Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 06/09/11

Personal Experiences from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico 06/09/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

You can drive into US at any time, however the time it takes to cross the bridge is 5 minutes to 2 hours, even with the speedy pass. Flights from El Paso to DC are available.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

State Department Foreign Service Officer

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are great, they are quite large and well maintained. All have small back yards, some with grass. Houses are all in gated communities and are generally right near the Consulate compound. Almost all neighborhoods have multiple Consulate houses, so you are almost sure to know a neighbor or two. However, some neighborhoods do have very large, loud kids parties and karaoke parties that can keep you up late.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most people do their shopping in the US, so it is US prices.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Good restaurants right near the consulate for lunches and dinners, some good restaurants in El paso.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

All available in El Paso.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few houses have scorpions, GSO tries its best to prevent them, but sometimes nature wins

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Sent through daily post office runs in El Paso.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Good, about $40 for one day a week maid service. Many nannies and gardeners also available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Employee Recreation Association runs a small workout gym on the consulate campus. Some folks also go to a gym in the mall across the street from the Consulate. There are also many joggers who run in their neighborhoods. The consulate also has a small but strong biking club.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATM machine is available in the consulate.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All available in El Paso.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Dish TV available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not too much, as most shopping is done in El Paso.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not if they can drive. The new Consulate compound seems accessable.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Not used.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Higher car is needed because of some poor road conditions.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

About $40 per month via TelMex.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Post gives officers a Mexican cell phone for use in emergencies. People also tend to keep their US numbers, though coverage can be spotty on the Mexico side.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

All available in El Paso.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Can work in El Paso if desired.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Ties at work, in public whatever you want.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Allergies can be a problem with the dust and pollen.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Dusty

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, dry

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No first hand experiance. I know kids are sent to both schools in El Paso and in Juarez and Consulate provides transportation.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Don't know, El Paso would have US-style programs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Most babies are with stay-at-home parents who hire nannies to help.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

ERA offers tennis lessons at the consulate, many kids take lessons through that program.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, about 80+ US officers, specialists, and others

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2. Morale among expats:

Good, even though most did not choose to come to Juarez all seem to work well together and enjoy eachother's company.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of house parties and nights out in El Paso.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a great post for couples, and an OK post for singles and families. Many officers at post are single and attempt to date in El Paso with limited success. There are a growing number of families with infants and toddlers, but few with school age children. I would think with school age children they would not feel as connected to the Consulate community, however those with kids seem to like the schools.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

The consulate is very gay friendly. There are gay Americans at every level and many gay FSNs. There are gay bars and events in El Paso and Juarez. The greater community does not seem to be hostile to gays.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I have seen.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

It has been a great experience getting to know my fellow entry level officers and FSNs. Being at such a large posts gives you many opportunities to network. Also, management provides many interesting projects off the visa line for entry level officers. Those have been very interesting as well.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

El Paso can be boring, but there are many great weekend road trips throughout New Mexico.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Mexican tourist stuff? I am not quite sure.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Post has a great sense of community and the US is readily accessible. The work, at least in the consular section, is also very interesting and you will learn a lot.

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11. Can you save money?

You can if you do not spend your hardship on travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, because of the great sense of community and large number of folks you will work with. It is a great way to build your professional network.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Walking shoes, as this is pure suburbia and you will need to drive.

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3. But don't forget your:

Computer, because you'll want to stream in movies or TV when you don't feel like leaving your house.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Ringside Seats to the Revolution.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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