Hermosillo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 12/03/09

Personal Experiences from Hermosillo, Mexico

Hermosillo, Mexico 12/03/09

Background:

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

No. I have lived in Panama City and Rio de Janeiro.

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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?

Washington, DC. Travel by air with 1-2 connections is approximately 6-10 hours, depending on the route.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Feb 2008-Feb 2010.

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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?

Housing, while perhaps not up to U.S. building code, tends to be spacious and nice. Commuting time for those accustomed to the horrors of the DC metro area will seem trivial, 20-30 minutes max.

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

For anything of quality you should be prepared to pay the same or maybe more than what you pay in the U.S. That said, you can get most of what you would normally purchase in the U.S., and what you can't get you can order by mail or pick up in Tucson on an occasional shopping trip.

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

Indoor activities for hot summer months.

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

Many of the U.S. fast food chains are also in Hermosillo. There are also many other local restaurants ranging from roadside taco stands to those that require advance reservations. While some variety exists, if you looking for lots of international options, Hermosillo doesn't have them. Most restaurants specialize in local tastes (i.e. beef). There are a couple vegetarian options available as well.

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

We have suffered reoccurring black widow infestations in our home. Sonora is home to several poisonous insect species, so some caution is warranted.

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Daily Life:

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

Mexican post is unreliable and slow. Services such as UPS, DHL and FedEx are available and recommended unless you have access to diplomatic pouch services.

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

Widely available and reasonably priced compared to the U.S.

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

Yes. There are many good options around town, so finding one nearby shouldn't be a problem. Most have the equipment you would look for in U.S. gyms and prices are also equivalent.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are prolific. However, ATM and credit card fraud is rife, and many Americans have unwittingly become victims to this type of crime -- which is rarely prosecuted. Local media have recently reported large increases in this crime. If you want to be safe, use cash and trusted ATMs and vendors.

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

I believe there are one or two English Catholic masses around town.

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

Local TV (free to air and cable) is mostly Spanish language. Cost is roughly equivalent to U.S. prices.

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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?

While many people speak English due to Hermosillo's proximity to the U.S., good working knowledge of Spanish will greatly enhance your experience in this city.

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

Accessibility in Hermosillo is hit and miss. Reserved parking is almost always designated, but often abused.

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Transportation:

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

Forget public transportation in Hermosillo. Buses are unsafe, unreliable and extremely inconvenient. There are no passenger trains or light rail. Taxis are expensive and sometimes don't show up when you call them. Having your own vehicle is a necessity.

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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?

Getting around town in a small sedan is easy as long as it's not raining. A small to mid-sized SUV is probably preferable because of varying road conditions and summer street flooding. Traveling off of the main toll roads is easier with higher road clearance.

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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?

Widely available, costs equivalent to U.S.

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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 is the main carrier, although there are other options. Many people use prepaid phones which are abundant and plans are also available.

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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?

Not to my knowledge.

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

I haven't had any experience with pet care in Hermosillo.

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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 many unless you can land something with one of the "maquiladores". If you having experience teaching at the university level you might be able to secure a job as a professor at one of the local universities.

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

Relaxed. Men often wear jeans and a button-down shirt and suits are almost never worn except in the most formal of occasions. The summer heat makes anything more than khakis and a short-sleeved shirt unbearable.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate. People who have not lived in the desert before are often more susceptible to the allergens that are found in the ever present dust.

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

Narco-related violence is less prevalent in Hermosillo than in other parts of Mexico, although there have been isolated incidents of attacks on the police and private individuals. Kidnappings are allegedly underreported by the Mexican government although like some of the murders, they tend to target traffickers and those associated. Street crime is not as bad as larger cities in the region, but robberies of persons and vehicles do take place with some regularity.

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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?

Medical care is widely variant. Several people I know personally have been victims of extreme medical malpractice at "good" establishments such as CIMA hospital. One person almost died of internal hemorrhage. For anything that involves going under the knife that isn't a lifesaving procedure, I would go back to the U.S.

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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?

Summer temperatures are extreme. They can often be between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit from 1:00-6:00 PM during the worst of the summer heat. Winter temps are very pleasant and are usually in the 70s during the day and 50s at night. During the coldest periods of the year (Jan-Feb), temps at night may approach freezing.

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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 schools that are meet U.S. standards in Hermosillo and none are of the caliber those used to international schools would expect. Parents often complain of poor communication with teachers and school administration and students who are not native Spanish speakers have had a hard time adjusting, despite regular after school Spanish tutoring. While these issues are frustrating for those of us with preschool and primary school aged children, those with children in middle and high school should think very carefully about moving to this city.

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

Very few.

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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?

Preschools are good and reasonably priced. Many families employee a nanny either part or full-time and prices are much more affordable than in the U.S. We have been very happy with our nanny and the attention she gives our daughter.

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

Yes. Many kids play baseball and are also members of swim teams. More activities are available at Los Lagos than other places around 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. There are a few Americans and Canadians working with some of the factories in Sonora, but not very many in Hermosillo. Other than the U.S. consulate, there is no other diplomatic mission in Hermosillo.

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2. Morale among expats:

OK. Hot summer months and the lack of Mexican culture and arts makes this city somewhat dull. The ability to create your own opportunities for fun is a necessity.

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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?

Lots of birthday parties for kids. Residents of Hermosillo tend to be conservative and inward-looking. There is virtually no expat community and information seems to be passed by word of mouth more than in conspicuous spaces.

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

It depends on what you like to do. In terms of nightlife, arts, culture, the selection is moderate but emerging. After a couple of months, you will want to travel somewhere. Airfare from Hermosillo is generally quite expensive (2-3 times what you would pay for equivalent distances in the U.S.), so singles will find it easier to take off for a weekend than those with families. Since Hermosillo is relatively isolated from other Mexican cities, driving anywhere other than Tucson is normally not practical.

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

Mexican culture in general is relatively intolerant of gay and lesbian lifestyles, although Mexico City is the much more accepting. In the past decade or so, Mexico as a whole has become less discriminatory, at least in the outward sense, but negative attitudes still abound.

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

Hermosillo (and Mexico) is predominately Catholic, although several other Christian denominations thrive. To my knowledge there are no places of worship for adherents of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or Hinduism. African Americans assigned to Hermosillo have complained of being stared and pointed at and even touched. People of African decent are almost non-existent in Hermosillo.

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

Outdoor activities available include quad riding, scuba diving, sailing, ocean kayaking, horseback riding, etc. During the hottest times of the year, many activities are limited to air conditioned spaces and indoor infrastructure is badly underdeveloped in Hermosillo, especially considering how much of the year is extremely hot. The local country club, Los Lagos, is a good option for those looking for one stop entertainment shopping. It is a very good facility that includes the city's only golf course, several tennis courts, an outdoor pool, gym and other workout facilities, and classes for children and adults.

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

Cowboy boots and ironwood sculptures.

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9. Can you save money?

Perhaps with very precise budgeting and frugality.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

From a career perspective, probably. From a quality of life perspective, maybe not.

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

Notions of a "Mexican" experience. Hermosillo's proximity to the border creates a nebulous situation in which you are culturally neither in the U.S. or Mexico. You won't find the colorful markets or pre-Colombian culture one normally envisions when thinking of Mexico.

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3. But don't forget your:

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

There is very little literature about Hermosillo.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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