The other day a friend asked, “do you ever think to yourself, wow, I’m in Mexico?”
“Yea,” I said, “pretty often.”
It’s true. Sometimes I can’t actually believe this is my life. It’s the start of March and I’m wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt as I type this. My windows are open, the sun is nearly blinding me. Birds are chirping, dogs are barking, I think I hear a goat (could be a sheep?).
It’s not just the weather, though. There is so much to love about Mexico. The food continues to delight. Whenever I eat something here I almost always close my eyes. It’s that kind of deliciousness. The flavors are zingy, the produce is exceptional, and the spice sometimes brings tears to my eyes (and always gives me the sniffles).
There are so many reasons I love living in this country, but there are a few reasons I don’t always love it. Of course, both of these lists are totally subjective. I live in Mexico City – one of the biggest cities in the WORLD and people living in coastal towns or smaller cities around Mexico likely won’t agree with what I have to say. At the end of it all, these observations are based on my experiences living in and traveling around Mexico City.
Why I Love Living in Mexico City
1. It’s So Cheap
The public transportation is literally a quarter. My weekly grocery shop is less than $30 (and that’s for TWO people). Rent is incredibly reasonable for such a large city. Going out to eat and drink is cheaper than any other capital city I’ve been to (except maybe Hanoi and Phnom Penh). Even at an “expensive” restaurant, most dishes are still less than $15 each.
I did a series of youtube videos about the cost of living in Mexico City which you can watch here. You can also read this post about how much it costs to travel Mexico City.
2. The Food is So Good
Forget everything you know about Mexican food if you’ve never been to Mexico. It’s crazy how good it is. Even the best Mexican restaurants that I’ve been to in the US pale in comparison to the street food that I’ve tasted in Mexico.
It’s not just the tacos and tortas that have me swooning. The produce in Mexico is unlike anything I’ve had before. The fresh fish makes my mouth water and the fruit and vegetables that I get each week from my local market have actual taste. Perfectly ripe papaya and mango, amazing melons, and fruits that I’ve never even heard of (mamey I’m lookin’ at you). Don’t even get me started on the avocados.
3. The Weather is My Ideal Climate
No humidity, warm and sunny days, cool and dry evenings. The weather hardly changes throughout the year. Even in the middle of December and January it was still at least 70 degrees during the day and it never dropped below 50 degrees at night.
During the summer when the rain comes, it’s still not oppressively humid. It doesn’t get as hot as say, Cancun or Tulum. I never feel like I’m melting. I also never need anything more than a thick sweater and jeans in the winter months.
Some of my Mexican friends wear coats and Luke and I always laugh at them. If you come from somewhere that has a winter, you’d laugh too.
4. The History & Culture
The Aztecs and other pre-hispanic cultures, the art, castles, the royalty, and the Spanish Colonization. Mexico City has so much history, so much past to learn about. It’s also incredibly accessible to do so. Some of my favorite spots are free to residency visa-holders on Sundays. Even if you’re just a tourist, entry fees are wildly reasonable – about 70 pesos ($3.50). Many art museums and galleries are free everyday.
I recommend taking a tour or two while you’re here so that you can really get to know some of the history. I did one of Teotihuacan and I learned a lot about the civilizations that occupied this part of the country. I also learned a lot of about the Spanish occupation and the ensuing revolution.
Some of my favorite historical spots in the city center are Templo Mayor (and the museum that’s included in the ticket price), the Museum of Anthropology, and Chapultepec Castle (pictured above), which is also the national history museum.
5. The Ease of Exploring the Rest of the Country
Whether it’s a budget flight, a bus ride, or a car rental ride away, Mexico City is such an awesome base for getting to the rest of the country. Have I mentioned it’s cheap?
There are so many budget airlines that go from Mexico City to other hubs around the country. Volaris is probably my favorite because it always includes a bag. VivaAerobus is probably my least favorite because you have to un-tick everything when you’re booking a flight on their website (no, I do not want to pay extra to bring my dog with me), it doesn’t include a bag, and the customer service is pretty dire.
There are also four major bus terminals around the city where you can catch an affordable and comfortable bus to basically anywhere in the country and a few spots in the US, too.
6. The Love of a Good Party
Mexicans love an excuse to party. There are outdoor party venues all over the city and you hear them all. night. long.
In our neighborhood hardly a week goes by without some sort of local gathering with balloons, a DJ and plenty of Tecate to go around. No one thinks anything of closing down a side street for a little all-night get together.
I love it. I love that there are plenty of lively bars and they almost always have some sort of live music. I love that everyone is out for a good time. I’ve danced the night away many a Saturday with friends and people I’ve never seen before in my life.
While bars tend to shut up around 2 am on a weekend, clubs stay open until the sun comes up.
7. Being Able to Speak & Learn Spanish on the Daily
I love living in a Spanish speaking country. Unlike our time in Korea, people are incredibly understanding here. They don’t instantly switch into English (usually because they don’t speak English) and they are patient with my fumbling language skills.
Living in Mexico City has really helped force me to practice my Spanish not just on the street, but at home as well. I love being able to see how much better I am at the language when I travel around the country and my improvements are a direct result of the time spent studying each morning.
I know that if I leave Mexico I probably won’t have much motivation to keep studying, so for now, being able to practice and feeling motivated to study each day is a pretty exciting thing.
8. All of the Unique Neighborhoods
Mexico City is this amazing amalgamation of tons of tiny little cities. There’s a neighborhood for everyone: get fancy in Polanco, hang with the hipsters in Roma, stroll the quiet parks in Condesa, study your history in the centro, party it up in Zona Rosa, shop ’til you drop in Coyoacan (and eat my favorite street food there too). Every weekend I try to find a new neighborhood to explore and it feels like I’m somewhere completely different each time. I love it.
Why I DON’T Love Living in Mexico City
1. Recycling is Basically Non-Existent
Oh god, is this a first world complaint or what? I can just hear people tutting already.
I’ve tried to find a way to dispose of my plastic and glass responsibly, but I don’t know where to do it. There’s no compost disposal. There’s no separation of pretty much anything. The only things I’ve been able to recycle since I’ve been here are the large water bottles that we get delivered every week (they pick the empties up when they drop off new ones) and beer bottles.
They also use SO MUCH styrofoam here. It pains me every time I order a drink or get my food to go and it’s served in a styrofoam container. I know it’s cheap and in a place where cost is the biggest concern, it’s what gets used most, but I’ve never even seen paper plates as an option in the grocery store.
The waste created in Mexico City is abysmal and when you think about more than 20 million people creating as much garbage as I am in such a small space, you can imagine how concerning it starts to become.
2. The Noise
I’m mostly used to it now, but it’s never, ever silent in Mexico City. There is always a car zooming past, a horn being honked, a dog barking, a turkey gobbling (yup, our neighbors have TWO turkeys). This morning I got woken up at hourly intervals by church bells, the gas man shouting for gas, the garbage truck ringing its bell, and a milk delivery truck with an ear piercing recording asking you to buy their milk.
We stayed in a hotel in the city center once and I woke up constantly to the sound of cars drag racing, motorcycles revving, and people generally out and about all night long.
When I went back to visit my parents over Christmas, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night. It was pitch black (also never happening in Mexico City) and utterly silent. It kind of freaked me out, but mostly it made me realize that I hadn’t heard that lack of sound in SO long.
3. The Traffic
Oh traffic, how I loathe thee. You can never, ever be in a rush in Mexico City. I had a Mexican friend once say, for every place that’s a half an hour away, you should give yourself an hour. It once took me two hours to go from my house to the airport (a 15-mile journey).
Thankfully I work from home and Luke is only a five-minute walk to his workplace, but unless you want to spend hours commuting each day, where you live is pretty much determined by where you work. The metro is a great option to avoid traffic, but if you don’t live near a metro stop like us, even getting to the metro involves sitting in traffic.
4. Sometimes it’s a Little TOO Laid Back
I’m a pretty laid back kinda gal. But the pace of Mexico is sometimes infuriating. Being over an hour late is sort of normal (see: traffic).
There’s an attitude of it’ll get done that can sometimes be annoying. Well, WHEN will it be done? How long will it take?
Having this sort of laissez-faire approach to life is great most of the time, but when my oven is leaking gas, when my toilet won’t flush, when I wait at the bank for hours just to pay my gas bill, I don’t want to be all laid back anymore.
It’s funny because I don’t know where the happy medium is for me. I hate the fast-paced and cut-throat mentality that you find in a lot of major cities in the US and the UK (and many other countries tbh), but Mexico is sometimes too far the other way.
Overall the things that I don’t love about living here are trivial. Even writing them all down seems like I’m just complaining to complain. Life in Mexico City is pretty damn amazing and there isn’t an adventurous day that passes that I don’t appreciate being able to call this colorful city home.