Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 08/06/09

Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh 08/06/09

Background:

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

My third.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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

Affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

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

You can travel either east or west to get here. Either way, it takes at least 30 hours from most places in the Continental U.S.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The spacious housing offers little storage space. The floors are tile. The bathrooms can have some interesting color combinations, and kitchen layouts may be interesting. There is a mix of houses and apartments. All are within 15 minutes of the embassy.

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

In season fruits and vegetables are cheaper. Meats can get more expensive if you are looking for good quality. Shopping at the commissary can get expensive.

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

Not much. We came pretty prepared.

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

Pizza Hut, KFC, and A&W are here. There is also a Nando's. The cost is slightly less than the States. For decent restaurants you can find Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Bangla-Fusion, and Italian. There is a Tex-Mex place, but it's awful. Curry is not a spice that belongs in a taco!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes pose problems here with dengue fever.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch.

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

Very affordable. Most people have at least a part time housekeeper. Many people have a cook, housekeeper/, gardener, and driver. Most wages are between $100-$150 per month per person.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, at the ARA and the American School.

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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?

There are a few ATM machines. Most Mission people use the one located on the embassy compound.

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

Yes, Catholic and protestent.

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

International Herald Tribune. You can get CNN International, BBC, and Al Jazeera-English from cable. Some people have AFN. I'm not sure how they got it.

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

None, but learning the niceties will earn you a smile at the local shops.

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

many. There are no accommodations made with the exception of an elevator and ramp at the embassy.

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Transportation:

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

No.

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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?

Right-hand drive vehicle that you don't mind getting beat up. Driving here is crazy. Something smaller with clearance would be best. The RAV4 seems to work well with the small parking areas and monsoons.

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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?

This depends on what plan you get. It runs between $30-$75.

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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?

Get one.

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Pets:

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?

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

There are a few decent vets but no kennels. Embassy personnel are very helpful in watching each other's animals.

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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?

Yes. Many NGOs are here. Numerous expats have found rewarding jobs. Lots of spouses work at the embassy, too.

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

Conservative. The embassy used to be business casual. I've seen more suits lately.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very unhealthy. Burning trash is a way of life here. The congested city only adds its vehicular exhaust to the air. In the monsoon season, the air is less polluted. However, without the rain to cleanse the air, so to speak, it gets very, very dirty.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Lots of riots. While they are generally not targeted towards Westerners, they can get out of hand quickly. Also, crime has risen dramatically in the last few months in the diplomatic enclave area including break-ins of resident's homes, beatings, and muggings. It's a big city, with big city problems.

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

Lots of stomach and respiratory problems. The Med Unit is great. There are a few hospitals that can tend to minor issues, but larger problems get medevaced.

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

From March to October it is hot and muggy. Monsoons can cool it off, but only momentarily. From October to February, it is warm. You should bring a light jacket for evenings during the cooler months.

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Schools & Children:

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

The school is excellent. The teachers are good; curriculum is good; facilities are excellent. It seems better in the elementary school than in the high school.

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

I have heard they do make accommodations.

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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?

n/a

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Swimming, soccer, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

medium

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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?

Mostly in homes, restaurants or at the Club.

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3. Morale among expats:

This completely depends on the person and (from my viewpoint) the office they work in. There are people who are deliriously happy here, while others would get on the next flight if they could.

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

Hm. It can be. I think families with school-age children do the best. Couples are problably next as long as the spouse has meaningful employment. Singles probably have the toughest time.

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

I don't think so. There is a small scene, but this is a very conservative society. If you are bringing your partner, you'll probably be ok.

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

Yes, yes, and yes. Those who are Hindu occasionally bear the brunt of religious violence. Men are deferred to. If you are a young woman, you will have to work extra hard if you are in a position of authority.

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

Lots of sports activities. Lots of day trips to a variety of temples. Riverboat rides. Trips to Kolkata, Sylhet and the Sundarbans.

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

Embroidered items, silks, Royal Doulton China (there is a factory here).

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you travel out of Dhaka a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. This is more to do with the work environment than Dhaka itself. Dhaka is difficult but doable.

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

Parka, new car, new appliances (the inconsistent power fries electronics).

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3. But don't forget your:

Rain boots, mosquito repellant.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Slumdog Millionaire. It was not filmed in Dhaka, but it has a similar feeling.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

You can have a nice life in Dhaka if you so choose. The cost of goods and services are inexpensive, and most of the Bengalis are gracious and warm.

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