Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina Report of what it's like to live there - 12/17/08
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?
As a family yes, but I lived alone in India, Venezuela, Norway and Malaysia before.
2. How long have you lived here?
1.5 years now.
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Partner of a diplomat.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
From almost every destination, you need a transfer in Vienna, Zagreb or another airport nearby.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Appartments and houses. Many families with children find a house with a (small) garden or balcony.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Exotic spices and curry-pastes. Presents for children/babies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
No. American fastfood chains here but a lot of cevapi (sausages) and burek (meatpie) places. Nice!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The local mail works ok, packages are treated in the best socialist manner with many officials putting stamps on lots of forms.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3 to 5 euro an hour. Most have a cleaninglady twice a week (the smog makes everything black) and a babysitter whenever necessary.
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?
ATMs are everywhere. All mayor creditcards are accepted.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Basics. Some do without but I think it is nice to at least know how to buy things at the marked. Don't expect many Bosnians to speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
A lot, no side walks, a lot of holes and poles where you don't expect them etc.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
On the right side.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are cheap and convenient. You never have to wait for more than 3 minutes.
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?
Some people prefer small cars because the garages are small and roads in the old town narrow. Others prefer SUVs because of the mountains, bad roads and unpredictable drivers.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is available, the quality differs.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Have one, pre-paid cards are everywhere.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
I use skype.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & 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?
Not much. Unemployment in B&H is high. There is plenty of qualified staff available, who speak foreign and domestic languages.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work a suit is standard.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Last winter was very very unhealthy, due to the massive use of wood and lignite for heating. In January people were advised to stay inside because of the bad air. This winter is ok so far. Spring is not good for people with allergies, summer is no problem. Asthmatic people (children) better avoid the city or should choose a house high up in the mountains.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Non really. The rate of small crime is lower then in the EU. It is safe on the streets, even late at night. Houses usually have fences and are secured by an alarm company.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Most go to Vienna or home for anything medical. Dentists are good. Giving birth is a drama, so is hospitalisation in general. Better not get ill. Smog/pollution can be a big issue. Smoking is a national hobby and allowed everywhere (even in the ER). If you have asthma you will have a hard time almost everywhere.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Cold winters (except this one), hot summers. Spring and autumn are great. Quick changes of weather. Within 4 days it can change from +34 C to +3 C
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The QSI and the French school get good critiques by parents. However, there are only a few high-school students here. The options for childen in that age-group are limited.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Nothing as far as I know.
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 2 Montessori pre-schools a lot of expats send their children to. People seem not too satisfied with the old one. The new one is very popular at the moment. My oldest goes to "Jabuka" a Waldorf kindergarden. We are very happy with that one. QSI is said to have a good one as well. Nanny's are available at 5 euro an hour more or less. If you subscribe to the babygroup newsletter you will get all the information you need about schools, babysits, pediatricians etc. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Big if you take into account that is a small city (300.000 inhabitants). B&H still has a strong international presence, involved in governance and security of the country.
2. Morale among expats:
Good. Lots of dinner-parties etc. In winter time people may become a little depressed because of the lack of sunshine. You do need to get out every now and than.
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?
Nice, but you will have to do it yourself. There are restaurants but choice is limited, no clubs (beside the IWC). Some started home-restaurants, playing sport together, pub quizes, gluhweincontests and karaoke-nights etc make it fun.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For singles and couples yes (think skiing, hiking, going to the coast for lunch, travelling around). Many families are satisfied as well. I personally had a hard time adjusting at first. The smog is terrible for babies, no side walks and in winter some streets (ours) are not cleaned from snow (up to 50 centimeters) so you are basicly stuck at home.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Many people do not accept open display of homosexuality. Last years "queer-festival" ended up in a disaster, even though it was nothing more then a photo-exhibition in an art-gallery and some lectures . The organisation had to stop the activities because of violence.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Many (that's probably why you are here) but not in daily life. Most people take religion very relaxed and not too strict.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Skiing, sleighing, hiking (with a guide or in known safe areas because of landmines), Croatian coast, dinner parties, rafting.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No. The pollution in combination with communistic architecture and the war that is still visible everywhere make it a depressing place, especially in winter when a blanket of smog covers the shelled appartmentbuildings. This makeseverything grey and brown. Unhealthy (especially for small children).
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
"Sarajevo my love" (Grbavica), "no mans land" and "warriors."
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
7. Do you have any other comments?
Be aware to face war. Both in the surroundings: mines, burned down houses and apartment buildings as in the people: depression, aggression, trauma and unresolved issues. The political situation does not help, with a strong focuss on ethnicity in stead of transformation and the road ahead.