Zagreb, Croatia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/23/09

Personal Experiences from Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia 03/23/09

Background:

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

I've also lived in Singapore and China.

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2. How long have you lived here?

I've lived here for 9 months.

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

No direct flights to U.S., but connections through Paris, Frankfurt and other Europeans cities. With the layovers included, the journey from DC was 15+ hours, I believe.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For U.S. Embassy staff, housing is either north of the city in large and modern houses (for the most part), or south of the city just minutes from the Embassy in brand-new duplexes. All have small yards. There are also a few apartments downtown but I think those are getting sparse. Homes are nice--I'd say 90% I've seen in the Embassy pool are very recently renovated and very clean.

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

Cheap. Locals like to say it's expensive to live in Zagreb, but our grocery bill is very low!American products aren't in abundance, but it's also not like going to an Asian grocery store and not recognizing anything on the shelves.

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

Peanut butter, mayo, American treats and candy, chocolate chips, brown sugar, cereal.

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

The only fastfood they have here is McD's. Cost is the same as in the States (I think--it's been awhile since I've been home).There are a handful of good restaurants, but generally, it's hard to find a really delicious, high-quality meal with good service. There are a lot of so-so joints with crummy service.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

We have an APO.

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

Cleaning ladies are pretty affordable here.

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

Yes, throughout the city.

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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?

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

Catholic, Mormon, Baptist.

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

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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. Most Croats speak EXCELLENT English, especially the younger generation.

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

The sidewalks (when there are any) are either 18 inches wide or else blocked by a car parked on top of it. It's just not handicapped accessible in general, although there are lots of designated handicapped parking spots.

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Transportation:

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

Bus and tram systems are cheap, safe, and easy to use. Taxis aren't cheap.

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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?

Most any car is fine here, although don't attempt to bring a huge SUV!Roads can be narrow and parking is tight. We drive an Odyssey and we're like a gigantic space craft on wheels around here.

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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?

Cost is around US$50/month, I think, or something very affordable like that. Very dependable.

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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?

No.

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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?

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

Conservative and not sloppy. They're pretty trendy but girls are pretty modest in their dress.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate to good. It's perfectly fine here, just as in any other average small U.S. city.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

They follow the same schedule as the States.

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

None. I've walked around alone at night and seen other women also walking alone, and feel very safe. Local friends allow their children to walk a few blocks alone at night, too. Very safe.

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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?

I've heard the hospitals are okay here--but try not to break a bone or slice a finger here! Dental work can be great and it's very afforable.

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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?

Spring and summers are beautiful and mild. Locals claim it's humid mid-summer, but it's really nothing terrible at all. Winters are also mild--it snowed here maybe three times and never stuck around longer than 36 hours.

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Schools & Children:

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

AISZ is really the only option for Americans, and it seems to be good. Not great, but good. Currently it's located in the Northern hills. There are rumors that the '09-'10 schoolyear will be the last in this location, after which it will be moved south of the city very close to the US Embassy.

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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?

There are limited English-speaking preschools: 3 main ones, and the one at AISZ.All are in the Northern hills. AISZ is ridiculously expensive for a preschool that is nothing better than an average preschool you'd find in the States. The other options are also quite expensive (US$350+ for just a few mornings a week, up to almost US$500 for full-day, 5-day programs). These schools are...okay. They are fine, the teachers are fine. But not great for the price. Facilities are VERY small, making the schools not as comfortable and functional as you'd want.

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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?

Pretty small. Other than the Embassy people, there are few Americans here. There are other Europeans here, all with gov't work.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty high. Zagreb is a nice, modern, clean city with nice people and lots of fun travel opportunities.

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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?

If you like to go out, Croats are into hanging out at cafes and just chilling. Pretty laid-back.

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

It's probably moderate for all. I can't speak for singles, but I imagine that if you wanted to date, you could:almost all young Croats speak excellent English and are generally attractive. For families, it's a nice, liveable city, but somewhat lacking in activities for small children. We find it rather boring and the winter months were very dull stuck in the house all day with no place to take the kids. It's also challenging for lack of sidewalks in the neighborhoods.

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

I know several gay expats and they all seem to enjoy Zagreb.

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

I've heard there are racial prejudices here, but I'm Korean and haven't ever had any problems. People are very kind, helpful, hospitable, and sweet to my small children.

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

Maksimir, Bundek, and Jarun are nice large parks for biking, swimming in mand-made lakes (if you're into that), walking. There is a small zoo in Maksimir and several playgrounds in the parks. Other than that, Zagreb is a rather small city with not many things going on. The travel opportunities here are great, though. We are so close to Italy, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia. Even Germany is a feasible drive. Flights are affordable to Paris or London.

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

Not many, actually. I was disappointed at Christmas to find the fairs stocked with things I'd find at Target at home!

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9. Can you save money?

Yes! The only thing that could limit your savings are all the awesome travel opportunities here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I wouldn't do a repeat tour here, but I definitely don't regret coming. My only complaint about Zagreb is that it can be a little boring at times. But it's a very nice place.

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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:

American snacks and foods.

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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:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you're choosing a place based on ease of living, Zagreb is a good choice. It's modern, it's clean, it's safe. Culture is similar to American--there are no shockers when you get here.

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