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

Personal Experiences from Monterrey, Mexico

Monterrey, Mexico 09/24/18

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?

Washington, DC. About seven hours, connection through Dallas or Atlanta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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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?

Beautiful houses of good size. New apartment building with a lot of amenities and nearby shops just opened up.

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

Pretty much get anything you’d get in the States. Clothing quality is a little poor; you may pay more for quality stuff than you’d do in the States. Amazon delivery is quick.

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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?

Ubereats, cornershop, lots of different restaurants and American chains.

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

It’s Latin America. There will be some bugs, no worse than other places. At least there’s no scorpions or anything just gross roaches and basic spiders, etc

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Yes.

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

Part-time, full-time, and live-in. Cleaners and child minders. Harder to find educated nannies. Price around US$20 per day ($400 pesos) for 8 hours of work.

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

Lots of gyms. CrossFit, curves, boxing, yoga, and sports city. Can be pricey (New York/DC prices). Outdoor machines free in the park. Gyms in Monterey cheaper than suburbs.

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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 credit cards are used but in restaurants it’s best to ask for the “terminal” and have them run the card in front of you. ATMs are safe. And some US banks have agreements with local ones so fees are less.

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

Catholic and Protestant churches have some English language services. Don’t know about other religions.

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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?

Spanish language classes are very expensive ($30 usd or more an hour). Lots of people speak English because they spend time in the States or went to
Bilingual schools .

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

No.

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Transportation:

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

NO, but uber is safe, cheap and frequently used.

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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?

Luxury cars are extremely common here so nothing will stand out. I’d get a car with good shocks and ground clearance because of speed bumps and potholes.

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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. Takes about three 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?

Kept home country plan. WhatsApp is popular 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?

Seems to be a lot of vets with nice looking buildings. Don’t know the rest.

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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?

Lots of American companies here, teaching jobs. Some people telework.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

One can find them through local churches.

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

Suits or guayaberas for men. Business for women. In public spaces men tend to be more dressed up than you’d see in the States and women wear heels.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Some travel restrictions. Petty crime is low but drug related crime exists though doesn’t really effect American 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?

Amazing hospitals. People from around the world come to Zambrano hospital for treatment. Air quality can be poor.

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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?

Bad. Worse when they drill into the mountain and during the summer.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Dehydration. Pregnant women get rated for Zika. A couple of people got dengue.

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

Hot, rainy season in the fall, gets down to 50 in winter and has snowed last two years.

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Schools & Children:

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

Lots of options to choose from. Most go to ASFM or San Roberto and are happy. However they are many more options. Trilingual schools, Catholic schools, etc.

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

ASFM has started to make some accommodations, but most schools here don't seem great for kids with special needs.

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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?

San Roberto and ASFM have preschools. but they are expensive. They are Montessori options and lots of other options that are much cheaper. Day care can be expensive for bilingual options- nannies are often cheaper. Most schools have after school care options.

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

Yes! Music, sports, whatever you want. Lots of options. It’s an affluent community so if you’re willing to pay, it exists.

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Expat Life:

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

Morale could be better. Breaking into the local community can be tough. And those who can’t drive to the border find it restrictive. It’s one of the wealthiest cities in Latin America so lots of people find it costly.

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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?

Internations, international women’s group. Clubs, bars, etc. There’s lots of things to do.

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

Singles, yes, because there are lots of restaurants and bars. Couples, yes. It is very family-friendly.

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

There some machismo but mostly tolerant. Lots of LGBT bloggers and activities.

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

Some machismo and they don’t treat indigenous people very well.

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

Mexico City is great.

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

Barrio Antiguo .

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

Yes, if you’re willing to travel to a Pueblo mágico 40 minutes to one hour away.

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

It’s very American. Pretty much all the comforts of home. Very easy post in which to live.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How rich and expensive it is. Even 16 year olds get Beemers here.

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

No. I thought it’d be a city with Mexican charm, but it’s really a business center suburban American suburb

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

Consumables list. You can get everything here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Wallet.

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

YouTube may have some videos. Lots of battles took place here for those interested in history

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Travel to other parts of Mexico is cheap from Monterrey. Faucet water is drinkable and you can flush toilet paper (in most buildings). Not very walkable but lots of green spaces.

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Monterrey, Mexico 08/09/15

Background:

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

No. Warsaw, Damascus, Sanaa, and Baghdad

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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?

Norther California. 5 hours direct flights to LA

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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.)?

U.S. Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is very good. For the Consulate housing is located in San Pedro and the NCC in Santa Catarine. The average commute is 20 minutes. Cars are needed.

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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 like is here at HEB (Texas based chain) and Sorianna. Price about 15% higher.

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

Yes. Everything from McDonald's to Wendy to IHOP. About 15% more expensive then U.S.

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

Not much.

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Daily Life:

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

Once a week delivery from the the U.S. logistical Center in Brownsville.

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

Lots of options

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

Yes, but can be expensive. NCC has a small gym, pool, and half basketball court.

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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?

Use the same common sense you use in the U.S.

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

Catholic. Not sure of others.

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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?

It is helpful to have about a 2 level of Spanish.

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

In Monterrey yes it would be an issue. In San Pedro it could be manageable.

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Transportation:

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

Taxi -OK. Bus and train not permitted

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything is available from Porshe to pick up trucks.

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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 but it is limited to certain portions of the city. The service area of Axtel, the only fiber optic option is expanding. Other providers are TelMex and CableVision.

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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?

Vets are available. Please note that transport of large animals can be difficult due to the size of the planes. Several new arrivals have had to pay to have their peta driven in from Texas to Monterrey by one of the local vets as they did not fit on the plane. Please contact GSO for information.

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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?

If they have Spanish - yes. But the process for the work permit is long and complicated.

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Health & Safety:

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

We must follow security rules regarding driving and curfew hours. Public transport (buses) are not permitted. Casinos and adult entertainment establishments are off limits. Radio dispatch taxis are permitted. We are not allowed to drive to the U.S. Border.

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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 quality medical care however it is not necessarily very cheap and cost must be paid up front.

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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 can get bad; it is combination of geography and local industry.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Bring your usual allergy relief. I think food allergies could be managed HEB has most anything you need.

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

Weather can be a bit unpredictable. But there is a hot dry season from July to September and a wet season. The weather during winter gets down into the 40sF.

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Schools & Children:

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

Post just retuned to fully accompanied after five years without families. There are several very good schools including American School Foundation of Monterrey, San Roberto, and American Institute.

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

Please check with them directly it is dependent on the accommodation required.

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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?

Option but can be expensive and not covered education allowance.

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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?

Small the U.S. Contingent is by far the largest.

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

Yes. All will enjoy Monterrey

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

Yes and improving

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

No

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

View of the mountains, great shopping, comfortable place to live.

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

Hiking in the mountains, shopping for beautiful arts and carats, perfect weather during spring and fall.

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

Beautiful arts and crafts

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

Set in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. Opportunity for shopping, cultural activity and touring.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes if you stay away from the stores.

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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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Monterrey, Mexico 03/06/14

Background:

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

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

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

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

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is spectacular (houses and newer apartments).

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

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

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

NYQUIL, "green" laundry detergent.

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

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

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

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

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Daily Life:

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

USPS through pouch; there is FedEX, DHL etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transportation:

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

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

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

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

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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

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

I didn't have one. Post issued.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. Great pet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Depends on the type of job.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty.

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

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

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Health & Safety:

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

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

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

Medial care and dental care are TOP NOTCH.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality (and water quality) is good.

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

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

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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

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Expat Life:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a good city. There is tolerance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultural Mexican artifacts.

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

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

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10. Can you save money?

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

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing really.

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

ABSO-freaking-LUTELY.

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

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

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4. But don't forget your:

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

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5. 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?

Just go.

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Monterrey, Mexico 10/17/12

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?

US southwest. There are direct flights, or you can connect through a Texas hub.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor was affiliated with the U.S. Government and lived in Monterrey for one year, a third expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Good housing provided to USG personnel. Spacious, comfortable, in the nicest neighborhood in town with great access to amenities and nightlife. Grocery stores, restaurants, bars, gyms all nearby, as well as parks.

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

Similar to the US or a bit more.

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

Nothing, you can get everything here or order it online like you're in the US.

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

Yes, everything you have in the US is here. Ethnic offerings are more limited, but they exist. Cost is similar to less-expensive parts of the US.

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

Some mosquitoes at dusk, but no more than you'd expect anywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

US government personnel receive mail with very little lag, almost as if we are in the US.

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

Affordable and very common. I have a maid who comes every two weeks and I pay her approx USD 25 for the day.

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

Yes, widely available, although gyms can be pricy because membership is considered a status symbol.

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

I use both all the time and have only had one problem, in which my card was charged twice. I think, however, that it was an accident.

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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?

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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?

Spanish is probably essential, although many people do speak some English.

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

Would be difficult. Most places are not handicap accessible, and the sidewalks are often narrow or broken.

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Transportation:

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

US government personnel are advised not to take public transit and only to take taxis that are called ahead from trusted companies. Taxis are affordable.

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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, although an SUV might be better if you are a rock-climbing enthusiast.

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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 pay about USD 50/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?

US government personnel are provided with a cell phone upon arrival for security reasons.

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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?

I adopted my cat here, so I do not have experience in this area.

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

I have a cat and have not had any issues.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, although you have to temper your expectations with regards to salary.

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

Conservative.

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Health & Safety:

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

Random violence from the drug cartels is frequent and scary. Even the nicest neighborhoods are affected. Also, kidnapping is on the rise.

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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 are many US-trained doctors here, although many have left for the US due to the drug violence.

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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?

Moderate, pretty good overall.

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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?

Great! Light winters with a bit of drizzle, a few weeks of extreme heat, but generally warm, dry and sunny year-round.

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Schools & Children:

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

No experience, but they are supposedly top-notch.

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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?

No experience, but hired help is affordable.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly sizeable, although not as large as one might expect for a city of this size with such proximity to the US. Many expats left due to the drug violence, which continues to be an issue.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on the level of violence. Generally upbeat, but with an underlying tension.

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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?

Plenty to do, although US government personnel are restricted to the neighborhood of San Pedro Garza Garcia between midnight and 6am. However, San Pedro has plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs, especially since the area nightlife has transitioned over here with the increase of violence in other parts of the city. However, it is occasionally frustrating not to be able to attend private parties or events in other parts of the city, as nightlife does not get going here until 11pm.

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

Seems to be good for everyone. I am a single female and have not had problems dating, although the society is more conservative than some may be used to.

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

Our gay problems do not seem to have problems dating. There is a gay scene, although I do not know much about it.

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

Minority colleagues report more curiosity than outright discrimination. Women here have more traditional gender roles, although this is not the Middle East by a long shot!

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

Good food (although Monterrey is not the highlight of Mexican cuisine), lots of outdoor/cultural activities, great travel opportunities.

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

Everything a major city in the US has to offer in terms of cultural/entertainment offerings, plus great rock-climbing and hiking.

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

Monterrey is not known for handicrafts, but the travel opportunities to other parts of Mexico are great!

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

Great weather, outdoor activities such as hiking, rock-climbing, and canyoneering (when not off-limits due to drug violence), great travel opportunities to the rest of Mexico through affordable budget airlines and lots of direct flights.

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11. Can you save money?

US government employees receive danger pay, so yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes! I am having a great time.

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

Snowboots, parka, skis.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunblock, hiking boots, climbing gear.

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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?

The violence gives life here an underlying tension, but the quality of life is high. I would definitely come here again.

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Monterrey, Mexico 10/22/10

Background:

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

No. St. Petersburg, Russia, and Ekaterinburg, Russia.

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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?

Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's about five hours with connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for 13 months (end of July 2009-end of August 2010).

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

My husband is in the U.S. 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?

Consulate housing is mostly apartments or townhouses, though they do have some smaller apartments that are nice for single officers. Not too many people have yards, but some do. All the consulate housing is in San Pedro. The commutes are awful, because after the hurricane there are still many road closings and bridges that are out. The consulate now picks up all the officers in an armored vehicle because of the security situation.

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

The HEBs in San Pedro are basically like shopping in any supermarket in south Texas. The prices are cheaper than in the States, though out of season items are simply not available sometimes.(If you are a fan of natural peanut butter, however, you will need to bring some with you - they only have one kind of PB and it is in a tiny little jar.)

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

Peanut butter. If you like to drink, finding tonic water was a pain, and whiskeys are much more expensive (the trade-off is that tequila is very affordable, however).

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

Monterrey is not known for its cuisine. As far as local fast food is concerned - you basically can choose from a million kinds of tacos. Though there are also some roast chicken places. Monterrey has tons of American restaurants (Chili's, Starbucks, KFC, McDonald's...)The local food is supposedly cabrito, but no one eats that on a daily basis.

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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?

San Pedro has a vegetarian restaurant/health food store. It is expensive and the variety is not great, but it's there, but typically for a vegetarian it is not easy because regios really love beef. Gluten allergies are usually not a huge problem, because you can always order corn tortillas - it's apparently very easy to explain "no wheat" or "no flour" (sin harina, sin trigo).

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

Lots of cockroaches. We also got moths in our kitchen.

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Daily Life:

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

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?

Inexpensive, easy to find. If you're with the consulate, you'll be able to get a recommendation through the consulate community - everyone's muchacha is always looking to pick up an extra day.

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

Yes, but they are much more expensive than in the U.S.

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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?

Several people we knew had their cards cloned, and there are some ATMs that are sketchy. Occasionally a credit card simply won't run, but that was not a common problem.

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

Yes. We are not church-goers, but there were three or four churches that others went to.

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

TV - yes, you can get an English package. It's geared towards Mexicans, so the programming is in English and the commercials are in Spanish. There is also a separate package that has local news out of Colorado. I think it was about $70 USD per month.

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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?

A little. I speak Spanish pretty well, but even so, many times at the restaurant or grocery store people would switch into English (of their own accord).A lot of people in Monterrey have lived in the States and/or studied English their entire lives. Regarding speaking Spanish, if you took Spanish in high school, there are going to be a lot of vocabulary words specific to Mexico that are unfamiliar. It can help to hire a local tutor for a short period of time to help out with that. However, I tried taking lessons for longer and was really dissatisfied with them (they were rather pointless - going over basics that I already knew - when I'd specifically said several times I needed help with advanced grammar, and also expensive. I had this experience in three different language schools).

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

The sidewalks are not in great condition, and often when crossing the street you are taking your life into your hands. It did not seem especially disability-friendly to me.

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Transportation:

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

We weren't allowed to use public transport, except for cabs that we called, but cabs were very cheap - from our house to the airport took about 45 minutes and usually cost only about $30.(We were really surprised at the taxi prices in Guadalajara and Veracruz when we visited - it's much pricier 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?

Leave your Hummer at home - people will assume you are part of one of the cartels. Other than that, just about any car will be fine, though I would not drive a tiny car (like a Smart Car or a Geo) because traffic is insane.

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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, but it's not as fast as it claims to be. The DSL is ridiculously slow - it's best to go with Cablevision instead.

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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?

The consulate provided cell phones for all employees and spouses.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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

We found the vets to be great for our cats.

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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?

Most expats were transferred there, rather than finding the job locally. I don't know that you would be able to find something other than teaching English if you are looking locally, but I knew several teachers who supported themselves by teaching.

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

Work is dressy. Clothing in public can be casual, but even when it's casual, it's stylish. Monterrey is a very affluent city by Mexican standards, and San Pedro (where the consulate housing is) is affluent even by U.S. standards.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, lots. By the time I left, I basically was afraid to leave the house. Just things like, one day I missed going to the gym because I couldn't find my car keys, and thank god I couldn't, because I found out that there was a shooting at the mall where the gym is at that time. The consulate no longer allows children because of a shootout at ASFM in August 2010.Travel is very restricted - consulate personnel are no longer allowed to be outside of San Pedro at night, and trips to all the local small towns (Santiago, etc.) are forbidden.

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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?

Our experience and the experience of everyone we talked to was great. But it's a "you get what you pay for" situation. For instance, I went to a doctor about a minor problem, spent 20 minutes with the doctor (no nurses or orderlies), he turned out to know English and spoke to me in English, was very nice, in the end charged only $100 USD. (In the U.S. it would have been 2 minutes with a harried doctor for $400 or so.)Later, I cut my hand and the guy they had stitch it up was their plastic surgeon!However, I've heard that if you are going to one of the hospitals in the poorer neighborhoods the quality is terrible.

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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 not great, but it's not awful. The pollution is worse than Mexico City's, but since it is so dry, it's not too bad on people with allergies.

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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 south Texas, plus 10-20 degrees F.It's a very dry, desert climate (I used tons more lotion there than I ever have in my life).Winters rarely get much colder than the low 40s, summers are up past 110 sometimes.

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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 kids. Other kids we knew went to ASFM or San Roberto. There are also an Irish school and a French school, but I don't know anything about them.

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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?

Lots of locals have nannies. I think they are paid about the same as housekeepers. We paid our cleaning lady 300 pesos a day (6-8 hours of work), which was considered generous. Many people pay 200-250 for a full day's work.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Now it is low.

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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?

Clubs, bars, restaurants, some museums. VIP movies are cheap, so we went to a lot of those.

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

When security is good, it's a great city for singles, because there is a lot to do, lots of clubs and bars, you can take salsa lessons, etc. Likewise, when security is good, it's great for kids - there are parks, museums, etc. When security is not good, like now, I would think it's better for couples, because you're going to be spending a lot of time at home.

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

Good, but not great. There are some clubs, but gay life is still pretty under the radar.

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

As a woman I was often treated condescendingly by locals. For instance, when I called the internet provider's customer service, the technician acted like I was an idiot for insisting the connection was down and told me the problem was with my computer. I told him I have two and neither one was working, though they were both working 10 minutes ago, and then he refused to let me speak to a supervisor. I eventually hung up and called back again when I could speak with a female customer service rep. I didn't detect religious prejudices, but I know that the people at post who were darker-complected (Southeast Asian or African-American descent) have experienced many negative comments and poor treatment from all kinds of people (visa applicants, the guys who run the parking facility, waiters at restaurants).

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

Monterrey has a decent number of local attractions - the Grutas de Garcia, Santiago, the Paseo Sta. Lucia, Horno 3, etc. The security situation degraded by the time I left that all of these places were off-limits, but when it was safe, these were really fun to do.

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

Grutas de Garcia, Santiago, Paseo Sta. Lucia, Horno 3.There is a big running culture and you can go to a 10K almost every weekend if you want.

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

Monterrey does not have any local artesania traditions, but you could spend it on travel to other cities in Mexico.

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

My family is in Oklahoma and my husband's family is in Texas, so it was nice to be able to fly to visit frequently. Also, being in Central time zone enabled me to telecommute for my U.S.-based job. Monterrey is disappointing if you're expecting it to be exotic - it is a business city, and it is very U.S.-oriented. It's more like San Antonio South than like Mexico. But the people are very friendly.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you're not living the high life. There are plenty of expensive restaurants and clubs if you want to go to them, but there are even more options that are fine for a middle-class budget.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

At this point in time, no. Once the security situation is better, yes.

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

GPS. It's useless with all the road closings after the hurricane.

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3. But don't forget your:

Car.

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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:

The Perfect Game.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Despite the security situation, which came to color our entire lives in Monterrey, I really loved living there. The people are amazingly nice and friendly. We got really close to our neighbors, and the local staff at the consulate are also quite friendly (they are of course busy with their own family and friends, but still just in general welcoming).

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Monterrey, Mexico 07/08/10

Background:

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

First overseas living experience.

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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?

Trips to the States are very easy. Monterrey is only a 2.5 hour drive away from the Texas border. You are able to fly out of Monterrey to the states, but it comes at a price. It is easier to drive to TX and fly out of there.

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

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?

All consulate housing is in the area of San Pedro, a very wealthy area. The houses vary from very nice to just "ok". Families should look to live in the Provanza's (I spelled it wrong) as there are playgrounds close by. Most people do not have a lawn. Real Estate here is similar in price to NYC so you maximize your space. Commute time from San Pedro to the consulate is between 7-15 minutes. Once the new consulate is built, travel time might increase by a few minutes.

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

Groceries are a little more expensive than in the States. Anything that's in a plastic container will be almost double what you'd pay normally. You can get American brands at HEB, but the "off-brands" are just as good. Cleaning products are more expensive also. Thankfully, if you work for the State Dept. you are able to get the taxes from some products back, which makes it better. Costco is here and most Americans shop there. Bulk is always cheaper. When we go to the States, we stock up on everything....soaps, cleaners, toilet paper, chicken stock, tomato products, canned fruit, etc. The occasional trip to the States to shop is worth it!

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

Anything plastic you need, bedding, spices.

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

Everything is available here, making it an easier overseas experience. Pricing varies because of the exchange rate. Fast food is about the same price as what you would find in the States, but the quality is different. My kids tell me that McDonald's tastes different. There are tons of nicer restaurants available here, but you will pay for the better quality. There isn't a large variety of flavor to some of the Mexican food. Chinese restaurants are few and far between, although I heard a rumor that PF Chang's was thinking of coming here.

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

Roaches and pill bugs. They will invade your house if you aren't careful. Most of the doors in the houses do not close completed at the bottom, leaving about 2 cm space for bugs to crawl in from. We spray the doorways almost weekly to keep the bugs out. You will most likely have roaches in your water reserve so we spray around that also.

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Daily Life:

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

We have the pouch through the consulate and it's been wonderful. Those not with the consulate get PO Boxes in McAllen or Laredo, and then check them every few months.

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

Super cheap and totally worth it. You can find a maid for around $25/day. I'm not sure of the cost of nannies or gardeners.

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

There are facilities available, but they are extremely expensive! Looks are very important here, so people are willing to pay the higher 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?

We use only cash. There have been many instances when someone's card has been copied and their funds drained. The only safe ATM is at the consulate. When paying your cell phone, home phone, internet and cable bills they require cash only.

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

I've heard there are English services in almost every faith.

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

We have cablevision and opted for their "local american channels" which come out of Denver. Basic cable will run you around US$30-40 a month. Some channels will offer both English and Spanish options, you just have to regulate it through the options menu.

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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?

It's important to know Spanish. You might find one or two people who know English at the grocery store, but the majority of the city only knows Spanish. It is very frustrating and hard to communicate here if you don't know a little bit of Spanish.

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

The streets are narrow and not in good condition. The sidewalks are even worse. The malls seem to be more friendly for people who have disabilities. Handicap access isn't available everywhere.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are not very safe at all, and we've been advised as to which taxi services are better and safer than others. Taxis are super cheap and you can find them everywhere!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything is fine here. Just know that everyone drives like a maniac here, and your car will get dents, dings, scratches, etc. An SUV will help you during the rainy season, as the streets get very slick when they are wet. Work on the car is fairly cheap, and the dealerships are all over the city.

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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?

High-speed is available and costs around $50 a month. We haven't had any issues with the cable going out, except during the hurricane. We have the MagicJack for our US number, and it has worked almost perfectly with our internet service.

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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 is the main company here for cell phones, and we've had zero issues. Most people get a pay-as-you-go phone because the plans are cheaper. It just depends on what you prefer.

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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)?

I'm unclear on this, but there are a lot of people who brought their animals with them.

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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 if you don't Speak spanish fluently. Many spouses have struggled to find work. Teaching and working at the consulate seem to be the only options.

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

At the consulate it is business dress. You don't have to go in with a suit and tie everyday, but slacks and a nice shirt are expected. In public, everyone dresses up. Women wear super-high heels to the grocery store. You will stand out if you are just wearing jeans, t-shirt and flip-flops.

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Health & Safety:

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

Right now, yes. Things seem to be heating up between the cartel and military. We haven't been able to really venture out much because of the restrictions. There are certain areas of town that are totally off limits for Americans. Car-jackings are also rising in number. From what we've heard, no one has been hurt during a carjacking. All they want is your vehicle. You really have to use good judgement when going out. Always be aware of your surroundings here, you never want to be caught off guard.

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

Medial care here is great! It's not very expensive at all, and you can find English-speaking doctors. There are many women who have had their babies here and said they received better care than in the States.

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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?

Most of the time there is a thick layer of smog covering the mountains. Whenever we have a good rain, the smog disappears for a few days and the city is absolutely beautiful!If you have asthma, you might have a few issues here. We all have experienced allergies during the spring season.

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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 is very hot here, but the humidity is low. The rainy season is around August-October. Summers get well over 100 degrees and because there is a ton of concrete everywhere, it feels hotter. Winters are mild.

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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 have had a great experience with the schools here. ASFM is an American Private school where some of Monterrey's elite send their children. There are a few bullying issues, but the teachers have been great at trying to stop it. Most of the teachers at ASFM have come from the States. There are a lot of American children who attend here that are not apart of the consulate. Some families go to San Roberto, which is also a private English speaking school. It is more religion-based and has more Mexican teachers than American. The kids do wear uniforms everyday, which is a bonus. San Roberto offers more after-school activities than ASFM.

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

There isn't a lot available for special needs kids within the schools. Outside help is always there and is quite cheap compared to the States.

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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 haven't experienced it myself, but have heard that it's expensive.

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

Most schools offer afterschool sports. There are a few leagues around town, but you need to do your research on them before signing up your kids.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly large. You have to really put yourself out there to meet them, though. People seem to stick with what they know or just keep to themselves.

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2. Morale among expats:

Normal. Everyone is here to help others, but you have to ask for it.

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

Everything is available here, so you are able to have as much of a social life as you want.

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

The singles and couples seem to love it here. There is always somewhere to go or something new to try. Because of the raise in crime, families are a little more hesitant to go out and about. During the day (most of the time) you should be okay. We always try to be home before dark, just as a precaution. There are a lot of outdoor things to do here that kids will love. Again, just be aware of your surroundings.

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

I haven't heard any complaints from the gay community. Everyone is welcome here with open arms.

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

We have only experienced issues with this at school. The Mexican kids seem to pick on the American kids. Other than that, we haven't heard of any issues.

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

This post hasn't been too much of a culture shock for our children. There are tons of American families around and the schools have been wonderful.

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

You are surrounded by mountains that are just screaming for you to hike them. There are a lot of excursion packages available around the city. You are close enough to some smaller villages and ruins to make a weekend trip out of it.

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

Artwork and pottery.

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

Trips to the Texas border are lifesavers. There is quite a bit here that you either can't find or is too expensive to purchase. Going to the border every once in awhile is not only a good break from the stress of living in Mexico, but also a cheaper option for purchasing items. Saving money is becoming harder to do. Monterrey is the richest city in all of Latin American right now and it shows. The prices of clothing is almost triple what you would pay in the States.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. Groceries are more expensive, and gas is watered down. Electricity is a killer here if your company isn't paying it for you! During the summer, a 2000 sq ft house could cost $800 a month in electricity. We are also "pitching in" for parties quite often at the consulate, which can get pricey.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably. It was a good transition into the foreign service life for our kids. Not much of a culture shock as many things are Americanized. The rise in crime would make me think twice. I don't like that I cant roll down my windows without worrying I'll be carjacked.

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

winter clothes and good driving record.

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3. But don't forget your:

bathing suit, rain boots, shorts, spices and any specialty foods.

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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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Monterrey, Mexico 01/14/08

Background:

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

No. I've lived in Bethlehem, Palestine, and in Quito (Ecuador).

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2. How long have you lived here?

About 8 months.

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

Travelling by land, Monterrey is about two and a half hours from Laredo, TX, and about three hours from McAllen, TX. Unless you're familiar with rural Mexican roads, it is probably best to bite the bullet and pay for the toll raod-- at least for your first trip. The toll roads along either route are very similar to the U.S. interstate highway system in terms of quality and safety. After a flurry of gas stations near the border, the next fuel stop will be approximately 100km into the trip to Monterrey. It is important to remember that there is only one gasoline distributor in the country, Pemex, and there will be no price posted at the road. The prices are all the same for fuel. When first switching to Pemex fuel, don't freak out. Your car will run a little funny until the engine's computer gets adjusted. If I travel to the border, I avoid buying fuel in Texas-- it makes the car run funny again!

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

U.S. Government housing is in San Pedro Garza Garcia, an affluent suburb of Monterrey. As previously written by others, one to two person households should expect a very nice apartment or small townhouse (there are a couple of detached houses in the pool for 1/2s, but these are the exception). For larger families at the standard/entry level, larger townhouses are pretty much the rule. Mid-level and senior housing is typically detached houses. Housing is large, yards are small, and almost no one has a bath tub.

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

Imported items can be expensive, while domestically produced items can be reasonable or even a bargain. Members of the diplomatic corps can be refunded the IVA tax they pay in purchases, which makes some things even more of a bargain. Dairy tends to be expensive, dry goods similar to U.S. prices, and meats can be quite cheap. As a rule the more processed the item, the more expensive it will seem. Even still, there are some things you just won't find on this side of the river but are easy to get in Texas: tomato paste, many diet sodas, those little goldfish crackers, most spices and ethnic items-- the list goes on. Then again, a trip to Texas once in a while is a guilty little pleasure that even the locals enjoy.

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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?

You name it, you'll find it here, almost certainly. Even Taco Bell is giving it another try here. That said, the local palate is a bit narrow and limited-- non-Mexican cuisine won't be the best you've ever had, and the range of flavors here might grow tiresome after a while. The selection of spices in grocery stores here, as an illustration, is very limited.

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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?

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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?

There are ATMs all over the place. Most charge an out-of-network fee of $7.25 (that's seven and a quarter pesos, about US$0.66 at the current exchange rate.) While you can use your card in many large international stores, there are a surprising number of places that only accept Mexican issued credit cards. Liverpool, an upscale department store, is one surprising example. That said, there's almost always an ATM within a few minutes walk. Outside the city, expect to carry cash unless you have evidence to the contrary.

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

There is a non-denominational evangelical service at Union Church, an Episcopal parish called Holy Family, and a Catholic parish in the chapel at the south end of the Fatima church building. The three English language parishes work together well in projects of common interest, such as vacation bible school and outreach/social justice.

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

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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?

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

Sidewalks are extremely rough and treacherous, even for someone without movement issues-- badly broken cement of varying widths, sudden significant changes in height, a general lack of ramps at corners, and a curb height that seems completely random. Holes abound in both sidewalks and roads. While there are handicapped parking spots at many of the more modern shopping areas, none are van accessible and most are little more than a generously sized spot close to the door. The use of metal bumps set in roadways and parking lots will pose an added difficulty for wheelchairs. Not all multi-level buildings have elevators, and many of those that do are not wheelchair accessible elevators (narrow doors, small cars that do not allow the chair to turn).

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Transportation:

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

Sometimes you just aren't sure, so you just charge ahead right down the middle. Seriously, the traffic here is the hardest thing to get used to. Drivers are aggressive and inconsiderate. Using a turn signal is a sign of weakness that other drivers will often exploit. (Signalling a lane change is usually a formula for failure, believe it or not.) Road signs are oten missing or of low quality (impossible to see at night, poorly placed, sometimes even completely incorrect). Even one-way streets are typically not clearly marked.

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

Taxis are cheap. From U.S. Government housing to work, US$3 to US$4 is a typical one-way fare. Given the price of parking, US$2.50 a day or more, and fuel and insurance, it is cheaper to car pool or taxi to work. (Do not count on a parking space at the Consulate unless you have been specifically told that one will be provided you, typically mid-level and up).

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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?

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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?

High speed internet is available from Intercable and from TelMex. TelMex DSL service is approx US$35 a month for 1 Mb down, 128k up. That's enough to run VOIP most of the time. Latency time is good and the bandwidth hasn't been oversold. If you want faster DSL, TelMex sells a top-of-the-line package for about US$100 a month that has unlimited local and national calls, voice mail, and all the features. With that package high speed internet is included, and the speed is doubled. We make a lot of local calls, and this was actually a cheaper option for us.

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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 cell service here is GSM, and an unlocked phone from the US can be placed in service quite quickly. There are several cell options, with TelCel (first cousin of TelMex, the local phone monopoly) being the easiest and most popular option. TelCel is GSM, so an unlocked phone only needs a new SIM card to come to life. Prepaid service is the only realistic option for most foreigners, unless you have a Mexican issued credit card and a bit of luck. For about US$15, you can purchase a new SIM card for the prepaid service. You can purchase credit at any grocery or convenience store, with in the form of a card with a scratch off bar, or by simply giving the cashier your telephone number. (The cash register reports the purchase to TelCel almost instantly-- and no nasty card with tiny numbers to deal with.) In theory it is also possible to add time at select ATM machines, although I haven't tried. Nextel phones can work in Mexico, or be purchased locally. Their service is no cheaper here than in the U.S., but is another option. Forget about a Sprint phone, at the present time. Roaming coverage is no more than spotty.

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

There are a variety of calling card options, although VOIP (Vonage, Lingo, Skype, others) are the most popular choice at present. Having a U.S. number makes life so easy for family and friends back in the U.S. Most U.S. government housing has a PBX system in the house. Most PBX systems don't have instructions as to the features. Many of the systems in the housing pool do not pass caller ID or other modern features to the extension phones. If you're going to us a VOIP box and like seeing caller ID, consider bringing a two-line cordless phone system with you, and just put the other phones in the closet.

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Pets:

1. 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?

It is difficult, very difficult, but not impossible.

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

Work at the Consulate is shirt and tie suggested for the men.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy. I have had more sinus and allergy symptoms in eight months than I had in the previous eight years. Colds are frequent and tend to linger.

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

There is no violence directed intentionally at Americans at the present time, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time is never a good thing. This is a big city; like anywhere, there are always petty crimes of opportunity. (If you wouldn't leave your laptop computer sitting on the seat of your car in Chicago, you shouldn't expect to be able to do it here). We feel as safe here as any large city.

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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?

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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?

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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 schools to choose from-- don{t let the materials at the OBC fool you into thinking everyone goes to ASFM. Instituto San Roberto (www.sanroberto.edu.mx) is currently a highly popular choice for elementary school kids. Values and ethics are part of the curriculum, and is part of the school's daily life. The American Institute of Monterrey (www.aim-net.mx) is another option used by some families at the Consulate. AIM also focuses on morals and values in its program, quite effectively.

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

While our experience is that the schools here will go to great lengths to help any student, there are few resources or specialized programs for those not fluent in Spanish.

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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?

Both AIM and San Roberto offer preschool programs, although they are a bit pricey. Instituto Pedregal is a reasonably priced program with a great preschooler's-fantasy campus and a solid academic program (www.pedregal.edu.mx).

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

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

In the big picture, this not a good city for families/singles/couples. It is a GREAT city! Come expecting a large modern Latin American city, and you won't be disappointed.

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

Co-workers and friends have made only compliments. This is a large, modern city.

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

As in so much of Latin America, something that departs from the group mean is noticed, and often discussed with a nonsophisticated bluntness. At its root is often an innocent curiosity. If stares and poorly worded questions upset you, this might not be the best place. Society here is highly stratified along economic and ethnic lines. As a foreigner, you can be free from the prejudices that trap your neighbors, and have contact along the whole spectrum local society if you choose.

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

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

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, But we've never not put money into savings/investments. It's all about your priorities. Saving money here is pretty easy, but that's probably just us.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This wasn't our first choice. We considered it much too nice of a city. (Strange but true.)

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

Polite and friendly driving style.

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3. But don't forget your:

tour will end way too soon. There is so much fun to be had here!

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Monterrey, Mexico 01/12/08

Background:

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

We lived in Nicosia, Cyprus before.

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2. How long have you lived here?

14 months.

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

The author is a spouse of a corporate expat.

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

Almost everything goes through Texas (1.5 hours) or occasionally Mexico City, including flights to Central and South America. There are a few direct flights to Atlanta, L.A., Las Vegas, and Chicago.

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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 people live in single family homes. We live in one of the few apartment buildings and have a huge place. Most houses are gigantic with multiple bedrooms. Couples without children have trouble finding appropriately sized living quarters. All homes and apartments have maids quarters.

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

Groceries are widely available. HEB (Texas owned chain) is the most popular among expats and has recently expanded to include a decent organic section. Costco is also here and occasionally has a few hard-to-find things like pure maple syrup and chicken broth. Other things that are hard to find include brown sugar, dried mushrooms, some grains (quinoa, wheat berries, etc), and plain yogurt.

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

Furniture is extremely expensive here for some reason so if you are planning to buy new things you should do it before you get here and ship it.

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

There is no shortage of American chain restaurants - McDonalds, KFC, Carls Jr., Ihop, Chili's, Bennigans, Dominos... There are lots of restaurants, a few of them are very good and many are OK. In general, restauranteurs care more about the decor/coolness factor of their restaurants than the food. There are a handful of cool rooftop bars and restaurants but most are expensive.

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Daily Life:

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

There are a few mail centers in San Pedro that give you a US street address (in Texas) and your mail gets driven to your PO box here every day. This is great for regular mail and magazines. Packages are more tricky because they have to clear customs. This can take forever.

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

Very inexpensive (about $20-25/day for a maid).The quality varies, we have had a few things stolen. Its best to get a recommendation from someone.

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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?

Easy. There are banks all over the place; HSBC and Citi (here branded as Banamex) are the biggest foreign banks.

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

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

There are a few English language channels on Sky cable... a CBS-ish one, an NBC-ish one, and a Fox-ish one, CNN International. Other channels have some programs in English. There are also some English movie channels.

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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?

Many people speak English, but its best to know at least a bit of Spanish. Dealing with normal house/life stuff (bills, repair people, deliveries, shopping, etc) is almost always in Spanish.

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

Its hard for me to tell. Most places have elevators but I haven't seen many ramps. There is very little pedestrian space so everything is driving accessible. Nearly all parking lots have priority parking.

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Transportation:

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

Right side (like the US).

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

There is a subway system (2 lines) but it does not reach San Pedro. There are tons of buses and taxis are cheap and safe. Airport taxis are kind of expensive, but those cars are much newer and more comfortable than regular taxis.

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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?

Anything is fine. Lots of people buy cars in Texas and drive them over as 'temporary visitors' - a permit that needs to be renewed every 6 months or so. There are lots of mechanics and dealerships in Monterrey.

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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?

Its available but not as fast as 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?

Unless you are a Mexican citizen or have a cell phone sponsored by your company, it is very difficult to get contract plans. Most expats use pay-as-you-go phones which are fine. TelCel and Movistar are the 2 biggest companies. Nextel walkie talkie phones are popular as well.

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

We use Skype. Telmex has outrageous rates for normal land line calls.

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Pets:

1. 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. Other capable spouses and I have had a lot of trouble finding fulfilling work. Many teach English or at the American school. For other work, it seems everything is about who you know, and if you don't know anyone than you are out of luck. Unfortunately for me, Consulate jobs go to Consulate spouses.

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

Like in the U.S. with a little more bling.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very unhealthy. Some days it is truly gross. The views from the altitude at Chipinque National Park show a stark difference between the pink/brown layer in the city and the blue air above. From March through November, 9 out of 10 days are smoggy and grey.

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

Variable. Very little petty crime (thefts, muggings) in San Pedro where most expats live but assassinations have been on the rise since we've been here. They are targeted towards the drug trade and police. Assassinations are usually VERY public, on busy streets, in popular restaurants, at all points during the day. Almost no one seems to worry about this, expats included. I suppose its something you get used to.

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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?

Great medical care. Most doctors are U.S. trained and many speak English. There are several good hospitals.

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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 some beautiful clear days in the winter months, but mostly it is overcast and grey. The summer can get hot, although this past summer (2007) it rained almost every day. We've been told that the weather has been much different than normal in the past few years.

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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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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?

Domestic help is incredibly cheap - my understanding is that most people have live-in 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?

Hard to tell - we are kind of on the fray. There are two big expat groups - ASOMO is an American society and Mexpats is more international and young. Mexpats events can get up to 100 or more at a happy hour. I recently heard that there are 28,000 Americans living in Monterrey.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Some families with young kids love it for the schools, cheap domestic help, and general ease of life. Younger couples/singles without kids can get bored and frustrated with the attitude of many locals and how hard it is to make local friends.

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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?

Again, kind of boring for those of us who aren't in college and don't have kids. Most social interactions are small groups at homes or restaurants. There are fun places to go out downtown but transportation can be hard and it is a young crowd.

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

This is a great place for families. Local people start early, with most couples married off at 23 and with children by 23 and 9 months. As an unmarried late 20's/early 30's couple we are an enigma. Most people are accepting of it but forget about joining a country club! For young singles it can be a fun place - plenty of fun bars and nightclubs downtown, but definitely a college-age crowd.

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

There are some gay bars downtown but generally homophobia is everywhere. I've heard more offensive 'impressions' of gay men here in a year than I have in my entire life.

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

As an unmarried foreign woman with no children, yes. You get the distinct feeling that people are looking down at you if you don't fit in with the normal nuclear family. Gender prejudice is much worse than in the US but better than other Latin American countries, so I am told.

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

There are a few very good museums in the city - highlights are the MARCO Art Museum and the Steel Museum. There is one traditional Mexican market - Mercado Juarez in dowtown has both an outdoor vegetable market and an indoor goods market. If you like outdoor sports, this is your place - TONS of mountain climbing, canyoning, hiking, etc. within a few hours drive. Some hiking and mountain biking trails are in Chipinque Park which is in San Pedro. There are few things to see within a few hours drive, although in 5-6 hours there are some other cities and small towns to visit. Many people drive to Texas on the weekends for shopping.

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

Not much. There are a few upscale Mexican craft stores but they sell things from other parts of the country.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't eat out much or travel much, then yes. We have spent a lot of money on weekend trips around Mexico.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wouldn't choose it, but its not bad. It is very easy to live here and the opportunity to travel around Mexico has been great but I would prefer Mexico City.

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

Heavy winter gear (although it does get a little bit cold!!).

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

With a large family (with kids) or a big group of friends, this could be a fun city.

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