Matamoros, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 08/19/21

Personal Experiences from Matamoros, Mexico

Matamoros, Mexico 08/19/21

Background:

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

Not my first experience. I've also lived in the Middle East and SE Asia.

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

I'm from the Northeast USA. Getting home generally involves taking a one hour flight from Brownsville, TX to either Houston or Dallas and then flying from there.

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3. What years did you live here?

2018-2021.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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5. 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?

Housing was fine. Everyone lives within a 5-7 minute drive from the Consulate. Homes varied but most people lived in a suburban neighborhood near the Rio Grande River.

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

Availability of groceries was not great in Matamoros. There were large supermarkets that were fine for basics including bread, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and some canned/dry foods. Quality of meat seemed poor and a poor selection of frozen items. I crossed over into Brownsville to shop at one of the multiple HEBs located in that city.

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

You can get pretty much everything you need at the large HEB+ in Brownsville, TX

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

In both Matamoros and Brownsville there are numerous places to have tacos and Mexican food including Mexican style seafood. Brownsville has a nice pizzeria (Dodici), a crepe place, mediocre sushi, and terrible Chinese, and some higher-end fare. There is a more experimental/artisanal taco place in Olmito right outside Brownsville called "El Santuario." If you venture to South Padre Island there are some more options including the fine dining establishment F&B. McAllen, which is one hour west of Brownsville, has more international offerings including Asian food and places like PF Changs.

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

Matamoros has a lot of roaches and mosquitos, especially in the summer. It wasn't a big deal though.

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Daily Life:

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

Mail goes through the logistics center in Brownsville, TX and arrives very quickly. Sometimes you get your Amazon packages within two days of ordering them.

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

Most people had maids and the rate was very affordable, generally the equivalent of USD 20-25 per day.

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

The Consulate has a gym and a pool. Brownsville has a Gold's Gym as well as other gym chains.

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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?

Never had any issues with using credit cards. There is an ATM at the Consulate.

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

In Matamoros, not many people speak English. Many people on the Texas side will speak Spanish as a first language. Having an adequate level of Spanish will make your life much easier. That being said, you can conduct much of your life outside of work in Texas so you can probably get by using just English most of the time when you're on the Texas side.

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Transportation:

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

We are prohibited from using any public transportation including taxis in Matamoros. You need to have a car at post to function.

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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?

Something with high clearance since it floods. Also, something that doesn't draw attention to yourself.

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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?

No problems with internet. Every so often there would be an outage but generally good internet.

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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?

There are vets in both Matamoros and Brownsville. While generally this is a good place to have a pet, one must be careful of the stray dogs and guard dogs which many locals in Matamoros keep in their yard. I would highly recommend walking your dog away from any homes that have aggressive looking guard dogs behind a fence. You can walk on the river trail by the Rio Grande or take your dog across to Brownsville to walk in the numerous parks there.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Dress is more informal given the heat. You won't ever see a local in Matamoros wearing a suit.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not particularly.

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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?

Not particularly.

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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 good. Keep in mind that much of the year you will experience extremely hot a humid weather.

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

The isolation can affect people. We have a small green zone in Matamoros and although you can cross into Texas, many people over there won't come visit you in Matamoros. This can contribute to a sense of isolation.

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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?

Hot and humid for much of the year. Can be cool in the winter. Heavy rains at times which can cause flooding.

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Expat Life:

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

There are no expats in Matamoros other than the Americans that work at the U.S. Consulate.

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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?

People go to South Padre Island to the beach, they take trips in Texas, they go to each other's homes, they eat out or go to an event in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Be sure to check out the Broken Sprocket in Brownsville which is an outdoor bar with food trucks and live music. Also, Hueso del Fraille in Brownsville which is local cafe/bar featuring local musicians performing live.

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

I would say this is a pretty good city for all. It might be most challenging for singles as the post is small, it is hard to meet people in Matamoros, and ninety percent of people in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas are Mexican-Americans and their families have been in the area for generations. That can make it harder to make friends as you will be the odd person out. That being said, people are very friendly and sociable, and many of the single officers here have met friends and kept themselves busy with activities.

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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?

See above

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

Watching the stars at Boca Chica beach, eating on the beach at South Padre, travelling to Mexico City, having incredible tacos and Mexican seafood, interesting work. Visiting Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen or Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville. Learning about the unique border culture.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Brownsville: Stories by Oscar Casares. Somos on Netflix.

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3. Do you have any other comments?

Many posts are what you make of them. With the right attitude and a bit of an adventurous spirit, you have the potential to make your time in Matamoros incredible and memorable.

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