Guadalajara, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 01/23/11

Personal Experiences from Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico 01/23/11

Background:

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

yes

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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?

Anderson, South Carolina; We fly from Guadalajara to Atlanta (4 hours) to connect (1 hour) to Greenville, South Carolina.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since August 2010

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

We work at the U.S. Consulate General

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most families live in gated communities in townhouse-style houses with zero lot lines. Our community has a pool, gym and playground, with a 15-20 min. commute time, depending on traffic. One of the gated communities with the largest homes is a 30-minute drive from town/work. Smaller families and singles live in high-rise apartments and townhouses in the Providencia neighborhood, about a 10 min. commute.

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

Produce is less expensive generally. Prepackaged items are more expensive. Overall, things are more expensive by 20% or so.

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

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

McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Applebees, Outback Steakhouse, PF Changs, Carl's, and other American chains are here. The chains cost a little more than the Mexican restaurants. Also, the Chinese restaurant near our house costs more than buying Chinese in the U.S. There are tons of sushi places. The tacos are amazing.

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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?

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

Ants, small roaches. Some homes saw some black widows with all the construction in the neighborhood. Flying insects are no problem in the dry months, but mosquitoes are active in the rainy season and on the coast.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Pouch

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

$100 per week for 32 hours.

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

Yes.

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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?

They are plentiful and safe if you use them in the daylight hours and take normal precautions.

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

Yes

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

Yes

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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 need to know some Spanish.

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

Someone in a wheelchair would have great difficulty getting around because of the poor quality of the sidewalks. Many buildings do not have elevators, either.

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Transportation:

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

Intercity bus travel is great if you go 1st class. We do not use the public transportation in the city.

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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?

Any car is fine, but a higher clearance vehicle would be better for the speed bumps.

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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, it is about $30 per month

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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?

Cell service is great and pay-as-you-go plans are available.

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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)?

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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?

No.

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

Normal Business attire at work, fairly casual elsewhere. It is rare to see Mexicans wear shorts anytime!

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Health & Safety:

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

Narco violence has increased in the city, but most incidents occur after midnight. The State Dept. has issued travel warnings to discourage any travel after dark outside the city or near the airport, because of past narco-blockades on highways.

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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?

No.

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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?

The air quality here is reported to be better than in Mexico City, but in parts of the city there is a strong pollution haze that sinks down into the lower parts near the airport and makes it hard to breathe.

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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?

During the dry season October - May it is sunny every day with highs 70-80 during the day and lows of 40-50 at night. During the rainy season temps are warmer at night but moderate during the day, and rain usually occurs at night.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American school gets good reviews, but we chose to send our kids to the bilingual Lincoln school, which has smaller class sizes, and we have been very happy in our first year there.

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

The Lincoln school offers some programs for learning disabilities and has tutors available. Some friends of ours have a child with Down's syndrome, and she seems welcomed.

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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?

We have not used preschool/daycare, but others have been happy with the options available. We use our housekeeper/nanny to help watch our kids after school, and that is working well.

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

Yes. Our kids have really enjoyed taking gymnastics classes. The school offers lots of different sports as well.

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Expat Life:

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

Jalisco has about 50,000 US citizen residents and many Canadians.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good.

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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?

Everywhere.

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

Yes, the city is large enough to have activities appealing to many groups.

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

Yes, there is a gay population here, and locals have said that it is pretty tolerant, although they say there is less tolerance in the smaller towns in Mexico.

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

Mexicans make jokes about race, religion and gender. Mexicans make fun of fat people and gays, too. Sometimes they do not seem to be sensitive that this could be offensive.

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

Visiting Tequila, listening to mariachi music, seeing the charreada (Mexican rodeo), going to the beach at Manzanillo (a 3-hour drive) and Puerto Vallarta (5-hour drive), going to the craft markets at Tonala and Tlaquepaque, and going horseback riding in the state and county parks.

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

Listening to mariachis, going to the tiangui markets (like flea markets), buying Mexican crafts, seeing the ballet folklorico, good restaurants, eating fruit with lime and chile from the street vendors, tacos of all kinds, riding bikes on Sundays when they make about 20 miles of roads around the city for bikes only, horseback riding, homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh Mexican vanilla, going to the beach & lots more.

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

Local Arts/Crafts are wonderful

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

The Mexican people are friendly and helpful. The weather is gorgeous with sunny days and cool nights. Even during the rainy season the sun comes out for a while each day. Anything that involves a service is cheaper here, but imported things cost more than in the U.S. Guadalajara seems like the essence of Mexico: mariachis, Mexican food, and tequila can be found in abundance, and people celebrate the Mexican holidays with flair.

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11. Can you save money?

We have.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Guadalajara is still a great city to live in. It is not as nice as it was 5 years ago -- or even 5 months ago, but it is still very nice. The future of the city and Mexico in general depends on how well the problem with drug-related violence is handled.

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