and designers), should forget it. Mexicans have those jobs sewn up. However there always seems to be an exception lurking somewhere. I consulted with a skilled carpenter. He wanted to start his own business in Mexico. He was able to land a job with a Mexican/American company building houses in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, based on his experience and expertise. From that basis, he learned how to do business in Mexico and eventually started his own business. But this was Sonora. This plan might also work in Baja, if you have the right connections. In general, though, I don’t recommend you even think about it.
The last group that seems to want my help is massage therapists. They’ve got a shot. There are many spas in Mexico that cater to foreigners and they are able to legally hire massage therapists. But be aware that the jobs don’t pay much, there is tremendous turnover, and tips are not usually generous. I know. I ran a spa reservation business for years. I have found massage therapists to be unwilling to pay for my time, so if you are one and want to know how to work in Mexico, please don't ask me unless you are willing to pay my consultation fee.