Belgrade, Serbia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/14/15

Personal Experiences from Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia 08/14/15

Background:

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

This was our 4th expat experience. Lived in Mexico, El Salvador, Romania.

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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?

There is no short way to California. Fly through Frankfurt or Munich to the East Coast, then another flight to the West Coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years from 2012 to 2015

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

US Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Our house was lovely. Best house in our expat experience. Right by the forest. With that said, you can chose to be in an apartment downtown, or in a house in the suburbs, or an apartment within walking distance from the US Embassy. Each comes with pluses and minuses. Typical commute time is 20-30 minutes.

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

Definitely cheaper than in the U.S. You can find almost everything in Belgrade - just not high end products that you could find in the U.S. With DPO, Amazon orders get delivered in one week. Plus there is a Commissary.

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

Coffee and cake frosting.

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

Many fast food joints - but why fast food when the local restaurants are so good?!?

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

Some mosquitoes in the summer and ticks. However, the city fumigates 2-3 times during the summer and it actually works. I would say this was nothing compared to the mosquito situation at our current post. Another nuisance are bees in the summer. We all got stung and found out the hard way that we are not allergic to bee stings!

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch.

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

Plenty. But it does cost 5 euros per hour.

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

Yes, including a gym at the Embassy with brand new equipment. Cost at a local gym varies from 100-300 EUROs.

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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?

I used my credit card everywhere I went. ATM's are fine as well.

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

There are services available for all.

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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?

Knowing the language is very helpful, but you do not need to know Serbian to communicate in Belgrade.

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

Yes, they would. Busy city, potholes, side walks are narrow.

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Transportation:

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

Never took trains but I was told they are not great at all. I took the bus, tram and taxi and felt perfectly safe.

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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?

Most drive a small size SUV. Winters can get snowy so you need something that will handle icy roads well.

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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. 60 euros per 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?

Easy to get and several choices.

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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?

No. Yes, you can find good vets. Kennels are a challenge. Difficult to find - expensive when you do. People hire a dog walker and usually use the same person for pet sitting.

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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?

Not on the local economy. There are opportunities for spouses at the Embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

ISB; International Women's Club; Bread of Life; orphnages; asylums; special needs - no shortage of them.

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

Semi casual in public. Business attire at the Embassy.

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Health & Safety:

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

None other than the usual stuff that comes with big cities. If there are any anti-American feelings left, they are mostly hidden among the old generations. We are advised to avoid gatherings and football matches.

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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?

No major health concerns. Quality medical care is available. Many private clinics offer very good care. Good dentists as well.

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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?

In the winter it can get grey because of coal burning. Othern than that, it is really not bad at all.

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

Seasonal allergies in the spring.

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

4 very distinct seasons. Springs and falls are wonderful.

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Schools & Children:

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

Very good International School for Elementary and Middle School (ISB). Not so great for High school becasue of the social aspect and quite frankly the academics at that level is not that great. Most send their high schoolers to boarding schools.

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

Do not expect anything special. I have known kids with special needs who were moved from both ISB and Chartwell and sent to boarding school in the US.

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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?

Very good preschool at the Chartwell International School. Cost is slightly cheaper than in the States. A 25% discount was negotiated with Chartwell, which makes it competitive with ISB. It comes out to about 450 EUROs per month. Nannies run at 5-6 EUROs/hour.

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

You have to manage expectations - soccer is huge, so yes, there are soccer programs and swim programs. Private lessons can be arranged for everything else.

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Expat Life:

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

High and staying that way. The Embassy runs very well. Life is good there.

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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?

Eating out, movies, malls, night clubs, indoor playgrounds, travel, private lessons.

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

Yes, yes and yes. This city is awesome for all because it has so much to offer to everyone. It is a hidden gem - not esthetically speaking - but as far as quality of life.

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

Yes, it is.

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

No. Maybe a little racial prejudice.

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

All four of us were very happy during the three years in Belgrade. There was something to do for everyone. Our kids, in elementary school, loved the place, the school, the friends, life in general. We loved the house, the neigborhood, the travel, the food, the possibilitites for entertainment.

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

I don't know where to start really. There is so much to do. Just take off and explore!

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

Rachia (local brandy); some carpets; some artwork. We commissioned a painting with a local artist and we love it.

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

Countless special advantages. Cost of living is relatively cheap and availability of groceries is a lot better than one would imagine. Traveling opportunities are simply wonderful. Culture is plentiful. Life is really good in Serbia. One can fully appreciate it after they leave it behind.

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10. Can you save money?

You can - but no one does. The travel is awesome so you spend every penny on it!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known what a great tour we would have. We could have extended for a 4th year before that option went away.

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

I would go in a heart beat.

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

I can't think of anything really. People say there are crazy drivers in Serbia and you need to leave behind your patience. Try living in India!

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, mosquito repellent, bikes and roller blades. Your sense of humor!

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Some parts of November Man were shot in Belgrade.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bid and you will not regret it!

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