Ljubljana, Slovenia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/30/11

Personal Experiences from Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia 06/30/11

Background:

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

No. Would prefer not to say where I have lived, because it will be too obvious that it is me. However, this is my fifth 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?

From the East Coast of the US, it is about a 12 hour trip, with a connection in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, etc.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

Educator

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments in town. Houses outside of town. Nothing terribly big. Commutes within Ljubljana itself are short, because the city is so small. It's easy to walk or bike to most places.

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

Just about everything is available. Mercator, the local supermarket chain, is very nice - well stocked and on almost every corner. Groceries and household supplies are probably a bit more expensive than the US.

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

Nothing. Everything is available here.

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

All the usual fast food restaurants, but why would you want to eat there?There are many decent restaurants and cost is reasonable.

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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?

All available. Maximarket, in town, has a section with all of these products.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

Regular Slovenian mail. Postage in Slovenia is actually quite cheap, particularly for packages. I've never had any problems. The biggest problem seems to be European vendors who inexplicably don't want to ship to Slovenia.

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

Available, but not that commonly used.

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

Yes, there are several gyms but I have never visited any.

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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?

It's safe and common.

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

There is one English-language church.

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

Shows on TV are shown in the original language with subtitles, which means that there is plenty of English-language TV.

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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?

Almost everyone speaks English, but attempts at Slovenian are appreciated.

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

The same difficulties one would experience in any other Central European city. There are ramps and accommodations on newer buildings, but the old buildings and streets would probably be harder to navigate.

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Transportation:

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

They are safe and affordable. It's not worth driving in town. Taxis, in particular, are very cheap and great to use when the buses stop running at night.

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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?

Small is better, because parking is hard to find and streets are narrow.

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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, it's available, about 30 euros/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?

There are two main companies: Mobitel and Si.mobil. Both are fine. I just have a pay-as-you-go.

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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. Pets do need to be micro-chipped and have proof of vaccination within a certain time-frame. The regulations are the same as elsewhere in the EU and depend on where you are coming from.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are excellent vets and kennels. There are also dog-walking services available.

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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?

Teaching positions at QSI and BISL.Otherwise not much.

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

The same as the rest of Europe. A little dressier than the US in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

None. Ljubljana is very safe.

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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 real health concerns, although there are lots of ticks and they carry Lyme disease. The quality of medical care is good.

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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?

Very good.

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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?

Four seasons, with some snow in the winter. It tends to be very foggy in the fall and it is very rainy. Ljubljana is foggier than the rest of Slovenia, so when it gets too gloomy, it's not that hard to escape.

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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 are three international schools. QSI offers an American curriculum and Mastery-based learning. It's very small. It has unadvertised religious undertones. BISL is based on the British curriculum and has a unique philosophy, including no grades. About half the students are Slovenes. It is also quite small and in quite cramped facilities. Danilo Kumar/Gimnazija Bezigrad offer IB and are run by the Slovenian government. The teachers are mostly Slovene. There are pros and cons to each school. I have heard complaints about all three. It does not seem that any option is entirely satisfactory.

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

I believe QSI and BISL both make accommodations.

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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?

Yes, at QSI and BISL.Local daycare also available.

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

There are if they speak Slovene. Otherwise, none that I am aware of.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is very small and seems to be mostly composed of families with small children.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies. It can be extremely lonely for singles.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The social life can be frustrating for singles. The families with small children tend to stick together and there don't seem to be many singles, so it can be quite lonely. Slovenes are friendly, but it is hard to get to know them and become friends with them, even if you speak the language. They are like Slavic-speaking Austrians in that respect. Be prepared to spend a lot of time by yourself if you do not come with a family.

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

Families, particularly with young children, seem to do well. The expat community is very small and there don't see to be many singles, so the social circle is very limiting for singles and childless couples.

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

I think it is.

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

The Roma community in Slovenia is not looked upon fondly by the locals.

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

The countryside is gorgeous and very accessible. During the summer months, there is lots of good hiking. In the winter, good skiing is less than an hour away. Ljubljana also has a lot to offer. The center is small, but vibrant, with many nice cafes and a huge Saturday market. I have also enjoyed going to the many excellent performances at Cankarjev Dom, which are very affordable, with good seats costing about 20 euros. There is a lot to do here and it is hard to take advantage of all of it.

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

Lots. One can hike, ski, swim, sail, visit the caves (both Postojna and Skocjan are worth visiting), visit Maribor, Skofja Loka, Piran, and many other towns, sample wine, eat good food, watch World Cup ski races, etc. Croatia, Italy, and Austria are also very close and can be visited in a day trip.

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

Lace, honey, wine.

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

The beautiful countryside and great quality of life. There are few capitals in the world where one can be in the mountains in half an hour and at the sea in an hour. Ljubljana also has all the benefits of being a small city, while still having big city amenities.

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11. Can you save money?

Probably not. Slovenia is no longer cheap. It's still cheaper than Austria, but not by much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Maybe. It would depend on the job.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella and rainboots!It rains a lot here.

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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:

The second part of the Chronicles of Narnia was filmed here.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Slovenia has a lot to offer. The problem is finding people to enjoy Slovenia with.

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