Dushanbe, Tajikistan Report of what it's like to live there - 10/10/13
Personal Experiences from Dushanbe, Tajikistan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in a Southeast Asian country and done several domestic posts.
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?
Home base is DC. The fastest routing is Dulles to Istanbul to Dushanbe. But if you fly in or out with pets you will fare much better going through Frankfurt.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Foreign Service spouse.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Houses are large with strange layouts. Most have small yards with little grass.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Things are available until they are gone and then - who knows? Supplies dwindle significantly in the winter. You can keep costs down by taking advantage of your consummables and the pouch.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Nothing Western at all. Dinner out is usually cheaper than the States but the quality is often iffy.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We had a small and temporary issue with ants but they went away on their own.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch. The service on this has been quite inconsistent. That would be ok and understandable but in this particular case, communication is horrible from the IMO so we never know quite what is going on.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available and reasonable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. The embassy has facilities and the AEA will be taking it over so there will be a few. The Hyatt has facilities but it is very expensive to use.
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?
You can, but cash is preferred. US$ is also preferred over local currency when paying local staff, etc.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
None that I know of.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Having some Russian would really help.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Roads and sidewalks are inconsistent. Wide doors and elevators are often inconsistent or unavailable.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. But without speaking the local language this is tough.
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?
We have a small SUV (most do) and it works really well to handle the rough road conditions, but be aware of the narrow side streets.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Technically. Service providers are corrupt and provide horrible customer service. It is not uncommon to have service cut off for no reason, rates raised with no notification, etc.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The Embassy provides for all employees and EFMs.
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 quarentine. The vet care here is far below the standard. I don't think I would bring older or ill pets.
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?
At the school and with a few NGOs.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are few - particularly if you want to speak English.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual and a bit conservative for personal comfort (from staring, etc.), but not for necessity due to cultural expectations.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Nothing other than normal city stuff. We have two dogs and when I am out walking with them, I feel almost invincible because Tajiks are irrationally terrified of dogs. The downside of that is that Tajik men and boys often taunt the dogs (who are extremely friendly), and twice boys have thrown rocks at us - when I was with my baby. That has really affected my morale and my feelings toward the post and the people.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Many. Digestive problems are very common. Dust and pollution frequently irritates allergies. Medi-evacs are common for serious concerns.
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?
At times it is poor. Pollution and dust can make for a very rough combination in the summer.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Very hot and very dry in the summer. Damp and cold in the winter with some snow fall.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I have no experience but my general understanding is that the new director at QSI is improving the general opinion people have toward the school. Generally, the older the children are at post, the less satisfied people are with the schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
None that I know of.
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. Options are available for preschool. We have a full time nanny whom I adore. We pay her just under US$700 a month but she is scheduled for 12 hours a day.
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 and morale really varies.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it is easier on families than couples. But it is so expensive to fly out that it is tough on familes buying multiple tickets if you want to travel aside from your R&R.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. It's best to keep a low profile.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. It probably will not impact Westerners much, but there are problems.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Admittedly we have not embraced the country or the people. While we traveled extensively at our last overseas assignment - we have not been motivated to do that here. It's not a great match for us but many people absolutely love the people. And, travel outside of the city is supposed to be just gorgeous.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hiking, the hash and traveling outside of the city are about all that is available. The Embassy is having a pool constructed and the employee association is very aware of the need for more facilities, but they are brand new and bringing new services to post - like a commissary which may take some time.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There is some opportunity to purchase rugs, furniture, fabrics, etc.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money provided you are willing to not travel very much. You can always say that you lived here - which comes with a certain amount of street cred.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I felt very well educated when I arrived so, not much surprised me. I was prepared for a challenging hardship tour and it is certainly that.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
We chose this post as a professional opportunity for my spouse. So I would do it again. But I won't be sad to leave.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Jarred red sauce.
4. But don't forget your:
Favorite snack foods.