Skopje, Macedonia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/16/09

Personal Experiences from Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia 03/16/09

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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

U.S. Embassy spouse.

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

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is big and nice. Some is more modern than others, but it's all good. Way more space than we need.

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

Seems to be the same or a little less than back home. Availability is terrible - something you see one week may be gone the next and never come back.

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

Everything :(

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

Only McDonald's, but it tastes different than back home.

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

None that I've noticed.

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Daily Life:

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

APO/pouch.

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

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

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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?

Try just to use them at major chains.

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

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

Some English channels on local TV, or there's AFN for military/diplomats.

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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?

A little helps.

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

A lot. This country is not disabled-friendly.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are great, cheap and safe, but the drivers are insane. A 10-minute taxi ride costs about US$2.

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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?

All car dealerships are here. We have a Toyota & have had no trouble. People have SUVs and sedans - SUVs are definitely nice given the bad condition of roads and the terrible driving skills of locals.

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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. About US$35 a month I think. Connection is good/fast.

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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?

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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?

Nope.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are vets here, but the quality is terrible. I have yet to find any kennels.

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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?

No. None. Do not come here expecting to get a job on the economy. Jobs at the embassy are few and far between. The majority of spouses do not work, although I suspect many would like to.

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

I slub around, but Macedonians dress pretty fashionably/smart. The way the women stare constantly, openly and disdainfully at your shoes gets really annoying after a while.

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Health & Safety:

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

We heard it would be bad, but actually we haven't noticed it that much. We notice the smoke pollution from everyone smoking a lot more, especially when it's winter and everyone is smoking inside the shopping malls.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

There's just an optional flu jab I think.

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

Some random shootings, burglaries. Seems like the shootings are usually in retaliation between the locals. Local police never seem to catch anyone - maybe they don't care.

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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?

Medical care is so-so. Dental is excellent if you go to Eternadent.

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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?

Pretty much like England, but warmer summers.

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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?

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. People tend to make the best of what they have.

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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?

People mostly congregate in little groups at people's houses

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

Great for families - the locals LOVE kids.

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

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

Not that I've seen.

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

Travel.

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

Nothing really unique, or at least nothing you'd want.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Mainly this is ecause of the pet care issues andthe horrible way Macedonians treat the 20,000+ stray animals in Skopje, but also it's too hard for me to deal without the variety of food I'm used to and the convenience of shops that are open late.

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

Bread, feta cheese, sparkling water.

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3. But don't forget your:

U.S. products - the U.S. brand products they have here aren't made in the US and for some reason they taste different. Definitely bring spicy sauces, baking ingredients, lots of canned items (sauces, fruit, soups, etc). Oh, and bring cheese if you can - feta is the main cheese here and all other cheeses just taste rubbery and bland.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Do not come here if you are a big animal lover. It will break your heart.

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