Guadalajara, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 05/08/14
Personal Experiences from Guadalajara, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, We have lived in five-six other countries throughout Latin America, as well as in 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?
We live and work overseas so we don't really have a home base in the U.S.
3. How long have you lived here?
One year. We departed because of the school situation at ASFG. Other than the school, the city is fantastic and offers so many cultural attractions. We would gladly have remained at post but felt we could not compromise the education of our children.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Assigned to Consulate in Guadalajara from 2012 to 2013.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The consular community lived in either nice apartments and most people really liked their places. The housing was substandard but could have been better with a more proactive maintenance program or more customer service oriented from the Management Section at the Consulate. Still, I'd rate it at a 4 out of 10. Not horribly bad. Getting used to the dirt and sand in the water was a bit new for us.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Food is cheaper than in the U.S. although imported items can run a bit higher.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Everything is available in Guadalajara.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything you have in the U.S., everywhere.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I didn't notice any.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We used pouch delivery at the Consulate. Other expats seem to have their own informal system set up.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, all over the place.
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?
Limit your use of credit cards. Our credit card was cloned the first time we used it.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Everything, in Spanish and English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need to speak Spanish unless you live in the expat community in Chapala where everyone speaks English. Just a basic level will do as the locals are friendly.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Sidewalks are not made for people with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis were safe. I would not consider the buses safe.
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?
Anything but I'd recommend something with a bit of clearance like a RAV 4 or CRV.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about US$50 per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everything is avilable and inexpensive.
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 is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
More formal than in the U.S.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, as in the rest of Mexico, violence is a real issue. In our year, we did drive by a few dead bodies which I do not consider normal. Still, it was only three times. My children saw a couple of these and thankfully the bodies had already been covered.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Lots of good doctors and dentists at reasonable prices.
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?
We lived in an area with lots of new construction so dust and dirt everywhere was a real issue.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Temperate weather, never too cold or too warm.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a few international schools. Our chidren, one in the lower school and one in middle school had a horrible time at ASFG and we curtailed (ended our assignment) because of it. The school consists mostly of Mexican children who are referred to as legacy students and make up the bulk of the student body. The school will tell you a higher international presence but I did not see that. Especially, in the middle school, the international students amounted to 3 in my son's grade. The children are not necessarily bad kids. The Mexican children have known each other since the early age and have formed strong friendships and bonds. For the first time in six schools in Latin America, our children felt isolated and pretty much ignored by the local children.
The worse part of the school was the double first grade. Children go to first grade twice so by the time your child needs to go to the "real third grade" you are hearing crazy talk like "our third grade is really fourth grade." So the children in 3rd grade are what we would expect in fourth grade in the U.S. The problem is that many of the books in third grade ("but it's really fourth grade") say third grade level on them. It's very crazy. This poses a dilemma for parents. Potentially keep your children back a year or move them forward a year (especially children who are older and more mature). It's absolutely a horrible system and made for the local children to have another year of English. In the end the children will graduate having 13 years of school at ASFG.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Don't know at ASFG.
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?
I saw that other families seem to have plenty of options available.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, many different programs.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small expat community. Morale was good except among the government and corporate people I knew. Most of us had issues with ASFG.
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?
Movies, clubs, eating out, visiting Puerto Vallarta.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families with no school-age children and single people.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
The gay people I knew seemed to have a good time and mix with the locals well. I did not hear of any problems for them.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I did not notice any.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Furniture, pottery, ceramics, food.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The people and the culture are fantastic. There is a great variety of food options at reasonable cost. Shopping is easy and you can find anything you would need in the U.S. We did not find it expensive. The weather was equally amazing. There is so much to do that we did not feel that we saved any money. This said, you have to be careful traveling, especially outside of the city and during hours of darkness. There is violence so you need to exercise caution.
9. Can you save money?
Not really, too many things to do and enjoy in the city.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
More factual information about the school situation at ASFG.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, without children.