Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 01/04/19

Personal Experiences from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico 01/04/19

Background:

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

No. I've also lived in Western Europe and Africa.

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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?

Ciudad Juarez borders El Paso, TX. It is easy to travel to anywhere in the US though most flights connect through bigger cities in Texas.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

The US Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is generally all three bedroom houses. There are some four bedroom houses, but getting one of these is not dependent on family size so much as availability when you arrive. Most people walk or bike to work with the commute being five to ten minutes.

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

Cheaper and you can find everything in either Juarez or El Paso.

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

None.

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

There's everything including sushi. Food delivery is not the most reliable, but it's not hard to go get things yourself.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

You'll feel like you're living in the US with how fast you'll get your mail.

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

It's easy to get a housekeeper to come over one to two times a week and it generally costs US $20-30. Incredible nannies are available.

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

All sorts of gyms are available. A broader range of facilities (yoga, barre, etc) are available in El Paso.

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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?

No issues.

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

Probably in El Paso.

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

Spanish is needed, but some get by without it. It is more common even in El Paso to not speak English than to not speak Spanish. There are many resources and opportunities to learn Spanish.

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

Yes and no. There aren't sidewalks, you will have to drive everywhere, but all of the newer developments are built and designed to be friendly to those with disabilities. I wouldn't rule out Juarez as an option.

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Transportation:

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

Not recommended, probably discouraged.

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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?

Whatever car you want. Traffic can be rough, so you might want to avoid a newer car. There are lots of speed bumps, so higher clearance can be useful but not required.

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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?

It's about $15 a month and already set-up when you get here.

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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?

Most major cell phone providers have "border plans" that allow you to use their service in the US and Mexico.

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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 quarantine required. A lot of people get pets when they get here. Vet, grooming, and kenneling services are easy to access and more affordable than in the US.

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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 jobs at the consulate for family members. People telecommute. If you work on the local economy it's not for the pay. Employment in El Paso has been trickier for people to access than anticipated.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are lots of options depending on your interest.

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

No formal dress required. At work, shirt and tie for the guys and the equivalent for the ladies.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. There is a lot of violence related to gang activity and cartels. Even in areas considered "safe", violence occurs.

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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?

Most people develop allergies here. It is easy to get high quality health care on both sides of the border.

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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?

Not great year round. Those aware of the air quality readings may choose to limit time outside.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

It's common to have seasonal allergies that last all year. As for food allergies, you'll find it's very similar to being in the US.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No.

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

Hot and lengthy summer, with short but cold winter. Air is very 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?

This is the worst part about this post. There are no good options. There are no international schools or schools accredited by any American accrediting bodies. There are local Mexican schools that people use in Juarez, but the trade-off for a short commute is quality. Also, if your child doesn't speak Spanish the Juarez schools are not set-up to help the child learn Spanish even if the school is bilingual. Many schools are available in El Paso including access to excellent public schools, but the commute is over an hour each way on motor pool.

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

Schools in El Paso are able to provide accommodations. I'm not sure about Juarez.

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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?

Many options for preschool and day care on both sides of the border. It's cheaper than in DC. Schools do provide before and after school care.

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

Wide range of sports and activities available for kids.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a large consulate community. There are a lot of first tour officers at the consulate which leads to an optimistic, collegial vibe.

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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?

There are many ways to socialize and get out just like in any US city. There is a regular calendar of events through the Community Liaison Office (CLO) with strong participation.

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

It's challenging for families with school age children due to the school situation.

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

I'm not aware of any issues.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

It is relatively easy to make local friends here. The most prejudice that certain ethnic groups will encounter seems to be with CBP officers when crossing into the US.

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

Attitudes are similar to what you will encounter across the US.

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

The food! The cafeteria at the Consulate serves up affordable home-style Mexican and American food for breakfast and lunch. Even the locals love it. Their are so many culinary options to explore from taco shacks to white table cloth dining. Also, traveling within Mexico from Juarez is easy and relatively inexpensive.

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

So many amazing National Parks on the US side are hours away. This is a great post to take up camping and hiking.

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

Target in the US is a short drive away. Most handicrafts are brought in from other parts of Mexico. It's generally better to buy these things when you're travelling.

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

You have easy access to the US, but you will still feel like you're living in Mexico. Traffic isn't great, but getting stuck in traffic for hours isn't a thing here. It's not hard to get home to visit family and friends in the US by driving or flying.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish the information on the school situation had been more clear. A lot of the other reports are quite rosy, but when I arrived I learned that it's not entirely accurate and it's not uncommon for people to say that if they had known about the school situation they would not have come here.

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

It's complicated.

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

Bring it all!

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4. But don't forget your:

Elastic-waist pants for all the tacos and hiking shoes.

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

Watch Sicario just to tell yourself that it's not like that at all. I recommend books by Luis Alberto Urrea to get you started. From there, I would pick up a syllabus from a Latin American history/culture class. There's a lot to learn.

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