Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 04/07/16
Personal Experiences from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
As an FSO, yes.
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?
East coast. Lots of connections through Dallas, Houston, Atlanta.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Large free-standing houses, almost all very close to consulate (a lovely 5-10 minute walk). A few were not as close but I don't think the commute was more than 15 min for anyone.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Similar to US but cheaper and less variety. Go to El Paso if you want specifics you cannot find in Juarez.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing, you can cross the boarder in 15 minutes.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A handful of fun, new restaurants in Juarez and El Paso. Best tacos of your LIFE on the side of the road (...yes, you can and should stop and eat at these places). I never got sick from anything and it is so unique to Juarez, your guests will love it.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Personal mail to the Consulate address. Easy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very available and very reasonable. I miss my maid like crazy and know I will never have it that good again.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, the Consulate has a gym and nice tennis courts, volleyball. However, I recommend joining gym 360 (lots of consulate folks go there). It's another way to explore the city and make local friends. Good group classes, weight rooms, etc.
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?
I used credit cards all the time. No issues.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I went to religious services but in Spanish. Plenty of English services in El Paso.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need Spanish. Locals do not speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No sidewalks to speak of.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No to trains and buses. We took taxis on occasion; was never clear if this was allowed by RSO or just frowned upon but I had no issues. Always did so in a group and usually with locals.
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 something high off the ground, nothing fancy. Road conditions can be bad and having visibility is helpful.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, reasonable and arranged by the Consulate which made it so easy upon arrival. GSO is fabulous in Juarez.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Make sure you aren't roaming - even in El Paso. You will learn all sorts of manual tricks to start/stop data, connect to the 'right' towers etc. No way to explain it, ask when you get down there. It's not easy to be on the boarder in this respect but you figure it out.
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?
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?
I don't think so.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual ay work. Anything goes in public. Bring cowboy boots if you've got them.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I was single and went out fairly often. I dated local Mexicans, went to bars, restaurants, house parties and BBQs. I always tried to stay very aware of my surroundings, especially alone at night driving back into Juarez from El Paso and never felt scared, per se, just much more cautious than I would be in other cities. I certainly stood out - there are not many Americans in Juarez that aren't there because of the Consulate - but I never felt threatened or targeted in any way. I relied on RSO's robust and often updated guidance and took cues from my local friends on what bars/restaurants were considered 'safe' (and others they would tell me were not a place anyone should go). Basically, my approach was to be aware but to really get out and get to know Juarez. I am so glad I did, I have great memories.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
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?
Same as El Paso.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Desert conditions. Hot and dry, surprisingly cold in the winter. Tons of SUN (El Paso is named "Sun City"). Some dust but nothing that affected my life.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The only expats I met were those of us at the Consulate. It has been said before, but this is truly a happy place. Life is easy in a lot of ways: quality of life/work-life balance is high, amazing LES, great housing, friendly locals, lots of opportunity to take leave due to the size of the community.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Dinners with other FS families, Juarez nightlife (be aware but go out!), great relationships with the LES community/lots of socializing, running groups, cycling groups. Festivals in El Paso/Southwest.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Definitely a lot of families. However, with such a large ELO community, there were a fair amount of singles, too. I was single, dated both in Juarez and El Paso and met some great people. To be sure, you have to look for opportunities to meet other single professionals but it's do-able. Fort Bliss is also a MASSIVE military base with lots of people "like us" - meaning, not from El Paso but there for a few years. Get out, explore, be adventurous and keep your eyes open :)
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I believe so.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Making local friends, being invited for holidays by my Mexican neighbors, having "brave" friends and family come to visit (there is something about Juarez; it is so authentic and everyone that visited me absolutely loved it), the housing (it's huge and nice), the Consulate community (I didn't realize this at first, but we come away knowing SO MANY FSOs and make a lot of connections in two short years. Also, there is credibility to having served in Juarez: not just related to the city but also the tremendous reputation/experience gained in one of the world's best-run, largest Consulates).
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Mesilla, New Mexico (The Double Eagle - totally a hidden gem). White Sands - take visitors there and they will be blown away. The JW Marriott in Tucson, AZ - a very easy drive for a long weekend with incredible gov. rates!! Easy to fly to Austin, Mexico City, Tuluum (Cancun).
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Tequila. Tacos. Great domestic help.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The people of Juarez! They are so kind, generous, friendly and inspiring. Mexico itself is spectacular and there are many opportunities to do TDYs throughout the Mission because of the size of the ELO community. Travel is the US Southwest is also a wonderful benefit: it has so much to offer and long weekends/leave is ridiculously easy to come by. Living on the boarder is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many and being so close to El Paso makes everything EASY.
10. Can you save money?
Yes. The dollar is strong and everything is cheap.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That I was going to love it and miss it in a lot of little ways.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, I didn't "ask" for Juarez but I couldn't have picked a better first post for myself if I tried.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
...any preconceived notions of Juarez. It is a huge city filled with some of the warmest, most welcoming people I've met. It is not pretty, I'll say that, but it makes up for it's rough appearance with its grit, authenticity and frontera identity.
4. But don't forget your:
Space heater for the master bedroom (all are over the garage and it gets chilly).
5. Do you have any other comments?
I read a lot of posts from the perspective of families. I think it's important for singles to know there is a unique but very much 'alive' nightlife in Juarez. It's nothing like Washington, DC - but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, it was kind of random and crazy in a good way, usually. Juarez is such an adventure.