Beirut, Lebanon Report of what it's like to live there - 07/11/16

Personal Experiences from Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon 07/11/16

Background:

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

No, this is my second post. First post was a country where families were not allowed to accompany.

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2. How long have you lived here?

A couple of years.

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

Spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

An apartment with a generator that runs 24/7 because the electricity is cut off throughout the day and night. Yes, it's 2016 but most apartments (no houses) have generators where you are allowed a certain amount of amps, I had 30amps but I knew Lebanese locals who got by with FIVE! Get used to keeping a running track of which appliances are turned on and don't be surprised when you go to blow dry your hair and you blow a fuse. Bring flashlights, my favorite is the one you can buy off eBay for $2 from China that doesn't need batteries.


Commute to certain areas may be 25-30 minutes to go 12 miles.

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

If you aren't living on a budget you probably won't care that most American household items sold at Spinney's (American style grocery store WITH American items) are double to triple the price depending on what you are buying. I am a foodie and cooking is my hobby. You can buy pretty much anything you can think of from Spinney's, with that said, please make note that you may see Tampons, Doritos, or Fritos, and then BAM! all of a sudden they will disappear for three months- keep a stockpile.


Items available at Spinney's:


-Philadelphia Cream Cheese (also cheaper cream cheeses available such as "Puck" which is not bad and about US$3)

-Bagels (from America and when they are about to expire they go on sale and have a sticker with the new price)

-Oscar Meyer Bacon (also goes on sale when about to expire) Thick cut, maple, center cut, etc.

-Root Beer (cans)

-Cool Whip

-Activia

-Baking supplies (McCormick items available)

-Boxed baking mixes

-Sour Cream

-Tostito's Salsa/Queso dip in a jar

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

-Tampons! The size and style you need may not be available, for example, at Spinneys they have regular or heavy flow, never seen light available. OUCH!

-Bring any clothing you think you may need, clothing/shoes are expensive here and quality is compromising

-Gifts, Toys, bring what you can, you will pay triple here

-Cereal (American cereal is about US$8 per box)

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

Restaurants are everywhere and have pretty good quality. There are wonderful Lebanese restaurants, sushi, Italian, and some American restaurants that are similar to Applebee's.

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

No malaria, no dengue, no yellow fever, this is one nice thing about living here.

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Daily Life:

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

As U2 would say, this is a place where the, "streets have no name." Do not expect to mail anything from here, and if someone sense you something you'll pay a lot at customs. DHL is available if you're desperate but I have no idea what it would cost...

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

Domestic help is priced based on the race of the person. Filipinos are the most expensive because they speak English, Bengali are usually the cheapest at US$5. Domestic workers are taken everywhere: grocery stores to push the cart, church to watch the kids, birthday parties to watch kids, out to eat to watch the kids, pretty much everywhere and they sit in the back of the car. From what I have seen, they are not treated very well in general.

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

Saint George USG (Roman Catholic) has an English mass on Sundays. The priest is American, and 95% of the parishioners are Filipino and welcoming.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

People told me that the Lebanese speak English, but I found this only to be true for highly educated Lebanese, and the younger generation(s). Hair stylists, taxi drivers, and some waiters will speak English. Hair cuts are cheaper here, but I've found the stylists here do NOT listen to what you want, they do what they want and what they think will look good.

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

YES! It's difficult for someone without physical disabilities. You can absolutely not come if you have physical limitations. There are NO side walks and the whole country is hilly. I've actually never seen a person in a wheelchair here...

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Transportation:

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

Call a taxi, don't hail one.

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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?

Do some Google searching to find out how terrible the internet speed is. Different suburbs are better/worse than others. Internet in Lebanon is very expensive for poor quality.

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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?

Bring your own unlocked smartphone.

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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?

A lot of expatriate spouses work at NGO's or for charitable organizations. Teaching jobs are also common. The internet is so bad here it would be hard to take online classes or telecommute. Lebanese pay scales are extremely low, I know a Lebanese lawyer (received her Master's Degree from the U.S.) and she probably makes US$ 30-40K.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of opportunities to work with Syrian refugees.

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

It's so funny when I go home and people ask me if I wear a hijab or a burka when I'm in Lebanon, and they are shocked when I tell them it's the exact opposite! This is the place to go if you are a fan of leopard print, 4-5 inch heels, cleavage, lots of makeup, lots of perfume, and mini skirts. The more, the better here!

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Health & Safety:

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

Do all of the necessary reading that you can, know where to go, where not to go.

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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?

Bring any favorite medicines that you have because they wont be available here (Sudafed, Claritin, Tylenol, Aleve, Zantac, Midol, etc.)

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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?

Google "lebanon air quality" the further up you are from the city the better the air will be, but it's getting worse each year. Even people who live in Broumanna can see the pollution rising up.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Many gluten-free and whole grain items are available at Spinney's, slightly pricey, but available.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

If you live in a compound and aren't able to leave at your own will, I would advise to bring some happy pills with you.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

December-March it is rainy, cloudy, and about 50-62F. It is unbearably hot in August, all of your amps for electricity will be used for your air conditioning.

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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, no comment on morale.

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

Homosexuality is illegal. It's more of a "don't ask, don't tell" society. I've been told you would probably get around six months in prison if prosecuted, but I've never heard of that actually happening.

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

Lebanon is about 30% Christian. The rest are Muslim or Druze. Lebanese in their 20's-30's understand more about gender equality than the baby boomer generation.

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

Jeitta Grotto is neat.

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

See above ^

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

No, there's is nothing locally made that you will want to buy.

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

Being thankful for the city where you came from.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That English is not as well spoken as I thought it would be. I wish I had known more about the culture.

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

No. The lack of sidewalks and not being able to simply WALK outside is frustrating and depressing. The lack of clean air and green space is also a shame. The culture of showing off and extreme materialism gets old and is not one I would encourage a child to be raised in. Do not be surprised if someone here tells you that you: have gotten fat, you're too skinny, you look tired, your eyebrows are too far apart, your hair should look another way, etc. I thought Lebanese were like Italians, very welcoming, warm and friendly, this was a disappointment.

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

Kids.

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4. But don't forget your:

Brand-name clothes, cologne/perfume, gifts for kids or adults, books/DVDs, VPN account set up before you come, Shellac nail supplies to give you something to master and do while you're bored, anything else you think you might help keep you from being bored if you aren't able to leave your compound.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Caramel (movie)

Falafel (movie)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is an "open minded" country, you can wear (or not wear!) whatever you want. You will dress more modestly in the U.S. than here! Alcohol is available everywhere. But, Beirut is not the "Paris of the Middle East" anymore, those days are long gone.



People here like you because of what you can give them or do for them, keep a wall up for awhile until you really get to know them.



Driving here is insane, cars do not go through yearly inspections honestly (borrowing parts from their brother so they pass) be happy and thankful to have a big black shiny armored vehicle to drive you around.

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