Monterrey, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 03/06/14

Personal Experiences from Monterrey, Mexico

Monterrey, Mexico 03/06/14

Background:

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

First place I lived. Before that, I have traveled to Africa, Asia, Middle East, South America, and Central America.

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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?

Coming from the U.S., there are connections through Dallas (AA), Atlanta (Delta) or Houston (United).

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years plus (7/2011-9/2013).

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is spectacular (houses and newer apartments).

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

Texas grocery chains are there. They have "green" gluten free, sugar free, you name it, they have it. EXCEPT NYQUIL! If you are a fan of that when you get a cold, there is only one tiny grocery store that sells it.

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

NYQUIL, "green" laundry detergent.

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

Food is PHENOMENAL. You name it, it's there; from street tacos to the best steakhouse I've ever been to and everything in-between. The only thing you won't find is Thai.

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

Narco violence is the biggest issues and can affect daily life. You just have to be careful and pay attention to your surroundings. Kidnappings do happen, robberies do happen, carjackings do happen. Fortunately, if you are smart, most times it does not happen to Americans.

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Daily Life:

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

USPS through pouch; there is FedEX, DHL etc.

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

US$30 per visit or so (5-8 hours) plentiful, take one from the CLO list or based on recommendations.

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

Plenty of gyms but they can be expensive. Generally, they are comparable to U.S. prices and have U.S. "amenities." Plus, you are not paying rent, so it's affordable.

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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?

I used the ATM's and didn't have any issues in San Pedro ( I would be a little more selective in Monterrey). Credit cards, I used them once mine got rid of the overseas transaction fees and did not have any issues, in San Pedro. Just be smart, if it doesn't look like you should use it, don't.

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

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

Most places will have a little English, but the better your Spanish, the more successful your tour will be.

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

I don't think so. It is fairly modern (sidewalks and elevators). The bathrooms at some places could be an issue.

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Transportation:

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

Public transportation is off limits for government employees. Radio taxis are acceptable if you or the restaurant call them. They are affordable. The half hour of so ride to the airport will cost about US$30.

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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?

I would bring things that don't stand out too much (lifted trucks, rare types of cars etc will make you a target). You will see BMW and Benz, etc, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend them, as you will stand out a little more than a Nissan or Toyota.

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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?

Yes. Axtel is what I went with, they were about US$80 a month, and it's fiber optic.

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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?

I didn't have one. Post issued.

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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. Great pet care.

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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?

Depends on the type of job.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty.

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

Business casual - in public, it's like going out in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

20% danger pay post, partially unaccompanied post (no children), limited travel to outlying areas for Government personnel, curfew for Government personnel (to be back in the residential areas by 1am). YOU CANNOT DRIVE TO THE BORDER, PERIOD.

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

Medial care and dental care are TOP NOTCH.

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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?

Air quality (and water quality) is good.

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

Hot in the summer, warm in spring and fall, and cool in winter (temperatures range from 40's to 100'sF).

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an American school, though we don't know much about it, as our children are not at post. The most prestigious technical college in Mexico, and one of the tops in Latin America is here (think MIT).

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Huge expat community. Don't know about morale, to be honest.

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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?

Restaurants, BBQs, bars; it's basically South Texas, but with violence.

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

I think it's great for couples above families and singles.

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

It is a good city. There is tolerance.

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

Well, it's a Latin country, there is "machismo," there is a bit of a stigma on the darker skinned Mexicans, and sometimes black people can experience some discrimination.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I loved it, everything about it. There are tons of things to do and see in Monterrey, and plenty (with ease of getting there) to see outside of Monterrey.

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

Climb Chipinque to the top, the museums, the Planetarium is great. There are bull fights, baseball, two pro soccer teams, and a pro basketball team. Make sure you go to San Pedro de Pinta on Sunday mornings. One word...MATACANES....make SURE you do it if you like outdoor adventures.

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

Cultural Mexican artifacts.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You will have a great experience, save money, have good domestic help, see as much (or as little) of Mexico as you want. There's tons of wonderful places to visit in Mexico. The weather is phenomenal, but can get a little chilly in the winter (40'sF) and can get a little too hot in the summer (100+F). Overall, there is very little rain.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, easily. I traveled a lot, never cooked at home, and saved a ton.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing really.

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

ABSO-freaking-LUTELY.

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

Winter coat. Desire to drive anywhere outside of greater Monterrey, including to the border.

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4. But don't forget your:

BBQ grills or patio furniture. Both are really expensive here and not easy to get into the country from the U.S.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Just go.

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