Mexico vs USA: When to Move Out?

Last night, Jorge and I were talking about a friend of ours who recently moved out of his parents’ house at the age of 25.

  • My thoughts: Ok.
  • Jorge’s thoughts: Well that’s controversial!

In the USA, most people move out of their parents’ house when they get a steady job after high school. Others go off to college, live there for 4 years, then move their leftover stuff out of their parents’ house when they get a job after graduating. If anyone is still living with their parents after age 23 or 24, it’s most likely because for whatever reason, they can’t afford to live on their own (not uncommon in today’s economy).

In Mexico, things are quite different. People are much more dependent on their families. Mexicans typically don’t move out of their parents’ home until one of three things happens:

  • They decide to study in another part of the country (somewhat rare)
  • They get a job in another part of the country
  • They get married

Universities in Mexico don’t typically have dorms or any kind of on-site living facilities, so most Mexicans choose to go to school somewhere close to the house they grew up in. I had a few friends in college here in Cancun who were living with roommates since they came from another state, but most of my university classmates were still at their parents’ house. I also know several Mexicans who have gotten 2 or 3 college degrees, all while living at home. Once, a 25-year-old friend even told me, “I’m thinking about moving into my own place, but my mother would be heartbroken. She’d wonder where she went wrong!”

Even now at age 26, the vast majority of my Mexican friends still live with their parents. I do know a few newlywed couples who live in their own home, and Jorge of course moved out of his parents’ house when we got married (although we almost moved into my in-laws’ upstairs apartment to save money).

Jorge with his family 🙂

Personally this is a cultural aspect that still boggles my mind. As someone who grew up in a culture where you finish school then get the heck out, it’s hard to comprehend why someone would want to put their independence on hold until they get married. Obviously the Mexican system works quite well, so I can’t criticize it, and I can’t say there’s anything wrong about it (sometimes I even wish I could live rent-free) … I just don’t understand it on a personal level because I was surrounded by something completely different growing up.

It’s common for me to have strong personality clashes with my Mexican friends, and lately I’ve formed stronger friendships with other expats (Canadians, Brazilians, Americans, Brits, Australians, etc). I sometimes wonder if it’s because my expat friends and I been living independently for so many years (7 years for me), while most of my Mexican friends still live at home and have a different, more family-oriented mindset. Or maybe it’s some other cultural difference.

Since the day I moved here and to this very day 7 years later, the most common question I get asked by Mexicans I meet is, “And your parents were ok with you moving away? What did they say?”