Flanked by mountains on the high-elevation Valley of Mexico sits Mexico City, the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. With over 21 million inhabitants, it represents the largest metropolitan area in the Western hemisphere. The dwindling canals of the beautiful southern Xochimilco district are a stark reminder of Mexico City’s geographical heritage. The city, for the most part, rests in the empty basin of Lake Texcoco. Over-extraction of the underlying aquifer caused the city to subside a staggering 9 meters throughout the 20th century. Today, its treasured monuments are visibly sinking.
In Mexico City, pockets of awe-inspiring beauty often juxtapose with the jangling crush of modernity. This booming metropolis literally pulses with energy, making you soar to heights one minute and crash with exhaustion the next. You will undoubtedly find, among Mexico City’s many varied and reasonably priced neighborhoods, the perfect landing pad. However, heavy traffic congestion is a compelling reason to live near where you work. Explosive growth in the latter part of the 20th century resulted in sprawling shantytowns and “marginal zones.” These have placed considerable pressure on the city’s infrastructure. However, architects and urban planners have begun rolling out a plan to restore the local lakes, aimed at alleviating subsidence and groundwater pollution problems. Separately, the government has instigated a series of rigorous measures to tackle air pollution.
Mexico City is a vibrant overlay of far-flung, ancient and modern cultures. Against a backdrop of Aztec temple ruins, Baroque cathedrals and modern icons, there is never a dull moment in this emerging Alpha city.
What is special or unique about your city?
Mexico City is truly one of the most interesting and diverse cities in the world. As the third-largest city in the world and home to approximately 25 million people, it is very much alive and is constantly growing. From slums to mansions, street markets to modern shopping malls, and corner taco stands to elegant restaurants, Mexico City offers both ends of the spectrum and anywhere in between. Each day, nearly 1,000 people move from the underdeveloped countryside to the city, making growth and development evident.
Mexico City's oldest buildings are constantly being renovated and you will find construction on almost every city block. Mexico City is known as the “City of Palaces” due to the numerous chapels, cathedrals and old government buildings that can be seen throughout the city.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
In most cases, newcomers find Mexico City to be an exciting city filled with growth and cultural complexity, making the city very fascinating. Mexico City is not the violent, arid desert dotted by cacti so often portrayed by Hollywood. Neither is it the beachside paradise many foreigners imagine it to be. Modern Mexico City has deep roots in ancient civilizations that were established well before the
Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century; and the mix with indigenous American cultures has made it the unique and intriguing city it is now.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Typically these impressions do not change, but as the city becomes more modernized, it’s possible that impressions can change, too.
What is the local language?
Spanish is the official and most commonly used language in Mexico City. English is spoken as well, but usually by the minority who have a higher-level education.
Most fine-dining restaurants and other similar public places will have a bilingual host or representative. Some speakers speak a blend of Spanish and English, often referred to as “Spanglish.”
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Not knowing Spanish could make it difficult to communicate with the locals. However, after a while, the common phrases will become second nature to you and communication will get much easier. The locals are very warm and friendly and they typically jump at the chance to provide assistance. Many people in management and executive positions are bilingual, so we encourage patience and suggest you try to find the right person to speak with.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Tips on how to avoid offending residents of Mexico City:
First names are generally reserved for family and close friends.
- When addressing people in Mexico, the following titles are appropriate:
- Mr. = Señor, Mrs. = Señora and Miss = Señorita
- Most Mexicans have two surnames, consisting of the father's surname followed by the mother's surname
- Avoid using the Lord's name in vain because this is considered deeply offensive, especially when in public
- Use your index finger rather than your whole hand when indicating "height;" using the whole hand represents the height of an animal
- Mexicans are very open about their families and private lives and they will expect you to be the same
- Mexicans enjoy discussions on Mexican history and culture, family, jobs and sports. Avoid subjects on religion, illegal immigration and Mexican politics.
- Don't be alarmed if you are greeted with a hug by the second or third meeting
- Mexican men are warm, friendly and may initiate friendly physical contact
- Remember to use phrases such as "por favor" (please) when you need something or "gracias" (thanks) when you are given something which is courteous and polite
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The climate in Mexico City varies from tropical to desert. Sitting one mile above sea level, it’s enough to make many people breathless for the first few days after arrival. In general, it is a dry city, though in the summer it rains most afternoons, causing it to become humid. Although there is a fair amount of rain in October and November, the months of September to mid-May are the most enjoyable. The month of May is the hottest month, just before the cooling rain starts. In the winter months, Mexico City is typically chilly in the early mornings and evenings. Summer temperatures get quite steamy. The average temperature year-round is mid-70s (F) with nights in the mid-60s (F).
It is recommended that you keep a sweater and umbrella handy all times of the year.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Mexico City expresses the best and worst of Mexico. Known for 3,000 years of human cultural achievement, this city is like an enormous living museum. It is one of the world's great capitals and, in our opinion, one of the best places to be.
Just like other big cities, there are some neighborhoods that are not safe. Be sure to avoid unlit areas at night and seek safety in numbers, and you will be just fine!