Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 07/28/23
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?
Fifth overseas tour (previously in Africa, South America).
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?
DC area. Some direct flights, fairly easy travel.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
5. 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?
It's....fine. We live in an apartment in Polanco that is fairly modern. Unfortunately, there is little to no social space (very small living room) and no public or outdoor space in our building. So hosting social gatherings is pretty much out of the question. It's also extremely hot in the summer. Temps pushed 90+ for four months this summer, and embassy housing is generally not air conditioned. Our apartment in particular is like a large greenhouse with glass ceilings, so temps got to over 100 inside. There seems to be no concern with this issue, despite a large petition that circulated recently. Noise is also a significant issue in some apartments. Loud parties until 2 a.m. and onward, plus typical city noises. It's problematic for some folks including those with young children. Housing in Lomas is larger, some with yards, more space, generally quieter...but some complain about the commute. Bright side of living in Polanco is the commute to embassy is 10-25 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
One can find most anything here. Until recently everything had been inexpensive, but the peso has gained a LOT of value against the dollar during the past ~8 months.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing really, although we stock up on Trader Joe's when we're back home.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Many incredible restaurants (one can find almost every cuisine here) and easy delivery options via UberEats, Rappi, etc.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants can get annoying...
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Local and international postage system works well for those who do not have access to diplomatic pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Affordable and most everyone hires at least a part-time household helper. Nannies for those who work and have younger children.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are facilities available, but I'm not sure of cost.
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?
Credit cards are generally safe to use. ATMs are common and generally safe to use (with caution of course, and awareness of surroundings/neighborhood)- but I would caution against using the deposit feature. We lost $500 when a trusted ATM ate the cash we were trying to transfer to someone, and the bank refused to do anything about it.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are Protestant and Catholic options, not sure of anything beyond that.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Spanish is really pretty important here, even in the more touristy areas of the city (e.g. Polanco). Even when locals speak English, they aren't generally enthusiastic about using it like in other parts of Latin America. This is also the only place I've been posted where local officials don't switch into English in work meetings.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, very probably so. The sidewalks are very bumpy and sometimes nonexistent.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Ubers are the safest option. Some commute by bus and have no issues. Some women encounter harassment on public transport.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
I recommend small SUV if you plan on traveling outside of the city. Parking can be tight, though, so ensure it'll fit in your garage.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. About a week.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Google Fi works fine. Some use local providers too.
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?
Good vets and kennels exist. I have no knowledge beyond that as we did not travel with a pet.
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?
Most people work at the embassy or remotely. Local salaries are generally much lower than in U.S.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual. Formal dress required for special events. People also tend to dress up to go out at night in Polanco (the Manhattan of Mexico).
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Security is a real issue throughout Mexico. Anything from petty theft to assaults and worse. Generally, the tourist areas where we spend time are safe and well-patrolled by tourist police. I've heard that extortion by police happens fairly frequently in tourist areas. There are off-limits areas throughout the country, and the security office is clear about where those are.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Pollution is a problem most of the year, and people with allergies or sensitivities will suffer. Medical care is generally good and available.
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?
Not great. Most of the year it is moderate to very poor. As I mentioned, people with health conditions will notice the air quality on bad days.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I'm aware
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Generally moderate, with periods of both heat and cold. Rainy season is *very* rainy, with several hours of rain most afternoons. That's our favorite season, though, since the air quality is good and temps are lower.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several options, and there are mixed opinions--particularly about the American school (ASF). I have heard good things about the other international schools.
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?
Yes, preschools/daycares are typically around a few hundred USD per month. There are lots of options.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, diffuse expat community. Morale is tough to pin down because this isn't a typical cohesive embassy community. The Community Liaison Office (CLO) is excellent here, and everyone develops their own groups of friends.
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?
You can find pretty much everything here you would in a large U.S. city.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It's easy to make friends with embassy locals, but some Mexicans are quite prejudiced against Americans. This often comes across as microaggression by restaurant employees, police, etc.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
In my experience and from what I have heard, it's generally very welcoming in the areas expats frequent.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I have heard about prejudice against black Americans (or perhaps black people generally). Gender equality- eh, it's not the best here, but also not the worst.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Amazing travel and food, affordable everything (until more recently), exciting embassy work.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There's too much to list, really.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Sure- plenty of nice things to buy in Oaxaca in particular.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
All the advantages of living in a world capital. Restaurants...have I mentioned the food??!! Museums, performances, parks, nice shopping, travel....
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How bad the pollution can be. And how noisy Polanco apartments can be...
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Probably, but three years will be enough. I also would have chosen to live in Lomas.