Elizabeth and David Glidden loved their urban lifestyle in Washington, D.C., but agreed it was time to see the world while they were still young. And the world they were looking for was big city life in Mexico City.
“I had this crazy idea of living abroad because I did not have that experience in college,” said Elizabeth Glidden, “and I wanted to learn Spanish. Then my husband got a job that allowed him to live anywhere. We considered Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile, but we looked at a map and thought Mexico City looked great. We had never been to Mexico City or Mexico before. We hopped on a plane last October, came for two-and-a-half days to make sure we weren’t crazy and really liked it.”
Self-acknowledged “super planners,” they thoroughly researched Mexico City, rented their home in D.C., placed their belongings in storage, packed their suitcases and flew to Mexico City in February to start their new life as expats in Mexico.
The couple, both 29, met while attending George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. Elizabeth was born in Virginia and raised in Yorktown, less than three hours south of the U.S. capital. David grew up in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and spent a year in Spain during high school. He graduated eight years ago with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and a minor in Spanish. After receiving her undergraduate degree in human services, Elizabeth went on to get a master’s in public health.
“I worked nearly five years for the American Cancer Society in a local hospital, helping high-need patients,” she said. “I felt, though, like I had hit a professional ceiling not knowing any Spanish.”
David worked first for an international law firm and then developed an idea with a friend for a DC metro system app. That got him into the tech industry where he now works.
“I work for Theorem,” he said, “which is a product and software company that has a lot of large brands in the U.S. as clients. We build or rebuild software and provide consulting services.”
The job is a perfect fit for their new lifestyle in one of the world’s largest cities. David works out of an office in a high-rise in Mexico City’s financial district and returns to the U.S. only when he has client meetings he must attend.
“I leased office space on the 40th floor and have great views of the city,” he said. “I could have worked out of our apartment, but I wanted to be part of the community where I work. I’ve gone to a couple of evening meet-ups with various people I’ve met in my office building and really enjoyed them.”
The couple hired an expat rental agent who found them an 800 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment in Cuauhtémoc, which is just north of Paseo de la Reforma in the heart of Mexico City.
“Expat magnets Roma and Condesa also are located in Cuauhtémoc municipality,” Elizabeth said. “Our area is more in the financial district and provides a good mix because during the week it is busy, but the weekends are very quiet. Then it’s just neighborhood families. I don’t hear English spoken in our neighborhood, but you hear English in Roma and Condesa because of the number of expats who live there. We originally wanted to live in that area, but our place is closer to David’s office and less expensive.”
They pay US$1,200 a month for their well-located apartment, steep by comparison with other expat centers in Mexico or the suburbs of Mexico City. Not having to deal with the hassle of commuting into work each day makes it worthwhile, though.
Elizabeth is making new friends through the Spanish class she is taking and meeting some of the people in her building, which is helping the couple integrate socially and culturally.
“We spend all weekend out and about just seeing as much as we can of Mexico City,” she said. “I have a growing list of things to do and see. We love trying new food and this is the place to do it. I have a growing list of restaurants I want to try. We can go to a super nice restaurant that would cost US$100 in DC, but pay only US$25 here. We like street food the best. There are taco stands on every corner and the whole city smells like fried corn. It’s really a nice thing. And for everyday shopping needs, we go to local food markets and only shop at supermarkets for specific items we can’t find elsewhere.”
In general, the couple believes their cost of living is about 60 percent less than their former home town of Washington, D.C.
“Transportation is less expensive than we anticipated,” Elizabeth said. “Rent has been a little higher, but it just depends upon the neighborhood and if you want your place furnished or unfurnished. We opted for furnished since we stored our furniture before we left for Mexico City. Food is a tricky one because we eat out often. Our food budget is higher than we anticipated, about US$400 a month.”
Although Elizabeth and David are planners, determining their health insurance needs took a while to figure out. They finally opted for the Cigna Global Plan, which allowed them to find a policy tailored for young and healthy expats. They pay just US$260 per month for both of them.
“It’s basically just hospital coverage,” Elizabeth said. “If there is an emergency, we will be covered. The cost for basic preventative care here is so inexpensive it just did not make sense to pay for insurance to cover that. We’ll just pay out-of-pocket when we need to go to the doctor or dentist.”
Both think there is a lot to love about Mexico City. Their love for food takes the top spot, but the city’s benign climate and overall much lower cost of living are real contenders.
“We love being outdoors and enjoying the city,” they agreed. “No need for air-conditioning, and Mexico City’s year-round, spring-like climate allows us to always be out and about exploring new places.”
Importantly, given perceptions that Mexico City is unsafe, Elizabeth and David said they feel very safe living and working in this city of 22 million people.
“We feel very safe here, which is a question we get asked a lot,” Elizabeth said. “We feel it is just as safe, if not safer, than back home.”
They offered this final piece of advice for aspiring expats thinking about a new life in Mexico: “I think for anyone thinking about moving to Mexico, you have to be sure you’re willing to take on the culture and life of where you are moving to or it might be a waste of your money,” Elizabeth said. “Part of the fun and experience of being an expat is taking on a new culture and embracing everything, not sticking to your old ways.”