Mexico’s capital has long since reached an almost legendary status as a prototypical megacity and is sure to be mentioned in any discussion about the world’s largest cities. Popular guesses and half-truths about the number of people living in Mexico City typically range anywhere from “tens of millions” to “half the country”. The actual number of inhabitants does not quite live up to these exaggerated estimates, but the city’s population of nearly 9 million people is still nothing short of mind-boggling.
As is often the case, however, there is a kernel of truth behind these population myths: Mexico City has one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Americas — on par with New York City in the US and São Paulo in Brazil — and, in fact, one of the largest worldwide, with a total population surpassing a whopping 20 million.
As the city is Mexico’s single most important business hub and center of the media and the government, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most expats in Mexico are living in Mexico City. While exact numbers are hard to come by, it is safe to say that there are sizeable communities to be found living in Mexico City of virtually every nationality from the Americas and Europe, as well as some Asian regions.
Thus, many an expat has chosen life in Mexico City, and chances are that you’ll run into someone who shares your mother tongue. If not, you needn’t worry: English is widely spoken in professional circles, particularly in multinational companies with many expat employees. Nevertheless, you may find it hard to enjoy living in Mexico City to the fullest — or at all, some might argue — if you lack even a basic command of the Spanish language.
Granted, the Spanish spoken by people living in Mexico City differs from that spoken in other parts of the world in terms of both vocabulary and pronunciation. This should not, however, impede communication too much with speakers of other variants. If you already have some understanding of, for instance, castellano as spoken in Spain, you should have no problem communicating with the locals in Mexico City. If, on the other hand, you have to learn the language from scratch, it is probably advisable to attend a school in Mexico, so as to pick up the Mexican variant of Spanish straight away.
The cultural side of life in Mexico City has been greatly influenced by the city’s past: both Aztec and Catholic rituals have stood the test of time and are thriving, if not in everyday life, at least in the form of countless street festivals. The Secretary of Tourism offers an overview of all notable cultural events around the megacity.
Naturally, Mexico City has much more to offer than just traditional festivals. Whether you are a sports nut, a foodie, or a history buff, living in Mexico City is very unlikely to ever grow dull. As the nation’s largest and most significant city, expectations from visitors and locals are of course very high, but Mexico City is up to the task of satisfying them all.
Unsurprisingly, living in the capital is more costly than living outside of it. Numbeo, which has a database comparing prices in cities around the world, records that the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is about 495 USD a month. Outside the city center it would be on average 310 USD a month.
Under certain circumstances, Mexico City can be a very profitable city to live in. For instance, a single ride on the subway costs merely 3 MXN (0,16 USD), and if you do your grocery shopping at the market, you will be able to find fresh, high-quality products without breaking the bank. The dining selection of Mexico City offers something for every taste and budget. On average, a meal in a regular neighborhood amounts to 5 USD. Utilities (water, garbage service, and a reasonable amount of electricity) aren’t expensive either, amounting to around 43 USD a month.
Therefore, how much your living costs in Mexico City will be are really up to you and the way you decide to live. If you choose to live in one of the more fancy boroughs like Polanco, or to shop in luxurious malls, it will not be too easy on your wallet. All in all, as long as you don’t mind taking public transportation, shopping at markets, and not dining in three-star Michelin restaurants, you will be able to live comfortably at a low cost.
In order to get an overview of the average cost of most products and services in Mexico City and to compare them to another city, it is possible to consult the website of Numbeo.
As you might have guessed, Mexico’s capital and largest city is home to some of the finest medical institutions in the country, both in the private and public sector. Your health is in very capable hands here. For a closer look at the public health system in Mexico, please refer to our article on living in Mexico, where you will also find information on how to access the system as an expat.
While life in Mexico City does not pose any particular health hazards by way of local flora and fauna, those of you with respiratory problems might want to think twice about whether Mexico City is actually the right option for relocation. Not only is the city located at an altitude of more than 2,200 meters, but it unfortunately has one of the worst problems with air pollution worldwide.
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