On having higher standards of living in Mexico compared to Canada

My Dad and I had a lovely conversation this morning as we walked through the downtown core of the city of Leon. We were commenting on the incredible gap between my standards of living in Vancouver as compared to Aguascalientes. He was extremely happy that I have “moved up” and gotten closer in standards of living to what I deserve. For starters, I didn’t have a car in Vancouver. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment that was 450 sq ft or less (rented). In Aguascalientes, I have a three bedroom, 1 1/2 bathroom, front yard, backyard terrace house. I own a car. My office in Mexico is about three times the size of my office in Canada. And let’s not talk about the salary increase (which was substantial).


The Aguascalientes cathedral. Photo credit: Christian y Sergio

For many years, I’ve had the same conversation with many Mexicans who either want to immigrate to Canada or simply want to leave Mexico. Some of them, live in Canada in conditions that I would call below the poverty line. The housing situation in Vancouver is absolutely insane (read my friend Melissa’s blog, The Thirties Grind, just to read more absurdity of real estate prices in Vancouver). Why would some people choose to stay in Vancouver as opposed to move elsewhere to make a better life is NOT beyond me. I loved Vancouver. I lived there for more than a decade, and I was happy. VERY HAPPY.

Sunset in Vancouver and North Vancouver

A sunset in Vancouver as seen from North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay. My own photo.

But my life here is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and I feel that my standards of living are much higher here than there. For one, I can’t stand the rain. I tolerated it for more than 10 years, but I suffered extremely profound SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which affected my productivity. Here, I have sunshine. I have family, friends. Obviously I miss Vancouver, and as I blogged before, I have always lived grand wherever I’ve been. For two, I can’t stand Vancouver’s incredibly expensive status, and terribly low salaries. For three, I now can offer visitors who come and visit me a much nicer experience than I could offer when folks visited me in Canada.

I do feel a substantial increase in my standard of living since moving back to Mexico. Of course, I miss my friends. I miss the water. I miss my social life and some times (not often, though) the status I had as a “social media celebrity”. But overall, I am pretty happy here and I feel that I have moved up, instead of moving down. I am happy I moved.

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  3. Living my life as an open book: The Living Library Project at UBC’s @ikblc
  4. Earth Hour Canada and living green
  5. Thank you, O Canada!

Comments (7)

Roland TanglaoApril 21st, 2013 at 4:26 pm

“reverse brain drain” :-) is definitely a phenomenon or as the youth say a “thing”. miss you! peace and love from Vancouver! …Roland

LadyIslayApril 21st, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Food for thought? Perhaps in Canada, people in the middle and upper classes of society sacrifice certain standards so that everyone here has the opportunity to enjoy a minimum standard that is considerably higher than the minimum standard in Mexico. I speak in general terms, since not everyone in Canada accepts the help offered, and sometimes the system fails people.

RaulApril 21st, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Generally speaking, I think the minimum standard in Mexico is much higher than in Canada!

LadyIslayApril 22nd, 2013 at 1:02 am

I confess that I don’t have any first-hand experience with observing the gap between the rich and poor in Mexico, Raul. My information and impressions come from media reports, government & NGO agencies, and anecdotal accounts from people I meet that have visited Mexico. For example, I have regular contact with folks that go to Mexico year after year to build “houses” (what we would call “shacks”) for the working poor (1, 2 or 3 income families) that live in the slums of Tiajuana and Puerto Peñasco. Many families that they build for have no access to electricity, clean running water or sanitation services on the tiny plot of land they live on. This is in stark contrast to the high school students from Mexico that I have hosted in my home that reported having at least one full time domestic on staff in their home in Mexico.

Except for the most extreme cases or where people choose not to (like folks that live off-grid), most of the working poor in Canada can manage find accommodation with at least the basic services of clean running water, electricity and sanitation services. The greatest deficiencies in Canada’s ability to adequately house its residents can seen in extreme locations like the downtown eastside of Vancouver and some First Nations reservations.

My impression is that most people can enjoy a higher degree of personal security in Canada. For example, the US doesn’t issue a travel warning for Canada: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5815.html. Political corruption among civil servants in Canada doesn’t often include rampant bribery. Compare Transparency International’s comments on Canada and Mexico. Apparently their research (how accurate their reserch is, I don’t know) indicates that 14% of household income goes towards paying bribes (http://www.transparency.org/country#MEX_Chapter). Again, anecdotally, but I’ve never had a single person in Canada report to me that they had to bribe a public official or utility company employee to get access to basic services.

Statistics from the Mexican government: 43.9 million people without access to health care. 44.2% of the population living below the poverty line.

Apparently even the UN reports that the gap between the rich and the poor is highest in the world in Latin American countries (including Mexico), which brings me back to my original comment that perhaps in Canada, the middle and upper classes sacrifice more (through taxes!) so that the lower classes can enjoy a generally higher standard of living compared to lower classes elsewhere in the world.

MelissaMay 3rd, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thanks for the shout out, Raul!! Celebrity is over-rated! You just be your bad self wherever you are and I’m certain the standard of your social life will improve as it seems everything else has….I admire your courage to leave Vancouver in search of something better for yourself.

Jason BlankMay 22nd, 2013 at 8:06 am

Hey Raul,

Canada is a big place, Vancouver’s housing is very high but you can not generalize across the country, as in places like Quebec you can own a place for 250k and income is similar.

Also I suspect the safety factor in Canada and particular Vancouver is generally higher than in Mexico… Standard of living should not, in my opinion, be only $$$.

John ScherberJanuary 26th, 2014 at 1:06 pm

My new book looks at Americans and Canadians in Mexico who’ve chosen to avoid the big expat colonies in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala. What they’ve found is both diverse and surprising. The book is called Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path. There’s a sample on my website:

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