Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 11/20/08

Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh 11/20/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

5 years (1994-1999).

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Cross the Atlantic.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Married to a Bengali national. Raising a cross-cultural family, working in development as an editor, consultant.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Can't comment. I lived with the extended family, and didn't have to think about this much. My sister lived with a group of Fulbright scholars, however, in Gulshan, and though it was pricy, it seemed to go well.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Imported goods are available for an arm and a leg. More and more department stores available, however, with more reasonably priced items.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

More and more, western-style restaurants are available. They have trouble duplicating textures and flavors we expect, but when those cravings strike, it will do.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

You can send letters in the mail. Just figure on a couple weeks for it to get there.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I was able to open a dollar account, but only with the help of an employer. I opened a taka account with an ATM.This was a fine experience.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Learn as much as you can. They'll love you for it.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots of difficulties.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Drive on left side of road.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Never rode trains, though it sounds interesting. Buses are pretty good, though you will need to wait in lines. All kinds of motorized and petal-power taxis and rickshaws available and safe if you have some language and coaching.

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3. 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?

Traffic is terrible. Better to pay someone else to drive for you. Also, emblems and parts are stolen off your car if you don't put someone in charge of looking out after it. Leave your car at home.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

This is a tricky question. A work permit is something that is technically required. I didn't get one, and found work. But I think I was lucky.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It's always good to honor a host country. Dress modestly when you are in the street, but don't forget to bring your shorts and spandex for when you are among expats.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy in central Dhaka.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Blend in. Follow your gut. Bengalis generally love foreigners, so don't be afraid.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Quality of health care available is fine. The US Embassy has a medical unit with anything you might need for common stuff. There are also practitioners with ancient healing knowledge of varying quality. You should check this out as well. Eirveidic, homeopathic, herbs, Chinese Medicine, etc.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Monsoon, hot, chilly, damp.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American International School/Dhaka. I worked two years as the high school secretary. Good school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Pay more and get a local individual that comes highly recommended.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large expat community. At the Embassy, you can ask for the DAWC directory with contact numbers for expats, along with maps and all kinds of other useful information.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Some love it. Some are counting days until they leave. Still others are shut down, emotionally.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

International clubs, weddings. Hook up with the DAWC for the expat events: Dances, Yard Sales, Bazaars, caroling at the ambassador's house, etc.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Probably better for singles, depending on your objectives.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Possibly, depending on objectives.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, but not overt.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tea with the locals, take a boat trip with a fisherman and his family. Visit a village and stay with a family. Interview college students. Watch children play. Eat food produced by recommended street vendors. Learn the language from laborers. Go to a healer.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Saraya's Silk Tapestries, Scarfs, Wicker Items, Nok Shikatha.

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9. Can you save money?

Possibly.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

Electrical adaptors.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Up and coming Title: Tahole: The Politics of Love, by me.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Up and coming Title: Tahole: The Politics of Love, by me.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Good luck to you!!

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