Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 05/17/16

Personal Experiences from Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico 05/17/16

Background:

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

Yes.

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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, a few hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

U.S. 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?

We live in a spacious apartment in Polanco. Driving commute is 10-30 minutes, depending on traffic, most of the time in the 15-20 minute range. Walking is about an hour and safe, as is biking. Polanco seems to be the choice if you want to not use a car as much. There are a lot of parks around so kids do have a place to go, but the housing further out of town seems to have more play areas connected to housing.

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

Very easy. Superama, Chedraui, Sams, Costco, City Market. Most items are less expensive than in the U.S.

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

Nothing. You can get it all on Amazon. I've gotten used to making my own salad dressings and pickles, neither is a huge thing here, but that's mostly Google and ordering pickling spices.

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

If you're looking for US fast food, you will have no problem, except for Taco Bell. Across the street from the Embassy you'll find Wendy's, Burger King, Quizno's, Carl Jr's, Krispy Kreme, McDonalds, Dominos, Subway ... plus tons of local restaurants. The U.S. chains cost about the same as they do in the U.S. Restaurants in general are less expensive, unless you're eating in a high rent district, then it's more like regular U.S. prices. But there are some very fancy places as well. You won't go hungry here.

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

We have seen silverfish in the bathroom, but diatomaceous earth keeps them at bay. Mosquitoes in the spring, that's about it.

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Daily Life:

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

Mail to and from the embassy in Mexico City is so easy. You'll only lose a couple of days when sending or receiving.

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

The domestic help isn't as easy to find as I thought it would be, but we found someone we really like. She is full time, live out, for about $400/month.

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

There is a gym at the embassy but it's pretty small. Given that we're building a new embassy, I don't see them putting too much into this one. I'd read that gyms were super expensive but my husband was able to get a Groupon deal for a big gym nearby that was pretty reasonable, I think around $60/month.

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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?

There is an ATM at the Embassy. There are banks everywhere. Check your bank and see if it has a partner in Mexico to avoid transaction fees. Otherwise, the only advice is be aware. We've had no issues. Most brick and mortar places take credit cards, but check first (some restaurants do not). The only time we've consistently had trouble using our credit cards is with online purchases, like paying for our internet.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Depends on where you are. In Polanco, some of the restaurants have menus in English. Always assume in an Uber/taxi or restaurant that someone nearby speaks English, but don't expect it. In other words, watch what you say, don't be offensive, but don't expect people to speak English either.

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

It probably depends very much on where you live and work. Many sidewalks are old and uneven, but the next block is perfect. Some sidewalks have wheelchair ramps, some don't. Apartments seem to all have elevators.

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Transportation:

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

U.S. employees are directed to use taxi stands, and we are also allowed to use trains and buses. Uber is inexpensive and secure.

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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?

You'll see all kinds of cars 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?

Yes. We pay about $100/month for 200 mbps (I don't think it's that fast - it never is as fast as the company says).

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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?

We have pay as you go with TelCel on a dual band, the One Plus. It works fine and is less expensive than a plan, but it does keep our data use down.

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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?

Depends on your skills. There are schools and universities for teachers, I do not know what else is available.

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

Business dress at work. Children and tourists wear shorts in public. Jeans are common for men and woman in public. Lots of high heels on women, everyone seems to be more dressed up in Mexico City than in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

Mexico City is considered a critical threat post according to the US Department of State. Crime in the news is a daily highlight. We have yet to experience anything negative at all, but keep in mind you are in a huge city.

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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?

Expatriate medical care is great. If you have to go to the hospital, you will have to pay upfront. If you're taken to a free hospital, it won't be nearly as nice.

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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?

Winter and spring are rough, especially this year after some driving restrictions were apparently lifted. The government is looking to address that. Nobody in my immediate family has chronic respiratory issues so we've been OK, but it's still challenging sometimes - red eyes, coughing, fatigue.

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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?

The climate is very nice, except that in the spring - February to May or so maybe? - it's a little hot. It isn't that hot outside but our apartment doesn't have air conditioning so it gets pretty toasty inside. We arrived during rainy season and the afternoon rain really makes a huge difference. Winter is wonderful.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our son goes to the American School. It's clique-y, even in third grade, and US kids are in the minority, but after a period of adjustment he appears to have found his group.

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2. 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?

Do not know. We have a full time maid who picks our son up at the bus stop on the days when he has after school activities.

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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, but I don't know how close it is because it's also a huge city, and it's so easy that the expatriate community doesn't really need to rally together.

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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?

Restaurants, bars, museums, hiking, shopping, dance clubs, house parties, everything.

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

It's good for everyone.

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

I think so, but I do not know.

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

There is a a Catholic, patriarchal history, but generally speaking the people here are friendly and treat others well. I am a white woman who does not broadcast religious beliefs, so I may not be seeing a very broad spectrum of behavior.

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

Learning more about the history of Mexico. Being part of a huge city, but insulated in a relatively quiet area.

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

There are museums everywhere; you can pick a beach to the south, west or north and get there and back for well under $200; there are art fairs and markets every weekend; Teotihuacan is only an hour away ... there's almost too much to do.

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

Pottery, tin work, art.

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

It's very "easy" in terms of feeling like you can get most things you want from the US. It is inexpensive to travel within the country and there is so much history here.

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10. 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?

Absolutely.

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

Ideas about Mexico's weather and food. Mexico City is temperate and moderate in temperature, and if the only Mexican food you've had was in the U.S., it won't be what you think.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella and wellies. And fans.

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