Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 05/18/16
Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington DC. Ranges from 24-30 hours, depending on connections through the Middle East or Europe
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Almost all housing is apartments. A few people have the first or second floor of a duplex. Commute time to the Embassy ranges from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, but that depends on traffic and it can sometimes take much longer.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find just about anything here. Prices vary depending on where you go. The commissary has become awesome lately, and you can find lots of American stuff there, although it might be expensive. We also rely heavily on Amazon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Carpets, green cleaning supplies, high quality liquor.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Nando's Peri Peri, Pizza Hut, Gloria Jean's, Pizza Roma, and lots of good Indian restaurants (Lucknow, Khazana, Tarka, Roll Express, etc). Other good restaurants include O Kitchen/Holey Bakery (continental/Spanish), Izumi (Japanese), Bistro E (Continental), Turkish Bazaar, Soi 71 (Thai), Bamboo Shoot (Chinese), Goong the Castle (Korean), and some others. Nearly every place delivers. All these restaurants are slightly cheaper than DC prices. You can obviously get inexpensive restaurant food here, but it's better to pay more for quality ingredients.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of mosquitoes (watch out for dengue), ants and the occasional massive cockroach
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available and gloriously inexpensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. There is a gym at the American Club, and at the American International School there is a nice gym and pool which embassy employees and families can use for free. Some of the other expat clubs have yoga, zumba, Muay Thai, etc.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
This is a cash economy.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
RSO forbids use of public transportation.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You can't import vehicles over 5 years old. Right-hand drive Asian vehicles are best.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Fast internet that works with Netflix, Hulu, etc is about US$100/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone and get a SIM card.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No quarantine, vets make house-calls (although quality of vet care isn't the best), no kennels.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
You can work at AISD.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work: Business casual, similar to DC. Public: Men shouldn't wear shorts, women shouldn't wear anything short or revealing.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
YES. ISIL and Al Qaida are both present and active throughout the country, including within Dhaka, even though the Bangladeshi government denies that they are here and blames the murders the opposition party. A USAID LES who was also an LGBT activist was hacked to death last month in his apartment, and extremists are murdering foreigners and people with views different from their own (bloggers, professors, an Italian NGO worker, and others). We cannot stay out past 10PM, we are not allowed to walk outside at all, and our movements are confined to the diplomatic enclave. So, yes, there are special security concerns.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Yes. Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases (no malaria in Dhaka), bad pollution. I would never seek medical care here.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Not good, especially from December to March
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid to hotter, more humid and rainy
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American International School is supposed to be pretty good.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, but most people use an ayah (nanny) rather than daycare.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and morale varies. Some people try to stay happy and some people are Debby Downers.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Entertaining at home, going to restaurants. There is not a wide variety of things to do, but there is something happening every weekend, usually parties and get-togethers.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Honestly, I don't know if Dhaka is good for anyone at this point.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Going on vacation and making good friends within the community
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
We can't go anywhere in Bangladesh besides the diplomatic enclave, which has no "hidden gems," other than some shopping.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Pearls, tailored clothes, antiques, framing, bone china
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving money (although not if you travel a lot), lots of inexpensive pearls and other goods
10. Can you save money?
Yes, but you need to travel out of the country (no in-country travel allowed) to stay sane.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That ISIS and Al Qaida had set up shop and were aggressively expanding.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts and sun dresses.
4. But don't forget your: