Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 05/05/17
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?
I have lived in Western Europe.
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?
Texas: an easy direct flight from Mexico City to practically every large town in Texas.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is rough here. There are apartments in Polanco, each with its own challenges; or houses in the outlying communities, with traffic that can add hours to your evening commute. The apartments in Polanco are in great locations, but most do not have natural light, bathtubs, or spare bedrooms. Polanco is an easy place to live though, which makes up for a lot of the other stuff.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find almost everything in Mexico City, and for the most part it is less expensive here than in the U.S.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Around Thanksgiving, people talked about not being able to find French's fried onions or canned pumpkin, but on a regular basis, there isn't much that you can't find locally.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Whatever you want, it's here--from Papa Johns and PF Changs to a guy on a bike riding down your street selling tamales. The food here is phenomenal.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The U.S. mission has a mailing address in Texas.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Full-time live-in help costs $20-$27/day plus a huge severance package at the end. The nannies I have seen are phenomenal. Children here appear to be very well cared-for. Some nannies cook and clean too. Some people hire drivers. There are a lot of good people here, and they generally count on expatriate populations to treat them fairly. Please don't forget that obligation.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
In addition to gyms, Polanco offers a yoga or Pilates studio on almost every block. People take spin classes. People have workout groups in the park. Whatever you want to do, you can find here.
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?
Hmmmn. I use credit cards everywhere, but I'm going to start being more careful. At the restaurants around the Embassy, there have been reports of credit card skimming.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You should try to learn Spanish. While some people speak English, the majority do not.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes: sidewalks are very uneven and people regularly block the ramps by parking their cars in the way.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Never take a taxi off the street! The bus and the metro are okay, but people have been pickpocketed. I mostly walk or use Uber. Uber is extremely inexpensive here.
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?
If you live in Polanco, you probably don't need a car. An Uber into the Reforma area (where the Embassy is) costs about $ 3/day; the bus is dirt cheap. Traffic is awful, so if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't bring a car at all.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet sometimes takes a while for people to figure out, as some companies are more reliable than others. I had better internet in Europe but worse internet in Falls Church, VA.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
A lot of people keep their local number. Make sure you get What's App on your phone: you can't survive here without it.
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?
People seem happy with kennel and vet options. Mexico has a huge dog-walking industry, so you'll regularly see professional dog-walkers out and about with up to 10 dogs at a time.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business attire at the Embassy. Most Mexican women wear heels everywhere, even to preschool drop-off. In Polanco, even the dogs wear haute couture.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, definitely. Pay attention in your security briefing, and never, ever take a taxi unless you are 100% sure it's reputable. Pickpocketing is common. More serious crimes can and do occur even in Polanco.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The altitude affects some people. Food-borne illnesses are real and they almost certainly will happen to you.
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?
A lot of people complain about the air quality, but it's nowhere near as bad as China, India, or even parts of eastern Europe. I don't even notice it.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Overall, the climate is great. There is a rainy season during the summer, but it is never oppressively hot or cold here.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
And herein lies the rub.
If you have children, especially teens or "tweens," please do your homework before bidding on Mexico City. Some of the regularly-occurring bullying that takes place at the schools is egregious, in my opinion. Some of the schools won't even consider your application unless you fly to Mexico and test in person the year before. Don't assume that a parent's job (even at the Embassy) can get a child into your school of choice, and don't assume that the bullying that happens in the schools here is the kind of bullying that happens everywhere. It is worse, as far as I have seen, and some of the schools do not seem to be interested in curbing it.
Also, be prepared for the parties: at every age, they're intense.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Neither ASF nor Greengates has a good reputation 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?
Preschools in Polanco are widely available, and there are several that people seem to absolutely love. Early childhood education is high quality here.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes--there are lots of opportunities to play almost anything.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Morale is high. There is a lot to do here and a lot of people to meet. It may take a while, especially since I would not describe the expat community as particularly close-knit, but I haven't met anyone who hasn't found some kind of outlet for their interests here.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a great city for singles, couples, and families with young children. It can be a great fit for families with teens and tweens--and sometimes it's a disaster.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
This is a great city for the LGBT community. There is no stigma that I have noticed.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Machismo is a thing. While men are extremely polite to women here, there is a dark side to the special treatment.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The food is amazing.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are so many interesting and fun things to do here. You won't lack opportunities.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are many opportunities to shop here and many wonderful Mexican products to buy.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
This is an exciting, cosmopolitan place: you will never lack for fun things to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Bubble bath: hardly any of the apartments have bathtubs.