An American abroad in Mexico City: Six Quick Observations.

Where does the time go? It’s been nearly a month since leaving NYC for Mexico City. Being away has brought both highs and lows, but I’ve formulated six observations that I thought would be cool to share with others thinking about coming here for more than just a vacation.

Porter House steak for 350 Pesos ($14 USD)

1) More bang for your buck at restaurants– Ok I know its common sense; it’s cheaper to go out to eat in Mexico than New York. But I’d like to focus on some specific examples. A sushi roll in Condesa for 40 pesos ($2.15 USD), check. A 3-course- Italian meal at a higher-end restaurant like Rosetta in Roma Norte for 500 pesos a head ($25 USD), check. Even cocktails at Jules Basement, a speakeasy in Polanco, can be had for around 160 pesos ($8 USD). The quality of the food and service here for the money you spend is 50 percent cheaper than most US cities and perhaps more so in spots like NYC.

2) Lots of creature comforts from back home– The best way to feel at home is to have some comforts from home (well the USA for me). Mexico City has not disappointed in that area. Netflix, Uber Eats, Costco, and many more amenities from the states are going strong in CDMX.  With a still “work-in-progress grasp of Spanish being able to order food off an app is nice. Netflix has both American and Mexican shows, which is perfect If I want the option to practice my Spanish comprehension. And finally, if the mood strikes to stock up on toilet paper, sponges, or a 32-pack of flavored iced tea I can head to Costco and shop til my hearts content.

Uber in Mexico City vs NYC

3 ) Uber is so CHEAP– Probably the number one comment I have gotten from American friends visiting has been how cheap Uber is in Mexico City. Most rides within a 30- minute radius cost no more than 200 pesos ($10 dollars). To illustrate this best: my ride  to Newark Airport from Greenwich Village, Manhattan cost me $59. On arrival my almost identical 8-mile ride from Mexico City airport to my Airbnb in Condesa cost 115 pesos ($6 dollars). Oh the savings!

4) It can get COLD– All right were not talking Cleveland or New York City winter cold. But I lost count of how many people said, “enjoy the warm weather when they heard I was going to Mexico City in November. Well news flash: this isn’t Cancun or Puerto Vallrata. In fact I am writing this with the space heater facing me in the living room.  It was as low as 39 F in the early morning last week. If you go out in the morning or evening expect to have a pretty decent jacket ready. I really can’t complain too much though. Almost every day by the early afternoon it reaches 70 degrees.

5) No Habla Ingles?– I blame this on too many trips to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Don’t expect most people to speak English fluently, and if they do be happy about it. Majority of restaurants outside of the main touristy areas don’t have English menus. Google translate can become your best friend (or a Mexican GF). To me it’s actually a good thing overall. I am forced to learn Spanish to survive on my own and at least get down the basics and learn how to buy food.

Oh, and don’t assume adding an “a will solve your translation woes. One of my first days here at the supermarket I figured that soapa must be the Spanish word for soap. A kind employee walked me to the aisle and all I saw was soup in front of me. DOH! ( Jabon is soap in spanish for those keeping score)

Muchos Garrafones

6) Water Jugs-  A water jug, or garrafon in spanish, is a pretty vital part of your apartment. Between use for cooking, drinking, or pouring in your coffee maker it is important to have clean water at your disposal. Believe it or not, it is actually a business here to be a garrafon delivery man. The typical jug is 20 liters (44 pounds) and can be annoying to carry if your supermarket isn’t across the street. In fact, my Spanish teacher who lives nearby suggested me one, while a woman from the building suggested another. Competition is a plenty. I do think that it is worth the small fee to avoid carrying it from the local store and especially if you live up any staircases.

To wrap things up, I hope that the coming months will be as unique, interesting, and fun as my first couple of weeks south of the border! For those who have lived or visited Mexico, what was your biggest surprise or shock about spending time here? Let me know in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “An American abroad in Mexico City: Six Quick Observations.

  1. Homer is here

    Alan! In your chapter 5 you are forgetting the 2 most important phrases in Spanish:

    1) “Terminal por favor” to bring the card reading machine to your table

    2) When you are asked “propina” – tip, your response should be “Diez por siento” –


  2. George Brown

    My biggest surprise, the first week I lived in Mexico City, was the delicious difference between real tacos and my shattered expectations of them, based upon Taco Bell.

    Let’s hear it for shattered expectations!!

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