Guadalajara, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 06/05/13

Personal Experiences from Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico 06/05/13

Background:

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

This is my first tour as a Foreign Service Officer, but I have lived and worked outside of the US extensively.

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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?

New York. Guadalajara always requires a stopover either in Mexico City, Miami or in Texas, so it's a minimum 7 hours of flying time due to stopovers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months so far, with 16 months left on this tour.

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

Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartment housing is usually spacious and very nice for singles, couples and small families. Houses and townhouses are available for officers with pets and larger families, but yards are small (not more than a small, enclosed patch) and ALL housing has leaks during the rainy season. A/C breaks down frequently.

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

I find produce to be much cheaper (5 avocados for about US$2) but imported food more expensive. Costco and Walmart, as well as Home Depot, exist but are slightly pricier than in the US.

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

Nothing you can't get locally.

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

Almost all American chains are represented here and at about the same cost or slightly cheaper than in the US, depending on the fluctuating exchange rate.

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

Ants, roaches and mosquitoes in the rainy season.

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Daily Life:

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

Through DPO.

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

About MXP250 per visit for a cleaning lady once per week.

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

Yes, slightly cheaper than in the US.

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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 safe at banks during the day and widely available. Night use of ATMs is discouraged for safety reasons.

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

Yes.

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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?

You need Spanish most of the time, although half the population speaks English, particularly educated people. Those who work at the consulate (except for guards) all speak English.

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

A lot, both in the city and at the consulate, which has no elevator. Most sidewalks are badly damaged, and many facilities have no ramps for wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

They are affordable, if not cheap, but are not permitted due to safety issues.

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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?

High-clearance cars are good to have during the rainy season and for pot-holes and for driving on unpaved streets and roads.

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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. About US$100/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?

Bring one from the US (they are about 30% more expensive locally) and use a local plan.

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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)?

Dogs are very hard to house in apartments here.

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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?

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

Equivalent to the US.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are restrictions about where we can drive, which can be onerous. There can be car-jackings, and there is petty crime like in any city.

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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?

Have had the good forture of not having to know.

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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?

Being at about 5,000 feet, the air is dry and warm. Air Quality is usually pretty good, but those with allergies can tend to suffer.

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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?

Perfect if you like it to be hot. Usually over 80 degrees (but not humid). It can be very hot during part of April, all of May and some of June (over 95 degrees), but evenings cool down. The rainy season means about 2 hours of rain daily in late June, July and August, with flash flooding.

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Schools & Children:

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

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Expat Life:

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

Medium.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent.

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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?

Excellent, incuding lots of movies in English in theaters.

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

I think it's a very user-friendly city for families, couples and singles.

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

Yes.

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

No.

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

Learning about fine (sipping) tequilas and visiting the city for which the drink is named; the lovely Tlaquepaque village; being about a 4-hour drive from the coast (Puerto Vallarta) and about as far from special towns including San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato.

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

Drive to towns and cities where security allows, including Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta, San Miguel de Allenda, Guanajuato, Tapalpa, Sayula, Sayulita, and Ajijic.

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

Mirror work, locally made mesquite furniture (VERY heavy, but well done), high-end tequila.

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

Guadalajara is a well kept secret. It's relatively safe compared to other posts in Mexico, it's Mexico's 2nd largest city and therefore has a lot to offer; the weather is dry and warm (other than in the somewhat short rainy season), and housing is spacious and beautiful. Commutes to the consulate are very reasonable and rarely longer than 45 minutes.

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11. Can you save money?

No, but I have trouble saving money almost anywhere.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yup.

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

warm coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

sun-screen, which is pricier here than in the US, though available.

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