Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 04/10/19
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?
Yes, this is our first overseas assignment.
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. It is about a 5-6 hour direct flight from Mexico City into the major airports in the area. We have had no issues traveling back and forth to our home city or to most places in the US for that matter.
3. How long have you lived here?
We have lived here for two years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Our home is HUGE. More space than what we need for our family of four (with two small children), but it is nice to have the extra space. We live in what most people call the "suburbs" in an area called Santa Fe, which is about a 45min to 1hour commute to and from the embassy depending on traffic. The homes are called condos, but to me are comparable in size to single family homes or large town homes. We live in a 4 bedroom 3.5 bathroom home, it has its own personal backyard/patio area. There are two playgrounds, a common area, gym, and indoor pool on the grounds of complex. We are close to shopping malls, groceries, activities for children, etc.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
CHEAP! I honestly feel like we spend a lot less money here on groceries versus in the states. Costco, Walmart, and SAMS Club are here and are to me less expensive than in the states. There are also many many markets where you can purchase fresh fruit, produce, and meat.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing really, we can find just about anything however to me brands taste different from what they do in the US (i.e. mayonnaise, Doritos, and some other items). I am very picky about brands and the taste of things so we order a lot of our condiments and other food items from Amazon Prime Pantry, Walmart and Target.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots! You can find many different types of food here, and there are a number of chain restaurants that you would find in the US (i.e. Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs, Johnny Rocket, Fridays, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, Vapiano, and so many more). Ubereats, and Rappi are popular for food delivery and you can also order groceries on apps like Cornershop as well as Rappi. You can find a wide variety of food to include Italian, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and just about anything else you might be looking for.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We see ants and spiders often, and most recently we have had issues with scorpions. You can request for the Embassy to come and exterminate, we also occasionally have our gardener to exterminate when he does the yard.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the dip pouch which comes through Brownsville. You can typically receive mail within a week, and deliveries are 3x per week.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is pretty decently priced, and pretty much everyone has some sort of household help. It is easy to find live-in and live-out help. We found it harder to find someone who actually wanted to travel so Santa Fe'. We briefly had a nanny, but decided our kids would be much more productive in daycare and after school programs around other children. I have noticed a pattern of workers being overpaid and expect all employers to pay them what a previous employer may have been paying them. We also had a part time cleaner for two days a week and paid her $800 pesos a week, which equated to about $40US per week. Be prepared to negotiate and don't feel like you are obligated to hire the first person you interviews as there is always someone looking for work.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They are readily available, however I am not sure about price. I heard some can be more expensive than others. My husband uses the gym at the embassy and likes it, we also have a gym in our complex.
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?
Yes credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, and ATMs are all over. We generally use the ATM in the embassy unless we really need cash, and in that case we use the ATM inside of a bank branch.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
They are definitely available, however I am not sure details.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I think you need to definitely know basic Spanish. I have gotten by but definitely wished I had tried to learn more. I also rely on Google translate if I really need to communicate something and don't feel confident that I will get my point across with the little Spanish that I do know. I also find that many people know English, but will not speak to you in English, or have to really see you struggling to communicate before they reveal that they speak English.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There is a train system, but I have never used it. We are only allowed to take I believe one brand of Taxi and Bus. Uber seems to be a highly popular mode of transportation among expatriates and locals.
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?
A car that can be easily repaired. The roads here are horrible as far as speed bumps and potholes. I would also say bring a car you wouldn't mind getting dinged up. Parking spaces and lanes in the road are very narrow, and many locals do not obey traffic laws. We brought a mid size SUV and it has been damaged three times since moving here (luckily repair work here is pretty cheap). For our particular model car, it is hard to get parts because they only have the Mexican version of the part. We generally order the part ourselves and take it with us, or the dealership makes the order and the parts take a few days to arrive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is available and some companies are better than others for many reasons. We have telmex who is very reliable, we have also heard that Izzy is reliable. Whatever you do please do not get TotalPlay. Some people have luck with them, but I have heard of more people who do not. I also heard that it is a nightmare trying to cancel your contact with them when it is time to depart. It took us about 3weeks to get installations when we first arrived, and that was with TotalPlay. After initial install, they had to come out a few more times because the services was not working properly. After about a year we switched to Telmex because total play had way too many outages, which would result in days sometimes weeks of no service, and their repair response time was super slow.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We brought and unlocked Iphone and bought sim cards on a Mexico AT&T plan for me. My husband uses his work cell phone. Many people use their US numbers and phone carriers as well.
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?
Not sure as we do not have pets, but we have not heard any complaints about the lack there of from people that we know that have pets. Services for animals seem to be available and good here.
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?
There are lot of opportunities within the Embassy. You can also request approval to work on the local economy, to have a home- based business, etc.)
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I hear that there are a lot of them.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual, formal dress is usually required only for special events.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crime, but the same types of petty crimes that we would experience in our home country.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is very good here in my opinion. We have not had many incidents where we needed to be hospitalized, but the few times that we did we felt that the hospital, doctors, and care where comparable to the US.
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?
Dry dirty air in some areas, and cleaner air in other areas. I def feel like my family have gotten sick much more than being here and I definitely contribute it to the air quality.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You will definitely need to keep medication with you on hand if you have environmental allergies. People with food allergies I think would be OK, especially if you know enough Spanish to communicate those allergies when eating out.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
To my knowledge, none.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is decent all year around. We have a rain season where it rains mostly at night for a few months at a time. We have some days where its sunny and hot, but cooler at night and then some days whee its a little cooler all day.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a ton of schools to chose from, you just have to be prepared to do your research outside of what is provided to you, if you are looking for something specific. Our son attends Westhill and we couldn't be happier with the decision to place him there. Embassy children attend Westhill, ASF, Greengates, and many attend Mexican schools/preschools and even some Montessori Programs. I also found out later in our assignment while needing accommodations for my children that there are many daycare options and after school programs.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I am not sure as our son has not needed these accommodations.
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?
Preschool and daycare are widely available, and to me much affordable than in the US. Our youngest son attends a small daycare/preschool near the embassy for about USD $320 for the entire month, for 9 hours a day 5 days a week.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
To my knowledge they are readily available, however our son was enrolled through his school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community seems to be large here. As far as morale, people form their cliques and that is who they spend their time with during their time as post (which is not necessarily a bad thing). I feel like the community could be more close knit but being as though there are so many opportunities for extracurricular activities and travel here, you really can do your own thing. The CLO does a good job of having events to try and bring people together.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I believe so, we however have not except for our co-workers and parents from our son's school.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There seems to be acceptance of the LGBT community, never heard of any negatives.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that we have experienced. We are African-American and get a lot of stares when we go out,but I don't think that it is being done maliciously or out of prejudices.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We have visited local beach towns, we have formed a few great friendships, the school that our son attends is great and he is flourishing in the Spanish language. Lastly we have simply enjoyed being immersed in a different culture. And the food! I can not forget the food.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Although we have not been to these places we always here people rave about San Miguel De Allende, Oaxaca, Huatulco, and many other places. There are also many things to do locally and there is always a festival of some sort, and a street market happening on the weekend.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
A ton of handcrafts, artwork, antiques and other items. You can also find many stores in malls that you would find in the US.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
close proximity to activities, restaurants,etc, and the ability to walk or take a short Uber ride to nearly everywhere.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How bad the traffic can be, and how it can impact your daily life.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your: