Hermosillo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 09/27/22
Personal Experiences from Hermosillo, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I have also lived in Kingston and Seoul.
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?
Utah. It is about a 19 hour drive. There are flights to SLC connecting through Phoenix, but they are more expensive than you would expect and it is usually worth it to drive, especially when traveling as a family. The airport in Hermosillo is not well connected to the rest of Mexico directly, but there are plenty of flights to Mexico City. This is fine if you are traveling to Cancun but can be annoying if you are looking to go to western Mexico or the U.S.
3. How long have you lived here?
A little over a year.
4. What years did you live here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The housing here is great, though they all have their own quirks and issues. My house is a very large two story home with a basement. The basement has some problems with water/flooding, the AC routinely goes out in various rooms, and we have had electrical issues. However, MGT has been responsive and works with the landlord to fix them. The fix is often a bandaid that needs to be reapplied every couple of months, but that's what you get with these types of posts sometimes. I have a very large walk in closet and my kids each have large closets as well. We also have a large storage room that can house all of your pineapple-shaped lamps and ugly sofas.
Commutes are all 10-20 minutes depending on the time that you leave, maybe a little bit more with traffic or if you leave later in the morning, but when the NCC opens, commutes will drop by 5-10 minutes. When it rains and there are floods in the street, it can take 30-40 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are cheaper than the US, especially compared to DC. Meat is cheap and high quality. The best grocery stores are Taste and Soriana, but there is also a Costco and multiple Walmarts. It is rare that I can't find what I'm looking for, but it does happen. Sometimes a small store won't have peanut butter. It is hard to find root beer, even though it is very popular in Hermosillo at root beer stands. But there is nothing that you can't find that would result in anything more than a mild annoyance.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
I use Rappi and Uber Eats often. There is a huge selection of restaurants where I live, though the selection is more limited in some areas where other staff live. Both services work well but sometimes have random issues with drivers. Prices are really good. They tend to be the same as the menu in the restaurant, which I'd say are 10-15% cheaper than similar foods in the U.S., plus 75 cents to a dollar for delivery (or free if you have a premium subscription) and a tip of 1-2 dollars. I have probably ordered from these two services close to 100 times. I'd call it a highlight of being here, both because of how good the food is and how fast/cheap it is for delivery.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We have crickets and very small ants. Both are annoying, but not a big problem.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Via a mail center in TX. Once mail hits TX, it takes an additional 2-3 days to reach Hermosillo. This means it takes about a week from Amazon, factoring in the weekend.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Reasonable. We pay a nanny about $20 USD/day for 6 hours and a housecleaner roughly the same for 8 hours, twice a week.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The country club Los Lagos has a gym and there are various other gyms around the city. Los Lagos works out to about $250/month for a family to have access to the gym/pool/activities/classes but not golf. Golf adds about $150 for a family. Prices are cheaper for singles/couples.
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, almost everywhere will take a credit card. ATMs are fine, just be smart with your surroundings. There is one in the consulate.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
None in English that I'm aware of.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It helps to make an effort. You'll often find somebody who can speak English, but you can't rely on it. Spanish is not overly difficult for native English speakers, but you can only get so far with being self-taught so it might be worth looking into a tutor. My wife takes Spanish classes here and her Spanish is getting better and better.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. From the consulate to the public spaces, this city leaves a lot of accessibility desires.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Not safe. You can use Uber, which is extremely cheap throughout Mexico. I have heard instances of racism by drivers and that sometimes they demand extra payment in cash.
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 have a Tesla, which makes me very popular with kids. I don't feel vulnerable in the city. I did at first when strangers would want to ask about my car, but I've recognized by now that they are friendly and are just curious. I also have a minivan. I'd say about 50% of my coworkers drive a sedan with the rest driving an SUV. The biggest issue is potholes. My car is low and scrapes on the tops of the speed bumps at times as well. Potholes are everywhere and can be very deep/jagged, but I've somehow managed to avoid a flat tire so far.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I pay about $35 for 200 MBPS down and 15 up. It was installed before I arrived. It is very reliable.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use Google Fi and the sim card provided by the consulate. Fi works great here: fast and unlimited if you are with State (they don't recognize USAID right now, but there isn't a presence in Hermosillo anyway).
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?
EFMs are not going to work on the local community in most instances. There are plenty of jobs in the consulate if you are flexible.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
You can find anything that you are looking for but make sure to work with RSO first.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Underrated part of post. I have worn a suit coat once or twice in a year. I wear slacks, dress shoes, and a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Very business casual city.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Of course, but in the context of Mexican posts, especially "border posts," it is a fairly safe city. We are a few hours from the border, but we are often lumped in as a quasi-border post. The city itself feels very safe, relative to many other similar cities. We don't have travel restrictions inside the city. We can drive at night. We can sit out on a patio at a restaurant in public. We can walk around public spaces, go to food trucks, and walk to lunch. There is always the potential for violence to crop up, but we haven't seen anything significant inside the city since I've been here.
