Belgrade, Serbia Report of what it's like to live there - 01/16/19

Personal Experiences from Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia 01/16/19

Background:

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

No. Dhaka (Bangladesh), Hyderabad (India), Enugu (Nigeria), New York City (USA), and London (UK).

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2. How long have you lived here?

Five years.

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

UN 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?

Row house in Senjak, to be close to the international school(s).

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

Cheap. Veggies, fruits are very cheap. Of course, as everywhere, you will pay more for specific imported products, but overall, life is quite cheap.

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

We missed our salted butter. Other than that, we usually found pretty much everything.

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

All sorts of restaurant, although Asian restaurants tend to not last long. During our time, there was only one Indian restaurant. There was one Thai restaurant, but it closed. They come and go.

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

Not that I know of.

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Daily Life:

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

Post works. Just expect some random issues with customs, including when you are receiving books or textbooks.

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

Most expats have cleaning ladies, but rarely on a full time basis. Nannies are readily available. The hourly fee paid by most expats turns is 5 Euros.

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

Lots and lots of gyms and workout facilities. Serbians love their sports. The only problem if you have children is the time when these activities take place, as the schools work on a rotating double schedule, from 7 am till 1 PM, and from 1 pm till 7 pm. In other words, a lot of activities for kids start after 7 PM.

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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?

Yes. No issue.

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

None. I took classes, but found it difficult to practive as basically everyone speaks English, at least in Belgrade, but even outside of Belgrade. Serbians are very good at languages. Otherwise, lots language schools and tutors at affordable prices.

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

Yes, as sidewalks are used by cars to park, for instance.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, yes, and yes.

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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. No issue.

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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?

Local provider. Telenor, first, but then I switched to VIP with a pre-paid plan to avoid bad surprises whenever I crossed a border.

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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?

Yes. I don't know about quarantine, but we adopted two kittens found in the street, and took the second one with us to our new post (the first one was struck by a car in the street, unfortunately.)

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Usual formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

No. Belgrade is a safe city. We had teens there and they were out and about, taking buses, and going out at night, taking taxis late, etc.

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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 used Belmedic, which is affiliated with a lot of insurance companies. Excellent care.

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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?

Considering where we came from and where we are now, the quality of the air was excellent. There is a smell of coal in the air at times, during winter.

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

If you tend to get the winter blues, then, yes. I did. Night falls around 3;30 pm in December, January. For me, it was bad the first year (after 13 years without experiencing winter at all.) It got better, the second year. I never liked it, but you get used to it and wait for spring to come, and it does come. Otherwise, it's a great posting.

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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?

It's a mild climate. While we were there, we had a little bit of snow, not much. There was a lot of it the year before, though, and there seems to be a lot of it this year. GEnerally, it is a pleasant climate. It gets very hot in the summer, though.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several International schools. Our children went to two of them. ISB was very good in the Primary years. Academically, it is a sound school, but we disagreed with the excessive (in our opinion) use of technology. Chartwell International is also excellent for the young years. There is Prima International, also, and the Lycee Francais.

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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?

Yes, and there is a lot to choose from.

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

See my answer above about sports and timing. Otherwise, lots available. Our daughter took up synchronized swimming there. Expect high demand from the teachers. This is a competitive culture.

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Expat Life:

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

Generally good morale.

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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?

There was a Women's International Club, but you need to be sponsored in order to be admitted. It tends to be a bit closed. I know they went through some issues, so I don't know how it is, now. The francophone have Belgrade Accueil. Sports is a good way to get to know people. We started taking tango classes, and our social circle expanded suddenly.

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

For anyone, but singles are bound to love it. Belgrade is the party place!

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

Not really. Serbian culture is very macho. They have a gay parade, each year, and they get the tanks out so secure it.

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

I would say yes. Serbian people are very warm, and welcoming. If you like their rakja, you're good :)

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

Many highlights. The river Uvac, some fantastic hiking, Subotica is a beautiful city, as is Novi Sad. The bridge of Visegrad. Tara National Park. The Belgrade Dance Festival brings in the best companies in the world, every spring. Opera seats in the first row at 8 Euros. Concerts. Movies in original version (except animated children's movies). We loved Belgrade.

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

Carpets from Pirot. Old Yougoslavia memorabilia.

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

It's just an easy city. No traffic (barely, basically takes 10-20 mns to go from one point to the other. Culture. Sports. Location - from this base, you can visit all the neighboring countries (Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc, etc, all the way to Greece on one side, or to Italy or France on the other.)

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a hearbeat.

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

The Bridge on the Drina by Yov andric.
All the movies by Emir Kusturica (he is a controversial character, but his movies really capture the essence of the country, in my opinion.)

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