Belgrade, Serbia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/06/11

Personal Experiences from Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia 07/06/11

Background:

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

2nd expat experience

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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?

At least one connection to the U.S., most likely on United through FRA or MUC then to IAD.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

US Government: State Department: Spouse

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are 3 areas that people live in: Downtown, Senjak area and Banovo Brdo (BBLand).Downtown is mostly singles/couples in nice apartments. Senjak is the area between Downtown and BBLand. It is a spread-out area with mixed types/quality of homes. A few Couples/Families live here. BBland is a neighborhood that most families and some couples live in. There are stand alone houses, duplexes, triplexes and really large triplexes. They are all big and are built of brick and cement, so that you don't have to worry about hearing your neighbor's conversations. Most have medium to large yards. I lived in BB Land. It was 4 miles from Downtown (Embassy) and was a great situation for my children. It was nice for them to have friends to play with in the neighborhood. It was easy for me (spouse) to make friends and easily get together with others. I would say that it was 65% American. You can walk to the stores: grocery, bakery, McDonald's, Movie Theater, and public transportation. There are running trails though the forested area. The neighborhood is set up on the hill, so the pollution isn't as bad as in other areas. Also down the hill is the largest recreation area: Ada Lake.

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

I'd say it's like always paying full retail in the United States.

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

You can find most things here, maybe just not the variety or quality that you would like. The Embassy Commissary allows you to make 3 special orders a year from the master list.

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

American chains: McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut. The prices are similar/maybe a little higher then what you'd pay in the US.There many other good food/restaurant options.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Not many. The produce is good in the summer. The winter selection is pitiful. Stores would sell rotten potatoes and shriveled onions, and very little variety. The Maxi at Delta City Mall had the overall best produce.

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

Ants and spiders, I used the can spray and it kept the insects under control.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO:Mail takes about between 5 days and 2 weeks.

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

It costs about 5 euros/hour. You can find English speaking help.

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

Yes

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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?

Same caution you would use anywhere.

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

Yes, there are some.

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

AFN (Armed Forces Network) was available in BB Land for $10 per month through the Embassy. It has about 10 channels (plus some other random English channels from Dubai) but you need a Multi-system T.V. (Your American TV will not work!).Buy a multi-system before you get here, they are REALLY expensive on the local market ($2000) If you live in the other areas, you have to get set up individually. I didn't see any English language newspapers.

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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?

Very little, you will find a lot of people in the city who speak some English.

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

Sidewalks are for parking, not walking. Buildings are old and the elevators can be really small.

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Transportation:

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

Safe, Yes. Buses are always extremely crowded.

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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?

You will find all different kinds of automobiles on the road. Overall, the smaller cars were easier to maneuver through the narrow streets and tight parking spots, but anything would work here. There are many familiar Dealerships.

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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, I paid about $50 a month.

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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?

Texting is mandatory here.

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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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & 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?

I didn't know anyone who was working or actively looking for work on the local economy. There are a lot of local people who are unemployed/underemployed.

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

You can wear what you would wear in the U.S. Purchasing clothing here is expensive.

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Health & Safety:

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

It was a safe city. We were advised to avoid soccer matches and other political rallies.

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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?

General medical care seems ok, although the hospitals are not up to standard. I think there are some options for specialists, but they weren't well known or advertised. There are Pharmacy's on every corner, you can get most medicines without a prescription.

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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?

Air quality in the summer is fine. In the colder months it is Unhealthy/AWFUL. My family got a lot of respiratory illnesses that we had never experienced before. The polluted air is thick, gray and really ugly.

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

Spring is nice (Mar-Jun) anywhere from the 50-70 degrees; Summer is beautiful (Jun-Sept) from 75-85 degrees; Fall can be pretty until the first snowfall (one year it was the 2nd week of Oct)Winter is ugly b/c of the pollution, and the constant drizzle of either rain or snow. There were about 5 big snowfalls. The snow would melt within a week or two. It is dark at 4pm.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is the most popular: ISB (International School of Belgrade) http://www.isb.rs/isb/.It has preschool to high school, on three campuses, although they plan to combine the middle and high school to one campus. I would describe the school as being a good public school. They have a nice after school activity program. Overall it was an okay experience, but it always will depend on the teacher/teachers you happen to get. The bus service is crazy in that they will pick up randomly and then have to make stops at all three of the schools to drop off and pick up. It added a lot of unnecessary time on the bus for the kids. Also used by some are the: The British International School (http://www.british-int-school.org.uk/index.html)and Chartwell International School (http://www.chartwellinternational.org/) These schools are smaller then ISB.

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

Seems like they can make some accommodations. You would want to check beforehand.

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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 is ISB (really expensive) or INSB: International Nursery School of Belgrade (http://www.insb.edu.rs/) or local neighborhood preschools (but these tend to be more like daycare).

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

Yes, but there aren't easy to discover. It's easiest to use whatever the your school offers. There isn't any outside sport programs that I came across that caters to the International community.

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Expat Life:

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

Large enough

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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?

Anything is possible here.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good

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

There is something good here for everyone.

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

Probably not that good(not culturally accepted).

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

I wasn't aware of anything extreme.

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

I was surprised at how respectful the Serbian people are. They were always courteous (except when driving), and very kind and interested in my children.

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

I liked the lake, and there are two nice shopping malls. After a day of touring the city, you've seen the sights.

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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 is very little that is unique and local.

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

You are in Europe, there are lots of places to visit. The day to day life here is fairly good, easy and safe.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It was good for the kids, they loved it. Life was easy, except in the winter because of the dark snow drizzle and the sicknesses that came with the bad air quality. I would go there, but I wouldn't go back, one time was enough.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Dark water-proof snow boots for the long drizzly winter.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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