Beirut, Lebanon Report of what it's like to live there - 03/19/08
Personal Experiences from Beirut, Lebanon
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I've also lived in La Paz, Bolivia and Pristina, Kosovo.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
There are direct flights to Paris, London, and Frankfurt.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My spouse works with an American NGO here.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There is only apartment living in the city. Houses are available outside the city but the commute in would be long.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The cost of living here is EXPENSIVE! You can find everything here at the big supermarkets but like I said it is quite expensive. For a family of 4 (2 kids under the age of 4) we spend about US$800 on groceries each month.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is tons of fast food places and restaurants and they all deliver to your door...The tricky part is explaining where you live. Lebanese food is wonderful!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The mail system isn't bad. My family has sent things to my children (packages, letters) and we have received them.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
If you have residency you can go through an agency to find help. Costs varies and degree of responsibilty for these helpers also vary.
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 available everywhere and they dispense American dollars or Lebanese pounds. Everyone takes dollars here. Credit Cards can be used at most larger stores.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Daily Star (US$1.33) available daily except for Sundays, International Hearld (US$2.00) available day after the print, many stations on TV are English speaking and the cost is US$10/month.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It seems that most Lebanese speak Arabic, French and English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I would not advise it as there are hardly any ramps and if there is one, it's usually blocked by a car. Also, the sidewalks are not even and quite difficult to maneuver.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are buses and taxis. I have no idea of the bus routes though they are very cheap to ride. The taxis during the day are very cheap.
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?
We are not allowed to drive here because it is too much of a liability. But any type of car is suitable, the smaller the better for the traffic is terrible here and parking is usually a problem. There are various makes and models of cars so finding parts or a mechanic shouldn't be a problem.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
They say it is high speed, but it's not. About US$50/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everyone has them, but they are quite expensive to make calls on.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Landlines are available, but expensive...Skype is the cheapest but connection is not the greatest.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The Lebanese tend to over-dress, always.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
We live in Ashrafieh (Christian neighborhood) and it is a bubble from the rest of the city, it seems. I feel quite safe here, although we do hear the bomb blasts and our windows have shook because of them.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are very good medical treatment facilities and many doctors have been trained in the U.S. or Western Europe.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mild in the winter with rain occationally...although, this winter was quite cold and it was very hot in the summer (face melting hot).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My 3-year old son goes to a great Montessori School in Saifi Village called LeMonts. It's run by a Lebanese woman who was raised in London. It took us a while to find the school (he has only been there for a few months) but it is well worth the money and extra commute time to get him there.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Not very big.
2. Morale among expats:
Everyone experiences the same issues here from time to time. But, I believe the moral here is generally positive.
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?
A good night life.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a good city for singles and couples without kids. Although the Lebanese love kids, there is not a lot for them to do here. There are not many green spaces for children to play nor are the sidewalks very good for the Sunday afternoon strolls. We are lucky enough to live near one of the only parks in the city, although, the playground equipment is not the safest, there are a lot of cats and the park is mostly covered with sand.
In the summer when it is too hot to go outside, the only places to play are overcrowded indoor playareas. But on the bright side, the private beaches are wonderful and if you can get out of the city, the mountains and archeological sites are beautiful and quite interesting.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
We have a friend who is gay here and he thinks it's a wonderful place to live.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. As far as racial prejudice I have never felt so sub-human than I do here. I am part Filipino and many of the domestic helpers are from the Phillipines. So many times I am not helped at the grocery store or stared at.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Private beaches, good night life, great restaurants, excellent historical sites. I heard the skiing isn't bad.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Plane tickets out to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
9. Can you save money?
No, no, no.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I don't think so...my biggest hang up has been the places for the kids to play. We are a family who likes to spend time outdoors and because we are not able to drive out of the city regularly it's been a frustrating place to live.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Open mind and patience.