Guadalajara, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 01/23/08

Personal Experiences from Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico 01/23/08

Background:

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

No. Previous experiences include Algiers, Libreville, Djibouti, and Guayaquil.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

It is 2.5 hours by air to Houston, TX or 15 hours by road.

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

The author is affiliated with the U.S. 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?

Excellent.

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

Mexico is very expensive. For a family of four, groceries can run US$125-$150 or more per week.

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

Items like Bisquick, chocolate chips, canned Minutemaid. They are available, but are VERY expensive.

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

There are basically all American fast foods here (McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway, etc). Other U.S. restaurants like Chilis, Hooters, Applebees and Outback are here as well.

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Daily Life:

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

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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 US$100 per week is average but it is very difficult to find good local help. Nannies are even harder to find and none of them speak English.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use ATMS but do so indoors to avoid robberies.

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

Episcopal.

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

Yes, you can get cable with English channels for about US$60 per month. There is one English language paper geared towards U.S. community.

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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?

The more the better although many people know some English.

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

Many buildings are handicap accessible including the consulate.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like in the U.S.

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

Taxis are generally safe but a bit expensive. Local buses are not recommended due to safety and security.

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3. 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 kind.

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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$60 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?

Don't get a contract!I f your phone is stolen, then you will incur a huge bill and it is difficult to cancel the contract. It is better to buy a cell phone and buy cards to load minutes.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Obtain a LIngo or Vonage system to run through the high-speed DSL lines of the computer.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Very good vet care, but I have only found good kennels for dogs.

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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?

Not really unless you are bi-lingual but salaries are very low.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy.

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

Medium.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Pollution combined with altitude causes lots of respiratory problems.

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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?

There are 4 months of rain and heat (June/July through September). The rest of the year is dry with lots of dust. December through March is cold.

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Schools & Children:

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

ASFG is the only accredited U.S. school. Academically, it is excellent, but like most Latino schools, it is basically a school attended by wealthy Mexicans with only a few expatriates and there is a large problem of bullying by the Mexican kids. The director has been here for years and is very tight with the Mexican community, which I believe clouds her judgment a bit as the consulate officers are only here a few years.

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

There are very limited services for special needs kids so parents should check in advance to see if services are available to meet their child's need.

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

About 50,000 including the area around Lake Chapala.

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2. Morale among expats:

High although many have left as cost of living has increased. Fewer are moving here for the same reason.

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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?

Yes, lots of good restaurants and clubs.

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

Yes, there is lots to do.

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

I don't know for sure as it is not openly displayed (this is a conservative Catholic city).

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

Yes towards darker skinned people either from other Latin countries or indigenous Mexicans.

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

This is the mariachi capital of Mexico. Also, tequila is from this area and there are many visits to tequila plants. We are close to mountains, the beach, etc.

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

Beautiful handicrafts of wood, metal, clay, woven items, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

NO!

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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:

Diet as food here is great!

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3. But don't forget your:

check book as it's very expensive.

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Its a great city and I would recommend it to anyone. Don't expect it to be the Mexico of 30 years ago as Guadalajara is a large metropolitan city. It is very modern and very expensive but easy living.

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