Hermosillo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 02/20/08

Personal Experiences from Hermosillo, Mexico

Hermosillo, Mexico 02/20/08

Background:

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

I'm not sure if I've always been an expat or if I'm just home in two different countries simultaneously =).

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2. How long have you lived here?

I was born in Hermosillo and moved to Tucson, AZ as a child. My childhood and adolescence included time in both Hermosillo and Tucson. I currently manage the operations of the Hermosillo branch of our Scottsdale, AZ-based company.

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

I am there for corporate and personal reasons.

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

There are daily flights from Los Angeles, Phoenix (actually, two daily flights from Phoenix), Tucson, and Las Vegas. Connections are possible to most major cities worldwide through Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City. There are at least six or seven daily flights to and from each for these cities.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing varies from very upscale to apartment living. Commute times rarely exceed 30 minutes depending on routes and exactly how much of the city you need to traverse.

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

Fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats (chicken, beef, pork, dairy, seafood) are lower priced in Hermosillo than in Arizona. They also tend to be fresher and less laden with preservatives as they are grown in Sonora for local consumption and don't require preservatives to survive long transportation times. Prepackaged food items (from your favorite brand of mayonnaise to baby food to t.v. dinners) are available although not in the variety that they are in U.S. supermarkets. They are also pricier than in the U.S. My family's supermarket bill in Hermosillo tends to run about 30% lower than in Arizona.

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

Cultural/ethnic items (food, decorations, etc.) from other parts of the world.

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

The beef in Hermosillo is excellent and the local specialty, as Sonora is one of Mexico's top beef producers (and exports over a half million head of steers to the U.S. for finishing north of the border). Steak, carne asada, and carne asada tacos range in quality from so-so to top notch, with prices ranging from being comparable to those of U.S. fast food joints in the case of good carne asada tacos, to US$100 per person, if you opt to have some good wine at one of the better steak restaurants.

Seafood is excellent and extremely fresh, with a handful of top quality seafood restaurants in various parts of town. Italian and Chinese food restaurants are abound although the flavors often bear little resemblence to the flavors you'll find at U.S. Italian or Chinese restaurants. I've had business associates and clients from the U.S. rave about the local Chinese and Italian places, react relatively indifferently, or absolutely hate them. Pizza in this town, even through the local Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza, Peter Piper Pizza, or Papa John's, doesn't taste like the pizza from the U.S. (even from the chains). Local pizza places tend to be better, but nothing like a 'real Italian' pizza place in the U.S. Besides the pizza places, McDonald's, Burger King, Carls Jr., KFC, Subway, and Applebee's are in town. I'm not a big fan of these on either side of the border (with the exception of Subway) but the food quality at these places is comparable to food quality at their U.S. counterparts.

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Daily Life:

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

The Mexican mail system is reliable in that you can get everything that is sent but it is very, very slow (everything takes at least two weeks). Fedex, UPS, Estafeta, and DHL are all available and offer service to desitnations worldwide. Also, if you don't mind making a little bit of a trip once a month or so, you can get a PO box in Nogales, Arizona (about a three hour drive north) or Tucson, Arizona, and make a monthly shopping, entertainment, and mail run.

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

Readily available and affordable. You can get a live in-maid/babysitter for approximately US$400 to US$500 per month. Gardeners, general outside clean up/maintenance workers, etc., are also readily available and low cost.

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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?

ATM's that take U.S. ATM cards are available in almost every bank and it seems like you can't drive more than a couple of miles without coming to a bank (or five...). You can withdraw local currency from your U.S. bank account at a better exchange rate than you'll get at the bank window or at a money exchange house if your U.S. bank doesn't charge service fees above US$3 and you stick with making larger cash withdrawls. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at most major stores and all gas stations(by law), as well as medium-sized or larger bars and restaurants. Be sure to tell the issuer of your card that you will be traveling to Mexico to avoid card rejection issues.

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

Unsure about non-English services. Hermosillo is predominantly Catholic with the additional presence of other Christian denominations, LDS, and a very small Jewish community.

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

Some English language channels are available through local cable provider MegaCable and Sky (these are Mexican cable providers with primarily Mexican channels). There are also several reliable, trustworthy providers of ´back door´ U.S. based DirecTV service, which allows you to watch the same channel lineup you get in the U.S. (including local U.S. channels and most High Definition channels).

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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, and every little bit helps. That said, many in the professional community speak at least passable English. Most of the better restaurants have English-speaking staff, as do some of the bigger stores. But English is not as widespread as in border towns. And you will find few people speaking a language other than Spanish or English.

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

Ramps are not available at all public/commercial facilities (particularly at older facilities), and where they are present, they are not always uniform or standard. Audio assist traffic lights are not used in this city.

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Transportation:

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

Right, like the U.S.

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

There are no urban trains. Buses are cheap and the public bus fleet was renewed in 2007.Taxis tend to be safe and affordable but small.

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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?

Hermosillo has dealerships for Chevrolet, GMC/Pontiac, Dodge, Ford, Lincoln/Mercury, Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, and BMW. The dealerships can service any vehicles from their brand. Parts tend to be pricier, with smaller inventory and longer lead times, than in the U.S., but labor is much cheaper. You can drive anything from a compact car to a one ton pickup in Hermosillo. But be aware that if you're coming from the U.S., roads and travel lanes are significantly narrower, paved surfaces are in much poorer conditions in all but the most recently paved roads, traffic control devices (traffic lights, signs, striping) are not standardized and are not always as visible as you're used to, parking is less available (and the parking stalls are smaller), and speed bumps are not as visibly marked (and sometimes not marked at all).

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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?

Available from two different carriers (Telmex and MegaCable) for US$50 to $100 per month, depending on bandwidth and plan.

