Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 08/14/14
Personal Experiences from Mexico City, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
NO - LIved in Berlin & Shanghai.
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?
Miami is a quick 3 hours non-stop flight. There are many, many daily flights from Mexico City to Miami.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years - 1 more to go.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
USG - Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartments near the Embassy are really nice and only 3 miles away. That said, those 3 miles will take you an average of 45 minutes; 1.5 hours in bad traffic and rain.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
If you buy fruits and veggies at various stands, it's cheaper but it you buy them at the grocery store then it's about the same as in the U.S.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can find everything here but there's no CVS or Walgreens. So items of that nature, I would ship.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Just about everything is here but it'll be more expensive than in the U.S. Burger King doesn't serve breakfast and opens at 1pm.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insect problems.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The Embassy is really luck in this department. We have an address in Brownsville, TX where all of our mail is delivered to and is trucked in. If a package was delivered to Brownsville on Monday then expect it on Wednesday - it's that fast!
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is cheap and in some cases really reliable. I think my maid is great & I pay her 500 pesos a week as part-time (2x a week). Some get both a maid and a nanny.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Plenty of gyms available but they're really pricey!
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All of them.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You really need Spanish to be able to get around. Hardly anyone speaks English so having at least the basics will go a long way.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Extremely difficult - sidewalks are barely walkable for those who don't have any physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I haven't taken the metro or bus - the thought of being packed like a sardine with these people makes me ill. Taxis are affordable and relatively safe (as long as you don't look out the window or expect them to follow any form of "traffic" rule). RSO makes us take only 'sitio' cabs - those you have to get a stand or call to have them pick you up.
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?
Bring an old, dented SUV!!! The roads are AWFUL - potholes everywhere, no stop signs, no obeying any type of "traffic rules." Mexicans don't need to take a test to drive (this explains so much!!). Police corruption is rampant. I'm not sure who is worse - taxi drivers or bus drivers. I've had a cabbie hit my car, take part of the front bumper with him and keep on going.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes! Cost depends on the provider and plan you choose. "Total play" is popular and one of their more pricer plans is about US$100.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Any unlocked phone will do. I have a pay-as-you-go plan with MovieStar and it's about 300 pesos a month for calls, text & data. I rarely run out of minutes or data during that month.
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. GREAT vet & boarders!!
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty - the Embassy has a charities committee that's constantly looking for volunteers.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Expats men & women dress in business attire (suits, dresses, etc). That said, I've seen Mexican women wear clothing that one would wear if they worked on a pole at an office setting. Seriously!! Why would you wear 6 inch heels if you can't walk in them?! It does make walking around the city very amusing watching the women trip & fall on the sidewalks because they don't have the sense to wear a shorter heel.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Robbery at gun point happens frequently and not just in rough neighborhoods or at ATMs. RSO is constantly reminding us of not to wear flashy jewelry (even though the Mexicans do so but then they also have an armed bodygard too) and to not use public ATMs. Not too long ago, an employee was walking down a heavily traffic'd street, on a Sunday in the early afternoon and had a gun pulled out on him for his watch. Also not too long ago, an employee's spouse was hit in the face when she didn't give her purse. DEA agents - beware...the cartels will come after you; several agents had to relocate from one apartment to another.
2. 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 don't know the fuss regarding air pollution. It's not that bad! It's like any big city in the U.S.
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Perfect spring & autums; rainy during the summer and cool (not cold) during the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No experience with schools but I hear good things about them.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Lots of options available - I see schools everywhere but no personal experience.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It seems to be good for everyone.
2. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yup, good for them too.
3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I haven't experienced any but I've heard of friends who have experienced racial issues.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Favorite city by far - San Miguel de Allende.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather - it's pretty much perfect year round.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How ridiculously rude the Mexican drivers are.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes unless you want to blend in with the locals and wear a puffy coat when it's 50F outside.