Here's The Deal With Living in Mexico City

Beautiful Coyoacan.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Personal bias aside, foreigners end up in Mexico City (also called D.F.) because they're looking to make some dough teaching English or they found a sweet teaching gig at an English school or to follow their sweetheart, or what have you. I've lived in Mexico City for over a year and I can give you the deal, straight up:

The Climate Is Amazing

Mexico City has the best weather ever. It's spring-like year around and varies only in that during December to February you'll need a heavy sweater first thing in the morning and after dark. The summer months bring rain almost every day but then only for an hour or two around 5 p.m. Otherwise, there's zero humidity and loads of sunshine.

Public Transportation Is Dirt Cheap

Three pesos or about 25 cents per subway ride? It doesn't get much better than that. The buses average two to five pesos, depending. The Metrobus, the very clean and efficient bus service, is six pesos which is still like fifty cents. That said, you're going to be fighting for your life at rush hour. Mexicans are polite but on public transportation they are BLOOD HOUNDS. Be prepared to be pushed by a seventy year old grandma who would rather die than not get on the next train.

Food Is Cheap. Food Is Delicious!

Market produce is dirt cheap and bountiful. Shit is available YEAR ROUND. No more sad tomatoes in February! No more droopy lettuce in November! You can go to place like La Merced and fill up on fresh tropical fruit, veg, and dry goods for a pittance. If you like to eat out, comida corridas offer set meals (soup, rice, main, dessert, drink) for usually less than $5 between noon and 5 p.m. Tacos are always less than a dollar and tortas, the huge filling meaty sandwiches, are less than $3. A tamale and a hot drink in the morning will set you back less than $2. That said, as my thighs will attest, it is easy to gain weight since the street food is so greasy and meaty and everywhere and made with crack or something. Beware.

Rent is Cheap. Rent is Delicious!

Unless you're a gullible foreigner. Most gringos look to Craigslist to rent since the listings are in English. All I have to say is that the prices are seriously jacked up on there. That said, if you want to live in trendy Roma or Condesa you will have to pay through the nose. If you have a bit of Spanish it's better to try CompartoDepa. I even had luck finding a sweet two bedroom apartment through AirBnB. $6500 ($493 USD) for a roomy place in a safe building/area with gorgeous palms out front? Yes please!

If you want to try AirBnB for yourself, clicking this link will earn you $25 USD in travel credit. Wahoo!

Also also, a lot of foreigners bunk down in the aforementioned neighborhoods or Zona Rosa or Polanco because supposedly they are the most safe. I would add to your list Narvarte, Escandon, Del Valle, and Coyoacan -- safe and cheaper.

** Update: I wrote a post all about finding an apartment in Mexico City. **
**Update 2: I wrote a post about buying or renting a house in Mexico City. **

The Men Are Hot

Well my boyfriend is hot, otherwise I don't have eyes. But between you and me, Mexican men are kind of short and not terribly striking. I've come across a few Mexican men who were truly delicious. My boyfriend is shorter than me and as a former size addict (ha) I can assure you that it doesn't really matter once you're in big squishy love.

What Mexican men have going for them is a wonderful romanticism that Canadian men seem to have lost. When they love their girl, THEY LOVE THEIR GIRL. Corny music, flowers, words of love, over-the-top gestures -- you'll get them all. It is so refreshing. The flip side to this is machismo which thankfully the younger generation seems less prone to.

The Men Are Annoying

Any foreigner (or light skinned Mexican woman) will get cat-called incessantly. There's no way around it. The only good thing is that they're huge chickens about it. They will only yell at you from a distance once you've already passed. If you catch them staring at you on the subway they will quickly look away. So it could be a lot worse. In a pinch you can always give them the finger. I do.

People Are Polite

Toronto (or New York), you have no excuse! Mexico City has about 30 million people and yet whenever I walk into a store the clerk invariably greets me with 'good afternoon' or the like. My neighbors in my apartment building do the same. Men on public transportation will give you your seat most times (ahh I cop to enjoying this sexist privilege). If you look distressed or lost someone will always stop to ask you if you need help. I've had an easy time making friends and I've ended up at someone's family table within 24 hours of meeting them. I incur more privilege due to my foreigner status (Mexicans are extremely deferential to Westerners) but overall the culture is one of courtesy. Except on the subway. And in traffic.

