Zagreb, Croatia Report of what it's like to live there - 10/16/10

Personal Experiences from Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia 10/16/10

Background:

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

Zagreb was not my first expat experience. I used to live in Russia and before that, in Pakistan. I now live in Amman, Jordan.

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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?

I'm from a small town called Auburn California. Usually from Zagreb, we would get up at around 3 in the morning and take a flight to Frankfurt, then a connecting flight to either Washington D.C. or Chicago and then a third connecting flight to Sacramento.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived in Zagreb for about 9 years. From 1999 to 2008.

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All of the embassy housing is great! Most is in the "Sestine" area and is barely a 5 minute commute to the center. However, the location of the embassy is extremely inconvenient. From Sestine, it would take about 30 minutes to get to 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?

Somewhat expensive, but it is what it is.

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

Peanut butter!

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

There are 100s of GREAT restaurant in the city. Fast food wise, there is McDonalds, Subway (a bit out of the city), numerous Pizza places and a few Kebab whole-in-the-walls around the city. All are reasonably priced.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There is a story called "Bio-Bio" that I would suggest.

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

Nothing, except for the occasional mosquito.

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Daily Life:

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

Things from the States we get through the US Embassy Pouch, but if you are sending or receiving in the country, Croatian mail is reliable.

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

The Embassy will always help you find help. Most is affordable, but I wouldn't say cheap.

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

Yes!

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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?

ATMs are scattered throughout the city and all are relatively safe.

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

There is a nice English, German and French speaking Catholic Church. Although, otherwise I wouldn't know.

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

Croatian TV has a few English speaking channels and they are decent.

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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?

Some. It is not all English speaking, but the younger generation speaks English very well!

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

It would be difficult, because most of the streets are crammed with cars. However most places are wheel-chair accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Trams and buses are affordable and relible, but taxis are expensive and rare to find around the city. Almost 100% of Croatians use trams and buses though, because they are so efficient.

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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?

Best not to have a large car. Something small that can fit into tiny parking spaces is suggested.

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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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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)?

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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?

Not many.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

None at all other than some house break-ins.

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

Hospitals are OK, but most Americans that I know went to Vienna for serious conditions. However dental care is extraordinary!

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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?

The air quality is good. We have never had any problems.

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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?

Beautiful, colorful fall. Long, cold, snowy winter. Hot spring. Scorching summer.

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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 American International School of Zagreb (AISZ), is a pretty good school. It is a Pre-K - 12th Grade school, although only has about 200 students. It is an IB school, so if you have a teenager, it would be good to stay for all 4 high school years. My son, Tommy, started out at AISZ in 1st grade and finished 9th grade there, and we had a great experience. When we first went to Zagreb, my daughter, Adriana, had just turned one. We sent her to a Croatian speaking preschool, because we wanted her to learn the language. She also went to a school called "Kreativni Razvoi" for grades 1-2, which is a very good Croatian speaking school. By the end of that, she was fluent in Croatian and it was a great experience.

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

I knew someone who had an injury and used a wheelchair. AISZ was probably the best school in Zagreb for this, because in an a joint building to the school, there is an elevator, which made it more convenient. However, the school does not have ramps.

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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?

The AISZ preschool is the only English speaking preschool. However, there is a nice Croatian speaking preschool called "Brat Sunca".

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

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Expat Life:

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

Small - 500 people??

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

There is a lot of city life and it is lots of fun.

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

Definitely a GREAT city for all!

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

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

None.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

My favorite times have been just in the city at night. The main square, Trg Bana Jelacic, is a great "hang out" spot.

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

I would definitely recommend hiking Medvjedgrad, skiing in Sljeme, going to the zoo in Maksimir, rollerblading in Maksimir park, ice skating in Salata or swimming at the pool in NoviGrad.

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

Cheese!

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Zagreb is a great tourist location. It has a few museums and the city is beautiful to stroll on. You can also go to the coast for the weekend and have a great time on the beach. My favorite places are Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Are you kidding? OF COURSE!

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

120-volt appliances

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter jacket and skis.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Zagreb has become one of the best places that I have ever lived in or visited and I hope that your experience in Zagreb will be as great as mine!

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