Beirut, Lebanon Report of what it's like to live there - 06/16/09

Personal Experiences from Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon 06/16/09

Background:

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

I have lived in Australia, Europe and the Middle East as an expat.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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

Government employee

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

14 hours through Paris or Frankfurt.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy personnel live in compound housing consisting of trailers and apartments located in the Embassy compound.

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

On par with U.S. and Europe

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

Video games, DVDs -- anything you can do alone at home.

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

There is much fast food-- from Diners to McDonald's to hot wings.

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

None, some mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

I do not use mail services.

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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 and cheap compared to Europe or U.S.

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

There is a gym at the embassy.

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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 typically charge a fee-- I found I was being charged $7 to withdraw $200

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

Yes, Catholic (others are available as well I believe) I have been able to go to church through special embassy moves.

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

Yes. embassy personnel have access to the Armed Forces Network.

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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?

Not needed -- in areas where embassy personnel are allowed to travel everyone speaks English.

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

The embassy is on a hill with many stairs -- which could be difficult.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are not allowed to take public transportation.

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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?

Embassy personnel may not bring automobiles.

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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. $125 per month.

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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?

Most Lebanese have cell phones. They tend to be slightly more expensive than in the U.S. or Europe but very handy -- as a lot of SMS messages are sent.

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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)?

Good vet services.

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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?

Local jobs are not an option for those (including family members) at post.

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

At work, professional -- men should wear a tie and women should look professional. Otherwise you are mostly at home and can wear what you like.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

American Embassy personnel live under severe restrictions that, in essence, prevent them from truly living in Lebanon. This is due to security concerns.

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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?

The quality of medical care is good. There is a nurse on compound and she/he can be dispatched to your trailer or apartment if blood tests or urine samples are needed.

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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?

Mediterranean Climate.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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. 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 bar on the embassy compound.

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3. Morale among expats:

Generally high. Among embassy personnel: middling to low.

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

Embassy living is good for couples who like to stay in and singles who do not like social interaction. Embassy personnel have curfiews they must adhere to. Visitors must fill in forms and go through elaborate security screenings before they can enter the compound.

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

No. It is hard for embassy personnel to practice any alternative lifestyles with discretion.

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

Some. Those of Asian and African origin are generally viewed as household help.

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

The embassy has a basketball court and a swimming pool.

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

Rugs, furniture.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes -- provided you do not order from the motorpool everyday.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No, not with the restrictions imposed upon embassy personnel.

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

maps -- if you are with the embassy you will always have a driver.

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3. But don't forget your:

books and DVDs.

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

Bliss Street

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

Bliss Street

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

West Beirut, Beirut Open City.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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