The Noise Pollution Is Atrocious

Here's where my Grandma Kienapple side comes out. The noise is awful awful awful. There's the gas guy yelling outside the building every morning, the garbage truck ringing, the bread cart dinging, the car horns honking, the random vendors with their loudspeakers, the news guys with their loudspeakers, the roaming bands, the car alarms, the tamale guy, the banana guy, the whatthefuckisthat guy. The noise is incessant. I happen to be close to a main street so you might be able to avoid this if you're in a quiet residential area. If that even exists.

Art-Gasm

Mexico City is surprisingly pretty, especially if you go to El Centro, Coyoacan, or La Condesa. The old buildings with their tall windows, stonework, balconies, and bright colours are visual treats. The museums and art galleries are spectacular. There's too many for me to name but my favorite is Frida Kahlo's house and the Dolores Olmedo museum. 

Crime

Mexico City is not the hellhole you'd expect. I've never been exposed to any crime except that my purse was stolen once (my friend had hers stolen the same week in Toronto). Still, a fellow ESL teacher had her necklace ripped off on the subway and another teacher was mugged. He was so shaken up he flew home the same day (and he was a big macho guy!). Kidnapping is a big problem in D.F. too. I've never heard of a foreigner being targeted but I'm sure it's happened. You have to be careful, not go out too late, shake up your routine. Honestly, I never go out at night alone anymore. You really do have to be careful here because everything can seem totally fine ... until it's not.

You Can Get Out

Thankfully, stuff you want to see isn't too far outside of Mexico City. Avoid the Friday and Sunday night rush and take public transportation. Taxco, Cuernavaca, and Puebla are staples. Amecameca is lovely. Oaxaca City, which is five hours south, is a must-see. Guanajuato is six hours. Acapulco is about 10 hours, which is do-able for a long weekend. You can fly to Cancun for less than $200 round-trip. Not too shabby.

The verdict? Mexico City is an incredibly affordable city with many of the comforts of home (wherever that is). The noise and sheer density of the city may drive you crazy. Plus safety is a concern. Still, it's probably the place to make a buck, if that's what you're in Mexico to do. A short-term stay may be incredibly fulfilling (and fattening!). All I can say is -- tacos no more than once a week. And don't drink the water.

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31 comments:

Laurel@Monkeysandmountains said...

Really good synopsis. I've only spent a couple of days in Mexico City and enjoyed it. Also loved the cheap delicious food.

B.Kienapple said...

Thanks Laurel! So glad you've got to spend time in this crazy but amazing city (and are eating all the things ;)).

Fernando Amor said...

Acapulco is 10 hours away? Did you walk or something??

Unknown said...

Acapulco es less than 400 km away (3 hours or so on a normal day). You probably tried it on a holiday or long weekend, in which case the road gets cramped.

Tom Bom said...

Can anyone help me with information on work/job options in Mexico City for a foreigner? Not looking to make it big, just need enough to survive. From what I've heard is very difficult for foreigners to find jobs?

B.Kienapple said...

Tom, if you are a native English speaker it is very easy to find work. Skip the language schools and look for people offering contracts through Craigslist. You should make at least 200 MXN per hour. Otherwise, your job options are limited without a work visa.

B.Kienapple said...

And by "work" I mean teaching English classes. Definitely forgot to put that in. :) Generally, you'll teach private (one-on-one) classes at businesses or to kids.

Tom Bom said...

Thanks so much for your response!! Ok, I'm australian so yes I am native English speaking but have no real experience as a teacher...is that an issue? And is there usually plenty of work on Craigslist? Haha I was thinking maybe hospitality would be my only option. Thankyou again, I really appreciate it!!

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Tom, I had no experience as a teacher prior to arriving in DF and no ESL teaching certificate. But I still got hired. English schools here usually are desperate for native speakers and turnover is high as people move around schools or leave Mexico. With some higher end teaching jobs a university degree and/or an ESL teaching certificate will be an asset but otherwise, believe me you will not be hurting for work.

B.Kienapple said...

Here's where I got my start:

http://www.interactmexico.com/

They hire and train inexperienced teachers and the pay is fairly decent.

Megan said...

