Whether you’re planning to immigrate to Mexico from Ireland, visit, or just a bit curious about the two countries, here are a few of my personal opinions on the matter having lived in both countries.
5 Obvious differences
If I was to ask you one key difference between Ireland and Mexico this would be the go to one right?
So it’s number 1 and for good reason. Mexico is *mostly* much warmer than Ireland. I say mostly as Mexico is a huge place and the climate and ecosystem varies from state to state.
Toluca is freezing during the winter and temperatures can hit -5°C, which is about the same as Irelands weather but the difference is the houses. Houses in Ireland are built for insulation against the cold, Mexico houses are built to stay cool with no heating. As such, you’re going to feel the cold a lot more in the mornings in Toluca. Even with this cold weather, most Mexicans have never seen snow.
Other regions are just insanely hot for most of the year, Oaxaca, Yucatan and of course the Sonora Desert would burn most Irish men alive.
Some notable experiences living in Mexico
– Passing a woman complaining how cold it was as she walked out of a shopping centre *it was 20 degrees Celsius
– Hearing about people from other regions in Mexico getting flus and colds when they come to visit Mexico City because of how much colder it is ( it rarely drops below 12 degrees Celsius at night even in the winter
– Getting off the bus from Cuernavaca in shorts and a t-shirt in October and walking past a crowd of people wearing winter clothes *again it was about 18 degrees Celsius
Ireland on the other hand being an island nation is known for extreme weather, the old phrase “You couldn’t plan an hour in advance” is usually fairly true especially close to the West coast ‘accurately named the “Wild Atlantic Way”‘ and you can even experience 4 seasons in one day!
2. Natural Disasters
The UK & Ireland benefit from their natural geographical positioning on the worlds tectonic plates, as such earthquakes are fairly rare and if experienced are of a minor if even noticed scale. It has a fairly wet climate so wild fires aren’t much of an issue and neither are Tsunamis.
In fact the main cause of heartache and pain from natural disasters for the UK & Ireland comes from storms off the coast and flooding from extreme rain, this heartache mostly from increased insurance premiums and flooded houses.
Mexico on the other hand, has experienced first hand some of the worst natural disasters in history. It has a very active tectonic plate running alongside the pacific coastline.
In particular the 1985 earthquake which killed over 5,000 people and measured at 8.0 on the Richter scale stands out in the history books but even as recently as 2017 there were 2 more major earthquakes and I just happened to experience both first hand.
The 2017 Chiapas earthquake struck at 23:49 CDT on 7 September (local time; 04:49 on the 8th UTC) in the Gulf of Tehuantepec off the southern coast of Mexico, near state of Chiapas, approximately 87 kilometres (54 mi) southwest of Pijijiapan (alternately, 101 kilometres (63 mi) south-southwest of Tres Picos), with a Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The magnitude was estimated to be Mw 8.2.Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Chiapas_earthquake
The earthquake also caused buildings to shake and sway in Mexico City, while also knocking out electricity for 1.8 million people. There were reports of glass shattered at Mexico City International Airport. An under construction highway bridge near Mexico City’s new international airport collapsed due to the shaking.Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Chiapas_earthquake
Although a more intense earthquake, less people died in the initial Chipas earthquake at around 100 victims, though the infrastructure in the surrounding areas was decimated.
The 2017 Puebla earthquake struck at 13:14 CDT on 19 September 2017 with an estimated magnitude of Mw 7.1 and strong shaking for about 20 seconds. Its epicenter was about 55 km (34 mi) south of the city of Puebla.Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Puebla_earthquake
The Puebla earthquake was particularly bad in Mexico city because most believed it was a fault in the early warning system had been triggered earlier in the day again after commemorating the 1985 earthquake.
19 September is designated as a day of remembrance for the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed approximately 10,000 civilians. Every year at 11 a.m., a national earthquake drill is conducted by the government through the use of public loudspeakers located throughout Mexico City. The 2017 drill took place as scheduled, at 11 a.m., around two hours before the central Mexico earthquakeWikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Puebla_earthquake
Fortunately I was in Toluca both times and experienced a fraction ( although a large one ) of what it must have felt like in Mexico City which has much softer foundations being built on the drybed of a lake.
The doors, lights, wardrobes and tables shook and swayed violently but no damage luckily.
3. Family life & Friends
I’ve lived and travelled across a few small areas of the world and some cultural differences I just never get fully used to.
The kiss on one cheek greeting takes some getting used to and I can tell this is a conditioning thing as when our French friends came over for our Wedding I could visibly see the awkwardness on their face as they had to stop themselves going for the 2nd on the other cheek.
Mexican family life is much different than UK & Ireland. Family gatherings & parties of extended family are very common and frequent.
I’ve also discovered Pinatas are pretty much used throughout the year but mostly around winter both for decoration and activities.
Another huge difference is the milestone birthdays, for young Mexican girls, turning 15, also known as Quinceañera is one of the biggest events of her life as the family gather to spoil her with gifts.
