Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 02/10/19
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?
Other places in the Western Hemisphere and Europe.
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?
Post is a six day drive from Washington D.C.
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?
Housing is small: three bedroom houses, no matter what your family size. Larger places are very rare.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can shop in El Paso, or in CDJ. Med advises bleaching your vegetables if from CDJ, and local refrigeration can be iffy, especially in summer.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything is here. There are many fast food and Mex or Tex-Mex options.
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?
Mail is driven in from El Paso.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Help is available, it’s typical to combine housekeepers and nannies.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Consulate has many services for the community. Yoga, Zumba, Cross-Fit and a very small gym are on-compound. Gyms in CDJ can have security concerns and El Paso is far away just for a workout. Many people own personal treadmills.
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?
Yes. Some people have had bad experiences with skimming in CDJ. There is an ATM and a bank branch at the Consulate.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic services in English are in CDJ; everything exists 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 cannot survive without Spanish. The level of English in the area is very, very low, including in the Consulate itself.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It is a driving city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We aren’t allowed to take most local transport. Taxis and Uber are available and permitted.
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?
An old car with high clearance for the speed bumps and road flooding.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, set-up before arrival. Speeds are slow during peak periods.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
U.S. based T-Mobile and ATT are popular choices.
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?
Pets are very popular here; no quarantine required.
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?
Many people telecommute. Salaries on both sides of the border for jobs on the economy are shockingly low. A handful of EFM jobs exist, Spanish is helpful for all types of local employment.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many in El Paso, volunteering in CDJ is complicated by security concerns.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dressy casual for the office, people wear everything in public. Shorts are uncommon in Mexico.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. We have no-go zones and shootings throughout the city, although they are targeted.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care in El Paso is adequate, although there can be long waits for appointments. Care in CDJ is largely Spanish-language. The MED unit has a nurse only, who is unable to prescribe.
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?
Pollution and dry air takes a toll on most people.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Pollution and dry air takes a toll on most people. Food allergies are largely manageable and products either labeled or made locally.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and dry in summer, cold and dry in winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are no international schools. All have pros and cons:
CDJ instruction is in Spanish with no support for non-speakers. A good option for the young, due to the short commute but English instruction (even in “bilingual” schools) is inadequate and academics are variable.
El Paso public schools are very large with many extracurricular activities. Some children have to repeat grades when they return to Washington D.C.
El Paso private schools are small (to very small) with no to few extracurriculars. Bridges Academy (for kids with special needs), El Paso Country Day (for kids needing an accelerated curriculum) and Loretto/ Radford (religious) are all popular.
All El Paso choices have a commute time of roughly 3 hours daily.
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?
Yes to all, at prices less than in D.C. The commute time for El Paso schools effectively serves as before and after care!
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Spanish language only. Kids who commute to school don’t have time for weekday extracurriculars. Others are offered mainly on Saturday mornings or during the week.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is no expat community here to speak of. FAST officers have a strong network and take care of each other, including socially. Others must find their own way.
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?
CLO activities, events in El Paso.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Singles and couples, yes. Schooling and a small number of kids at post makes this difficult for families.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Post has a very active GLIFFA group.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes, if you speak strong Spanish.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The situation is largely as in the US.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
There are many fun trips in the Southwestern US. Travel to other parts of Mexico requires flights. Travel in the area is complicated by the security situation.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Super Target in El Paso, the local parks, both national and state, Viva Mexico. However, big-city style entertainment is lacking.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Mata Ortiz pottery, other ceramics and Mexican handicrafts.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
El Paso and proximity to the US more generally.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The school situation and the absolute necessity to speak Spanish.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Taco seasoning and spice intolerance.
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?