This is a great post, chica! I spent about 3 weeks in Mexico City as part of a four-month backpacking trip through the country and fell in love with the place. All of your observations are spot on with my experiences. I decided that I wanted to move there and am currently back in my hometown working and saving money so that I can make the move with a solid savings net in case it takes a while to find work. I'm TEFL certified but also am a freelance writer and have intermediate to advanced level in Spanish. I hope to make a go combining all those skills. One question: Do the language schools typically have flexible hours? What's a typical work week like? Ideally, I'd like to teach about 20 hours per week and have the rest of my time dedicated to freelancing and possibly taking some Spanish courses. My goal is to be down there by late October this year so I can experience my first Dia de los Muertos. Do you have any recommendations for schools in or near Coyoacan? That's where I'd like to land. I was beside myself with its beauty. Thanks for all the tips! :)

B.Kienapple said...

Hey Megan! So you might try working at universities. Politécnico is somewhat near Coyoacan, I believe, but more south. UDM too.

Otherwise, you'd have to look for private students in the area. There aren't a lot of language schools near Coyoacan except for Harmon Hall (and NO). You can definitely find part-time work at any of these institutions.

I also recommend you take Spanish classes at UNAM (they have a great 6 week intensive course). We might be looking for a roomate at that time too so get in touch with us via AirB&B. :) https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4134471

Any other questions, feel free to email me: b [dot] kienapple [at] gmail [dot] com

Megan said...

Thanks for the great info! Any tips on getting private students who aren't "creepy old men" looking for a
girlfriend experience?

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention the smells! I have been living in Mexico city and Cuernavac for about 4 months now and the smell in Mexico city is strong almost every where you go. There are the sewer smells of the rivers and near street drains, the strong smell of cleaning products being used in the streets or by a store owner, or someone is using nailpolish on the bus, or there is pee in the metro entrance, or there is the smell of raw meat in the meat isle at the market. There is also a lot of use of fake smells on things like kleenex and toilet paper. I love the sounds of Mexico city, but I am constantly affronted by the smells. I guess you eventually get used to it.

Ginnie said...

Thanks for your frank and humorous posts on living in DF! My husband's being interviewed for a job close to San Mateo Tlaltenango and I'm checking out costs, housing, etc... your link is brilliant for finding rooms, but do you recommend any links for finding a house? I speak reasonable Spanish so not dependent on Craig's List!

B.Kienapple said...

Anonymous, ANY big city has its fair share of smells. I have never been put off by DF's scents. They're there but they've never struck me as overpowering or awful.

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Megan, I prefer to teach female clients. However, if I have a male client I always teach them at a coffee shop or their office, not their home. It helps if the man is a referral from another student, who can vouch for them. Unfortunately, in a macho culture like Mexico you will find your fair share of creep-os. I try to be honest if their comments make me uncomfortable -- it they're trying to talk about sexual topics or asking too much personal information. Usually that embarrasses them into submission.

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Ginnie, I'm putting up a post Monday morning about websites where you can find houses to buy/rent in Mexico City and Mexico in general. Look for it! :) And good luck with your search.

B.Kienapple said...

Here's the post on how to find a house in Mexico City: http://www.acertainbentappeal.com/2015/04/how-to-rent-or-buy-house-in-mexico-city.html

Anonymous said...

Mexicans are Westerners too!

Meg said...

I'm currently teaching in South Korea after living in Ecuador for a year. These are starkly different cultures (obviously!) and I find myself really aching for Latin American culture again. I've enjoyed teaching and am thinking about moving to Mexico City to find a teaching job next year... But I know telling the parents will be hard as they'll immediately jump to how dangerous it is (I don't think any more dangerous than when I lived in Quito). Any tips on how to approach that convo? Thanks! Great post.

Noe Guevara said...

I came across your post and thought it was awesome! I am currently looking into possibly relocating to Mexico City. I was born in Aguascalientes,Mexico but raised in the states since the age of 4, I have never lived there. I am a certified medical interpreter here in the US. Do you think this certification can get me a good paying teaching job there? I don't have a college degree but I have about 2 years worth of college credits and that certification. I am not sure if having a degree is as heavily looked at as it is here when applying at big companies. Any input would be much appreciated!

Christo Stocksy said...

Hey B, didn't I meet you and your English friend on a trip to Yaxchilan and Bonampak back in November 2014. If so, it's a very small world, if not, I'm embarrased. You still in DF?

casie said...

