Guadalajara, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico 08/27/18

Background:

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

No, Almaty, Dushanbe, Accra, and Moscow.

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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?

Salt Lake City, Utah. 3.5 hours direct flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most families live in townhouses in gated communities (cotos) with varying amenities. Our coto has a pool, playground, gym, basketball court, and raquetball courts as well as a party room. The kids can ride bikes around the neighborhood pretty safely. It is a 20-30 minute drive to the consulate and a 20 minute ride to most of the schools. The houses are nice and modern. We actually have closets (one of the few times in our experience overseas). We rarely have maintenance issues. There are sound issues, though. Mexicans know how to party and they don't shut the LOUD music off until late late at night.

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

Overall about what you would pay in the US. Shopping and markets are obviously cheaper. Shopping at Costco is a lot more expensive. The regular stores seem to be fine and have everything you would need. However, I have not been able to find dill pickles.

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

OxyClean and dill pickles.

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

Everything is here. The food here is sooooo good. They have fast food, taco trucks, fancy experimental stuff. It is all good.

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

Lots of cockroaches and ants, but, not more than you would expect from a tropical climate.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

A full-time nanny is approximately US$400 per month. There is also part-time available as well.

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

Tons of gyms and reasonable prices.

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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?

Yes.

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

You can do without learning Spanish, but it makes life so much easier if you at least try to learn as much as you can.

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Transportation:

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

Bus travel is not recommended, but UBER is here and that is cheap and easy.

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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?

Any car will do.

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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?

I have no complaints. Enough to stream. Plenty of options.

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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 use T-mobile. It's fine and cheap. I pay about $30 for 4 GB of data and unlimited calls.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of volunteer opportunities. Working with Women Helping Women or with Junior League is a great way to get involved.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are some risks of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and getting involved in Narco violence, but, in general I feel safe. If you use common sense and aren't out at crazy hours, it is fine.

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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?

Medical care is great.

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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?

Fine.

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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?

There is only one month when you need to wear a jacket. It gets hot, but we have enjoyed it.

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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 are three main international schools: the Institute of Thomas Jefferson, the American School, and the Canadian School. My kids go to the Canadian school. We have been really happy with it. It seems really well run; the administrators are top-notch. The teachers are caring, but tend to be young. They have a great team of experienced teachers who do teacher training and mentoring. They have a great extracurricular program with a lot of different options.



They only offer up through 7th grade this year, but, each year they expand. The biggest challenge for any of the schools here is for expat kids to integrate. My kids are the only or 1 of 2 or 3 in there class that are not local Mexicans. It is great for language acquisition. My kids are basically bilingual now. It can be hard in the social department. My kids have been fine. We have been proactive to make friends outside of school and so they still seem to be happy. In all the schools be prepared for major parent involvement.

I have heard from several friends whose kids attend the American school that integration and bullying might be more of a concern.

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

ITJ is great with accommodation, I have heard. The Canadian School has pull out sessions to help kids with academic and social issues. Beyond that, I am not sure.

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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?

Plenty of options. They range from US$175 to $300 per month.

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

Lots of options.

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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. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The options really are too diverse to list. The consulate has a good community, but there are also tons of options to socialize outside of the consulate.

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

YES, For any type of person.

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

The different beaches for weekend trips have been amazing. Lots of things to explore.

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

YES YES YES.

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

It is so convenient and easy living here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Bring earplugs for the loud neighbors.

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

YES.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 02/03/17

Background:

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

This is my first experience abroad as an FSO. Previous experience in Europe and Northern Africa.

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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?

DC. It's a pretty straightforward flight with a stop over in Atlanta, Houston, or Dallas. Quite inexpensive, too

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Foreign Service.

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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 divided mostly between 3 bedroom apartments in Providencia where the singles and childless married couples live and houses in little gated communities further west. Commutes are usually around 15-25 minutes. I don't have much experience with the houses, but the apartments vary quite widely in amenities. All will be way larger than you need and have doormen/guards. In some, you have to actually be let in and out by the guards and aren't even given a fob/key to get in. Some have pools and modest gyms, others do not. The apartments' locations aren't really near any of the happening stuff going on in GDL. Some are within walking distance of more upscale restaurants and some grocery stores, however.

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

Anything you want is available. It's basically "bizarro California." Sometimes items disappear from grocery stores, so if you see something you like/use often, it's best to buy a bunch. Otherwise you can get most everything from Amazon/Walmart/Target.com. Grocery stores are generally large and American-style. Great produce.

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

Rye whiskey is unavailable. I usually order brown sugar and kosher salt from an online retailer.

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

Pretty much anything you can think of is available in GDL. A lot of restaurants also deliver. There are a lot of beautiful high-end restaurants with great food at low prices. At a nice restaurant, you can spend $15 for a dinner and drinks, when in DC you'd be looking at $50+. Meanwhile...street tacos are cheap, plentiful, and amazing. And tortas ahogadas shouldn't be missed!

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

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Daily Life:

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

Once a week maid service for around $17. Most people have a cleaning lady with a lot of the officers sharing the same few people. A lot of the officers with children have live-in nannies.

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

Many of the accommodations have small gyms. Otherwise, there is a wide range of gyms in GDL. You can spend anywhere from $15 to $120/month on gyms, with facilities much nicer than in the US. Yoga studios, boxing, etc are all common.

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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?

No issues. Credit cards are accepted at most sit-down restaurants, grocery stores, and malls.

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

English isn't very widely spoken in GDL, but you can get by without Spanish---there will always be someone at a restaurant who can speak English. Socially you're about 60/40 for whether or not someone will speak English. You'll find life MUCH easier with Spanish, however.

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Transportation:

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

Just take Uber. It costs about $1.80 for a 20-minute ride. A 45-minute ride to the airport is under $10. We are urged not to use buses/taxis/the metro.

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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?

Everything under the sun is at post. Small cars, sedans, large SUVs, small SUVs. The roads are pretty terrible and there are tons of speed bumps. Also GDL floods during rainy season. On the other hand, small cars are great for the small streets downtown and for parking. Car shops are fine and plentiful, as are dealerships (Honda, Toyota, you name it).

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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?

Internet is more or less similar in cost and speed to the US. Sometimes it'll be set up when you arrive. Other times, you have to set it up yourself and it can be a huge headache and take a few weeks.

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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?

People seem to fall into 3 camps: use the office-issued Blackberry; keep their US number and use that; get a local plan. A popular local plan is with AT&T, about $30/mo, 5ish GB, free calls/texts to US/Canada, no roaming charges in US/Canada.

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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?

Good vets at good prices. Unsure about quarantine. Sufficient kennels, but some people have a hard time finding one they like.

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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?

A lot telecommute as we're one hour off of EST. It takes forever to get a clearance to work at the US Consulate.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Pretty much whatever you can imagine.

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

GDL is a tech and design hub. Most people around the city are dressed casually. At the US Consulate it's business/business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Like any big city, you have to watch out and not be stupid. There seems to have been an uptick in crime recently. An officer was also recently shot, but that was seemingly an anomaly.

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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?

Medical care is very high quality and very affordable. No health concerns.

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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 is fine.

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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?

It's like an eternal spring. The hot months are May/June (100 degrees daily). Then comes rainy season July - Sept, when it's about 85 and sunny every day with one rain storm (usually in the evening). Sept - April it's generally gorgeous, 75 - 80 degrees, sunny every day.

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Schools & Children:

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

American School and Canadian School.

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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?

A lot of people hire nannies.

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Expat Life:

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

Small expat community. There are a lot of big tech companies and there are a few small diplomatic missions. Some Americans attend the UAG medical school.



Morale at the Consulate is mixed and has had its ups and downs. It depends on your expectations. In the Consular section you will work hard and do more visas than any other post in Mexico. People have burnt out. However, the team (officers and local staff) are absolutely fantastic and make going to work worthwhile.

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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?

The Consulate community isn't the most social. The city is a great place and people don't seem to need the connection with colleagues that exists at harder posts. There's also a huge divide between the singles (and childless couples) and the families, given different living locations. That said, there's been a recent influx of younger officers who are more social. When I arrived there were very few singles and people weren't very social. GDL is like any other city--restaurants, bars, a few museums, lots of outdoor markets, lots of craft/design fairs. Some concerts come through.

