Pristina, Kosovo Report of what it's like to live there - 09/21/12

Personal Experiences from Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina, Kosovo 09/21/12

Background:

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

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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?

Overnight flights from U.S. east coast to Vienna, then 90 minutes to Pristina.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor was affiliated with the U.S. Government and lived in Pristina from 2009 to 2011, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments, mostly without yards. All within walking distance to the Embassy and a slightly long-ish walk to the city center (or a very quick taxi ride).

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

Decent for both. Produce is mostly seasonal and delicious. You can get slightly more expensive produce out-of-season. Several European brands of cleaning supplies, etc. are available.

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

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

There are no internationally known fast food franchises, but lots of fast food is available from small vendors. There are more decent restaurants than you'd expect, due to the large international presence.

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

I don't recall any major problems. Houseflys, ants, mosquitoes as expected, but no huge roach or other issues.

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Daily Life:

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

The Embassy has DPO service. International mail is best done via DHL or the like.

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

Available - pricing varies by frequency of service and whether you require an English speaker or are okay with Albanian, Serbian or Gorani.

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

The U.S. Embassy has a decent on-site gym. There were a couple of small gyms in the city that non-USG expats used and seemed to be pleased with.

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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?

I used both and never had too much trouble, although the availability of ATMs was limited.

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

Yes, I know Christian services were held, but am unsure of exact denomination.

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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?

Some courtesies are always appreciated, but many people get by on English.

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

Many. Nothing is wheelchair accessible, including the USG facilities.

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Transportation:

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

Yes to all, though the buses are not really that convenient. The taxis were so cheap I never used the bus.

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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?

Streets are narrow, so a big SUV is definitely out. A sedan is fine for 90% of what you will do. If you want to get out into the really rural areas, something with higher ground clearance is good. RAV-4 and Outbacks were popular. Parking is a hassle in the city.

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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?

Yes, you can get wired or wi-fi at home for a reasonable price. Service is pretty good.

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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?

Service is good and not too pricey.

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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)?

I'm told there is at least one decent vet. There are lots of feral dogs and cats wandering around.

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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?

Definitely.

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

Business dress is the norm for office attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are still sporadic episodes of ethnic unrest but it's calmed down a lot. No major concerns on street crime, although a friend's apartment was broken into when he was at work and his computer/tv stolen.

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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?

Anyone with respiratory issues would be miserable in the winters.

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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?

Very unhealthy in winter. Lignite coal is the main fuel used, and the smell and pollution are very bad. It's much better in summer.

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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?

Continental. Four seasons, with snow in winter. Most streets are not plowed, so you should bring tire chains...and YakTrax for your boots --- the cobblestones get very slippery.

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Schools & Children:

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

None available at the time, though I hear that's changing.

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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?

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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?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Decent, though in winter it goes downhill b/c of the pollution.

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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?

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

Probably better for couples than singles - most of the singles had a difficult time trying to date locally. But still plenty of stuff to do, though nightlife options are limited.

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

Kosovars are still homophobic, but there is a large international community so the gay community seemed to be OK.

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

Yes, still some problems with race issues. A little bit with gender too.

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

Visiting some of the Serbian Orthodox monasteries - they are beautiful.

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

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

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

The Albanian majority Kosovars genuinely love Americans and are very welcoming. The ethnic Serb population is a little less pleased but still very welcoming. Summers are very pleasant, and there are many outdoor activities, including hiking. There isn't a lot to do or see culturally, but it's also easy to get to Greece adn Macedonia by car for a weekend, and by air to many other European destinations.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it was definitely worthwhile, and I felt like I was making a difference. But I was definitely ready to leave.

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

Yard stuff.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, board games, snow tires and boots.

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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?

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