The closest thing in Ireland in Ireland for catholics is probably 1st communion and for Protestants in Northern Ireland, turning 18.
4. The population size
For someone like myself, coming from a small village and moving to one of the largest cities in the world, the differences including population size were jaw dropping. Though people are much more friendly in Mexico city compared to other cities I’ve visited.
Over 22 million people live in the greater Mexico City area alone. For perspective, about 4.7 million live in Ireland and 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.
If you’re curious about the actual population of Mexico, it’s 129 million which incredibly is only 1.6% of the world population of 77,691,299,935 ( based on world population count )
For comparison how these countries stack up
England Size = 130,395 km²
England Population = 55 million
Ireland = 84,421 km²
Ireland Population = 4.7 million
Mexico = 1.973 million km²
Mexico population = 129 million
United States of America = 9.834 million km²
United States of America population = 327.2 Million
Mexico has huge cities but plenty of smaller villages and towns ( though some of these towns have populations very comparable to a small city in the UK )
5. Living standards
In Mexico there is a working, middle and upper class. Same as Ireland & UK, the difference is just how wide the gap is between those tiers. In Ireland there is a safety net in benefits ( for better or worse depending on your political ideas ) for those most in need. This system may be gamed
In Mexico that safety net doesn’t exist, not yet anyway but the new leftist government is taking measures to improve living standards for those at the bottom.
Though because of the stark difference in income, those on the lower rungs may not have the same opportunity in life when it comes to education and careers.
Depending on the job or sector you’re in, the level of wealth inequality can be stark and in Mexico City, the standards of living can vary greatly and sometimes, these sectors are directly facing each other, side by side for a stark contrast of lifestyle.
As such because of this extreme inequality, crime in some areas can be rife , homelessness is noticeable ( though recent Irish news points to this as being more of similarity than a difference ) and in the northern regions in particular, some may turn to the drug trade which promises fast wealth.
It’s important to note also that this is most noticeable in Mexico city and other major cities but that’s the same as any country. Mexico is split up into regions, some are better off than others, some are a lot safer than others in particular those to the east and south. *Also important to note is this is based on my personal experiences and those of talking to locals so can’t be taken as fact.
Though don’t believe all the US press that will try to convince you it’s too dangerous to even travel to, plenty of people live and work in Mexico and in particular Mexico City from all other the world. The UK government says over 513,000 visits happened in 2016 and most are trouble free.
The not so obvious
6. Work life
Mexican’s have an incredible work ethic that just doesn’t translate into the laid back attitude of Ireland.
In Ireland overtime is paid work by law, in Mexico working overtime is the norm and this is rarely paid overtime and usually expected. Most of my Mexican friends work closer to 60 hours per week than 40.
Mexicans starting off in a new position typically aren’t guaranteed more than 11 days off per year for holidays ( excluding national days ).
7. Armed Guards
As someone who lived in Northern Ireland and was brought up at the tail end of the troubles, seeing armed police & the army wasn’t particularly unusual.
In Mexico, you will see the army, federal and national police pretty much everywhere you go.
This isn’t what surprised me however. What did take me off balance, was almost every shop in Mexico City had armed guards, typically armed with shotguns or assault rifles.
Believe me I know they’re there for your protection but it never gets old walking past a guy in full kevlar holding your pint of milk or beer and he’s holding a boomstick that could repaint the room with one accidental blast.
8. Cost of living
Numbers are from numbeo and are fairly accurate
Anyone who’s lived in Ireland knows the cheap spots to drink and the tourist traps to avoid.. *Cough Temple bar. However Mexico is much the same, if you have local friends you can live the good life on a much cheaper budget if you know the right spots.
People expect everything in Mexico to be cheaper than in Ireland / the UK but I’ve found that clothes, shoes, cars and electronics tend to be about the same price as back home if not more expensive than it, so the locals typically tend to buy these items in bulk when they visit the USA.
In general however, the low cost for day to day items and holiday excursions make Mexico a fantastic tourist destination where you can live in luxury at an affordable price
9. Cost & Standard of Public transport
If you check out the section above, you’ll already see public transport is cheap. What doesn’t translate however is just how good this is.
In Mexico City, you can get a ticket on the Metro for 5 pesos ( about 23 cents ). With this you can get to pretty much everywhere of interest in Mexico City. The Metro is extensive and in pretty good quality, although it tends to flood and shut down during heavy rain season.
The only downside to how cheap the Metro is how overcrowded and how much crime occurs ( mostly petty theft like pickpocketing that I experienced first hand ).
If you don’t fancy the Metro, there is an extensive bus system, Ubers, lyft, mini (green) buses that are slightly more dangerous than regular buses but extremely cheap.
If you’re travelling outside of Mexico City, the quality of buses are fantastic. There’s toliets on board, comfortable reclining seats and TV’s playing movies are fairly normal.
Comparing the quality of buses around Mexico city to those back home in Northern Ireland was a little depressing actually!