Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 11/05/08
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, Honduras and this is my second assignment in Mexico
2. How long have you lived here?
From 2001 until 2004. I am on my second assignment which began in August, 2008.
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
Northwest has direct flights from Detroit to Mexico City which is 4 hours in duration
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
This is my husband"s second job transfer with this city.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most family expats live in very expensive housing which demands heavily guarded apartment buildings or housing complexs. Most commute times for a working family is typically one hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get anything you want here for a price. For you menustating women though, bring a good supply of tampons from the States because for whatever reason tampons is a commidity in Mexico. You can find them if you look hard enough, but they are expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Tampons, root beer, gluten-free foods, cosmetic products, Hope"s Perfect Glass window cleaner. You can get all these things here if you are willing to pay a very inflated price.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonalds, VIPs, Burger King, taco stands. The city is incredibly diverse with lots of good restaurant choices. Too many to list. Our favorite restaurant is an Indian restaurant in Santa Fe called Koohinor's.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Things disapper in the mail because of corruption. You do need to pay your bills online or in person. I have had many packages disappear in the mail.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I get constant requests for someone wanting to work. Domestic help is readily available. A day maid is between 250-300 pesos per day. A live-in maid is between 3000-6500 pesos a month depending on your requests.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Keep ATM transactions to a minimum. Thieves are rampant and unfortunately so is the distribution of counterfeit money.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Catholic, Christian, Hindu.
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes....cheaper than the U.S. Perhaps a little one-sided, but cheaper.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You "could" survive on English only; however I would not want to live that way. It causes too much attention to be a victim of crime. Speaking Spanish does make life easier.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The sidewalks are difficult for wheelchairs and strollers...nearly impossible. Of course, elevators are everywhere, but common transportation is not stroller/wheelchair friendly
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
We drive on the right side of the road, but there are a lot of one-way streets in DF.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
It depends who you are. A woman on the public transportation with get harassed or groped.
3. 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 can bring your own car for a fee, usually tarrifs are high depending on which customs agent you get. Corruption is a problem. We tried to bring our motorcycles which was a problem. Better to rent motorcycles here than to bring for tarrif and insurance reasons.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
yes...same as the U.S.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Nokia, LG, Motorola...all seem to be common favorites. I"ve used them all.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Koala Calling (not always reliable). After 2 assignments though, it does seem to be my favorite. Vonage can be unreliable as well perhaps because of the population as well as the altitude.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Same as you would get in the State; if not better. I love the fact that the vet comes to my house or the kennel service comes to my house.
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 foreigners are not allowed to work outside their home country. However.......there are volunteer opportunities on every corner.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
No one wears shorts or sweats in public except to the gym even in the resort areas if you are a Mexican resident.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
At times, the pollution index is incredibly unhealthy. However during the rainy season which begins as early as April and can last as late as October, pollution index could be good on certain days.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Mexico has a lot of security concerns. Lots of kidnappings, petty thefts, carjackings. It is imperative to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
You need to disinfect all fruits and vegetables with an iodine solution. Medical care is just as good if not better than the States because most doctors in private hospitals are US trained. I have had a couple experiences with public hospitals and will tell anyone to steer clear of public hospitals.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Rainy season is as early as April to as late as October. It can be depressing at times. It is terribly cold in the mornings and late evenings, but the weather is usually sunny/warm from 10 a.m. to about 3:30 in the afternoon. You do get about 3 seaons in one day without warning sometimes.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
On my first assignment, my children attended Westhill. A very good school. The transition back and forth between Mexico and the United States was incredibly easy. The math program is strong, and my kids were very advanced in math when we returned to the U.S. On our second assignment in Mexico, we chose the American School for our children. Nothing is wrong with Westhill on an academic basis, but our needs had changed. We needed more after-school activities and a more dependable curriculum fortransferring back and forth between Mexico and the U.S.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
My only experience with kids of special needs is with the American School, and ASF has a "buddy system" for special needs kids but not an official curriculum
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?
On our first assignment, my son went to an all Spanish-speaking preschool called La Escuelita which was ran out of a woman's house. Very good school. My children also went to Westhill Preschool which is also very good. No complaints about either preschool. Most mothers are stay at home mothers with domestic help so there is not much of a demand for daycare.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
My first assignment--the expat size has larger. My second assignment--a lot of "first time expats" with different issues than a more seasoned expat.
2. Morale among expats:
First timers seem helpless at times. More seasoned expats seem to recognize that at least if you try to speak Spanish, people are more willing to help.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Newcomers, American Society, American Benevolent Society, lot of other cultural organizations from just about every place in the world.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I can only speak for families & couples, but I believe Mexico City is very family friendly. You do need to keep a low profile and not be too showy. There are tons of things to do for families like Six Flags, pyramids, castles, etc.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I see a lot of public affection between same sexes.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Women are still treated as a second class citizen. I can say that without hesitation because this is my second expatriate assignment here. It is difficult to get things accomplished when dealing with school issues; however if the "Senor" has a school issue, resolution seems to be quicker.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Pyramids, castles, world-reknown archeological museum, six flags, diego riveria museum, Frida museum, desert of the lions.......tons of history.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Museums, history, cultural, shows, plays, beach resorts, unique arts & crafts.
9. Can you save money?
It depends! You could, but there is so much to see and do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
This is my second time. The answer is yes even though safety and security is an issue.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Motorcycle, some jewelry, any pre-conceived expectations. You really need an open mind, and not have any expectations.
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of self. Know your limits. Bring a winter jacket. It does get cold. Most visitors think they don"t need a winter jacket.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
A Painted House.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
A Painted House.
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Frida, Man on Fire.
7. Do you have any other comments?
I love Mexico City, but I also know that I have to be very careful of my surroundings to protect my family.