Skopje, Macedonia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/29/12
Personal Experiences from Skopje, Macedonia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Multiple international postings. Sarajevo, Jakarta, Bangkok, Split
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?
Arizona. Connections are not bad, although the schedule is limited into Skopje.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Nothing is very far away in Skopje. Single homes and apartments.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish are all very reasonable. Lots of other things are imported and can be pricey.
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?
Lots of great restaurants. Tends to be protein heavy, but there are options. From very cheap to slightly expensive. McDonald's it here if you need comfort food.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Almost everything here is organic by history/tradition/economics. Specialty foods are limited.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available, but expensive in my view.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, but limited. There are a couple of gyms.
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?
Does not seem to be a significant problem as long as you follow the basic rules. ATMs are numerous.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but it will make you popular.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Very limited access. I think this would be a difficult place for people with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses and taxis are available and safe. Seem fairly cheap.
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?
You can drive most anything here. Roads are reasonable. If you love the outdoors, bring a 4x4.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
This is a very wired country, and phones will work anywhere.
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?
2. 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?
Not really. Unemployment is high, and wages are low.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Suit and tie for men.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
A very safe country in the main. Normal precautions only.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care seems adequate if overburdened.
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?
Skopje air is dusty in the summer, a bit smoky in the winter. After Bangkok and Jakarta- not a worry.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
South Central European. Mild winters at Skopje's altitude, deep snow on the mountains. Spring arrives in April, July and August can be hot.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The only international school of size in Skopje is Nova International Schools and it has been great for us. We have three kids there and they are thriving. We came from big schools, and wanted our kids to continue to have lots of options. The school takes education very seriously and seems to stay on the forefront of education best practice. Highly recommended.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Nova has a special program in this area, I am unsure if other programs exist.
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?
Yes, several options. The "nanny" option can be expensive.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes and no. Depends on the school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small. Maybe 1000 of all stripes.
2. Morale among expats:
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families and couples, I imagine the single scene lacks a whole lot of options.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not a comfortable city for LGBT folks.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
With regard to expatriates, no. Nationally, this is an issue.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Snowy Christmas holidays skiing, trips to lake Ohrid, spring!
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Touring, wineries, monasteries, outdoor sports both summer and winter.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Wonderful location for touring both within Macedonia and the region.