Chisinau, Moldova Report of what it's like to live there - 02/19/14
Personal Experiences from Chisinau, Moldova
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, this is our 5th post in the former Soviet Union!
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?
DC area. Transiting through Munich (2-hour flight from Chisinau), it takes about 12-13 hours from Chisinau home.
3. How long have you lived here?
1.5 years in Chisinau.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Embassy employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Mostly houses, a few apartments for single people but many singles live in big houses too. There are two areas for housing, one is close to the embassy (7 minutes by car) and the other one is further away but still not far (about 15 minutes max). The houses are usually pretty big and nice. Neighborhoods are quiet as is the whole city anyway.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
It is comparable to the States in both prices and availability. Many European, especially German products. Shopping is easy with lots of grocery stores scattered around town.
There is wholesale store called Metro that we have access to through the Embassy. We can also order goods (American goods and others) through the Embassy association twice a year.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A wide choice of restaurants around town. Prices are reasonable.
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, there is Eco Sport next to the Embassy and a very nice but also very expensive gym on the outskirt of the city.
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?
You can use the ATM at the Embassy to be on the safe side but there are ATMs all over town that you can use too. You can use a credit card in stores for higher amounts.
4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Romanian and Russian are definitely useful. Young (educated) people speak a fairly decent amount of English.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
A taxi ride in the city will cost you US$3.
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?
SUV is preferable because the roads are relatively bad but you can do without - as most locals do!
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, internet is very good, reliable, fast, and... very cheap too (about US$25/month!).
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty through the International Women's Club.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is post-Soviet...
2. 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?
Very good air quality.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is a QSI school which everybody complains about, at every level. It is very small. Even though now it is supposedly accredited at the high school level, it is not recommended to put older kids in that school. One (local) kid graduated from 12th grade last year. The other option is a local public Russian school (Pushkin) for kids who are already fluent in Russian. It can be a great opportunity for smaller kids (early primary) to learn Russian. Last year, a family put their kids in a Romanian school in late primary school because they were not happy with QSI and they loved it. Local kids in both Russian and Moldovan schools are very welcoming towards foreign students.
2. 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?
Lots of places are available in the local language. As far as I know, there is only one (good) preschool (aside from expensive QSI) that offers a program in English but it fills up fast. Their location is at the Mall.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Limited due to lack of knowledge of the local language, but there are always ways to find or organize something in English through networking. Many kids play tennis and there is an expats' soccer club that meets every Saturday (kids who go there are between 4 and 12 years old). If your kids speak Romanian or Russian, the list of activities is endless. There is a place called Artico that offers a wide ranges of activities for kids, and it is very cheap too.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very good. People like this place. The only complaint is about the school and the health care.
2. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No, Moldovans are pretty progressive in the way they think. They think on a global scale as they are Europeans and proud of it.
3. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visit wine cellars and surrounding countries (Odessa, Kiev and Romania).
4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Chisinau is a nice small capital city with a provincial feel. Everything is close-by (work, school...). Relative proximity to other European countries (more touristy ones like Greece) is a plus. People are very friendly and Chisinau is a very safe place to live in. Chisinau is the second greenest city of the former Soviet Union after Kiev: it has lots of large parks with one right next to the Embassy. Some people can easily walk to work (under 30 minutes) partly through the park. Traffic is light. The weather is nice (so far, the seasons have not been extremely cold or hot). We like the slow pace of life.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?