Moving to Mexico City? Do Your Neighborhood Research

I get a lot of emails and comments from readers who are moving to Mexico City and are completely verklempt. Most of them 1) started reading about Mexico City online, and became anxious about crime and pollution, 2) eventually found my blog and were, 3) relieved to see that a gringa like me can live here and be 4) quite safe and happy.

Unlike what a lot of web sites say, Mexico City is too big and diverse of a place for blanket statements. Yes, there’s crime –and I’ve known people who have personally been subjected to it. But I don’t live in any sort of daily fear of something happening to me. Yes, there’s pollution, but even that depends on the neighborhood, the time of year, and many other factors. And, I’m still not convinced the air is any worse here than in New York City.

There’s basically one generality I am OK with: It’s a really big city, and with all really big cities, it has it’s good points and it’s bad points. Just with better food than most.

So, where to live in a city with countless neighborhoods?

Please, You Don’t Have to Hide

You’ve got lots of options. Lots. I won’t go into details about the neighborhoods I do know fairly well, because I’m not writing a guidebook to moving here, but here’s what I don’t recommend.

Don’t move to the suburbs, get a car, and never see the city.

This won’t make me popular among local ex-pats, but in my opinion, far too many of the foreigners move to the way western suburbs, and hide behind walled compounds, and drive cars everyday, and shop at American-based stores and hire a small army of “help” like two maids, a nanny, a driver and a gardener.

Of course, there are elements of that lifestyle that appeal to me — we have someone who cleans our apartment twice a week, I wouldn’t mind having a car here, and I’d love to have a garden. (A big, fat, tropical garden with wi-fi from where I could write you blog posts while plucking fresh mangos from the tree).

And, of course, my neighborhood, La Condesa, is not exactly a totally hard-core Mexican neighborhood, either (I’ve heard it jokingly referred to as the “foreign slums” because it’s so international – international, not American – and completely un-slum-like). Because of its liberal, international, walkable flavor, it’s the perfect place for someone moving from New York City. Moi.

I could go on and on about the many fine points of living in La Condesa (the food, the scene, the views), but the practical, pedestrian reasons are the best.

Here’s a list of all the places I can walk to in under 5 minutes, if not 2 minutes:

  • real grocery stores (2)
  • dry cleaners (2)
  • pharmacies (3)
  • dog groomers (2)
  • pet stores (2)
  • veterinarian or animal hospitals (3)
  • gyms (4?)
  • beauty salons (?)
  • hardware stores (2, or 3 if you count Sears)
  • restaurants (dozens…?)
  • real Mexican mercados (2 — one amazingly huge, one tiny and quaint, although they’re more like 15-minute walks)
  • sizzling, delicious tacos al pastor (6?)
  • coffeeshops (no idea – many)
  • videostore with amazing, independent selection (1 – it’s more like a 10-minute walk)
  • nice but normal movie theater (1)
  • artsy movie theater (1)
  • banks/ATMs (dozens)
  • taxi stands (2)
  • parks (2)
  • bookstores (4?)

There are other things I’m still discovering, within mere blocks of my apartment. We live with in — literally — 30 feet of four restaurants, but have only, so far, eaten at two of them.

So, do you want that sort of life? Like living in a Mexican Manhattan? Then it’s here, too. It’s a vast city, and it’s got neighborhoods for just about everyone.

16 thoughts on “Moving to Mexico City? Do Your Neighborhood Research

  1. Joy says:

    Thanks Jim. I own both of your books, btw! We went to El Cardenal last weekend (amazing) and I am COMPLETELY in love with the chocolateria you recommended in Condesa on Calle Veracruz.

  2. Sharon De Caria says:

    I loved your remarks about your neighborhood and about doing research before moving to Mexico City. My husband and I may be moving to DF next year and I would like to do some research on various neighborhoods. Where can I get this information? Thanks so much for your help!!

    Sharon in Colorado

  3. Kim says:

    Hi Joy,
    I just moved to Mexico City with my husband and 4-month old daughter from California. I was excited to find your blog. We’re currently living in Condesa and will be here for the next year. I was wondering if you could recommend a good beauty salon, as shallow as that may sound. Both my husband and I are in desperate need of a good hair cut. Also, are you aware of any expat groups in the neighborhood?

    Thanks so much,
    Kim

  4. Joy says:

    Sorry, haven’t gone to a salon in MexCity yet. And yes, there’s quite a few ex-pat groups, such as Newcomer’s. Have a great time on your new adventure.

    • Joy says:

      Mary,

      Living in a foreign land and immersed in cultural differences can be both exhilarating and exhausting. I think every immigrant in any country could come up with their own list like this.

  5. Katie says:

    Joy, I’ve been reading lots of posts on your blog and just love it! Do you have any tips on online resources for apartment hunting Condesa? I’ve looked at craigslist and done some googling, but haven’t found a wealth of information. Any tips?

    Thanks a billion!

  6. Ayleen Adler says:

    Hi! I’m so excited to find your blog! I am moving from Manhattan to Mexico DF in exactly three weeks and although I’ve already found a place in Polanco (through work), I would love to meet/hang out with other “gringos” who already live there. Please please let me know if there are any expat groups or anything of the sort. It would be very helpful in the transition.
    Thanks!!

  7. Chiara Zago says:

    Hi, I just discovered your blog. As many my husband and I will be moving in Mexico City for six months leaving our apartment in Williamsburg Brooklyn. For the last 15 years we lived between East Village and Brooklyn I found them very ‘European’ and since we are from Europe it is a little bit like home away from home. Now that we are moving, even if not permanently I want to find the same kind of feel. Which neighbour will you raccomand? Which is the average price for a nice (really nice) 2 bedroom? Thank you

  8. Richard says:

    Hey! 🙂 Thank you soo much for this information. I’m from Brooklyn and have always wanted to live in Mexico City, considering the fact my parents are from Mexico. Your article is such a relief. I was terrified by what I’ve heard by the media. I go annually to D.F. & walked a bit with dubiousness in regards to safety. I’m glad you were able to explain it thorougly. Now I know for sure, there is DEFINETLY good and bad parts. Just like any other city. Peace and safety.

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