Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 09/15/12

Personal Experiences from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico 09/15/12

Background:

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

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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?

U.S. Midwest. 5-6 hours through domestic flights out of El Paso. Crossing to El Paso is easy with SENTRI (trusted traveler), although lines still get long around the holidays.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor worked at the U.S. Consulate and lived in Ciudad Juarez for a year and a half.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing is great. Everyone gets at least a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house. The houses aren't enormous, but they are spacious and perfect for a single or a couple. Families get larger single-family houses, usually in communities with playgrounds and space to run and play. Much of the housing is within walking distance. No one is more than a 15-minute drive. Good housing is definitely a highlight of this post.

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

Everything is available. Produce is often cheaper and of better quality in El Paso. Americans posted to Juarez get privileges at Fort Bliss.

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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?

Fast food is the same restaurants as in the U.S. but a bit cheaper. Local restaurants are often very good at reasonable prices. If you love Mexican food, you will be in heaven here.

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

Not many. The occasional scorpion. Very few mosquitoes because there is so little open water.

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Daily Life:

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

The Consulate has a PO box in El Paso. No restrictions on size or contents.

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

Very available. Reasonably affordable. If she's willing to risk her visa, a woman can cross the border and earn double the salary.

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

Yes. The Consulate has a small gym. There are private gyms in Juarez and El Paso at very reasonable prices.

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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?

Go ahead and use them. Most stores and restaurants will accept them.

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

Every denomination you can think of in Spanish. Some attend in Juarez. Others cross to El Paso.

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

You get El Paso channels on cable. Most read newspapers on line, but the El Paso Times is 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?

You can survive with English, but Spanish will make your time here richer. Even in El Paso, many do not speak English.

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

Sidewalks, where they exist, are torn up and uneven. Buses and taxis do not accommodate disabilities (not that you'd want to be on a bus anyway).

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Transportation:

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

No.

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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?

Bring anything. You'll see a range from tiny Scions to large SUVs. There are flash floods at times, but they pass quickly. High clearance really isn't necessary.

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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?

Yes and cheap. My phone and internet bill is $35/month. The speed is good enough to stream movies. Some neighborhoods have slower speeds.

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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?

Many of the US cell companies will add Mexican service for a small fee.

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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?

No. You just need the vaccine records to cross the border.

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

There are kennels in El Paso. Otherwise colleagues pet sit.

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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?

There are family member jobs at the Consulate. Other spouses work in El Paso or telecommute.

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

Business at work. Anything goes in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Plenty. The all-out war between rival drug cartels seems to be a lull. However, carjackings and home invasions are still very common.

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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?

None really. Water is passably potable. Doctors and dentists are excellent. One of the best hospitals in Juarez is a block from the Consulate.

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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?

Moderate. The spring winds blow dust around.

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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 and dry. This is a desert. Winter nights get cold. All housing has central heat.

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Schools & Children:

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

Some U.S. Consulate kids go to a local, bilingual school that parents have been happy with. Others are bused across the border to private schools in El Paso. Still others live in El Paso on SMA and attend public school there. There are options for every family. The consulate provides transportation to both sides of the border. Children attending school in El Paso cannot pack their lunch because of restrictions on fresh foods crossing the border.

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

There are several private schools in El Paso that are dedicated to children with learning disabilities. Check out Bridges Academy.

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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?

There is a wonderful Montessori preschool in Juarez that has been very popular. Parents give it rave reviews.

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

Yes. You may to cross to El Paso to find baseball and football, but otherwise there are youth sports all over.

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Expat Life:

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

Hard to say. The maquila industry is rising again and many have foreign managers. Many, many residents of Juarez were born in El Paso.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is really good at the Consulate. The Consul General is excellent and has set a positive tone.

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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?

It's pretty good, especially among the entry-level officers (and there are more than 40). No one is bar-hopping at 2am, but there is enough to do.

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

Families and couples will do best. Singles have a hard time dating in the local community and dating across the border brings its own challenges. However, there have been several marriages and long-term relationships among colleagues.

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

Yes. There are many same-sex couples at the Consulate. Several singles date regularly. It seems the gay officers have better luck dating than their straight colleagues.

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

Not particularly. Machismo is alive and well, but it doesn't impact work or quality of life.

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

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

The whole desert Southwest is open to you. White Sands, the mountains and ski resorts in southern NM, Albuquerque, Santa Fe. San Diego is a 10-hour drive or quick flight. LA is a bit farther. Unfortunately, personal road travel within Chihuahua is restricted for security reasons. But hop a flight to Mexico City or Guadalajara. Explore other states in 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?

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

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. It's been wonderful to watch the city come alive again after years of violence and murder.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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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?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don't be frightened by what you read in the papers. Security at home and work is good. With precaution, you can live here well.

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