Ljubljana, Slovenia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/04/11
Personal Experiences from Ljubljana, Slovenia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
3. How long have you lived here?
6 months, since February 2011.
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?
There are apartments in the Center and houses around the Center. Ljubljana is a very small town, with only about 280,000 inhabitants, so you can easily live in a house outside Ljubljana and work in the capital, if you wish. If you live and work in the central area (around the Castle of Ljubljana), you can easily walk or cycle to work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Very good supermarkets, including the french E.LeClerc, which is very complete and cheaper. The Slovene supermarket branch Mercator is everywhere. On Sundays, after 15.00 they are all closed, except for one Mercator in Trzaska Cesta. Beware: Slovenes are very strict with the closure times of their stores!
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing, Slovenia has everything. And if you don´t find what you want you can just drive quickly to Italy or Austria.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
MacDonald's and Burger King are available. If you're used to spicy or heavy tasted food like I am, you won't like the Slovene cuisine. But there are a few dishes that are very good. Try the Kremna Resina in Bled. Serbian cuisine is more spicy and has a stronger taste. One example is the Cevapcici dish.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Many Slovene in the countryside produce their own food, so there is a strong market for organic and natural products. The market in Ljubljana´s historical centre is full of healthy food! The supermarkets have all gluten-free and allergy-free products.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Almost none, except for a few light mosquitoes in the warmest days.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Post service is slow and expensive! You should hire DHL if you send something urgent! But postcards arrive, LATE, but they arrive.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There are a few cleaning ladies, that will charge you from 5 to 12 Euros an hour. Ours speak fluent English! She charges 5.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. The one we go to is great.
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?
The bank system in Slovenia is slow and frustrating. Simple things can take long. But, this said, there are many ATMs and credit cards are accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes. In the Maxxi Supermarket, in Slovenska Cesta, in front of Kongresni Trg, you will find international press. There is also the STA website for Slovene news in English and a monthly magazine " Slovenian Times".
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most Slovenes speak English or at least some German or Italian. It is good to know some Slovene for daily use. It is a Slavic Language, with declinations and a difficult grammatical system. The alphabet is Latin, what helps a lot. But it IS hard!
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Maybe in the historical sights there might be difficulties because of the lack of stairs.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains are terrible! The train station has no decent information for tourists, the trains are old and extremely slow. Buses are great and not very expensive. Taxis also are great and cheap! But you can´t just grab a taxi in the street, you should call a taxi company, otherwise the price will be ten times higher!
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?
Any type of automobile will suit you. Slovenes love cars and you will see many BMWs, AUDIs, SAABs and Volvos.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it is very good!
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phones companies are great! We use Simobil, but there are others.
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?
The dogs have to follow the EU procedure to come here. No quarantine if everything is according to the EU rules!
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes!! They are wonderful! Our dog got very sick before coming here and the Hospital from the Veterinarian Faculty of the University of Ljubljana saved his life! They are always open and the best doctors are there! But there are other options too!
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?
It depends on your area of expertise. Some demand fluent Slovene.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Normal western dress code.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None!! Like all of Europe, there might be one or two violence attacks from extreme right groups towards foreigners, but it's uncommon. Maybe once or twice a year.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The medical care is great!
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?
Perfect, even in the center of Ljubljana.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Crazy. It changes a lot. Winters can get very cold and can easily reach -15 Degrees Celsius. The snow covers the city around 50 days a year. The spring is beautiful and the summer can offer warm days, with temperatures above 30 Degrees Celsius.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I don't have kids, so I don't know much about the schools here. I know there is a French School and an English School in Ljubljana.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small, but the city is small, so you hear many languages in Ljubljana and can bump into some expats regularly!
2. Morale among expats:
Generally very high! Most people just love sLOVEnia! A few people might feel a bit isolated because the city and the country are small.
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 movie selection here is horrible! The same movies pass for months in a row! And there are usually only blockbusters. There are a lot of concerts of good quality and the Slovene Philharmonic is very good! A lot of international artists pass through Slovenia too. The streets in the center are very lively at night and there are a few clubs: the best one is the " Top Club"! The culture of "cafés" is very strong in Ljubljana and people love to eat ice-cream ("Sladoled!"). There is also the Tivoli Park whit swimming pools, forest and nice green area to enjoy the sun!
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's great for couples and families. Not so great for singles, as I have been told by single expats I know. They complain that people here are not very flirty.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
The Slovene "gay scene" is pretty much one bar in Ljubljana, and one night per week in a local club. So if you're gay and single, you better go to Vienna on weekends to party. But in terms of homophobia, people here usually respect privacy and, although openly gay couples are very rare, they are respected.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
A few Slovenians might have prejudice against Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Serbs. Slovenes are not very religious. Women here are very free, like any other western country.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The alpine town of Bled and its beautiful lake is just pure magic and it's only half hour away from Ljubljana. The seaside town of Piran, wich was part of the Venetian Republic in the Slovenian seaside, is also enchanting. The Postojna Cave is really amazing, and the lake Bohinj is great for swimming. There's also the Predjamski Castle and many other incredible sights in Slovenia. The center of Ljubljana is very small, between the river and the small castle on the hill: just like a fairytale. It is always full of people, night and day.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lakes, mountain hiking, beaches, castles, historical cities, nice countryside, and so on.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
A Kurent mask! The Kurents are a kind of old slavic monsters that scare the winter away and welcome spring during carnival! Their costumes are unique! Really! Otherwise there are some interesting unique craft.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Ljubljana is a really beautiful city with plenty of outdoor activities, very close to the seaside, the Alps, 40 minutes drive to Trieste (Italy), and a bit more to Austria. The city is extremely safe, clean, lively and unique. It's packed with tourists during the summer, when bars, restaurants and other places can be open until a bit later.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, Slovenia is not one of the most expensive countries in Europe. Croatia is even cheaper! (but not in the Euro Zone! You will have to get Kunas!)
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
DEFINITELY! We love Slovenia and we are not alone: all our friends or family that came here until now are just bewildered by the beauty of Slovenia! Life here is great! Very relaxed and really fun! BUT next destination could be New York or London to counterbalance this rural feeling!
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Big city vibe!
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
We went on reading a nice bibliography on Ex-Yougoslavia. About Slovenia, we have read some History books, but nothing very special.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
Slovenia is a special place! It was the one of the six Ex-Yougoslavian Republics, but it was the least affected by the war. Independent since 1991, today it is part of the EU, NATO and it was the first eastern country to enter the Euro Zone! Although the 2008 economic crisis has hit Slovenia, it is still rich and organized. You will notice a few reminders of the communist period: people only work until 14.00 on Fridays and are extremely strict with their hours and vacations! Also, the banking system, train and telephone lines will give you some headache! But this are all minor problems. Where else would you find a Capital with the feel of a small fairy tale village near the Mediterranean sea, the Alps, Venice, Vienna and other great places! You will love it!