Asuncion, Paraguay Report of what it's like to live there - 08/23/22

Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay 08/23/22

Background:

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

Asuncion, Paraguay is not my first overseas post but first in South America. We've lived in Okinawa, Seoul, and Cambridge.

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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?

I'm from Kansas City, United States. There are flights that go out most days from the Asuncion airport, all flights heading to the US go through Panama City with a 1.5 or 2.5 hour layovers. Then direct flights can be had to major US cities. Florida destinations are the easiest to get to (Tampa, Miami).

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3. What years did you live here?

2020-2023

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4. How long have you lived here?

We have been in Asuncion for 2 years.

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

Diplomatic Mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy-provided housing is large, normally with green space in back or even large green lots. Most houses have pools and a large patio area. Houses are all surrounded by tall fences. Most embassy housing is in two locations- closer to the embassy or closer to the schools. Commutes are 15-20 mins without traffic and 40-60 mins when there is traffic and you're traveling to the furthest point. Most neighborhoods are walkable with small mom/pop shops, malls, grocery stores, and ice cream parlors. However, the sidewalks are uneven and a hazard if you're not looking where you're going.

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

Household supplies are available but about 1/3rd of US quality, particularly kitchen soap or cleaning supplies. Groceries can be found in shops large or small or purchased from vendors along the roads. Best/freshest produce is found in the top grocery store (Casa Rica) and then quality is staggered depending on where you are shopping.

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

For cereal lovers, there are only 4 types of cereal available. Crackers and cheese are fine but limited in variety. Nuts/trail mix are very expensive so those we usually order from the US. Health bars and protein shakes are also higher priced and of unknown quality.

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

Most restaurants provide delivery when ordering through local delivery apps or through direct WhatsApp messaging. Most popular take-out includes Korean, Thai, Mexican, burgers, and pizza.

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

Housing does a great job working to control pests- mosquitos and ants are the major pests and the embassy provides pest services for those on a bi-weekly basis.

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Daily Life:

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

Local delivery of packages and letters and individuals not using the embassy system have to use private delivery services.

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

There is high availability of household help and the cost for time is low. The average pay rate for household help is minimum wage, which is slightly higher than $15 for an 8-hour work day. Families with kids will usually hire a part-time gardener, nanny and housekeeper, some families hire drivers. During the school year, the cost of the driver is reimbursed by the embassy in order to insure kids have school transportation.

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

Gyms are plenty in the city and cater to all budgets. There are many specialty studios to include boxing, yoga, pilates, etc.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted in the city. Outside of the city, established shops will usually have a CC machine. ATMs are common and safe to use- situational awareness is beneficial regardless of location.

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

Some services are conducted in Spanish and English. Families would need to reach out to find out which churches offer which services.

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

Spanish is highly recommended in Paraguay as most people outside of the American School graduates do not know English. It is very possible to get by without language ability but would be slow progress to find activities and feel "at home". Paraguayans are very nice and eager to learn so language exchange would be easy to set up. The embassy offers reimbursement for language tutors and local language schools are good and inexpensive.

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

Yes- while modern buildings will usually have elevators and larger entrances, getting in and out of the car usually involves dodging traffic, sidewalks are uneven, there is no disability parking, and pedestrians are not given the right of way.

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Transportation:

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

There are buses but they are usually really full. Ubers are safe and very inexpensive.

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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?

In Asuncion the roads are in very poor condition and driving is very rushed and unruly. Larger vehicles get preferential treatment and feel safer. During rainy season some streets become rivers. We are very happy with our Honda Pilot-perfect size and high enough to get through potholes and flooded streets if needed. A Honda CRV is the smallest car I would feel comfortable driving.

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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, can be installed within 1-2 weeks after arrival.

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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?

There are several companies available and best service depends on one's location in the city. Through Claro you can buy a monthly plan that covers all of SA and US, ask if they have any sales.

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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?

Animals do not need to be quarantined upon entry. There are many well reviewed vet services available and many suggestions on the embassy chat sites. Paraguayans are very comfortable with dogs and cats, many animals are either homeless on the street or "self-walk" and return to owners in the evening.

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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?

Spouses that would like to work can usually quickly be placed within the embassy. Spouses that work outside of the embassy are usually telecommuting or are self-employed.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many volunteer opportunities are available in adult and child education- there is a high need for English instructors at local schools as local services such as schools are poorly funded by the government. The local animal shelter/placing organization is always looking for extra help/foster families.

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

The typical dress for work is business casual. Outside of work the trend is sportswear during the day and dressy for the evening.

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Health & Safety:

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

Asuncion seems and feels safe and while taking normal precautions and having situational awareness are always recommended, there isn't a sense of concern.

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

We do not have any particular health concerns- on occasion there is an air quality advisory from vegetation burning done in the countryside. Burnings can last for a week, once or twice a year. Medical services are available and seem adequate- complex issues and birth events are referred stateside.

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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?

During the summer (September to June) there can be air quality advisories from vegetation burning done in the countryside. Burnings can last for a week, once or twice a year. Outdoor activities are canceled during these periods and people are advised to stay indoors...which is very easy to do as the temperature outside during the summer reach 100 and higher.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Air pollution doesn't seem to be an issue here. For food allergies, going to higher-end restaurants or cooking at home would be a safer alternative to neighborhood joints.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

The embassy houses are spread out and surrounded by high walls- there is definitely a feeling of isolation if a person isn't going into work/have a destination. Best thing to do is work on learning Spanish and finding places to pursue hobbies you've always wanted to do. The price of time here is very low so tennis, golf, swimming, sewing, horse-riding, etc lessons can be had for 1/3rd the cost of US prices. Most instructors speak Spanish, those who speak English will usually ask for a higher salary.

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

Paraguay is very hot in the summer (Sept- July) and cool/coldish June- Sept.

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Schools & Children:

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

The international school for Asuncion is the American School of Asuncion (ASA). It is a very modern school, with a small track, soccer fields and playgrounds. Our experience in grade school has been overall positive - easy communication with teachers, 2 playground breaks, and after-school sports/clubs. For higher grades, I have heard that STEM is lacking and there isn't a strong Art/Theater program. Most of the day is in English with just an hour spent on Spanish. For families looking for Spanish immersion, other options like Santa Elena or Colegio del Sol would be a better fit.

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

Very limited accommodation if any - families have said the school isn't able to provide additional support/instruction.

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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?

There are many preschools and daycares, most are in Spanish and some higher end ones teach English. The care hours are usually 8-6pm.

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

There are many classes and activities available for kids at affordable prices! Tennis, swimming, horse-riding, soccer, handball, art, coding...just to name a few.

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Expat Life:

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

There are many nationalities represented in Asuncion and that is reflected in the selection of cuisine. Morale is high, a local expat group has monthly get-togethers.

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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?

To socialize locally, Spanish is necessary. Parents at the private school will usually speak English and extend birthday party invitations to the whole class; parents are invited. This provides a good opportunity to get to know other families. Getting to know expat families usually involved having common interests, participating in events together and hosting gatherings to meet others.

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

Asuncion is an excellent location for families with elementary children as help is widely and inexpensively available. There are many activities that elementary children can participate in. There are almost no activities for pre-school kids but there are 2-3 parks with plastic playgrounds that can be used before 10am during the summer and during the cooler months. Older kids usually spend time at school or at after-school sports. There are few options for teens outside of sports of interest.

For couples and singles, there are many restaurants in the city, movie theaters and opportunities to pursue hobbies of choice. Getting to know locals requires Spanish. Travel outside of Paraguay is possible but can be expensive due to limited number of direct flights.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Making local friends requires Spanish and an effort to connect. While Paraguayans are friendly and helpful, they have an existing strong social network to friends and large extended families. It takes time and language to become part of the group.

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

Recognition for LGBT is growing but there is still strong bias in the local community at large.

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

Generally there seems to be a trend towards stereotypical gender roles and prejudices in regard to indigenous peoples.

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

Iguazu Falls is a 6-hour drive from the capitol, Buenos Aires and Lima have direct 2-hour flights

The major highlight for our family has been the additional time we get to spend together due to the slow pace outside of work hours and being able to afford household help.

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

Finding the thing you want to keep doing/practicing on the weekends or routines you enjoy is the key of having a wonderful time in Paraguay. Although our activities list is made up of mostly repetitive, weekly occurrences/events that usually revolve around the pool, parks, local cafes, and getting together with other families; we are seldom at a loss for things we can do.

The hidden gems for me have been the top restaurants that manage to still be affordable for our community.

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

There are specific things you can buy here - local pottery, lace work, and carpentry are all affordable.

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

Asuncion has all the things of a large city - movie theaters, arcades, concerts, and many restaurants but also is small enough so you can be anywhere in the city in 20-40 mins.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Know Spanish...and if you don't know it, start learning. Most things people would want to do or get involved in require some Spanish knowledge. Also have a list of 1-3 things you want to learn or practice because high quality instruction is available at affordable prices.

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

Yes

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

Small cars

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4. But don't forget your:

swimsuit and sun screen

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

Letters from Paraguay

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Our family has really enjoyed this posting.

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