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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?

Telcel has great coverage around town and around the state. Plans and pay-as-you go phones are pricier than plans in the U.S. though the service seems to be better and drops fewer calls than my U.S. cellular service over the past five years (during which time I've used AT&T/Cingular, Verizon, Sprint, Cricket, and TracFone). Movistar is cheaper than Telcel but the coverage is not as good. Nextel is available and allows you to connect via radio to Nextel users across Mexico and the U.S. for very reasonable rates. But, like in the U.S., Nextel's coverage outside urban areas tends to be spotty, at best. U.S. phones from AT&T (which has an agreement with Telcel to use their network), Verizon, and TMobile have roaming service available but international roaming service is very expensive (cheapest you will find is US$0.59/minute). U.S. phones require activation (by calling customer service) of international roaming in order to work.

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

Vonage, Skype, Nextel, or instant messenger with videoconference or teleconference capability (like Messenger).

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Pets:

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

There are plenty of small and large animal vets, but they are not nearly as specialized or modern as in the U.S. I don't know of any good quality kennels, but do know of plenty of good places to board horses.

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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?

So-so. Wages are significantly lower than in the U.S.

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

Business casual for most professional activities. Certain events and activities are business formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good to moderate, depending on the season.

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

It's a relatively safe city. There are safer and less safe areas of town, as is the case in most medium/large cities. There are not nearly the violence and crime rates of cities like Culiacán or even Mexico City. Walking after dark is safe in many of the important parts of town.

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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?

There is very good medical care available through two private hospitals (CIMA and San Jose) for routine to medium-severe issues. Care is often lower priced than comparable care in the U.S. Some English speaking doctors are available, more in some disciplines than in others. There are many different high quality doctors to choose from in some specialties (e.g., pediatricians, internists, OB/GYN) but less so in others (geriatrics, oncology, sports medicine). For major health issues, it is better to make a short trip to world class hospitals available in Tucson, Arizona (cardiology, oncology, sports medicine, others) or the Phoenix area (Mayo Clinic, Children's Hospital, etc.)

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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?

Flat out hot from late spring through fall (I've seen 120° F plenty of times) so be prepared. Most homes and businesses are air conditioned, but your car will get really, really hot when it's left outside in the summer (even in the shade). In summer, the desireability of parking spots is determined more by the availability of shade than by proximity to the door you will actually walk through. There are beautiful winters, with plenty of sunshine and daytime highs ranging from the low 50's to the mid 80's (F) for most of the winter and early spring. Essentially, it's beach weather all winter if you're used to U.S., Canadian, or European temperatures (actually, the ocean may be a little too warm for you in the summer if you're not used to the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez). Evenings and early mornings can be realtively cold in winter (temperatures can drop into the mid 20's F, though lows in the 40's are far more common) and few homes and buildings have heating.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are no international schools but many high-quality, private bilingual schools. I have a daughter who is school age and the school has a very solid english language program to complement the more basic mathematics, social studies, etc.

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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?

There are many private, bilingual preschools (They are called 'kinders' -- pronounced 'keender' in Hermosillo) and are available in different areas of town.

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Expat Life:

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

Small compared to cities like Tijuana, Saltillo, Monterrey, Mexico City. But, there have been expats in Sonora going back almost 200 years and they are well accepted.

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2. Morale among expats:

Unsure.

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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?

Hermosillo's business community is very social, and expats who are willing to participate in their activities are often well received. The U.S. Consulate holds a 4th of July party every year that is well attended by many in the local business community and can serve as a great social networking opportunity. Social networking opportunities are abound for expats who are willing to form friendships with local residents.

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

This is a great town for families. Most private schools have after-school sports programs (though not nearly on par with sports programs at U.S. schools). There are many small parks. People are friendly and children in school should have little trouble making friends. The private schools ask for a significant level of parental involvement which tends to help out-of-town parents make new friendships. Many opportunities for outdoor activities are available nearby, including hiking, ecotourism, horseback riding, etc. And, of course, the beach is only an hour's drive away. It's a good town for singles and couples who are willing to socialize with local residents. Entertainment opportunities exist but are not what they are in larger cities.

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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?

Sonora's proximity to the U.S. history of an influx of European and U.S. immigrants, and the long-time connections between Hermosillo's residents and Arizona, all contribute to making most residents of Hermosillo very welcoming of expatriates. The majority of the local population is Catholic. I have not observed blatant discrimination against other religions.

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

Plenty of outdoor activities are available within one or two hours's drive, including beaches, hiking, mountain biking, ecotourism, cultural tourism, horseback riding, world class hunting, sport fishing (both salt water and fresh water), etc. There is one golf course in town and a second under construction. Professional (winter) baseball in November, December, and January. There are good movie theaters (at less than half the price of those in the U.S.) with several U.S. produced movies usually running concurrently with those in U.S. theaters. There are usually one or two concerts per year by 'nostalgic' U.S. musical groups. Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and Scorpions played Hermosillo in 2007. There are top-level Mexican entertainers in concert every spring as part of the ExpoGan Sonora, a three week state fair and livestock show held in April and May.

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

Variety of local items are available, including typical foods (sugar cane and derived candies; beef, fresh seafood, fresh vegetables and fruits; pastries; etc.), ironwood figures unique to the Seri indians of the area, and traditional rural trappings associated with an agricultural lifestyle.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

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

Snow skiing equipment (but do bring a jacket).

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3. But don't forget your:

Appetite! Or you sun screen for summer, and warm jacket for winter. I recommend light, long sleeve shirts and pants during the summer to keep the sun off. They tend to actually be cooler than short sleeves and short pants by keeping your skin out of the sun.

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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?

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