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

All of the above! It's a happening city and everyone should be able to find his/her niche no matter their civil status.

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

It's nickname is "Gaydalajara." GDL has a huge gay scene for a conservative Latin American city. It's not uncommon to see same-sex couples holding hands on Chapultapec. There are a lot of gay bars/clubs and most establishments are gay-friendly. The post's Public Affairs Office and the CG are both very active in supporting and working with the LGBT community.



Also, it's only a 5 hour drive to Puerto Vallarta, which is an international gay beach destination.

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

Not specific to GDL, but in Mexico as a whole there can be prejudices related to skin-tone and economic status.

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

All of the fantastic travel opportunities and beaches! Oaxaca, Sayulita, Vallarta, Baja Sur... Mexico City is fantastic and incredibly cheap to get to.

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

There are some great hikes-- you just have to look for them. Bosque de la Primavera, Barranca de Oblates. Nearby waterfalls and hot springs. Tequila, Tlaquepaque for crafts/gifts. Tapalpa for a cabin in the mountains. Within 2.5 hours there's a ton to do.

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

You will get all new glassware, ceramics, and textiles.

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

Big city with a small town feel. Approximately 5 million people in the metro area, but GDL itself doesn't feel huge. The quality of life is very good for a big city. It's location is also ideal: super cheap to get to CDMX and you can drive/take a bus to the beach if you want!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely. It's not the biggest/most happening city, but the quality of life is great and there's a ton of life in it.

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

Dislike for reggaeton?

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and assertiveness while driving. Driving is the worst in GDL. The traffic circles are like a free-for-all with no laws. A lot of the streets don't have painted lanes. And a lot aren't labeled. Have fun!

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

Just get out your Lonely Planet and start planning to get to know Mexico!

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5. Do you have any other comments?

People are often concerned about GDL because it is a "visa mill." But the city and the life you lead there make it all worthwhile.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 02/06/15

Background:

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

No, we have also lived in Brasilia, Brazil.

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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?

Home base is Oregon. We expect the flight to take most of the day with layovers in DFW, LAX, or Arizona. There are direct flights with local airline Volaris but the hours are all red-eye and the days are sporadic.

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3. How long have you lived here?

August 2013 to July 2015.

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

U.S. Consulate (husband is an officer with DOS).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are apartments, sprawling haciendas, but most families live in a Coto, a walled community of houses, patrolled by guards at the front gate and often include a club house with a pool, gym, etc. The houses in cotos are typically boxy, concrete, and crumble easily. Most residences in the city have a blank facade with the heart of the home in a central courtyard, away from the front door. It's unsettling at first how much seems to be crumbling and covered in graffiti but quickly you realize that people focus the beauty of their homes within its walls. Front lawns are extremely rare. There is a LOT of traffic in Guadalajara and commutes can be lengthy (30-45 minutes isn't surprising).

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

Goods are costly, services are cheap. So while you pay around US$30 a day for a house keeper, you'll not get out of Walmart (yes, that Walmart.. they're everywhere here and it's not as trashy, I promise) or Costco (yup, i said it..) for under US$100 or more.

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

Not much, we have just about everything here.. although, BBQs, mowers, etc are crazy spendy.. but then again, the butcher has a grill and the gardener brings their own equipment.

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

Why would you want fast food in Guadalajara??? The food here is AMAZING. Tacos are everywhere, roadside stands (totally safe), restaurants, etc. Look for the places that are busy where the locals go.. that's the cleanest. I have NEVER gotten sick from the food here, ever. There are incredible food options all over GDL.. From carts to 5 star Michelin rated, just about everything is available. Tip: AVOID TOURIST TRAP RESTAURANTS!!! The huge places in Tlaquepaque, Karne Garibaldi, etc.. cute but the food is not great and in GDL, you can have GREAT on the cheap. Now, if you insist on American fast food... you're in luck.. we've got it and almost EVERYONE delivers.. seriously. McDonald's, Burger King, Krispy Kreme, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Subway, PF Changs, a BILLION options for hot wings (what's with the obsession with wings here?!?), pizza, hot dogs, sausage, etc. etc. About the only thing I haven't seen here is Thai.

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

The Mexican cockroach is no joke. They are huge and fearless and they don't really care how clean your house may be, they're coming to check it out. The smaller 'dirty house' cockroaches exist but aren't nearly as plentiful if you're a diligent cleaner. Black Widow AND Brown Widow spiders are common. Ants are plentiful from the giant headed leaf cutters to the tiny, super fast house ants, they're a pain. The mosquitoes are stealthy and annoying but the electric racket sold on the street corners is loads of fun for killing them.

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Daily Life:

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

Government Mail Service through the Consulate.

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

Great help is hard to find. Our housekeeper is AMAZING and like family but I hear that this really isn't the case for everyone. Live in, full time, part time house keepers are readily available. Approximately US30$ a day is common for pay for a part-time housekeeper. TIP: The rules here for holiday pay, leave pay, etc are VERY SPECIFIC and serious. Know the rules and how to write a contract BEFORE you hire.

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

Many cotos (neighborhoods within tall walls) have a clubhouse with gym and pool. There seems to be a CrossFit on every corner.

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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?

Avoid it if you can. On the daily, use cash. If you need an ATM, Costco has a few.

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

It's pretty essential to know the basics. Many, many people in GDL speak English but as that we're in MX, don't be THAT person.. learn the basics. Your attempts will be profoundly appreciated. People in GDL are incredibly warm and kind and honestly beam with happiness when you behave like a gracious guest. USE YOUR MANNERS, this is a profoundly genteel society.

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

Guadalajara doesn't really have many crosswalk signals, the roads and sidewalks can be fairly uneven, and there are few obvious ramps or automatic doors.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and decently priced. Make sure to either see that there is a meter OR better yet, set up an agreed price with the driver BEFORE you go. The Gringo Pricing is real and it's steep. Currently, from Zapopan to the Airport (40 minutes) is around 300 pesos.

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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?

All in GDL: Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari (yeah, i know.), Mazda, Honda, Volkswagen, etc. We have a high clearance car that is fairly common here and it's been great for the occasional flood or need to be higher up. People drive like lunatics here. Street laws are subjective and 'floating' from lane to lane (if you can even see the lines of the lane at all) is not uncommon. Accidents happen here all the time and you're going to see a lot of little kids in the front seat. A high clearance, safe, reliable car is best.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone. Telcel and other carriers are abundant. You can get a prepaid chip and refill it at most every grocery store.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Dress up. GDL is full of very, very well dressed people.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, Mexico is known for especially violent 'cartel' behavior and crime but in general, if you use good common sense, don't flaunt wealth and don't make yourself a target, you will find that Guadalajara is a very safe place to live. It's very important to be compliant to robbers who feel that it's easier to shoot than argue about you handing over your gems, but it's not a common occurrence and the vast majority of people you will encounter are gracious, loving, and warm... EXCEPT while driving. Then yes, put on your game face if you drive here because even the locals agree, the driving is TERRIBLE. If you're a fan of driving laws and good behavior and following the rules while driving, you will be surprised at how little those things are used here. The Minerva Glorietta (roundabout) is a madhouse when busy, and it's not uncommon to see drivers drift into other lanes, cut people off, or cut across three lanes of traffic to pull a U turn.

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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?

Medical care is EXCELLENT. Many Americans come just for the care.

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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?

Usually the air quality is excellent but during the dry season, the smoke from fires and the smog can hang heavy. With the rains, the air is lovely.

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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?

Blue, blue skies. Generally high 70's to low 80's F. The weather is year-round beautiful and while dramatic, the rains are very refreshing and rarely last long.

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Schools & Children:

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

I have one child in 2nd grade.
There are many international schools, an American school, a Canadian school, etc. My experience has been that communication in English, even at an English dominant school is not as common as one would hope. The curriculum can be excellent and many opportunities exist for after school activities, clubs, gifted student programs, etc. The teachers are generally very engaged and the administration works hard to include the international community.

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

Our 2nd grader is considered gifted and the school she attends has done an excellent job of working with us to provide a tutor in both reading and math that teaches at her level and beyond. We pay out of pocket for the tutors and the prices are very reasonable.

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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?

I have not used them but many do and they seem to be reasonably priced.

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

Through the schools, yes. Also, the local colleges offer after school and summer activities in Spanish including dance, sports, art..

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Expat Life:

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

The Expat community is VERY large here, from retirees in Ajijic to Dot.com folks, the cultures are assorted and people, for the most part, are very nice and helpful. There are various Facebook groups here specifically for expats.

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

Guadalajara is an excellent city for families, singles, and couples.

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

I would assume so.

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

There is definitely a gender pecking order here and sometimes the machismo can be a bit on the archaic side but most people are very authentic and loving and it feels less like a prejudice and more like a harmless old school mannerism.

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

THE FOOD!!! Guadalajara's food scene is PHENOMENAL!!! From roadside tacos so cheap and flavorful that you could get fat on a pittance to high end cuisine that any Michelin rated restauranteur would be proud to serve, Guadalajara has it all. Hand crafted beers, sausages, vegetarian/vegan, rich desserts, and the best Tequila that money can buy... Come hungry.

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

The best Tequila (Forteleza), Artisenal jewelry, crafts, food, travel, experiences, surfing, shopping at the super high end malls or the open air weekly produce markets (Tianguis).

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

Mexico is an incredible place to live and Guadalajara is often described as 'The most Mexican of Mexican cities.' It's not a huge tourist hub which means that rather than dealing with tourist behavior, inflated prices, bad food, and knock off crafts, you get the real thing. Guadalajara is very proud of its heritage from Mariachi to hand-made silver jewelry, this is the city for the real deal! Guadalajara is a great jumping off point for seeing the rest of Mexico too. An hour's drive from the town of Tequila (or take the train, you party animal!), 2 hours to the mountain hamlet of Tapalpa (and the best Cajeta 'caramel' you've ever had), 5 to Puerto Vallarta. You can fly anywhere and most flights are fast and fairly inexpensive.

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8. Can you save money?

If you're careful, yes. Have we? Not really. We've been exploring, eating, shopping, and drinking it all in.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I would have known how warmly I would be treated by the locals and how much they LOOOOOVE kids. I am so grateful to live in a place where children are revered and appreciated.

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

In a heartbeat.

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

American attitude about everything needing to be shiny and perfect, your perceptions of street food, your rigid standards of road behavior.

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4. But don't forget your:

Manners, Sunscreen, sense of adventure, good common sense.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Guadalajara is a dream home. The weather is perfect, the people are kind, the food is amazing. The city hosts a varied culture and economic demographic and there are new adventures to have every day. The safety of the city depends greatly upon your good sense and good behavior. You will always be rewarded for trying new things and for being a good guest, doors will open. We love GDL.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 01/25/15

Background:

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

Nope. I've also lived in Europe, Africa and Asia.

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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?

Washington, DC -- about 8 hours via a bunch of different cities, but no direct flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Arrived in 2014.

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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?

Singles and couples with no or one kid tend to be in three-bedroom apartments whose locations and amenities vary; some are in very walkable areas, but with others you'll mostly be driving. Families tend to be in three- or four-bedroom houses in gated communities also with varying amenities and locations, but most are walkable to some restaurants, small shops, etc. Most but not all housing comes with access to a gym and a pool. Commute times tend to be in 20-30 minutes range. Note that housing for those with dogs can be tricky but not impossible.

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

Prices are comparable to the U.S. if you go to grocery stores like Wal-Mart (which is fancy here, more like a Target would be in the U.S.), but you can save money but shopping elsewhere. Brands and selections are sometimes different, but there hasn't been anything I've wanted that I haven't been able to eventually find. Costco is more expensive than in the U.S. but a good option for things you have trouble finding elsewhere.

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

Although you can find anything you need, some things are considerably more expensive here, like clothing and toys. We would have stocked up on birthday party gifts and kids clothing before coming had we known.

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

Pretty much any food chain you can think of in the U.S. is here too. IHOP, KFC, McDonalds, Carl's Jr, PF Chang's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Krispie Kreme, Starbucks... you name it, it's here. Most prices are comparable to those in the U.S., but there are some surprises. (Outback, for instance, is way more expensive here). There are also lots of great local restaurants. Your palate wont suffer in Guadalajara, though good Asian good can be hard to come by.

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

Nothing out of the ordinary.

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Daily Life:

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

Full-time help is pretty affordable (US$600 for our nanny) but by law they have pretty good benefits packages in terms of leave time and severance pay, so factor that in too. Nannies can live in or not. It's also possible to hire a housekeeper for only one day a week if you'd prefer. Some expats employ drivers. We have a guy who comes to our house to wash our car for US$10 or so. It's pretty cheap to hire help for whatever you need.

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

Yes, though most housing comes with workout facilities so I don't know about local market costs.

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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?

I use credit cards frequently. Even AmEx is accepted most places I go. I haven't had any issues.

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

I know of an English language Anglican church. There may be others too.

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

Spanish is helpful, but I've found that most Mexicans who run in the same circles as expats speak perfectly good English too.

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

It would be possible to live here, I think, though not as easy as in the U.S.

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Transportation:

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

There aren't local trains except for a tourist one to the town of Tequila. City buses aren't particularly safe, but taxis are. My 25-minute commute to work costs about US$8. People rave about luxury coach bus service to Vallarta.

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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?

Any car would really be fine. High clearance might be useful due to frequent and poorly designed speed bumps, but anything would do. Pretty much any kind of car can be serviced here.

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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?

The options vary depending on your neighborhood, but both speed and cost are comparable to the U.S.

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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?

Most people bring unlocked iPhones and get a local plan once arriving. I have the maximum amount of data and it costs only US$40 or so a month. If you don't want a smart phone, you can wait and buy one locally when you arrive. They're sold at Oxxo (like a 7-11) for as little as US$30.

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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 quarantine needed. Vets and kennels are everywhere. This is a very pet-friendly culture.

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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?

I've heard of some teaching opportunities, both ESL and in international schools, but without strong Spanish skills I think it could be hard to find other employment on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There's a Junior League chapter that's very active if that's your cup of tea. I've heard of people volunteering teaching English, serving at a soup kitchen, visiting an orphanage, etc.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is crime, but it mostly falls into the categories of 1) what you'd find in any major city, and 2) targeted. I haven't felt unsafe.

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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?

We've had only minor health issues but have been perfectly happy with the quality of care we've received so far. Many doctors are U.S. trained and speak good English. More and more, Americans are coming to Mexico for medical tourism, and I can see why. Especially for dental work, the quality is great and half the cost as back home.

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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?

It's fairly high altitude with some pollution, but I haven't noticed any issues with day-to-day life or short outdoor runs.

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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?

It's swimming weather 9 months out of the year. The warmest clothing you'll need is a light jacket.

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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 are a number of options and the vast majority of expats I've talked to are happy with them.

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

I've heard not much, but I don't have firsthand experience.

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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?

A full-time nanny costs about US$600/mo. There are many preschools, most of which are only half-day. We pay about US$400 month for ours, a bilingual school walkable from our home. We've found that preschool is a little more serious than in the U.S. -- more academic and less play based. But it's worked out okay.

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

Yes. There are plenty of music, art and other classes too.

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Expat Life:

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

The diplomatic expat community is fairly small but the corporate expat community is large. Morale is great. Most everyone feels grateful to be here.

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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?

Anything you'd do in the U.S. Restaurants, movies, bars, clubs, birthday parties, playdates, etc.

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

It's really a good city for anyone.

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

Absolutely.

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

Not that I've experienced. Not more so than I think you'd find anywhere else.

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

We've been blown away by how kid-friendly Mexico is. Even elderly men and teenage boys coo at babies on the street. Most restaurants have play areas for kids, and some even have on-staff nannies.

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

Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Tlaquepaque,Tequila and Tonola are all easy day trips. For a weekend away, Manzanillo, Tapalpa, Guanajuato and Puerto Vallarta are all fairly close. And there's plenty to do in the city itself. VIP movies (think Lay-Z-Boy chairs and waiter service for the price of a regular U.S. movie, or less) are a favorite in our family. There's a new movie theatre designed just for kids, with a play area down by the screen and a giant slide going down the aisle. Colomos and Metropolitano are both great parks. You can satisfy your foodie cravings much cheaper than back home. Etc.