There is a beach resort town called San Carlos nearby that is incredible. Very nice town with very good beaches and seafood. There was a two week period where there was some violence, but the police really focused on preventing further escalation and it appears to have worked--there have not been any reported acts of violence in months.
The road to Arizona can be a little nerve-wracking because it is such an important aspect of morale and violence can happen in the cities along the way. We don't stop until we get across the border. Again, there was a short period (maybe a month) where there was an increase of violence against cars on the road, but almost all of them happened after midnight when we are not allowed to be on the road anyway. Driving should be completed by sundown, going either direction. Common sense and good planning (i.e. make sure your GPS has the correct route before you depart, know which POE you are going to, don't stray onto roads that are off limits) make this drive just fine. The wait at the border can be 2+ hours, but if you get global entry/SENTRI, you will avoid the worst of it most of the time.
I'm not aware of anybody in the consulate community falling victim of crime while in Hermosillo since my arrival.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is very good at the private hospital. I spent three days in the ER with bad food poisoning and it felt like I was in a good hospital in any city in the U.S. I have seen the medical care provided to those who can't afford the private hospital, however, and it is not always adequate.
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?
Allergies are bad here for some reason. The AQI is almost always very good, but the pollen from the desert plants have really wreaked havoc on certain people.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Food allergies might be harder to deal with here than the US, but there are options for everybody. Seasonal allergies are going to last longer than they might have in the US due to the climate.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Is there a such thing as HAD, as in I've HAD it with this heat? I play golf year round, but this often means playing in 110 degrees in the summer. It is hot on the months before and after summer (let's say April-May and Sept-Aug) but bearable. The rest of the year is very pleasant.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
This has to be one of the hottest posts in the world; certainly outside of the middle east.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
This is the biggest weakness of this post. If your kids are in middle school or high school and don't speak fluent Spanish, there is not an option for them. If they do speak fluent Spanish, there isn't a great option for them but they can survive. Elementary school quality varies as well. My kids are at the Montessori school. Honestly, I'm not enamored with the teaching style or their progress in picking up the language, but they enjoy it, are making good friends, and they are slowly progressing in Spanish. There seems to be birthday parties every other week, which is great for them (though they are limited to 2-3 venues, so it feels repetitive). Parents of the kids seem to be friendly and welcoming to my spouse as well, who generally attends the school events without me while I'm at work.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, I have a kid in the preschool located where my daughter attends elementary school. It is much much cheaper than the U.S. and works out to only $2 usd/hr if you compare it to the cost of a nanny.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, Los Lagos has a lot (golf, flag football, swim, dance, karate, tae kwan do, boxing, etc) and you can find more outside the club as well, including tackle football.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small. It is basically the U.S. consulate and then a handful of expat business people that you'll only come across at school or the country club.
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?
Country club, consulate events (though not as many as other small posts have), church. I have found Sonorans to be extremely friendly and open. I'm not the most social person but I still feel like I have more local friends here than my last two posts combined.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families with elementary school or younger kids: great choice
Families with middle school or above: depends on your family
Single people: below average, especially if you want nightlife
Couples: good to great choice
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I touched on this earlier, but yes it can be easy. The better your Spanish, the easier it will be. Other cities in Mexico have bullying issues at school, sometimes encouraged by parents, but I have not heard of that here.
There have been some instances of racism against FSOs, by locals and by CBP at the border.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think so, especially in the context of Mexico. Coming from two previous posts with very closed off LGBTQ+ communities, I have noticed a lot more of the community here in public. It is not like the U.S. and Sonorans are conservative in general, but I have not heard of any violence or strong discrimination like I did at other posts.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Food. Amazing Mexican colleagues. Travel around Mexico. San Carlos. Important work with a very talented team.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
San Carlos is great, Kino less so. My kids enjoyed the zoo, which has a safari aspect. Food trucks. Children play areas with big playgrounds and bumper cars. We also went to a concert for one of my favorite latin bands, which was a great experience.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No, not really. There are wood carvings, but I was hoping for more art like rugs or baskets.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather for five months of the year, proximity to home, same time zone as the US so I get to watch college football.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Morale can vary. This post can be very hard on single people, especially those in their 20s. I've tried to do everything I can to mitigate that at work, but I can't fix all the issues.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. It has been a great job for me and a good city for my family.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
sunscreen (UV index can be very very high), golf clubs, and patience.