Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina Report of what it's like to live there - 05/26/16
Personal Experiences from Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. We have lived in Brussels, the Hague, and have done multiple tours in Germany.
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?
Seattle, WA. Sarajevo has very limited flights, as it's a small airport. Typical flight goes to Vienna, or Munich then east coast U.S.
3. How long have you lived here?
We have lived in Sarajevo for 26 months.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Government working at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
This is a VERY small city. Long commutes are rare. We lived in the Skenderija area and I could be at the embassy inten minutes, walking or driving. We had a duplex, however there are many single family homes and really amazing apartments.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Super cheap and you can get just about anything.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Some specialty food items.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The food here is amazing.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Nannies and housekeepers are everywhere and the going rate is 10 Bosnian marks per hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They US embassy has a very small gym. There is a great CrossFit gym (CrossFit Sarajevo) that has all classes in English. There are also a few other gyms located in the shopping centers.
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 society. We use our ATM cards to get cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, there are Catholic, Jewish and non-denominational services in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
We had language training and I use it everyday. However, English is spoken by pretty much everyone under 30.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Lots of stairs, parking on sidewalks, no lifts....
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Train, tram and buses are not recommended due to safety issues. Taxis are everywhere, reliable and cheap.
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?
We have a small SUV and have done well with it. We know people with big cars, small cars, vans and everything in between. There are some very small narrow roads in the city, but we take a taxi when we are going to those areas.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Not really "high" speed" but it's cheap.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There's one company.... use it.
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. The veterinary care is great here.
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?
No. There is no bilateral work agreement.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I know several people who volunteer at the local dog shelters.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work is very formal. The US embassy is not a casual place. The public is also pretty dressy as a whole. I can't go to the store in my workout clothes without a lot of dirty looks.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Eh, maybe. There is a local guard force that works with the US embassy. U.S. embassy houses (and most homes) have bars on windows and reinforced doors. Violent crime is low here, it mostly theft. In the 26 months we've been here we know four people who have had their homes broken into. And our car window was smashed (right outside the police station!) last summer.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The air quality. Local healthcare is a joke. You need to pay some bribes and you can get a good doctor. There are some good private clinics. I have an excellent OB/GYN here, she's in private practice. The U.S. Embassy has a medical unit with a resident Regional Medical Officer and pediatrician.
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?
HORRIBLE! Honestly, this is our biggest issue with this post. The winter is bad. Sarajevo sits in a bowl of sorts with mountains on all side and very little wind. The air is so bad in the winter, you are not able to see the car in front of you when you're driving. We couldn't see the street from our house (that sits right on the road). Summer is better. Everyone smokes here, and smokes everywhere. The grocery store, the mall, the doctors office, everywhere. This is not a runners town, and not a place where you want to come if you have any respiratory issues.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Weather is very similar to D.C. Hot summers, cold winters with a lot of snow.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is a branch of Quality Schools International, which is the largest international school. We don't have experience there, as we have pre-school age kiddos. Most people with small kids are very happy with QSI. The school lacks a lot of what older kids need, and a lot of high school kids are in boarding schools in Europe. There is also an excellent French school and a German school. The other option is Blooming Child, it's a K-12 Montessori School all in English.
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?
There are a lot of excellent preschools in Sarajveo. We have experience with The Montesorri House (both locations) and only have good things to say!
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?
Very small community and excellent morale in the summer, not so much in the winter. The air is really bad and it puts us all in a funk.
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?
Great restaurants and bars.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a great post for people with small kids! Lots of our single friends are also very happy here.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Eh.... I think its a middle of the road place when it comes to this. We have a significant number of gay and lesbian friends and they seem to do well here, but I can only imagine that Sarajevo may not be the most open and understanding place.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Women have a long way to go in Bosnia, not unlike the rest of this area. If you know any history at all about the former Yugoslavia then you know this region has had decades of problems with religious and ethnic divides.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The skiing on the Olympic Mountains. I learned to ski here and have absolutely loved the experience. Secondly, the Bosnian people are amazing. For a population that has been through so much, they somehow remain kind, open, and welcoming.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Outdoor activities. Skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Copper, wood carvings, carpets.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving Money!!!! The cost of living is dirt cheap here. As lots of people say, Croatia is the best thing about Sarajevo! The Croatian coast is amazing and a 4-5 hour drive. It's an awful drive on a two-lane, curvy road up and down mountains... but the coast is amazing!
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I would have realized that this is not Europe. I think I was expecting Europe, and this is not. It's a different kind of beautiful, but not at all what I expected.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Extra furniture. Houses are small and the General Services Office (GSO) will not take back furniture from your home.
4. But don't forget your:
Winter gear, snow tires, and air purifiers.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
The Fall Of Yugoslavia