Asuncion, Paraguay Report of what it's like to live there - 08/22/22
Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our 5th overseas assignment, having previously served in various WHA and AF posts.
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?
There are currently no direct flights from Asuncion to the US; the main hub is through Panama City, a 6-hr flight from ASU, which has direct flights to DC, Houston, LA, Miami, Orlando, NYC, Boston, and others. In the past, off and on, there were ASU-MIA direct flights. We'll see if those resume.
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?
The housing pool consists mostly of homes with small- to medium-sized yards, a swimming pool, and a built-in BBQ area. There are some townhomes and apartments. Housing tends to be spacious and typically includes a maid's quarters and bath (note: it is rare for nannies to be live-in). Commute times are from 5-30 minutes to the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There is a good selection of groceries and household supplies. Imported items, like almond milk, will be more expensive. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful and cheap. As is the meat! This is the place to grill and it is part of the culture (all homes, even apartments, come with a built-in BBQ grill).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Pure maple syrup, mac n cheese, almond butter, cheddar cheese.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are excellent restaurants here and pretty much everyone delivers.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some folks complain of ants being an issue (not in our home). Mosquitos are an issue, and the embassy performs regular fumigation against mosquitos at all residences.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch. Expect about 3 weeks to receive orders and about 3-4 weeks for folks to receive your package with DPO. Pouch takes longer.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The minimum wage is about US$370 per month for a full-time employee, plus contributing to their social security means about US$450 total per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The new embassy will have a gym; in the meantime, there are gyms everywhere and the average cost is about US$30 per month. There are also MMA/martial arts gyms, yoga studios, and sports courts/fields. Soccer, basketball, and padel tennis are popular here.
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?
Most places accept credit cards in the city. When you're traveling outside the city, take cash.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You definitely need Spanish for daily living. Learn a few phrases in Guaraní and locals will love you. The embassy offers a post language program for both Spanish and Guaraní.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, it would be difficult due to poorly maintained sidewalks and a general lack of accessibility (ramps and such).
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Don't take the bus. Ubers are recommended and considered safe. As it takes a while for your POV to arrive to post (think 3-4 months), you'll rely on Uber a lot the first few months.
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?
I recommend, at minimum, a small SUV. Potholes are plentiful and most side streets are stone. When it pours, it floods, so clearance is good to have. If you want to be more comfortable, bring a larger SUV, like a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is good and generally reliable (some neighborhoods experience brief outages during the rainy season). Before arrival, folks can initiate internet setup so it's up and running for arrival.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
It's easy to buy a local SIM card for your unlocked phone, and plans are cheap. I pay like US$16 per month for 6GB of data for my personal phone.
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?
There are many vets around town and good kennel options.
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?
There are many EFM positions at post, like EPAP, CLO, Mail room, CONS, FAC security escorts, and others. Many EFMs also telework for US-based companies or have their own business.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There were before COVID; I think it's starting to pick up again.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
We feel safe here in Asuncion, especially in the areas of embassy housing. Of course, there are places to be careful of at 2am, but that doesn't affect our lifestyle (we're not out and about at that hour).
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Dengue is a concern every few years, but that hasn't affected us during our time here so far. We've had excellent and cheap medical and dental care here, and I know of other community members who have had surgeries and delivered babies here. Some medical professionals speak English. It's a great place for dental work as it's quality work at a fraction of US rates.
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?
Generally speaking, the air quality is great. However, there is a forest fire season, which lasts a few weeks, during which the air is very smoky.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It's a very sunny country!
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The summertime (Dec-Feb) is HOT, averaging around 95-105F degrees F. Outside of that, it's more around 80F degrees. In the winter (June-August), it can get down to 40F at night, so you'll need a sweater during that time.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We have been happy with the American School of Asuncion (ASA), with children in elementary-, middle-, and high school. The school consists of mostly Paraguayan students, with some expats/embassy kids. Some folks comment that their kids have had a hard time feeling welcomed/integrated; that hasn't been our experience. Our kids are social/outgoing, which I think helps. PRO TIP: if your child makes a connection at school, invite that family over for a BBQ. I think part of the issue is the perception that embassy folks stick together and don't try to integrate since they're here for a short period (2-3 years). By inviting a family over, you help break through that barrier, and BBQs are part of the local culture. The school offers a lot of after-school sports and activities, and include soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and field, chess, robotics, art, and more. For high school, if your child has some gumption, he/she can thrive here. We have a local friend whose daughter got into half of the Ivy League schools; she took initiative for things and teachers/admin really supported her.
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?
Every neighborhood has a daycare, so there's always one nearby. We send our 3-year old to a popular preschool, Creciendo, and pay about US$200 per month for a half-day, from 08:00-12:00. They also offer afternoon-only and full-day programs.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
This is an area that Asuncion really excels at. You can find quality activities and instructions for you and your children. I know embassy families have their children participate in horseback riding, rugby, soccer, swimming, gymnastics, dance, music, and more. Golf lessons are popular with adults.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I think overall, morale is very good. You can live a very good life here, with access to most things you need and with household staff to make life easier. Like any place, making friends is probably the foundation of one's experience here.
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?
BBQs are part of the culture, as is going to one of the various parks around town. There is an expat meetup that meets on occasion (find them on Facebook). Paraguayans are friendly! I've made friends at the gym I go to.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is a thriving night scene for singles/younger folks. There are many bars, restaurants, and dancing opportunities...things start late though...like after 10:00pm (too late for me!). Families thrive here thanks to affordable help and access to various activities and sports.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Going to Iguazu Falls has been a highlight (6-hr drive). Encarnacion, an 8-hr drive, to see the Jesuit ruins was enjoyable; we're planning to go back for Carnival. We frequent two nearby towns: Areguá and San Bernardino; they offer a nice day trip or weekend escape for folks. We have planned to visit Buenos Aires (direct flight) & Patagonia, and Santiago (direct flight) in the coming months. We also plan to visit the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls. NOTE: if you go to the Brazil side of the falls, stay at the Belmond Las Cataratas...totally worth it!
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Go pottery shopping in Areguá. If you like camping, there are national parks to explore.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
You can find good artwork and pottery here, and we're stocking up on both. Ñanduti products are also a must (an artisanal weaving method native to Paraguay).
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The local people are so friendly and helpful, we feel safe, access to quality goods and services, there isn't much traffic.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. But don't forget your:
Bring some sweaters as it does get chilly in the winter. You'll also need a coat if you plan to go to Patagonia.
3. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
MOVIES The Mission (1986) starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091530/); The Heiresses/Las Herederas (2018) (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7875464/); Guaraní (2016) (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3548664/). BOOKS The Paraguay Reader (https://amzn.to/3Cpkxbg); Modern Paraguay (https://amzn.to/3wpgWpH); The 1989 Coup d'Etat (https://amzn.to/3T6tbBb).
4. Do you have any other comments?
Of all the places we've served overseas, this is the first post we would consider returning to or even retiring to!