Caitlin Evans, Vagabond Journey’s Mexico correspondent and owner of Mexico City blog Chilangish writes about how – realistically – to move to Mexico City.
Since moving to Mexico City a year ago, more than a few friends back in Canada have mentioned wanting to follow in my footsteps. Why all the interest?
Despite its increasingly bad reputation, the appeal of Mexico is still undeniable: wonderful climate, great food and a complex, multifaceted culture. Many Americans, Canadians and Europeans dream of moving here and enjoying the life of a Mex-pat.
While most just dream, many actually do it. Thousands of Canadians and Brits live in Mexico in addition to hundreds of thousands of Americans. A large proportion of these settle in Mexico City.
Why live in Mexico City, and not some quaint small town?
Well, when it comes to traveling and shorter stays Mexico’s smaller cities and towns certainly have a lot of charming appeal. But when it comes to living somewhere long-term or indefinitely, charm is not as important as finding a viable place to live. I don’t know about you, but for me a viable place to live requires three things: availability of decent jobs, an open and diverse population from which to make friends, and lots of things to do. Cosmopolitan, cultured and seemingly endless, Mexico City fulfills all three of these requirements without a doubt.
For most foreigners, the easiest kind of work to find in Mexico City is teaching. As long as teaching is somewhat appealing (don’t do it if you hate the idea), it’s probably your best option. Don’t expect a dream job or lots of money but it is perfectly possible to get something decent. Because all my experience in Mexico is in teaching, that’s what I’ll speak about here.
So, how to make the move to the megalopolis and start teaching?
First of all, don’t try to land a job from outside Mexico. Just don’t. 95% of the jobs I’ve seen advertising online offer horrendous pay. Mexico City is an in-person kind of place, and to score a good job you need to be here and willing to immediately meet with any potential employers. So save up some money (I’d recommend about 2000 dollars to play it safe), come here on a tourist visa and start looking!
Second, have the credentials. Mexicans care about credentials, so you should at least have a degree. To save potential hassle later on, have your degree and birth certificates apostilled at home. (If you’re Canadian, get them notarized and then send to the Mexican embassy in Ottawa to get them approved.)
Unless you have a degree in teaching already, you should think about getting trained. The best option is getting the CELTA (certificate in teaching English) at International House in Mexico City because this certificate is recognized by Mexican immigration. Also, if you don’t have a degree, a CELTA will likely land you a job anyway.
Third, decide what kind of work you want. You can teach in language schools, go to businesses and teach corporate classes, or work in universities, high schools and elementary schools.
Private high school and elementary schools pay the best (between 14,000 pesos and 30,000 pesos a month), and you can teach English or other school subjects in English at one of the city’s many bilingual schools. This work can be tough, though, especially since students at private schools can be rich and bratty. Surprisingly, as long as you have a degree in the subject area you want to teach, you can work at most schools without teaching certification from your home country. The best time to look for these jobs is between May and August for the new school year starting in August.
University jobs are coveted, but some foreigners eventually snag them. They hire before each semester, which start in August or January (most jobs are for the August semester, however). Pay can be decent or atrocious.
Language schools and corporate classes go together, as most of schools’ clients are corporate. You will likely spend a lot of time on public transportation going from class to class, but the students will be respectful adults and often a lot of fun. Additionally, these places hire at all times of year! Pay is not extraordinary, but you should be able to do ok.
No matter what, don’t accept a job that will pay you less than 10,000 pesos a month if you want a tolerable lifestyle in Mexico City.
Fourth, start looking! Google schools. Send a million emails. Go around the city and drop off resumes. Make sure you have a Mexican cell phone. You are sure to get some (or many) bites.
Once you have your job, you should think immediately about getting legal status by changing your tourist visa to a work visa. Any decent employers will sponsor your visa, and many will pay and/or do the legwork for you. If for some reason they won’t, you’ll have to do all the immigration office trips yourself (a headache) or hire an immigration lawyer to do it for you. That’s what I did (I’m lazy) and it cost 2500 pesos.
As for living in the city, you will find many interesting neighborhoods and lots of options for accommodation! If you are a single foreigner, your best bet is to look for shared accommodation with other people. It will not only save you money but it’s an easy way to meet people. A room in a shared apartment, depending on size and location, will cost from 2500 – 4500 pesos. Good places to look in include Condesa (expensive), Roma, Escandon, San Miguel Chapultepec, Colonia Juarez and Colonia Cuauhtemoc. These neighborhoods are all centrally located. Craigslist, Comparto Depa and Couch Surfing are good places to search.
If you want your own place, walking around and searching for rental signs is the best way to look. Since you probably won’t have access to a co-signer, you’ll probably have to smack down a big deposit or pre-paid rent, however.
Other than that, enjoy! Mexico City can be challenging, sometimes annoying and it takes a bit of time to break in and build a community. But it’s rewarding, fantastic, surreal and a treat for the senses. Sometimes I wonder: why would anyone live anywhere else?
After traveling around the world for a number of years, Caitlin Evans of Chilangish.com has landed in Mexico City. After poking around the English teaching circuit here, she landed a real posh position and now calls herself, “expat.” She is Vagabond Journey’s travel correspondent for Mexico, and if you have any questions for her, feel free to send them over at Mexico travel questions or check out her Mexico City expat blog Chilangish
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