Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 07/04/13

Personal Experiences from Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico 07/04/13

Background:

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

No, this is my third 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?

Washington DC. 4.30 hours to Mexico City. Direct flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

US Embassy.

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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 US Embassy offers apartments and houses. Most apartments are located in Polanco. They tend to be nice, although some of them are not exactly new. Houses in Santa Fe are very nice, but they are far from the embassy. The embassy used to rent some housing in the trendy Condesa neighborhood but not anymore. Housing is good overall but is not furnished (except a for some cases). Polanco is our favorite place, since we like to walk with the kids -- although Las Lomas is nice, too, because of the yards and the size of the houses.

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

About the same as in the U.S.

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

You can get everything here. Maybe some more Ikea furniture.

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

No fast food for me, thanks -- except tacos and street food. Restaurants: you name it. Excellent mexican, spanish, japanese, argentinean/uruguayan food. Wide range of prices.

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

No, at least in our apartment. Houses have the typical yard fauna, nothing special.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Very fast.

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

Ample availability at good prices.

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

The embassy has a small but decent gym. Membership costs at the public sports centers or country clubs are prohibitive.

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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?

Be careful of your surroundings, but cards are widely accepted.

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

Many, all denominations are here.

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

A basic cable TV and internet package costs around $40 per month. For more money you can get better TV and fiber optic internet.

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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?

It's important to speak some Spanish.

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

Polanco is okay, there are ramps, etc in the streets. The rest of the city an be difficult for physically-disabled people, although mexicans are very polite and always eager to help anytime. Mexico City is improving its infrastructure for the disabled, but it still has a long way to go.

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Transportation:

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

Green buses are ok and safe. Taxis too (but only the "sitio" taxis -- don't use the rest). For national travel that requires flying, use Interjet.

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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?

I would bring a regular car. The typical SUV is ok. Nothing much bigger, though, since parking spots tend to be small. All brands are found in the DF. You will see super-fancy cars all the time 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?

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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?

No preferences. Ample offerrings.

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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?

No.

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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?

Yep. All the big companies are here. Salaries could be an issue, although it depends on the job. In general, it's better to be hired as an expat than a local. There are some embassy jobs for those with Spanish.

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

Mexicans tend to dress more formally than Americans. The use of shorts and sneakers is a bad even for tourists (except at the beach). Of course they never will tell you that is not ok, but...

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Health & Safety:

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

El DF surprised us for being more safe that we had heard. You can walk in Polanco (where a lot of diplomats live) or other areas (Condesa, Downtown, Coyoacan) without a problem. Downtown Mexico City is fairly empty at night, so it is best enjoyed during the day. As always, it's good to be cautious and to not look too much like a foreigner (shorts, etc).

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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 altitude can be an issue for some people. Pollution is another. Colds and flu last forever. Food poisoning is unavoidable but nothing dangerous. El DF ranks high with world-class doctors, and the health unit at the embassy is pretty good.

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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 that it is pretty decent for such big city. There are days and there are days, but it's OK overall. Colds tend to last longer than normal.

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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?

Summers are mild with sunny mornings and rainy afternoons. Winters are moderately cold and sunny.

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Schools & Children:

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

No experience. Do your research -- every family seems to have a different preference.

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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 excellent and inexpensive options. Full-time nannies are available, also at reasonable prices.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge and growing.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally high.

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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?

Restaurants, movies, parties, etc.

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

It's a good city for all. For singles because of its unbeatable offer of restaurants, fancy movie theaters, cultural offerings... And for families, you can't beat the parks (especially Chapultepec) and the friendly Mexican culture towards children and families.

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

Yes. The gay comunity is pretty large here. Gay marriage is legal in Mexico DF.

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

Mexicans tend to be very tolerant in general, although (as anywhere) people have their own opinions about foreigners such as americans, spaniards, chinese. But they usually keep to themselves. Nothing very serious. Mexicans are very class conscious (and most of the upper class is European- looking).

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

The chance to explore its unique culture. It is the mixture of the diverse indigenous cultures and the Spanish heritage that makes this country unique. Puebla, Queretaro, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are also unforgettable places.

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

Walk the city! Visit the impressive museums. Admire the colonial architecture of Coyoacan and the centro historico, enjoy the street food, and take advantage of the Auditorio Nacional -- a world-class concert hall.

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

Everything! Carpets, pottery, etc.

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

Everything! El DF is full of very interesting places to visit and countless museums, such as the Arqueologico, Franz Mayer, MAP, Colegio de San Idelfonso, etc. The Old Town (Zocalo and surroundings) is fascinating. Condesa, El Angel, Coyoacan are beautiful -- and safe, with a lot of historical places to visit and a vibrant street life. Close to Mexico City are the colonial towns of Puebla, Tepoztlan and its impressive Museum of Colonial art, Teotihuacan and its massive pyramids, Cuernavaca, El Desierto de los Leones natural park... El DF can be kind of pricey, depending your preferences, but there are also many good and cheap places to eat at and purchase crafts. DF has fancy supermarkets such as Superama, Costco, Mega and Citymarket. The weather is perfect here, always mild. However, the pollution can be bad.

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11. Can you save money?

Maybe.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I would return to Mexico anytime.

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

idea of living in an unsophisticated city.

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3. But don't forget your:

good manners. Mexicans always say "hello" and "goodbye" when entering/leaving work, meeting on the street, etc. Don't be rude and pass by someone you know without a salutation.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

- The Exterminating Angel, Nazarin, Los Olvidados (aka The Young And The Damned) by Luis Bunuel.
- Place without limits, Mentiras Piadosas, El castillo de la pureza by Arturo Ripstein.
- El Corazon De La Noche, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo.
- Amores Perros, Emilio Echeverria.
- Los de abajo, Eric del Castillo.
- El Santo contra las momias de Guanajuato, Federico Curiel.
- Alla en el Rancho Grande.
- El Infierno and La Ley de Herodes, Damian Alcazar.

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

- First Stop in the New World, David Lida.
- La Region Mas Transparente/the Most Transparent Region, Carlos Fuentes.
- The True History of The Conquest of New Spain, Bernal Diaz Del Castillo.
- Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya.
- Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo.
- Breve Historia de Mexico and Historia de Mexico, Colegio de Mexico (Spanish)
- The Man Who Loved Dogs: A Novel, Leonardo Padura. (better in Spanish)
- The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico, Octavio Paz.
- The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolano.
- Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, Carlos Cstaneda.

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