Tunis, Tunisia Report of what it's like to live there - 05/19/22

Personal Experiences from Tunis, Tunisia

Tunis, Tunisia 05/19/22

Background:

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

No. Have also lived in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa.

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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?

Washington, DC via Paris or Frankfurt. Usually takes around 22+ hours with connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Diplomatic 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?

Houses are typically large. When we first arrived in 2019 the housing pool was pretty terrible in my opinion, but they are working hard to improve it. A pool and/or sea view is the exception rather than the rule. There are three neighborhoods, one is closest to the US Embassy, one is about 10-15 minutes away, and the third is 20 minutes.

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

Fruits and veggies are very seasonal but good quality and cheap. Excellent pastries and baguettes, but poor dairy products. Some of the smaller stores have good cheeses/meat, but there is not a lot of variety. The commissary or duty-free store are best for alcohol, although you can buy local wines and some beers at Carrefour.

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

Peanut butter, tortilla chips.

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

Tunisian restaurants are not great and there's not much variety. Good seafood, but if you don't want fish or couscous for every meal you will tire of it quickly. There are a few good pizza and sushi delivery options, and some of the hotels have good restaurants (the best Indian and Thai restaurants are in hotels and the Four Seasons is good but very expensive).

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

Some cockroaches/flies but nothing major. Lots of mosquitos during the summer.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO

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

Around $400-600/month for a local helper or $20 for a full day of cleaning. Most people have at least a part-time cleaner and/or nanny.

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

There's a gym at the Embassy and other gyms locally available. They are not expensive.

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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?

You can use credit cards at the malls or big grocery stores, but for the most part it is a cash economy. The ATM at the Embassy will let you withdraw the most money.

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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?

Definitely learn some French. There are many classes and tutors available and affordable. The Tunisian dialect of Arabic is difficult and very different from anything else but is much appreciated when you have a few words.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis through Bolt are safe and affordable.

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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?

Bring something you don't mind dinging! Driving can be a bit chaotic and most people have gotten into minor accidents/scrapes.

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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, easy and cheap.

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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?

We used a local provider. It's cheap (about $10/month).

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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, there are good veterinarians and a few kennel 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?

Many spouses either work at the Embassy or work remotely.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, every so often there are car break-ins or muggings but for the most part we have felt extremely 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?

Hospitals are not the best. For anything serious it's better to evacuate to Europe or the US.

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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?

Great air quality. Occasional sand storms from the Sahara but living right on the Mediterranean means lots of sea breezes.

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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)?

No

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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?

Hot and dry summers, rainy winters.

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Schools & Children:

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

ACST has been excellent.

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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?

There are numerous preschools that are affordable and good quality.

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

Yes, tennis/soccer/swimming/horseback riding are all popular activities.

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Expat Life:

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

There are a fair number of expats in Tunis if you manage to break free from the Embassy bubble. Morale is highest among people who don't center their lives around the Embassy.

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

Single people have struggled with Tunis much more than families. It's an excellent family post.

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

Not so easy to make friends with Tunisians, but that could be partly due to Covid.

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

I believe it's ok.

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

Yes, there's a lot of prejudice against people from sub-Saharan Africa.

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

Living right on the Mediterranean is incredible. There are beautiful beaches and the desert is amazing. The historical sites and Roman ruins are unbelievable.

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

Dougga, Tabarka, Hammamet, Djerba, Tozeur, Kelibia, Kairouan- this country is full of amazing places!

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

Yes, there are great rugs/pottery/handicrafts. There's a large fair (artisans' fair) at Le Kram every year.

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

Proximity to the ocean and historical sites.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Expect a slower pace of life. If you enjoy the outdoors and history, this will be a great post. It's probably not the place for you if you enjoy a bustling city and good restaurants.

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

Absolutely.

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

Traffic rules.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and bug spray.

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