Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 01/18/13

Personal Experiences from Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico 01/18/13

Background:

1. 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?

Maryland in the U.S. A direct flight takes about five hours from Mexico City to Dulles.

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

(The contributor works for the U.S. Government and has been living in Mexico City for 18 months, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments in the Polanco area and houses or apartments in the Bosques area. Where we live has the equivalent of row-houses or town homes.

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

Local fruits and vegetables are really inexpensive and of great quality. We love to shop at the local open markets for seasonal fruits and vegetables. Costco, Walmart and Sam's Club are just about everywhere in Mexico.

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

You really can get everything you need here. The American brands cost a little bit more (like about 25% higher than what they cost in US). Asian ingredients are not easy to get, and when you see them in the super markets the prices are very high.

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

Everything and anything you can possibly think of under the sun is here in Mexico. The cost for US-chain fast food is comparable to the prices in US. Of course, the local food is much cheaper. You can get a set meal for lunch for about $5.

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

We had a very mild ant problem and occasional bouts with tiny scorpions, but nothing else.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the embassy's postal service.

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

I went through 4 different housekeepers. Good help is hard to find.

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

Yes, Golds Gym and many other local gyms are available. The embassy also has a gym.

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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 use effectivo (cash) for almost everything. Large supermarkets and businesses take credit cards. ATMs are available on every street corner.

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

You do need to be able to communicate in the local language if you want to do some real shopping. The cashiers and store keepers do not speak English, except in the heavy tourist areas. For daily living, you need the local language to get around.

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

I don't know about English newspapers, but the TV has many English-speaking service providers and programs. We have Dish Network. The prices are comparable to those in the States.

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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?

You do need to be able to communicate in the local language if you want to do some real shopping. The cashiers and store keepers do not speak English, except in the heavy tourist areas. For daily living, you need the local language to get around.

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

They do try to make it easy for the physicaly-challenged population.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are frequent, and there are good taxi services. Very affordable!

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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?

We have an SUV, which is wonderful for here because of thre enormous number of speed bumps. The roads are good. Highways are great. The US Government has issued specific routes that the embassy USDH cannot travel on, but it has not been bad or inconvenient for us for the time that we have lived here.

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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?

Our high-speed internet is packaged with the TV--Dish Network.

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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?

There are many service providers and packages to choose from. You can pretty much get everything you need here!

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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?

Eligible Family Members can work for the embassy.

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

Normal dress code in the embassy for both men and women.

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Health & Safety:

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

I have never felt any threat against me or my family. We've heard horror stories, but for the most part if you use your good sense and tale precautions, there are no serious threats.

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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?

The embassy has a well-staffed Health Unit. The staff is very knowledgeable. And there are good hospitals in nearby areas.

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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?

Air pollution is bad here. We lived in the Santa Fe area, which is about another 1000 ft higher than Mexico City (approx. 7000 ft.). The air quality is better here where we lived, due to the area's much newer development. It is also like US living.

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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?

We love the weather here. It's mild and dry. The rain season is during the summer, from late May to late September. The humidifiers run 24/7 in our household, and I still want to scratch all the time due to dryness.

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Schools & Children:

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

My kids go to ASF (American School Foundation). We are okay with their academic program for both elementry and middle schools. However, the school's bullying problem has not improved. I believe that the bullying situation is not just the local Mexican kids versus the American kids, but also some American kids agsinst other American kids. What we experienced was more of the verbal bullying, rather than the physical bullying. But it all serves the same and hurts the same.

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

Yes, plenty for kids. American School Foundation offers many after-school sports programs, as do the other schools. Also, there are programs, such as Karate classes, offered by private companies.

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Expat Life:

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

There is a good-sized expat community in Mexico City.

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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?

You will not find a dull moment in Mexico City.

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3. Morale among expats:

Generally good. Although many sometimes find the traffic and the way people drive here in Mexico to be frustrating.

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

Yes, you can find all kinds activities for both adults and kids: sports, arts, music, etc.

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

Yes, there is a pretty big gay and lesbian community. I have heard of (and seen) the Gay and Lesbian Parade that takes place once a year.

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

You can find all kinds of religious services here in Mexico City. The majority of the local population here is Catholic.

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

We loved to travel, and we loved to drive to all of our destinations. You don't get to see the different towns and cities if you fly over them. Also, the food is amazing here! We all LOVE Mexican food.

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

Thirty miles outside of Mexico City is the most-visited archeological site "Teotihucan". Also, within the city and near-by area, you will find great places to visit, such as Templo Mayor, Plaza de las Tres Culturas, Chapultepec Park, Calixtlahuaca, Tula, Cantona, Tepanapa, Yohualichán, Cacaxtla and many more.

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

Pottery, carpets, furniture.

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

Mexico, the country as a whole, has a lot to offer. If you like history, you'll really have a party here exploring all of the archeological sites. We really loved driving to many different places/states to see them all.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, most definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. Definitely!

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