You people are crazy, risking kidnapping to live in a third world crappola that the mexicans themselves are fleeing. Living around ugly stalky creepos and can't go out at night. I'm hispanic american, bilingual, and I can't stand living in hispanic neighborhoods, the women with their fat guts and 9 kids and the men acting like stalkers. And the lack of IQ. Y'all are going to be like my mom, white lady ending up with a sexist shitty hispanic guy. Fucking dumb.

Anonymous said...

Oh Casie. What a sad comment. How long did you live in Mexico City for to have such an in-depth view? I'm British and lived in Mexico City for 9 years and I have had a great experience. There are a lot of well-educated good men in Mexico City. Maybe the problem you have is that the non-educated ones emigrated to the states, where I assume you're from.

Sung Cho said...

Thank you for the awesome post. It really helps paint a picture for me. I am in Seattle and wanted to learn more about Mexico city. I appreciate you taking the time to write this. Thank you! 😊

Anonymous said...

Nice post, seems u love the city and really enjoying your time there, how ever you haven't mention anything about security, from what i heard is extremely dangerous. so was wondering what is your opinion about safety? we planing to move there by end of summer with my husband and 2 small kids so for me safety is extremely important.

Anonymous said...

100% agree with you about the noise. On my last visit we had a neighbour who loved to set off fireworks and play Santana at top volume at 6 in the morning. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Any advice for someone (me) who has no idea where to settle in Mexico to work? I travelled throughout Mexico for 3 months last year and loved pretty much everywhere I went. Is DF the best place in terms of higher pay and more job opporunities? (I'm Australian & have my TEFL). Many thanks.

B.Kienapple said...

DF is the best place to teach English, though there are opportunities in Puebla and Queretaro too. You'll get the highest salary in DF. But it totally depends what you want.

Also, Mexico City is no more dangerous than the average big city. The bad areas will not be places you ever have reason to go to. American cities seem to have more gun violence and sexual assault. The only issue can be with robbery but a little preventative care goes a long way. I don't have any experience with kids, but I know plenty of expats with kids here and they seem to be doing just fine. Don't believe what you read in the news. Mexico City is a great place to live.

JP said...

I have lived in Mexico City for a year, and though some of your view points are valid - here are the dark sides of D.F. Yes the food is cheap though the cheap food I would not call delicious - it's cheap cuts of meat with gristle. If you can palate cheap cuts your set. Public transport is dirt cheap although in peak hour prepared to be completely crushed - especially on buses if your a male. This is due to that buses have a female section (area towards the driver) and men are towards the back. Train is the same theory - you have 5-10 seconds for people to exit and board the train.
Noise totally agree - it gets ridiculous trucks, cars motorbikes honking their horns, police cars setting off their sirens for no apparent reason. There are no noise guidelines - so your neighbours are within rights to play music and have a party anytime of day or night.
The pollution is ridiculously high (2016) and makes you sick, I would hardly catch colds and here my immune system seems to be lower. The gas and foul sewage smells as you walk down some streets turns the strongest of stomachs.
Pick-pockets work in teams. On a train helping an elderly lady take a seat on a train whilst behind me, my wallet and phone are taken. I have had friends being held at gun point for wallets, phones and bags - in daylight.
The corrupt police and transisito police really makes me sick - Mexico City could be an amazing city though the corruption here is basically tearing this city apart.
NEVER trust taxi drivers - I friend was bashed in a taxi as the taxi didn't turn on the metre, when he questioned the driver was bashed and put in the hospital.
Working - try and prepare a job before coming. Teaching jobs in professional schools will require teaching qualifications and experience. High Schools pay the best but again you need to be a degree qualified teacher with experience and MUST be proficient in Spanish You can also land a job at a language centre - if you're a native English speaker you will generally get hired on the spot though it's an hourly rate of around 80 pesos per hour. The problem is your hours could change weekly or monthly. Also things take twice as long as Mexico City. Getting paperwork for the VISA then waiting for Immigration - again try get this done before you arrive (as you will need to exit the country in order for your work VISA to be validated anyway).

I made the big mistake of purchasing a used car - NEVER EVER DO THIS. The system here absolutely sucks and I have been screwed with the paperwork.
Mexico City is an amazing city - the culture, food (decent restaurants), the markets and buildings. Would I come for a holiday - sure, I wouldn't come to live here again.

zo said...

Hey!

How well did u know spanish before moving there? and also i would like to teach science instead of english? what do u think of that? would i find a job? should i do a spanish minor? (i havent graduated yet but i would love to go to mexico city after i graduate)

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