Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 03/10/09

Personal Experiences from Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico 03/10/09

Background:

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

No-Panama City; Moshi, Tanzania; and Lima, Peru.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

5 hours.

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

State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses in the suburbs which were nice, apts in the suburbs, apts in the city. Commutes can be 15 minutes if living in the city, up to 45 minutes in the suburbs. Traffic is one of the only hard parts about living in Mexico.

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

Same as U.S., can find almost all that you need.

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

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

All fast food chains that are the stand-bys can be found. But don't waste your time there! Enjoy the real Mexican food and all the other great cuisine in the city. Cost is same as the U.S. at nicer restaurants, but definitely cheaper at smaller Mexican food spots.

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

Black scorpions are sometimes seen in the dry months, but they are not too common and are not fatal.

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Daily Life:

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

APO comes into Brownsville, TX and is fast.

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

Inexpensive--US$22/day.

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

Yes, but expensive.

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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?

Never get money out of an ATM as there are instances of kidnappings related to this. But using credit cards around town is fine.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, Catholic.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

TV shows in English through Cablevision, including CBS and BBC news. US$80 month including internet.

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

Very few people speak English. Makes your tour a million times more enjoyable if you can make some friendships with local Mexicans.

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

It is a tough city in that regard. Mexico City is difficult to navigate at any time, and would be even more so with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

We only took taxis that you call by phone rather than hailing cabs on the street.

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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?

Anything is fine.

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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?

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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?

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, but be careful and screen them first. Do not use Campus Canino near Cuernavaca as our dog passed away under their care during transport. They were the "best" you could find, and were negligent. You can find other options that are recommended by embassy personnel.

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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?

Yes, I worked on the local economy and there are just a few steps to go through to get your work visa, but it was fairly easy for me with the help of the SNAP coordinator at the Embassy.

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

More formal than the U.S. for the men, same for women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate when it rains, unhealthy in the hotter, dry season.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

We left in June 2008. We drove everywhere, went everywhere, and never had problems. We felt safe. We just kept our antennae out for simple crime like pickpockets, etc., but nothing more. The wealthy Mexicans are more of a crime target than embassy personnel.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical care--I delivered our baby at the ABC Hospital no problem.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Wonderful weather. Mostly cool, sometime cold in December/January or hot in April/May, but rains keep it cool during June, July, August.

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Schools & Children:

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

A mixed bag and you need to talk details with people on the ground at the schools if possible. Also the FLO office can link you with resources out of the State Department. Overall good quality education is available, but social circles in the high school can be challenging, as I understand it.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

If you embrace Mexico City, you love it. You have to open up to it, and hang out with positive people who like it, too. Some can get down about it, but we loved it.

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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?

Million things to do no matter what you are looking for.

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

For all of the above.

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

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

Overall I found that Mexico is very conscious about skin color. They have a long way to go to lose some of their prejudices in that arena, but Mexicans in general are very warm and open to meeting new people. Mainly they just have a history of indigenous groups and Europeans and all that comes with the mix of many cultures.

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

Travel to see the country as there are tons of fun, exciting places to see, and we never ran out of places to visit. Around the city there are lots of parks, museums, historical sites, the pyramids. You can take your dogs walking anywhere, sit in a cafe and have a late lunch with friends, go to sporting events, concerts, you name it. It is a world-class city in many ways. There is also lots of NGO work to be done, and anyone interested in that field can find good groups to work with either as a volunteer or employee.

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

Tons of beautiful crafts from all different regions that you visit!

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9. Can you save money?

Sort of, but if you want to travel probably not.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. I was nervous about living in such a big city, but the feel of the city is much smaller than you imagine as you carve out your community where you work, shop, play, etc. We love the Mexican friends we made there, and we have many fond memories of our time. We would definitely go back someday, and while it is not the easiest place to live, the overall experience is worth it.

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

Shorts and dependence on street signs.

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3. But don't forget your:

Driving patience and tastebuds.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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