Hermosillo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 04/25/13

Personal Experiences from Hermosillo, Mexico

Hermosillo, Mexico 04/25/13

Background:

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

This was our first expat experience.

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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?

Our home base is New England. We normally fly into Phoenix or Tucson and then drive down to Hermosillo. The drive is about 2.5 hours from the border crossing in Nogales. Flights in and out of Hermosillo are prohibitively expensive, although they have just added a new American flight to Dallas, which may help.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Sept. 2011- August 2013.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing here is great- very spacious with a surprising amount of storage. Many smaller neighborhoods, some of which have pools, community areas etc.

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

We have access to some decent grocery stores, several WalMarts and a Costco. Prices are more expensive than in the US since everything is imported. The quality of the good isn't great (other than Costco). I stock up at Target on our trips to Tucson or have things sent through Amazon.

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

We were happy with what we brought. Warm weather clothes are a must!

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

Hermosillo is weird because it is far more like the US than it is like Mexico. Every fast food place is here that you would see in the US. Prices are a bit more expensive. There are some really great restaurants in the city, especially if you like beef. We have missed good Asian food and have yet to find a better pizza than what is available at Costco (yes, there is a Costco).

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

We haven't experienced problems in our home, but in September there was a cricket infestation in the city that was something to see.

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Daily Life:

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

We are able to send everything through the consulate. The consultate drives the mail up to Nogales twice a week.

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

There is ready availability of domestic help. We have a housekeeper who came 3x per week for about $15 day. We also had a full-time nanny for about $150 per week. Many of my Mexican friends have live-in nannies who work 6 days for slightly less than I was paying for ours. The consulate community seems to pass the same nannies around, and they are all very good.

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

A downside of Hermosillo is that there isn't a lot of availability of green spaces or walking areas. They have more than made up for it in the wide variety of gyms and workout facilities. There is a also a very popular country club- Los Lagos - that most people join, with a gym, pool, golf course, etc. Prices are comparable to 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?

We have an ATM at the consulate and can cash checks. I usually do that and use cash. There have been some problems with credit card fraud here. I also feel comfortable using the ATMs in banks.

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

I think there is one non-denominational Christian group that has English services.

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

We have directTV from Arizona and pay about $30 per month.

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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?

There are a lot of people in Hermosillo who speak English because of the proximity to Arizona, however, I have found my Spanish to be invaluable for day-to-day living and for making friends.

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

This would be a tough place to live for someone with physical disabilities- there are hardly any sidewalks, handicapped parking is a crap shoot, and most locations around the city are not accessible.

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Transportation:

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

No. The buses are crazy and unreliable. We have taken occasional taxis from the airport but not within 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?

Anything is fine. A lot of people here have SUV-type cars for when it rains, but given that happens about 5 times per year, don't sweat it. The drivers here are insane, so we will be leaving with several dings and dents on our cars.

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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?

Telmex provides high speed internet. About $35 per month included with our home phone bill.

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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?

We all use Telcel. It is reasonable. You can also get a pay-as-you-go phone and get refill cards at any convenience store, etc.

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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?

Not really.

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

Mexican women are no joke. They look put together all the time. Men generally are business-casual when at work and jeans with boots and button-down shirts otherwise.

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Health & Safety:

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

Hermosillo is generally regarded as a safer area of Mexico, as it is a sleepier town. However, there have been thefts from people's cars, spare tire thefts, etc. Our RSO has been excellent at keeping us up to date on what is going on here. As members of the consulate community, we have restrictions about where we can travel within Sonora and are not allowed to travel into Sina Loa. We remain vigilant.

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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?

We have had excellent medical care here. We have an English-speaking Dr. and pediatrician. The care is affordable and efficient. I've been very impressed. That said, for anything major, I would still go back to the states.

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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?

I would say moderate. Being in the desert, it is always very dusty and there are a lot of allergens.

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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?

The majority of the year is lovely, but when summer hits, watch out. The temps rise into the 100-120 range from about June into October. I can count the number of days it has rained here on my fingers. During the wet months- July and August, when it does rain it is a deluge. It is true that you get used to it.

