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.