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

I personally think Guadalajara is the best post in Mexico. It's got most of the culture and sophistication you would find in Mexico City, but the size is much less intimidating. You don't have the same security issues that you have in most border posts, so you can really get out and see all that the city has to offer. You can drive to several famous beaches in 4-6 hours, and you can get to others with a 2 hour, US$200 flight. The weather is pleasant year-round. And of course... there's the food. Mexican food is delicious, and there's a pretty good foodie scene in town too.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't travel, yes. But the temptation to travel is strong...

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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2. Do you have any other comments?

This is a great place for cyclists. Every Sunday the city shuts down a whole bunch of major streets to car traffic so cyclists have free reign.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 10/10/14

Background:

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

Middle East, Central Asia, South America, and Europe.

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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?

It takes less than three hours to fly from Guadalajara to southern U.S. states. Generally, you need to connect through Arizona or Texas to get to the rest of the U.S. but there are many direct flights too.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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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?

Houses and apartments are widely available here. Many expats live west of central Guadalajara. The traffic can be bad at rush hour, but rush hour is at a different time here than in the U.S. so we've rarely had trouble with the traffic. Some people think the traffic is crazy here, but it's not bad at all compared to many other cities around the world. This is a good place to drive.

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

Prices in the grocery stores are fairly similar to the U.S. The weekly street markets can be a good place to buy good produce and local food for less, although it depends on the area they're in. The fruit is wonderful here. Costco is more expensive than the U.S., but if something is imported, it's usually cheapest at Costco. However, you can often find a much less expensive local version in the markets. Abastos market is a giant warehouse market with great prices. There are a few stores, including one in Abastos, where you can buy ingredients to make food from all over Asia. There are expensive stores with imported household supplies here too, but as with the food, you can nearly always find a cheaper local version that works well.

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

You can find nearly everything here although some things will be expensive. When I visit the U.S., I bring back cases of coconut milk, spices, red lentils, bulgur, and lots of dark chocolate.

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

We mostly eat street food which is delicious and inexpensive. There are plenty of U.S. fast food chains here if that's your thing and lots of restaurants. It's very easy to eat here.

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

Mosquitos can carry dengue (although we've just heard this and don't know anyone who has had personal experience with this) and there are ants. Some people have trouble with cockroaches and spiders in their houses. Generally, the insects aren't much of a problem here.

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Daily Life:

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

Our neighborhood has a good gym as do many other neighborhoods. There are gyms around that are good but a little expensive from what I hear.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We've had trouble with credit cards and rarely use them, although we know a lot of other expats who use them all the time. We stick with ATMs and have never had a problem getting money out. There are drastically different fees at different machines so pay attention.

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

There are a few Catholic and Protestant services. There are no English services for Mormons.

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

You can get away without much Spanish although it's always better to learn some. There are classes at the universities.

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

Compared to the U.S., yes. Compared to most other countries? Definitely not. Guadalajara is working hard to make the city more accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Sitio taxis are safe and relatively inexpensive compared to the U.S. We're not allowed to take the buses and the metro line is very short in Guadalajara and doesn't go into Zapopan at all so we've never tried it, unfortunately. This is a walkable city and I don't feel like I have to drive everywhere even though I can't take the bus. One reason I love to go to Mexico DF is to ride the Metro there.

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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?

We brought a high-clearance car and are glad we did when we want to drive up a volcano, but it's not necessary to have one. Many people have minivans and all sorts of smaller cars. I think you can get just about anything serviced here.

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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, and it's about what we'd expect in the U.S. both for cost and reliability.

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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?

Not so much, and you'd probably need Spanish. Most expats I know who come here without a job lined up have a hard time finding something that pays well.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many and they're not hard to find especially if you're connected with Junior League.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are some states we avoid but generally we feel very safe here.

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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?

Excellent. People travel here for good care than is much less expensive than in the U.S.

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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?

Generally the air quality is reasonable. It can get a little bad early in the year when it's dry and there's not much rain, but it's generally a little windier then too. I haven't ever been bothered by the air quality.

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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?

There are three basic seasons. The rainy season starts around June and lasts till around September or October. You can expect rain in the late afternoon and evening any day, but it rarely rains in the morning or early afternoon. Everything is lovely and green. Then it cools off and gets drier for a few months. It can get fairly cool in January and you might want a jacket, especially in the evening. It starts to warm up in March and can be quite hot in the afternoons in April and May before the rains start, but since the elevation is high and it's very dry then, it cools off almost every night and the heat doesn't bother me. Even though it's dry in the spring, many bushes and trees flower so it's very colorful.

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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 are several options here with many more choices for younger children than older children. As in many places in Latin America, there really aren't international schools, but high-quality private schools. The Canadian School goes through third grade right now and is adding a grade each year (so it will include 4th grade in 2015-16 and 5th grade the year after, etc.). It's an excellent school, as is the American School, and both are easy to get to from the area many expats live. The Lincoln School is a Christian school that is less expensive, but further out for many expats. There are many, many bilingual schools around the city.

We aren't very satisfied with the high school choices here, but between the American School, the Lincoln School, and homeschooling the families with teens have been able to make things work. I wouldn't avoid Guadalajara simply because of the schools.

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

Yes, through the schools, gyms, and universities. We've been able to keep our children busy with sports.

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Expat Life:

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

There are a high variety of expats here, from tens of thousands of retirees on Lake Chapala to medical students to business people, missionaries, and diplomats from a number of countries. People seem happy to be here.

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

Our family has been reasonably happy here although we wish there were more teens in the expat community since my children don't speak much Spanish. Singles and couples find plenty to do. It would take a lot of effort to be bored in Guadalajara.

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

Yes.

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

Some, but most problems are very minor in comparison with many other places in the world.

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

Traveling around Mexico, trying so much good food, and experiencing an interesting culture that isn't completely foreign. We've felt welcome here.

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

Hiking volcanoes, visiting Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, mountain biking, going out to the coast, visiting Mexico DF, fiestas galore, Tequila, rock climbing, religious pilgrimages (the Romeria on October 12th shouldn't be missed), eating, the Day of the Dead, Tonala and Tlaquepaque, camping, and so much more. We will never run out of things to do here.

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

So many things. This is a great place to spend money!

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

Everything is wonderful in Guadalajara. The weather is nearly always pleasant, the food is amazing, Mexico is completely fascinating, and it's a very comfortable city.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish there were more written in English about the city and its culture. There's not much available in English about Guadalajara that isn't aimed at tourists.

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

Yes. Our teenagers haven't been entirely happy here, but other than that, this is a wonderful place to live.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 05/08/14

Background:

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

No, We have lived in five-six other countries throughout Latin America, as well as in Europe.

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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?

We live and work overseas so we don't really have a home base in the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year. We departed because of the school situation at ASFG. Other than the school, the city is fantastic and offers so many cultural attractions. We would gladly have remained at post but felt we could not compromise the education of our children.

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

Assigned to Consulate in Guadalajara from 2012 to 2013.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The consular community lived in either nice apartments and most people really liked their places. The housing was substandard but could have been better with a more proactive maintenance program or more customer service oriented from the Management Section at the Consulate. Still, I'd rate it at a 4 out of 10. Not horribly bad. Getting used to the dirt and sand in the water was a bit new for us.

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

Food is cheaper than in the U.S. although imported items can run a bit higher.

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

Everything is available in Guadalajara.

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

Everything you have in the U.S., everywhere.

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

I didn't notice any.

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Daily Life:

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

We used pouch delivery at the Consulate. Other expats seem to have their own informal system set up.

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

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

Yes, all over the place.

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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?

Limit your use of credit cards. Our credit card was cloned the first time we used it.

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

Everything, in Spanish and English.

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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?

You need to speak Spanish unless you live in the expat community in Chapala where everyone speaks English. Just a basic level will do as the locals are friendly.

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

Sidewalks are not made for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis were safe. I would not consider the buses safe.

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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 but I'd recommend something with a bit of clearance like a RAV 4 or CRV.

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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, about US$50 per month.

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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?

Everything is avilable and inexpensive.

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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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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

More formal than 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.

Yes, as in the rest of Mexico, violence is a real issue. In our year, we did drive by a few dead bodies which I do not consider normal. Still, it was only three times. My children saw a couple of these and thankfully the bodies had already been covered.

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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?

Lots of good doctors and dentists at reasonable prices.

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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?

We lived in an area with lots of new construction so dust and dirt everywhere was a real issue.

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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?

Temperate weather, never too cold or too warm.

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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 are a few international schools. Our chidren, one in the lower school and one in middle school had a horrible time at ASFG and we curtailed (ended our assignment) because of it. The school consists mostly of Mexican children who are referred to as legacy students and make up the bulk of the student body. The school will tell you a higher international presence but I did not see that. Especially, in the middle school, the international students amounted to 3 in my son's grade. The children are not necessarily bad kids. The Mexican children have known each other since the early age and have formed strong friendships and bonds. For the first time in six schools in Latin America, our children felt isolated and pretty much ignored by the local children.

The worse part of the school was the double first grade. Children go to first grade twice so by the time your child needs to go to the "real third grade" you are hearing crazy talk like "our third grade is really fourth grade." So the children in 3rd grade are what we would expect in fourth grade in the U.S. The problem is that many of the books in third grade ("but it's really fourth grade") say third grade level on them. It's very crazy. This poses a dilemma for parents. Potentially keep your children back a year or move them forward a year (especially children who are older and more mature). It's absolutely a horrible system and made for the local children to have another year of English. In the end the children will graduate having 13 years of school at ASFG.

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

Don't know at ASFG.

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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?

I saw that other families seem to have plenty of options available.

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

Yes, many different programs.

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Expat Life:

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

Small expat community. Morale was good except among the government and corporate people I knew. Most of us had issues with ASFG.

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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?

Movies, clubs, eating out, visiting Puerto Vallarta.

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

Good for families with no school-age children and single people.

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

The gay people I knew seemed to have a good time and mix with the locals well. I did not hear of any problems for them.

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

I did not notice any.

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

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

Furniture, pottery, ceramics, food.

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

The people and the culture are fantastic. There is a great variety of food options at reasonable cost. Shopping is easy and you can find anything you would need in the U.S. We did not find it expensive. The weather was equally amazing. There is so much to do that we did not feel that we saved any money. This said, you have to be careful traveling, especially outside of the city and during hours of darkness. There is violence so you need to exercise caution.

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9. Can you save money?

Not really, too many things to do and enjoy in the city.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

More factual information about the school situation at ASFG.

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

Yes, without children.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 04/26/14

Background:

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

No.

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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?

DC, 7 hours with a lay-over in Houston.

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3. How long have you lived here?

15 months.

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

Government; Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments are more common for singles, couples and small families. Large townhomes in gated communities for larger families. Commute is about 15 minutes. Typically the "rush hours" are from 8:30-10am and 6-8pm, so our work hours did not coincide with the Tapatio schedules.

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

If you shop at the local markets it is much cheaper than the U.S. Even if you shop Walmart and Costco, I would say you spend about 30-40% less than in DC.

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

Baby food squeezables.

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

Anything you can find in Southern California is here: Costco, Applebees, Chilis, Outback, Walmart, Sam's Club, Starbucks, etc, but I would recommend a taco stand or one of the hundreds of amazing local restaurants. The food is fantastic, most restaurants have open-air seating because the weather is perfect and everything is so much cheaper that you can eat out more often!

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

Very few, mainly ants and cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Readily available and cheap.

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

Yes they are everywhere and slightly cheaper than the U.S. but with the weather as gorgeous as it is all year, you could take up running!

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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?

It is a very cash-based place. Not all little places take cards. We had no problems getting money at ATMs in certain places. All the malls and bigger restaurants take cards.

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

We used it all the time. Most people do not speak English but everyone is helpful and will try.

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

The sidewalks are not always there, some have large holes, and many buildings do not have elevators, so it could be a problem.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and affordable from the taxi stands; we were not permitted to take buses or metro.

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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?

Any car is fine. A small SUV is nice for the high clearance to avoid potholes and the flash floods that happen a few times.

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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, i think we paid about US$25/month.

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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?

Bring your own, buy a sim there.Getting a plan is a challenge. They do a full "investigation" and have trouble unless you have a local bank account. It is easier to just buy the monthly sim refill cards.

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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 quarantine, great pet care all around and kennels are about US$20 a night.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

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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. Most men are in button down shurts and slacks, women are in dresses and heels. No one goes out in work-out clothes.

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Health & Safety:

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

We had no issues; we live in a gated community.

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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?

Great medical care, better than the U.S. Pediatricians who will meet you on a Sunday evening, or at 8pm at night, hospitals that are like spas, and the price is great!

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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?

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?

Perfect! Sunny all year with rains in the summer evenings and higher temperatures; it's gorgeous the rest of the year. Pool weather from April- October.

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Schools & Children:

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

Not available. The one "American School" that is considered adequate is not even close to a typical International school. It is made up of 95% wealthy Mexicans and then the rest are American expats, Japanese and Koreans. With so few international students, the school has a hard time integrating into the fold. Academically there are problems as well. The school has a P1 year between kindergarten and first grade to allow native Spanish speakers to learn English. This causes international students transferring in great trouble because the acadmeics do not line up. The math curriculum is ahead and the language arts is behind based on grade level and the peer group age is older. So when you place your child, s/he will either be with his/her same age peers but the academics will be a year behind, or s/he can be with older kids to align better academically.

Another problem is that non-native students are spread out over the grade level (2-4) per class, then pulled from class for half of the day to attend a "special Spanish" class. They are not given the opportunity to learn Spanish through inclusion, the segregation causes social difficulties and students waste a lot of time without a real curriculum.

Communication is another issue. The school is not good about passing information to families. Information usually came late, if at all, through the room parent and only in Spanish, so if you don't speak Spanish, it is difficult to know what is happening.

Other options for schools are very limited. There is the Lincoln school which is religious, weaker academically and small with few extra curricular activities. The Canadian school is growing, but only had classes up to 2nd grade. No schools offer special needs services.

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

None.

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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?

There are a few preschools but most families with young children hire nannies. We hired a nanny who worked full time (6:30-5:30 M-F), cleaned our house, took care of the kids, did laundry and prepped dinner for about US$250 a week which is on the very high end of the pay scale.

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

Yes, eveyrhting is in Spanish so it is a great way for them to learn the language!

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Expat Life:

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

Medium and good.

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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?

BBQs, movies, parks, outdoor mall, hiking, hanging out with friends.

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

Yes, so much to do. Beautiful parks, a great zoo, easy to travel out of the city, lots of nightlife for singles and couples, great reastaurants!!!! Did I mention the food is amazing?

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

I believe so.

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

There is more of a class system among Mexicans but we did not experience any prejudices.

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

Chapala, Chacala, Tapalpa, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Puerto Vallarta, Akumal, Mexico City, the cheap and delicious food, the fruit stands on every corner.

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

The many parks.

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

Tonala is an Artist's town full of amazing Mexican items; you can furnish your house or send gifts home. You can even get furniture made to order for great prices.

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

The weather is perfect all year round, the food is amazing, travel to the coast is fairly easy (3-4 hours by car), travel to many other cities and towns for a long weekend is easy, the people are nice, cost of living is cheaper than the U.S. and you can get anything you would want (it is like living in Southern CA).

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, depending on how much you travel and eat out.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That the school was so bad; we would have chosen differently.

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

We would go back in a heartbeat if we did not have older children. It is a gorgeous place and so easy.

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

Warm clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and swimsuit.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 06/05/13

Background:

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

This is my first tour as a Foreign Service Officer, but I have lived and worked outside of the US extensively.

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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?

New York. Guadalajara always requires a stopover either in Mexico City, Miami or in Texas, so it's a minimum 7 hours of flying time due to stopovers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months so far, with 16 months left on this tour.

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

Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartment housing is usually spacious and very nice for singles, couples and small families. Houses and townhouses are available for officers with pets and larger families, but yards are small (not more than a small, enclosed patch) and ALL housing has leaks during the rainy season. A/C breaks down frequently.

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

I find produce to be much cheaper (5 avocados for about US$2) but imported food more expensive. Costco and Walmart, as well as Home Depot, exist but are slightly pricier than in the US.

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

Nothing you can't get locally.

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

Almost all American chains are represented here and at about the same cost or slightly cheaper than in the US, depending on the fluctuating exchange rate.

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

Ants, roaches and mosquitoes in the rainy season.

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Daily Life:

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

Through DPO.

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

About MXP250 per visit for a cleaning lady once per week.

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

Yes, slightly cheaper than in the US.

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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?

They are safe at banks during the day and widely available. Night use of ATMs is discouraged for safety reasons.

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

Yes.

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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?

You need Spanish most of the time, although half the population speaks English, particularly educated people. Those who work at the consulate (except for guards) all speak English.

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

A lot, both in the city and at the consulate, which has no elevator. Most sidewalks are badly damaged, and many facilities have no ramps for wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

They are affordable, if not cheap, but are not permitted due to safety issues.

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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?

High-clearance cars are good to have during the rainy season and for pot-holes and for driving on unpaved streets and roads.

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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. About US$100/month.

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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?

Bring one from the US (they are about 30% more expensive locally) and use a local plan.

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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?

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

Dogs are very hard to house in apartments here.

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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?

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

Equivalent to the US.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are restrictions about where we can drive, which can be onerous. There can be car-jackings, and there is petty crime like in any city.

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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?

Have had the good forture of not having to know.

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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?

Being at about 5,000 feet, the air is dry and warm. Air Quality is usually pretty good, but those with allergies can tend to suffer.

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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?

Perfect if you like it to be hot. Usually over 80 degrees (but not humid). It can be very hot during part of April, all of May and some of June (over 95 degrees), but evenings cool down. The rainy season means about 2 hours of rain daily in late June, July and August, with flash flooding.

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Schools & Children:

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

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Expat Life:

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

Medium.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent.

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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?

Excellent, incuding lots of movies in English in theaters.

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

I think it's a very user-friendly city for families, couples and singles.

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

Yes.

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

No.

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

Learning about fine (sipping) tequilas and visiting the city for which the drink is named; the lovely Tlaquepaque village; being about a 4-hour drive from the coast (Puerto Vallarta) and about as far from special towns including San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato.

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

Drive to towns and cities where security allows, including Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta, San Miguel de Allenda, Guanajuato, Tapalpa, Sayula, Sayulita, and Ajijic.

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

Mirror work, locally made mesquite furniture (VERY heavy, but well done), high-end tequila.

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

Guadalajara is a well kept secret. It's relatively safe compared to other posts in Mexico, it's Mexico's 2nd largest city and therefore has a lot to offer; the weather is dry and warm (other than in the somewhat short rainy season), and housing is spacious and beautiful. Commutes to the consulate are very reasonable and rarely longer than 45 minutes.

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11. Can you save money?

No, but I have trouble saving money almost anywhere.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yup.

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

warm coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

sun-screen, which is pricier here than in the US, though available.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 01/12/12

Background:

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

Second experience. First experience was in Helsinki, Finland.

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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?

Chicago, IL. There are direct flights but most flights connect through Dallas or Houston. Direct flights are about five hours and connections can vary.

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3. How long have you lived here?

For two months.

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

US Govt.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are houses, apartments, etc. It is best to live in a gated community for security purposes.

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

Most American products are available here. Depending on the product and the store, prices can vary.

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

Nothing.

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

Just about everything is available at any price.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There are a variety of products especially at Wal-Mart.

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

Yes! Cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch.

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

200 to 250 pesos per day.

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

Yes, including chains like Gold's Gym.

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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?

Make sure to use trusted sites where you can always see your credit card.

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

Yes.

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

Yes. There are English cable channels and newspapers.

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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?

At least a basic working knowledge of Spanish.

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

Yes. There are wheelchair ramps on all city sidewalks, but the sidewalks are in horrible condition.

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Transportation:

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

Definitely affordable. City buses are privately run and are not considered very safe.

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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?

SUV. Mexico does not allow for the importation of a car older than five years.

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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. US$30 per month.

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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?

Telcel.

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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, but make sure to have all of your papers in order before bringing a pet. I carried my small dog on the plane with me and had a USDA vet sign off on medical certificate, both I believe helped me in the process once I got to Guadalajara.

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

Fairly good.

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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?

No.

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

Work is business casual to business. Public varies, but shorts are only for sports and the beach.

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Health & Safety:

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

Many. Security concerns range from pick-pocketing to narco-violence. The US Dept. of State has listed a number of travel warnings.

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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?

There is air pollution. Medical care is excellent and at a good price.

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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?

The air quality is moderate. Some days are better than others.

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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?

Winters are warm during the day and chilly at night. There is a rainy season during the summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

Depends on the school.

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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, especially in the area of Lake Chapala.

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2. Morale among expats:

High.

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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?

The list is long.

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

It's a great city for everyone.

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

Yes.

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

Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco have the reputation for being very conservative and religious. With that said, I haven't heard about or experienced any problems.

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

The people here are very friendly and welcoming.

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

Too many to list.

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

Local artisian items.

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

The weather in the winter is great. It is possible to save money depending on what you do.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Maybe. Mexico is a difficult country to travel around on your own because of safety concerns.

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

Negative stereotypes of Mexico.

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3. But don't forget your:

Your patience and sweater or coat for chilly evenings.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Guadalajara, Mexico 01/23/11

Background:

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

yes

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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?

Anderson, South Carolina; We fly from Guadalajara to Atlanta (4 hours) to connect (1 hour) to Greenville, South Carolina.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since August 2010

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

We work at the U.S. Consulate General

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most families live in gated communities in townhouse-style houses with zero lot lines. Our community has a pool, gym and playground, with a 15-20 min. commute time, depending on traffic. One of the gated communities with the largest homes is a 30-minute drive from town/work. Smaller families and singles live in high-rise apartments and townhouses in the Providencia neighborhood, about a 10 min. commute.

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

Produce is less expensive generally. Prepackaged items are more expensive. Overall, things are more expensive by 20% or so.

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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?

McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Applebees, Outback Steakhouse, PF Changs, Carl's, and other American chains are here. The chains cost a little more than the Mexican restaurants. Also, the Chinese restaurant near our house costs more than buying Chinese in the U.S. There are tons of sushi places. The tacos are amazing.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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

Ants, small roaches. Some homes saw some black widows with all the construction in the neighborhood. Flying insects are no problem in the dry months, but mosquitoes are active in the rainy season and on the coast.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Pouch

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

$100 per week for 32 hours.

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

Yes.

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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?

They are plentiful and safe if you use them in the daylight hours and take normal precautions.

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

Yes

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

Yes

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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?

You need to know some Spanish.

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

Someone in a wheelchair would have great difficulty getting around because of the poor quality of the sidewalks. Many buildings do not have elevators, either.

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Transportation:

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

Intercity bus travel is great if you go 1st class. We do not use the public transportation in the city.

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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?

Any car is fine, but a higher clearance vehicle would be better for the speed bumps.

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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, it is about $30 per month

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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?

Cell service is great and pay-as-you-go plans are available.

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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?

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

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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?

No.

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

Normal Business attire at work, fairly casual elsewhere. It is rare to see Mexicans wear shorts anytime!

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Health & Safety:

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

Narco violence has increased in the city, but most incidents occur after midnight. The State Dept. has issued travel warnings to discourage any travel after dark outside the city or near the airport, because of past narco-blockades on highways.

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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?

No.

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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?

The air quality here is reported to be better than in Mexico City, but in parts of the city there is a strong pollution haze that sinks down into the lower parts near the airport and makes it hard to breathe.

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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?

During the dry season October - May it is sunny every day with highs 70-80 during the day and lows of 40-50 at night. During the rainy season temps are warmer at night but moderate during the day, and rain usually occurs at night.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American school gets good reviews, but we chose to send our kids to the bilingual Lincoln school, which has smaller class sizes, and we have been very happy in our first year there.

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

The Lincoln school offers some programs for learning disabilities and has tutors available. Some friends of ours have a child with Down's syndrome, and she seems welcomed.

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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?

We have not used preschool/daycare, but others have been happy with the options available. We use our housekeeper/nanny to help watch our kids after school, and that is working well.

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

Yes. Our kids have really enjoyed taking gymnastics classes. The school offers lots of different sports as well.

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Expat Life:

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

Jalisco has about 50,000 US citizen residents and many Canadians.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good.

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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?

Everywhere.

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

Yes, the city is large enough to have activities appealing to many groups.

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

Yes, there is a gay population here, and locals have said that it is pretty tolerant, although they say there is less tolerance in the smaller towns in Mexico.

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

Mexicans make jokes about race, religion and gender. Mexicans make fun of fat people and gays, too. Sometimes they do not seem to be sensitive that this could be offensive.

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

Visiting Tequila, listening to mariachi music, seeing the charreada (Mexican rodeo), going to the beach at Manzanillo (a 3-hour drive) and Puerto Vallarta (5-hour drive), going to the craft markets at Tonala and Tlaquepaque, and going horseback riding in the state and county parks.

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

Listening to mariachis, going to the tiangui markets (like flea markets), buying Mexican crafts, seeing the ballet folklorico, good restaurants, eating fruit with lime and chile from the street vendors, tacos of all kinds, riding bikes on Sundays when they make about 20 miles of roads around the city for bikes only, horseback riding, homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh Mexican vanilla, going to the beach & lots more.

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

Local Arts/Crafts are wonderful

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

The Mexican people are friendly and helpful. The weather is gorgeous with sunny days and cool nights. Even during the rainy season the sun comes out for a while each day. Anything that involves a service is cheaper here, but imported things cost more than in the U.S. Guadalajara seems like the essence of Mexico: mariachis, Mexican food, and tequila can be found in abundance, and people celebrate the Mexican holidays with flair.

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11. Can you save money?

We have.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Guadalajara is still a great city to live in. It is not as nice as it was 5 years ago -- or even 5 months ago, but it is still very nice. The future of the city and Mexico in general depends on how well the problem with drug-related violence is handled.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 06/13/10

Background:

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

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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?

Washington, DC. There are no direct flights, but Continental and American fly with one connection (in Dallas or Houston usually). Trip is about 6.5 hours flight time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

Family is here for U.S. State Dept.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have an apartment in Providencia, in the city. It's nice because we can walk to everything we need, but it's not noisy or too busy traffic-wise. Other people with the State Dept. live in houses in gated communities. We love that we are living among the locals here. Some of the government housing is a 30-minute drive (up to an hour during rush hour) from downtown.

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

You can get pretty much anything you want here. Most food items are about the same price as in the U.S. There are several different grocery chains and also Costco and Sam's Club. There are lots of street markets where fresh produce and meats are cheaper than in the stores. You also can find some American brands that are not in the stores here in international markets, but those items are pretty expensive.

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

Chocolate chips, brown sugar, other baking items. A grill -- they are ridiculously expensive here. Cotton sheets, which also cost five times what they do in the U.S.

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

Restaurants are fairly cheap. Very good taco stands charge about 65 cents per taco. The average good restaurant costs about $12-$15 including drinks. And the best restaurants cost about $50 per person, all inclusive.

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

There are times when the mosquitoes are bad, but it doesn't seem like it's often. But there have been a few outbreaks of Dengue, so it's important to cover up and wear bug spray when this happens.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the diplomatic pouch through the State Dept.

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

It's plentiful and cheap. Most people pay less than $20 a day for cleaning/nanny.

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

Yes. There are many gyms. Several people we know belong to the World Gym in Providencia. Some gated communities have clubhouses with gyms.

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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?

You can't use credit cards everywhere. Some restaurants and stores only take cash.

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

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

The Guadalajara Reporter is the main English newspaper. You can get an online subscription for $30 a year. You would need to get cable or satellite TV to have English-language TV stations.

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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?

You need to have a working knowledge of Spanish. It would be frustrating and difficult to get around without it.

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

They would have some problems getting around. The sidewalks are horrible here; some have trees growing in the middle of them, and others have steps built into them.

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Transportation:

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

There are no passenger trains. Buses are available, but we haven't used them. Taxis are pretty cheap.

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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?

Don't bring a new car if you are going to get bent out of shape if it gets dented or scratched. Bring an SUV if you can. During the rainy season there are flash floods, and it's much safer and easier to drive an SUV through what can look like rivers at times. Several people we know have had their cars broken into -- just don't leave anything at all that looks worth stealing in the car.

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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. It's decent speed and pretty reliable -- and about $25 a month.

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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?

Most people have the Telcel pay-as-you-go service here.

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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?

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

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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?

Not really. It depends what you do. There are some jobs for foreign service spouses at the consulate but most are tedious and none pays well.

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

All business at work. It's pretty formal -- just short of suits. More laid back in public, though you rarely see shorts.

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Health & Safety:

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

The drug violence in Mexico is increasing, so it's important to be aware of security measures. Guadalajara has been fairly insulated to this point, and we have felt very safe here. But it's getting more dangerous to drive outside this region and to the north, especially.

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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?

No major health concerns. But be very careful which doctors you pick -- get recommendations from people you trust. I have heard some scarey stories (and have one myself) about bad experience with doctors (even some recommended ones).

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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?

Everything you read says there is horrible pollution in Guadalajara. We haven't really experienced it where we live. The air quality is pretty poor near the airport, though -- and in the warmest months of May and June it can get hazy in other parts of the city as well.

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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?

It's usually nice here. In the winter it can get down into the 30s at night. And in May and June, the hottest months, the 100-degree temps can be kind of brutal. But for the other 10 months it's generally in the 70s and 80s (dry heat) during the day and sunny. June to August is the rainy season, which means it pours (sometimes with hail) after 4 pm almost every day. But it's sunny during most of the day. And this rain cools and cleans the air, which is nice.

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Schools & Children:

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

We don't have any kids in schools here, but we hear good things, mostly, about the American School. The only complaints we have heard are that there's not much mixing between the Americans and the Mexicans at the school, and that they start the kids in kindergarten a year later than in the U.S.

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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?

We don't have kids in daycare. But many people do, and everyone seems satisfied with the programs they use. There are many.

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

Yes, through the American School. We know people who also have enrolled their kids in swimming lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

Decent size. There are a lot of retirees in Chapala. There are some U.S. companies in Guadalajara, so there are families here as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is pretty good among expats. The morale at the U.S. Consulate here, specifically, varies depending on the management and the workload. The people posted here are nice, and fun for the most part. But the consulate officers are interviewing hundreds of visa applicants each at the moment. This is currently weighing on morale. A year ago, visa demand was lower and morale was higher. At times it feels like a visa factory.

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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?

It's a good social scene here. People often go to dinner, or out to bars and clubs -- and there are often people having others to their homes for dinner and parties. People sometimes organize trips out of town as well. Lately, consulate-organized events, specifically, have not been well attended, unfortunately.

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

It's good for everyone. There are lots of clubs and bars for those interested in going out, and there are also lots of activities for families.

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

There is a large gay community here, and it's supposed to be a gay-friendly city.

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

Not that we have seen, though it doesn't seem like there are many minorities here.

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

The people in Guadalajara are extremely nice and helpful. We've had an amazing time, also, traveling around the country. I never imagined Mexico had so much to offer before I came here.

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

There are too many to list here, but a few: exploring downtown, visiting the town of Tequila, buying cheap well-made goods in Tonala, traveling to the beach for a long weekend.

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

Silver is cheap, and there are unique jewelry items here. Tonala has tons of local crafts, handmade furniture, blown glass, tile and other ceramics, pewter, and other unique items. Tequila is cheaper and better here.

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

Dining out is cheap. It's hard to spend more than $50 at the nicest restaurants for two meals and a bottle of wine. There are so many amazing little towns nearby, within 3-4 hours driving, like Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Tapalpa and Morelia. And there are nice beaches 3-5 hours away, like Manzanillo, Barra de Navidad and Sayulita.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

winter clothes. And your preconceptions about the country if your only experience here is with spring break or beach vacations.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Night of the Iguana.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Guadalajara is an under-rated city. And Mexico has so much more to offer than I anticipated when we found out we were going to be posted here for two years. We have greatly enjoyed our time here.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 02/18/08

Background:

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

I lived in Tokyo, Japan previously.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year and 8 months.

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

From Houston or Dallas, it's about 2.5 hours, from LA 3 hours and from Atlanta 3.5 hours. There are also direct flights to Chicago, Portland, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.

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

I am affiliated with the U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For consulate employees there are one of two options: Gated community (large four-bedroom houses, at least a small yard, suburban feel) or Providencia (townhouses and apartments, wealthy neighborhood with restaurants and bars).

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

Cost of groceries and general goods are about the same or a bit cheaper than the US. Electronics/computers are considerably more expensive.

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

Patio furniture and gas grill. That said, equipales is a good substitution for patio furniture and can be ordered quite cheaply. I got a drink table, a table for four, and four chairs made for me for about US$300.

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

Many American chains: Applebees, Outback, Hooters, Chiles, McDonald's, Burger King, KFC. As for something nicer: Ma Come No is great for Italian, Santo Coyote is a nice romantic Mexican place, and I Latina is a great fusion place. But beware, there are lots of restaurants that have a great atmosphere, but only so-so food.

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Daily Life:

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

The American community relies on having people personally take mail up to the U.S. when they travel. I suggest you contact an English speaking church, Lake Chapala Society, or one of the American Legion to get into one of these systems.

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

For cleaning it's good about US$15-20 for once a day and even less if they come everyday. My colleagues tell me that nannies are much harder to find. Many have brought them to Mexico from other Latin American countries after not having any success on the local market.

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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?

Credit cards are accepted at most large stores and restaurants. Mastercard/Visa is more common than Amex. ATMs are plentiful and safe to use. If you're a Bank of America account holder, you can use Santander ATMs fee free.

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

Lutheran, Evangelical, Episcopalian, and, I believe, Catholic services are all available. There are more options just one hour away in Chapala/Ajijic.

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

There's a weekly English paper from Chapala. As for TV, many people contract with DISH network. You can still get the signal down here. Otherwise, the local cable provider has CNN and about 4-5 channels that show primarily American TV series.

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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?

Lots. Almost no one speaks English. This is less the case in Chapala/Ajijic which is where American/Canadian retirement community lives.

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

A Mexican friend who is handicaped told me that the city is pretty wheelchair accessible. However, I've seen many ramps that are a bit steep. The consulate is NOT handicap accessible except on the first floor.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like the U.S.

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

Buses are affordable and can be very comfortable is you take the luxury or executive class lines. Taxis are safe and cheaper than in the U.S.

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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?

If you are going to stay in the city, just about any car is fine. However, a higher clearance vehicle is preferable as Mexican speed bumps can be very high. The bottom of my Civic has been banged numerous times. It's just too low. Outside of the city, an SUV is recommended. You can get by on the toll roads with just about anything, but if you take the free roads or enter a smaller town, you better have high clearance and good shocks.

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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?

Telmex is the best. 1G for about US$25 a month.

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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?

Telcel's Amigo is a good option. It's a rechargable/pay as you go plan.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or skype. Telmex charges about 10 cents a minute on it's CHEAPEST Mexico-US plan.

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Pets:

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

I've heard there are good vets.

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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?

Without Spanish, I think it's nearly impossible. Most of the people I know work at the consulate, Siemens, Flextronics, HP, Hershey's, or telecommute from home.

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

Shirt and tie, suit/nice dress for anything special but you'll probably never use a tux or a real evening gown.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate, people say the pollution is increasing though.

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

It's a low-threat, low-crime post but you should take the typical precautions for any big city. I still feel more comfortable here than in several large U.S. cities.

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

Medical care is good. San Javier Hospital and Puerta de Hierro Hospital have good reputations. San Javier even takes Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.

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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?

It's a relatively mild climate. It seems to be about 60-85F degrees almost 80% of the year. It rains (usually only at night) from June to September and then it's dry the rest of the year. It can get hot and dusty from February until the rains come in June.

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have personal experience, however, my colleagues tell me that the American Foundation School, which started by a former Consul General, has a good reputation. That said, it has very few American or international students and the Mexican kids can be very unfriendly and flaunt their wealth. Some have opted for other options: Vancouver or American Academy.

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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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Expat Life:

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

There is not a huge expat community in Guadalajara but around Lake Chapala there are about 20,000 American citizens.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent....this is a great place to live.

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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?

Restaurants, social events (weddings, 15 year old parties, cook-outs, etc.), bars and clubs

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

Yes. It's good for all three. The Guadalajara metro area has more than 5 million people. There's something for everyone. I'm single and I've found plenty of activities including sports, bars, clubs, special interest groups, and cultural activities.

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

YES. Guadalajara may be know as a conservative city but it's also the heart of GAY Mexico. It's definitely a paradox and you don't see many people who are completely out especially in public, but there are plenty of gay clubs, bars, and restaurants/coffeehouses. There's even a gay pride parade every year and a monthly magazine. More information is available at www.gaygdl.com. Plus, there's always the scene in Puerto Vallarta just 4-5 hours away by car.

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

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

Clubs, bars, restaurants, Colomos Park, many day trips/weekend trips to Morelia, Puerta Vallarta, Manzanillo, Guanajuato, Mazamitla, Tapalpa, Chapala, etc.

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

Local crafts from Tlaquepaque/Tonala: pottery, glassware, interior design stuff...

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9. Can you save money?

If you're determined...The cost of living is very similar to the U.S.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

DEFINITELY!

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

Winter clothes...it rarely hits freezing and then it usually warms back up to 60-70F once the sun comes out.

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3. But don't forget your:

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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?

Guadalajara is an AMAZING city. The weather's great, there's tons to see and do, and the weekend trips are great.

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Guadalajara, Mexico 01/23/08

Background:

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

No. Previous experiences include Algiers, Libreville, Djibouti, and Guayaquil.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

It is 2.5 hours by air to Houston, TX or 15 hours by road.

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

The author is affiliated with the U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Excellent.

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

Mexico is very expensive. For a family of four, groceries can run US$125-$150 or more per week.

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

Items like Bisquick, chocolate chips, canned Minutemaid. They are available, but are VERY expensive.

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

There are basically all American fast foods here (McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway, etc). Other U.S. restaurants like Chilis, Hooters, Applebees and Outback are here as well.

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Daily Life:

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

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

About US$100 per week is average but it is very difficult to find good local help. Nannies are even harder to find and none of them speak English.

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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?

You can use ATMS but do so indoors to avoid robberies.

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

Episcopal.

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

Yes, you can get cable with English channels for about US$60 per month. There is one English language paper geared towards U.S. community.

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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?

The more the better although many people know some English.

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

Many buildings are handicap accessible including the consulate.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like in the U.S.

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

Taxis are generally safe but a bit expensive. Local buses are not recommended due to safety and security.

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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?

Any kind.

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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, about US$60 per month.

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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?

Don't get a contract!I f your phone is stolen, then you will incur a huge bill and it is difficult to cancel the contract. It is better to buy a cell phone and buy cards to load minutes.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Obtain a LIngo or Vonage system to run through the high-speed DSL lines of the computer.

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Pets:

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

Very good vet care, but I have only found good kennels for dogs.

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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?

Not really unless you are bi-lingual but salaries are very low.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy.

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

Medium.

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

Pollution combined with altitude causes lots of respiratory problems.

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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?

There are 4 months of rain and heat (June/July through September). The rest of the year is dry with lots of dust. December through March is cold.

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Schools & Children:

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

ASFG is the only accredited U.S. school. Academically, it is excellent, but like most Latino schools, it is basically a school attended by wealthy Mexicans with only a few expatriates and there is a large problem of bullying by the Mexican kids. The director has been here for years and is very tight with the Mexican community, which I believe clouds her judgment a bit as the consulate officers are only here a few years.

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

There are very limited services for special needs kids so parents should check in advance to see if services are available to meet their child's need.

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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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Expat Life:

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

About 50,000 including the area around Lake Chapala.

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2. Morale among expats:

High although many have left as cost of living has increased. Fewer are moving here for the same reason.

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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?

Yes, lots of good restaurants and clubs.

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

Yes, there is lots to do.

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

I don't know for sure as it is not openly displayed (this is a conservative Catholic city).

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

Yes towards darker skinned people either from other Latin countries or indigenous Mexicans.

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

This is the mariachi capital of Mexico. Also, tequila is from this area and there are many visits to tequila plants. We are close to mountains, the beach, etc.

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

Beautiful handicrafts of wood, metal, clay, woven items, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

NO!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES!

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

Diet as food here is great!

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3. But don't forget your:

check book as it's very expensive.

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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?

Its a great city and I would recommend it to anyone. Don't expect it to be the Mexico of 30 years ago as Guadalajara is a large metropolitan city. It is very modern and very expensive but easy living.

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