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Schools & Children:

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

I know that there have been mixed reviews on schools here for older kids. We have preschool-aged children and have been delighted with the options here.

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

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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 our twins (now 4) in Bambu Montessori and have loved it. They take yoga, music and play chess. We have been included in the school community and have enjoyed all of the cultural activities that the school has provided. I can't say enough about this school. One small caveat- English is not spoken by the majority of the administrators, so you either need to speak Spanish or be proactive about asking your questions to the English-speaking teachers to keep the lines of communications open. We speak Spanish, so this hasn't been a problem, but some families have felt a little lost in the system.

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

Yes. In addition to Los Lagos, there are other opportunities around the city, including swimming, horseback riding, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

VERY small. The consulate has a small number of officers, and there are several other agencies in the consulate. Anyone else that is here is most likely from the Ford plant or a Canadian mining company.

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2. Morale among expats:

Moderate to high morale. There are certainly worse places to be in Mexico, and the CLO does a great job organizing opportunities for us. We enjoy the benefits of the beaches, the proximity to Arizona, etc. And the Consulate leadership is very 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?

Our main social life has been the amazing number of children's birthday parties and other family gatherings. We also have an active CLO who plans dinners, outings, etc.

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

In my opinion it is a great city for families with small children. It is a bit boring, but with small kids you get a lot of family time, and there is enough to do. I think the families with older kids have a harder time. As for singles- it is what you make it. I've seen some singles thrive here with lots of local friends, enjoying the nightlife, etc. Others have used Hermosillo as the jumping-off point to visit other areas in Mexico, as there are some cheap flights on Volaris. Others still have found it very stifling here. Again, the accessibility of Tucson (3.5-4 hours) helps everyone.

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

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

I haven't noticed anything explicitly, but I can say that Hermosillo is a pretty homogenous place. There don't seem to be a lot of opportunities to practice your religion if you aren't Catholic or some form of Christian. Also, racially, it isn't very diverse. My kids with their blonde hair are often pointed at, and everyone wants to touch their hair and know what we are doing in Hermosillo.

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

Some might not view this as a highlight, but it has been great to enjoy this part of Mexico and also have easy access to the U.S., specifically Tucson. Being from New England, we had not explored the American southwest, and we've loved it. I would also list as a highlight the friends we have made here and our experience with the preschool community.

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

The beaches of San Carlos and Kino. A trip to the colonial town of Alamos. The zoo. Parque Infantil. Spending time with friends and attending any of the million birthday parties. Trips to Tucson, Tombstone, Phoenix, etc. The square around the cathedral has food vendors and people walking around on weekend evenings. There are some great festivals that come to town (Festival de Pitic, Feria del Libros), and every year there is a huge Expo Ganadera with concerts (kind of like a state fair). Finally, I've been impressed with the number of kids' theater performances that come to the Auditorio Civico.

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

There isn't much in the way of local items other than made-to-order cowboy boots and ironwood carvings. You can get other Mexican crafts in San Carlos, but they are priced at a tourist rate. There is some copper in Imuris on the way to Tucson.

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

We have found the people to be very friendly. Hermosillo looks like a city but is really just a small town. Everyone knows (or is related to) everyone else, and once you have made some friends, your circle grows quite quickly. We have really enjoyed the food. Lots of delicious carne asada, grilled vegetables, etc. The majority of the year, the weather is delightful. Access to the beaches in San Carlos (1.5 hrs) and Bahia Kino (1 hr) has been wonderful. Finally, we have very small children and have been able to enjoy our school community and the activities available for kids here- Parque Infantil (a little amusement park for the under 8 crowd), the zoo, ballet classes, Gymboree, Music Together, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

Honestly, not so much. We have traveled a lot, and the cost of imported goods is equal to or more than it is in the states.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. We honestly could spend another year here. It can be boring, but I feel like we made the best of it and have loved the time with our kids. We will be leaving with some good friends and great memories.

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

Winter clothes! Also your expectation that you will be getting an authentic Mexican experience. We joke that this is foreign service lite.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and indoor activities for the summer.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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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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