Monterrey, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 10/17/12
Personal Experiences from Monterrey, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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.
3. How long have you lived here?
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
I have a cat and have not had any issues.
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.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
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.
2. Morale among expats:
Depends on the level of violence. Generally upbeat, but with an underlying tension.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
11. Can you save money?
US government employees receive danger pay, so yes.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! I am having a great time.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Snowboots, parka, skis.
3. But don't forget your:
Sunblock, hiking boots, climbing gear.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
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.