Mexico

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail can be received at the Peace Corps office through the Mexican postal system. Mail from the U.S. to Mexico takes about 10 days and from Mexico to the U.S. takes about twice as long. Mailing Address:  

(Your name)
Peace Corps/Mexico
Av. Universidad Oriente 202
Colonia San Javier 76020
Querétaro, Querétaro Mexico. 

Telephones

Mexico has good cellphone and regular telephone coverage throughout most of the country. While you are in pre-service training you will be provided a local cellphone to use for local and international calls. At the end of the three month training, you will have the option to buy the cellphone provided to you from the Peace Corps or purchase your own. It typically depends on your site and whether the same service is available. For international calls, most Volunteers use Skype or another VOIP. If you own a phone in the U.S. that uses SIM cards, you may consider taking it to Mexico where you can buy a local SIM card.

Internet

Mexico has a well-developed Internet system and Internet cafes are very accessible. In the larger cities, there are also locations with wireless access available to the public. The training center has two public computers available for trainees’ use. Please consider purchasing insurance for any devices that you bring to country.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training, all trainees live with host families within a 45-minute walking distance of the training center. Living with a host family is a fundamental element of culture and language immersion. It also helps enrich each trainee’s cultural knowledge and understanding, adaptation process, safety and security, and helps trainees to improve their language skills. The Peace Corps has certain requirements for family selection, but you can expect to live comfortably but modestly. The families where trainees stay have been highly rated by previous trainees or students. After swearing in and moving to their sites, Volunteers are again required to live with a family for at least three months. By doing this, Volunteers create a local network, become secure and better adapt to their sites. After three months, Volunteers typically look for their own housing within the security guidelines and rental budget established by the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps will provide you with a settling-in allowance to buy basic furniture and household items. Volunteer sites are located in a variety of medium- to large-sized cities and towns, in addition to small rural communities in central Mexico. The electric current is 110/120 volts. All electric appliances used in the United States will function well in Mexico.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

While the Mexican diet revolves around meat, beans, chiles, corn salsas, moles, dairy products, and fruit, it is much more diverse and varies greatly depending on the time of year, region of the country, budget. Regional variation in dishes is common and you should explore the Mexican cuisine! Vegetarians can easily find their food supplies, even though vegetarianism is uncommon. The training and host families are informed of food preferences (e.g., vegetarians) and any known allergies. It is important to respect your host family’s budget by buying any preferred tastes, brands, or special food within your own budget, as these may be imported and out of the range of your host family’s budget. In most cities you can now find a wide range of prepared and international dishes. In every Mexican neighborhood, you’ll notice that the ubiquitous taco stands provide a wide range of fast food that is hard to pass up and attracts people of all ages. If you want to start getting into the most common of Mexican foods one can find just about anywhere, you can look up information for tortillas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, gorditas, tamales and many more, varying by name and by region.

Transportation

During Pre-service training, trainees mainly prefer to walk from home to the Peace Corps office, although they can choose to use public transportation (usually small buses). Most Volunteers primarily use public transportation to commute to work and for weekend excursions in their sites. Volunteers living in downtown areas tend to prefer walking; it is often quicker to walk than to drive. In some cases, host agencies provide shuttle bus transportation to and from work for their employees. In other cases, Volunteers obtain rides with colleagues or friends. Several Volunteers have bicycles, but these are used mainly for recreation and running errands and not for commuting to and from work. (Note: Helmet use when biking is mandatory for all Peace Corps Volunteers.) Cheap taxis are common in all urban areas. Mexico has an excellent system of intercity first-class buses and second-class buses are used to travel to every secondary city in the country. Airline travel, although somewhat expensive, is a viable option for long-distance travel. Volunteers are not permitted to own cars or motorcycles. With prior authorization of the country director, the use of rental vehicles for vacation travel may be permitted.

Social Activities

You will find a diversity of cultural ways of life and behaviors, but there are some common features. For most Mexicans, their social lives revolve around their families and, to a lesser extent, friends and life events. Family commitments take up a lot of the “free” time. Volunteers assigned to large and culturally diverse cities will find no shortage of social activities in which to participate. Activities in the larger cities include restaurants, movies, plazas (zocalos), theater, concerts, fairs, open-air markets, religious celebrations, classes, organized trips to other locations, and sports. Volunteers sometimes struggle to make acquaintances with similar interests. One should be proactive and try to make friends through work and recreational activities. Volunteers assigned to rural areas or smaller cities will often find that social life can be even more centered around family. As a result, extra efforts should be made to integrate into different social circles to ensure a balance in one’s life and to learn about different lifestyles and cultural norms. You should be proactive, but watch carefully, as you will find important differences related to gender, dress code, social interaction, etc. Give yourself some time to observe in order to learn more about the culture.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

As Peace Corps Volunteers in Mexico, how you dress and your appearance will say a lot about you as a professional, as a U.S. American, and as a representative of the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps/Mexico’s Dress Guidance for Trainees

  • Footwear: Casual leather and business casual shoes for men are the norm, while women wear flats, heels, dress sandals, open-toed shoes, oxfords, and more. Tennis shoes, casual sandals (i.e. Chaco-type), and flip-flops are not appropriate.
  • Tops: No T-shirts, tank tops, or see-through shirts/blouses • Bottoms: Dress slacks, khakis, knee-length skirts, and capris are fine. Denim is fine as long as there are no rips or contrasting washes. Mini-skirts, shorts, yoga pants, and athletic/gym clothes are not appropriate. 
  • Body art (i.e. tattoos, piercings, ear plugs, gauges, etc.) is not uncommon in Mexico but might not be considered appropriate. Visible tattoos may draw unwanted attention or pose a challenge to your integration process due to negative associations/stereotypes some people attach to tattoos. Peace Corps/Mexico strongly recommends that during pre-service training and the first weeks/months in your site you should be prepared to cover tattoos. Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) are not generally accepted in professional settings.