Chisinau, Moldova Report of what it's like to live there - 05/19/10

Personal Experiences from Chisinau, Moldova

Chisinau, Moldova 05/19/10

Background:

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

Arusha, Tanzania; Windhoek, Namibia; Kampala, Uganda

View All Answers


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?

Our home base is basically the DC area. You typically fly through either Vienna or Frankfurt to get home. Connections in both cities are fairly quick, so we can easily get home in a day.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For U.S. employees, staff with families typically get houses in neighborhoods bordering downtown. Single staff and couples are often put into nice apartments. Commute times can be as short as 10 minutes by car. Some staff walk to an from work.

View All Answers


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

Groceries aren't terribly expensive. Wine and cheese are fairly inexpensive. Some household supplies are expensive. Things like cleaning supplies, diapers, clothes, children's toys and plastic bags can be outrageously overpriced.

View All Answers


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

We're not big on shipping things, but appreciate having our art and our carpets.

View All Answers


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

There are several McDonald's in town along with a few local fast food restaurants. I'm not too fond of any, but that probably has more to do with personal taste. The number of decent restaurants has increased while we've been here. Still...there are fewer than you may expect for a capital city this size in Europe. The quality of the food is often disappointing. It isn't bad, but it often lacks inspiration and service is seldom very good. Fortunately, the restaurants also don't tend to cost too much either.

View All Answers


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

None of particular interest. At different times of the year, we've been amazed by the number of sugar ants in our kitchens and bathrooms. This is not scary (they're tiny), but they are a nuisance.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

We use of combination of the diplomatic pouch and the diplomatic post office.

View All Answers


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

Domestic help is available and some know English. The work ethic is fairly good and the staff generally consider themselves professionals. This means that they keep normal work hours and expect to be compensated for work beyond these normal times. Babysitters, nannies, and house staff appear generally happy to receive about 30MDL/hour. At current exchange rates this turns out to be approximately $400 per month for a full time house staff member.

View All Answers


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

There are facilities, but they tend to not be very good and are extremely expensive, particularly given what you get.

View All Answers


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?

ATM machines are easily found. There was a recent scam where a machine was rigged to steal cardholder data. For U.S. government employees, there is an ATM machine at the Embassy that provides both Moldovan Lei and Dollars on request.

View All Answers


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

Yes, there is a non-denominational service performed by a joint Baptist-Pentecostal mission group.

View All Answers


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

There are no English-language newspapers. There is satellite and cable TV available. The number of English-language channels is very limited. HBO is available in English along with CNN, BBC News, Al Jazeera English, and a few other 24-hour news channels.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is not well-known in Moldova. People can get English speaking staff and there are a few services that people know that can handle English speakers. If you don't know Romanian or Russian, though, you will run into many situations where you cannot communicate with people in stores, in restaurants, and in business situations.

View All Answers


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

The town is fairly walkable, but there are quite a few cracks in sidewalks and there can be missing manhole covers. There are few ramps or wheelchair accessible buildings.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

They are both fairly safe and affordable.

View All Answers


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 in Chisinau are not in great repair. Having a car with some amount of clearance is good. Winter driving makes this even more useful. Toyota parts are fairly easily found. Parts for U.S. manufacturers are not. European brands (including Russian brands) comprise the majority of cars on the roads.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, the speed is quite high (DSL) and the cost is a little over $20 per month.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

GSM phones work here. If you have one, you can easily buy a pay-as-you-go card.

View All Answers


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?

No.

View All Answers


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

Great vets (they come to your house), but I'm not sure about kennels.

View All Answers


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 particularly. Local salaries are typically low.

View All Answers


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

Business dress for formal situations to business casual (depending upon your position).

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Chisinau is, honestly, one of the safest cities I've ever lived in.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There are no specific health concerns. The quality of the water is suspect, but better than many places. The quality of medical is quite low, but it is improving. You do not want to have surgery here. Dental care, on the other hand, is inexpensive and of high quality.

View All Answers


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?

The air quality seems to be very good. I do notice that a number of people (including myself) have allergy issues here.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Weather is fairly similar to that in the northern United States. There are four distinct seasons. Winter can be long and cold, although temperatures do not often drop below zero Fahrenheit. Similarly, although the summers can be hot...it does not often get above 100 (although it can and it does).

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

QSI, as a group, is a strange institution. Frankly, I don't trust them. During our time here the school has been in crisis mode several times. This is often caused by the leaders and teachers sent by QSI (QSI operates international schools in 25 countries).The organization has horrible difficulties with interacting with parents and operating in a transparent fashion. They are effectively a monopoly, they know it, and they act upon it. If you push them...they'll tell you to your face that you can take what they offer or "go your own way."A few years ago, the group left a questionably mentally healthy director in place despite vociferous protests by parents. More recently, the current director forced a move to a very questionably ready and questionably safe location outside of town over the protest of more than half of the school's parents. The positive side is that the school is small and that kids can get a lot of attention. Given the impending move to a questionable location and a complete turnover in U.S. teaching staff (for the second time in as many years), I cannot, in good faith, recommend this school or post to families with school-aged children...probably for several years and until the situation with the new school becomes substantially clearer.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Given the size of the school, there are limited resources available to accommodate special needs children. On the positive side, class sizes tend to be small and there is often an teaching aid in the classes.

View All Answers


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?

We sent our child to one of the local daycare facilities and we were not particularly happy with it. Part of this has to do with our own education philosophy. For example, the teachers hold your child's hand when they are coloring...partially so that you preschool-aged child can go home with perfectly-colored examples of their work. During one of our visits, we were disappointed to see that our child along with the other American children appeared to be largely ignored by the local staff, most of whom had only limited English speaking ability.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, but they are fairly limited.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The community is fairly small.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Morale is fairly good.

View All Answers


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?

The night life is good. For families, most of the social life is entertaining in people's houses.

View All Answers


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

Given the truly suspect situation with the school (QSI), I would caution families about moving here. I believe it is a fairly nice place for single and couples. Spring, Summer, and Fall are lovely seasons. Chisinau is exceedingly easy to navigate and I've heard that there are a number of good clubs.

View All Answers


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

My understanding is that there is at least one place where gay Moldovans meet. There are also a couple of local NGOs promoting LGBT issues. The past two attempts to hold LGBT rallies in Chisinau have been thwarted by local authorities and were vociferously denounced by religious leaders.

View All Answers


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

Moldova is overwhelmingly white and Eastern Orthodox. People of color mat be confused with Roma, a group against which there can be shocking levels of racism. Men and women do play more obviously different roles in society. In some business settings, a man walking into a room will shake the hands of all of the other men, but walk past women. This is more true in rural areas, but can be seen in Chisinau as well.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Chisinau is relaxed. The food and wine are very nice (particularly if you like to cook for yourself).The small community allows you (forces you) to get to know people from all countries and all agencies. As I'll say several times, the weather during spring, summer, and fall are great. I don't personally love winter, but winter can be beautiful as well and kids love it.

View All Answers


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

Moldova is subtly lovely. Day trips to the country during spring, summer, and fall are lovely.

View All Answers


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

Wine.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Moldova is a fascinating little corner of the former Soviet Union. Historically, the area is ripe with learning potential. You are very close to places to visit in the former Soviet Union, an hour from Istanbul, and relatively close to Greece and certainly western Europe. The cost of living is fairly low, so saving money is definitely possible. The weather is good, the city is easily navigated, walkable in many cases, and super safe.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Warm clothes.

View All Answers


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

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, Tony Hawk

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


Subscribe to our newsletter


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More