Skopje, Macedonia Report of what it's like to live there - 05/19/14
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?
No, third tour.
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?
WDC through Vienna, then to Skopje. With the USG, there is a city pair fair and that is pretty much the only reimbursable route.
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?
USG housing is mainly houses with a few apartments.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The same or slightly cheaper.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
None -- McDonald's is CLOSED.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insect problems that I know of.
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?
US$800 per month for full-time.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes - but not totally sure how much they cost. They are usually small but acceptable.
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 are safe from what I hear.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Skopje International Church. Methodist service twice per month.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes - There are not many accommodations for people with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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?
The roads are fine to bring pretty much any type of car. This place is safe but I still would not bring a convertible or an expensive car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes - Slightly more expensive than in the U.S.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You can bring your unlocked iPhone and use a local sim for calls and data.
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?
Yes - quarantined. You need a TITAR test for your pet. Care is generally OK.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Like anywhere in the States, maybe a little dressier at the mall.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No - It is pretty darn safe here.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No -- Medical care is OK. They have decent technology, not sure about skill. You can go into the hospital and get an X-ray and a consultation for about 40 bucks.
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?
Unhealthy -- Skopje is in a bowl, surrounded by mountains, with no wind. The air is gray. On a clear day you can see how beautiful it really is and it is sad that the views are blocked by the pollution.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
QSI and NOVA -- Do your homework and decide what's best for your kid and the information provided. NOVA tends to be lower in quality for academics but better with sports programs. You might not like the Macedonian approach to private schooling. If you choose QSI, be prepared for a seemingly pieced together education with boutique options, teachers who may or may not be familiar with QSI's mastery learning approach, and a nice and close community.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
hmmmmmm none - although NOVA does pretty decent testing.
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 - People love the international preschool.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there is a sports center where kids can do tennis, basketball, and soccer, but it is in Macedonian. As I mentioned NOVA does sports after school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Medium - morale is generally good.
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?
Live music, eating out, clubs (but they get hopping' late at night, like 1am).
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Maybe - not sure.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The wine tasting, Lake Ohrid, trips to Thessaloniki, Greece.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Wine tasting, eating out, swimming and gyms are available, movies in English, concerts and ballet.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Skopje is safe and not intimidating. The locals are generally welcoming to expats and tolerant of those who do not speak the language. The weather is not much different from USA four season states. Not too humid, snow in the winter, sometimes heavy fog in the winter, rainy spring and fall, hot mid-summer. Touring is mainly for off-the-beaten-path tourists. The wine is good and cheap. You can save money, but traveling is convenient and it is all up to you, whether or not you spend it on trips or stay in country.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
There is a cheap airline called Wiz Air - I would have liked to know all the cities connecting Skopje for under 100 bucks round trip.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. But don't forget your:
Skiis or snowboard, a good car for regional trips to Thessaloniki, Sofia, Albanian Coast up to Croatia, Belgrade.