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Surprised to see Costco as a category for Mexico rankings? Well, to some migrants from the North, it’s part of the decision.

I’m sort of joking when I write this. What I’m doing is using Costco as a metaphor for one of Mexico’s most rewarding lifestyle advantages: access to familiar consumer brands and services.

Mexico has a unique “foreign and familiar” vibe. Before the late 1990’s, “familiar” part didn’t use to resonate much. Before NAFTA (1994), the Mexican economy was closed by high import tariffs and business restrictions. After NAFTA, Mexico grew to become an international trade powerhouse. American corporations pounced on the idea of 120 million consumers right next door.

This phenomenon is not without controversy, and there is a ton of online content about how trade expansion has increased human misery. Labor markets have shifted, small farms declined, and Mexico’s obesity epidemic has surged. Mexico’s current President swept into office rejecting “neo-liberalism,” winning in 31 of Mexico’s 32 states in 2018.

But there’s no turning back. Name an American consumer brand, and you’ll find it, either retail or online (Mercado Libre or, for example, next day to your door).

The unavailability of U.S. brands is for some a deal-breaker; others might want to ESCAPE American consumerism. I get that. But if you’re approaching 60, you’ve got certain routines and ritual comforts. And Mexico is THE global leader in finding familiar “stuff.”

To emphasize this point, here’s a very personal (and subject no doubt to criticism) ranking of Mexico’s assets versus some competing places to retire: