Hermosillo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 08/31/22

Personal Experiences from Hermosillo, Mexico

Hermosillo, Mexico 08/31/22

Background:

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

This is not my first expatriate experience. I have lived in eight other countries on every continent except South America; now I am posted in Mexico.

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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?

Northern California, USA. One can choose to drive on HWY 15 through Nogales to reach the U.S. (a road known for daytime car-jackings and shootouts), or one can fly from Hermosillo to Phoenix to San Francisco. Unless one is heading to a major city in Arizona or Texas or Mexico, it will take at least two flights (if not many more) to get to a desired destination.

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3. What years did you live here?

2021-2024

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4. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission; it is the ONLY one in Hermosillo.

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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 can be nice, but the scrutiny when selecting housing with amenities and features that one is often accustomed to in the U.S. often leaves much to be desired (e.g., a full-sized stove to cook a turkey for holidays, P-traps to keep sewage smells from coming into the house, water cisterns that are sealed and do not have rain water or sewage leaks contaminating them due to poor design, water flooding due to heavy rain, etc.). 99% of houses are multi-level and tend to be larger than smaller, though layouts do not always make the best use of space. Storage space is limited. Commute is anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

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

Costco, WalMart, Soraya (a grocery store), and Home Depot are our main go-tos. Cost of groceries is about the same in the U.S. For any receipt over $50, one can request a VAT refund, just be sure to submit the request for the "factura" ASAP, or the time permitted to request it may expire. The only things that we miss are Asian specialty foods, or "Mexican" food that you would find in the U.S., like hard-shell tacos. There are no stores like IKEA, but there are furniture shops.

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

Hard-shell tacos, Asian food ingredients (check Soraya's specialty aisles first, though!), bookcases.

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

Sonoran beef is world-renowned, and seafood is also heavily exported. There are lots of great restaurants with varying price ranges that focus on beef, seafood, tacos, Mexican dishes, etc. There are also lots of sushi restaurants, but 99% of them add cream cheese into their rolls; it's not bad, just different. For those who want fast food, Hermosillo has Starbucks, McDonald's, Appleby's, Subway, Carl's Jr., Dairy Queen, and a few more. Uber Eats tends to be twice the cost of dining at the restaurant, but it is reliable; there is also a similar service called Rappi.

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

We recently discovered that, due to POSHO regulations, they will no longer spray pesticides in inhabited housing. Commonly-found creatures (usually outside) include: black widow spiders, crickets, palmetto bugs (aka 2-3-inch cockroaches), and lizards (also sometimes found inside, as they like to dine on the insects there). Be prepared to look up and employ organic solutions to keep these creature populations in-check.

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Daily Life:

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

Incoming pouch mail takes a week or less. Outgoing pouch mail takes 2-3 weeks, or more to reach its intended U.S. recipient. FedEx and DHL are also possibilities.

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

The Community Liaison Office (CLO) is able to provide a contract for household help. Singles usually have a housekeeper come clean every one or two weeks. Families will often hire a housekeeper and/or nanny. Some houses with yards that require upkeep do have a gardener come once a month or so. Be prepared for an astroturf lawn; after all, this is a tropical desert.

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

Lots of gyms. Water exercise facilities not so much. One can also apply for a $300/month membership at a local country club that offers golf, loud exercise classes, and dining.

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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 credit cards and withdraw money at ATMs in Costco, or Santander. CitiBanamex at the consulate and outside the consulate is finicky and will only allow $200 max withdrawals.

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

There is a Mormon Ward, Catholic churches, protestant churches and a Jehovah's Witness Hall in Hermosillo, all primarily in Spanish.

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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?

Although one can survive without Spanish, I would HIGHLY recommend studying it before arrival to facilitate transactions. Tutor is available at post.

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

Yes. Streets are uneven and don't always have sidewalks. Most homes provided are multi-level.

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Transportation:

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

Although there are all sorts of cars here, a car with clearance is recommended to safely and reliably get around. Many people have RAV4s, Highlanders, and 4Runners. Car service is available for cars who are diplomatically registered. Many people drive up to Tucson for car service, as well. Uber is available. Other local transport not recommended.

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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?

Although there are all sorts of cars here, a car with clearance is recommended to safely and reliably get around. Many people have RAV4s, Highlanders, and 4Runners for the for potholes and floods. Car service is available for cars who are diplomatically registered. Many people drive up to Tucson for car service, as well. Uber is available. Other local transport not recommended. Be sure to program the car to only open the driver car door and auto lock all doors when moving out of park position.

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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?

Two Internet service providers available. Decent service. Thanks to the kindness of prior employees, internet is usually installed and ready to go pre-arrival.

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

We have Google Fi and it works perfectly and is affordable. Employer provides work phones.

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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?

Hermosillians LOVE their pets, especially dogs. There are veterinary clinics with English-speaking veterinarians. There are kennel services. Animals do not need to be quarantined upon entry. Lots of different dog foods and toys and accessories available at Costco and Walmart.

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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?

There are many part and full-time EFM jobs available at post. None locally available.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Consulate has about 2-3 volunteer activities per year: beach clean-ups, house-building, and quasi-orphanage help among others. Some teach classes at one of the local universities, others engage in church or NGO-sponsored activities.

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

Dress code everywhere is halfway between casual and work clothing. There is no annual Marine Ball (no Marines at post), but there are other non-consulate dress up opportunities.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a city known for being the place where the cartel raises their families. Targeted assassination hits happen, bodies are hung from bridges. Car jackings and shootouts happen on the only road to Arizona. Without going into detail, in my opinion, security is not adequate.

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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?

Seasonal allergies are common. Post has an excellent doctor, and decent medical facilities. People have babies and various operations performed without complications. Many doctors speak fluent English.

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

Air quality is fine, though many of us have bought air filters for our homes.

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

If you have food allergies, plan on making and bringing your own food to parties, etc. Gluten-free is hit or miss.

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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)?

None, other than Hermosillo is a very closed, hierarchical society separated by the haves and have-nots. USG employee does not equal acceptance in many circles. It can be VERY isolating.

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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?

Hermosillo is the place where someone left the gates of Hell open day and night and forgot to shut the door. It is a tropical desert. Relief from the heat usually happens October through February, when weather is in the 80s to 90s and lovely.

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Schools & Children:

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

A variety of schools are available and there is no one preferred school kids attend. There are all-boys and all-girls schools and a Montessori pre-school to elementary school. All teach English but usually have Spanish as the primary language of instruction. Contact the CLO for current information.

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

I have no idea, though there are many kids with special needs in this city.

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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?

Preschools and Sonora state-sponsored day care centers are available. Schools do not normally provide before or after school care. Someone will need to be available for pickup for strange school hours and holidays.

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

Yes, at the country club and many are school-associated. Swim classes usually have wait lists. It can be difficult to easily find sports for kids. There is a skateboarding park that also provides lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

The Consulate is the ONLY diplomatic community in town. It can be very isolating. Curtailments are a frequent occurrence for USG personnel and LE staff, ironically due to lack of USG DOS FS personnel to fully support post.

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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?

There is golf at the country club. There is also an exclusive polo club. There are not many expatriates outside of the consulate, other than Mexican-Americans born in the U.S. No outside groups or clubs to recommend.

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

Families seem to like it here. Single people often feel isolated and the dating scene is extremely limited, as one needs to be constantly mindful of the affiliations of who one is dating. Lots of churches with services in Spanish to attend, though.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No, people outside the consulate are extremely guarded and have established circles. The consulate community sorely lacks diversity. Prejudice is largely economical.

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

These circles appear to be extremely private. I have yet to meet someone who is openly LGBTQIA in Hermosillo. There is, however, an annual parade with a large attendance.

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

Not really. Lots of people of various Christ-centered beliefs in Hermosillo.

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

The Bahia Kino beach is 1.5 hours away and has one popular seafood restaurant. There is also another beach in San Carlos but it is currently rife with cartel violence. It is EXTREMELY difficult to easily leave this city for destinations other than AZ, TX, and Mexico City. R&R allowance is a flight to TX, which means that it is only adequate for U.S. flights, and one must fly from Hermosillo. It takes no fewer than two, often three or more flights to get anywhere else.

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

Restaurants that specialize in seafood, sushi with cream cheese, and beef are plentiful and popular. There is a food truck park. There used to be an expo, but it has been cancelled for several years due to COVID.

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

No. They sell wood sculptures, chiltepin pepper grinders made of wood, and beef.

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

The consular LE Staff are solid. If you have family in AZ or TX, that could be an advantage, though the Mexico road to drive there is known for its carjackings and cartel shootouts.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I would have known how cartel-pervasive this city is, how inadequately DOS FS staffed the consulate is, and how little Mexico City cares about providing adequate full-time DS and DOS FS personnel to properly support this consulate. At the very least, in my opinion, this should be a danger pay post.

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

No.

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

feeling of support, safety, and security.

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4. But don't forget your:

ability to choose Mexico City as the only post that is adequately staffed.

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

Narcos Mexico; Quintero was captured in this consular district.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Many of my colleagues wish they had not bid Hermosillo simply due to the stress of work and cartel influence. Plan on doing the jobs of two to three other people due to the constant curtailments.

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