Algiers, Algeria Report of what it's like to live there - 03/03/08

Personal Experiences from Algiers, Algeria

Algiers, Algeria 03/03/08

Background:

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

No. I have lived in Kenya, Djibouti, and now Algeria.

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2. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Travel time is minimal from Europe; maybe 2 hours on average. There are several airlines from Europe: Air Algerie, although I'd use other airlines first, SpanAir, Air France, Lufthansa, AirItalia, and Iberian Air. There are even ferries between here and France and probably Spain.

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

I am the spouse of a foreign service officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I live in off-campus housing and I love it. The off-campus apartments seem adequate as well and the on-campus housing is comfortable.

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

I recommend bringing cleaning supplies in your consumables. Food and good food is easy to find albeit a little pricy for the imports. All the canned baby food is imported, so don't expect to find any meat based baby food except for fish.

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

Pet supplies, toilet paper, meat-based baby food, diapers, cleaning supplies, wipes, more outdoor toys for kids if you have a yard, Non-perishable pork products as you won't find them here.

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

There is one of the best Indian restaurants I haver been to called the Maha Raja. It's exquisite. I recommend the butter chicken. They do do take out, but no delivery.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Good help is available even nanny help has been fabulous. The Americans tend to pay higher than anyone else, so expect to pay around US$300-400 a month.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't.

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

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

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

I get away with little because my housekeeper speaks English and can help out with daily interactions, but speaking French even a little will greatly improve your life here.

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

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Transportation:

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

We aren't allowed to use them.

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2. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

On the right but traffic lines are merely suggestions here.

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3. 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?

Well, my husband has a car he uses for work. I do not and it is an inconvenience, but I wouldn't have anywhere to park it and you will find that two-car parking is almost nonexistant in any of the off-campus housing.

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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?

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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?

Make sure you have one.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Either the IVG line if you are at the Embassy or get Skype.

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Pets:

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

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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?

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

In public, it's best to dress conservatively.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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

With the bombs on December 11 and the targeting of the U.N. building, the threat to foreigners has increased. Anyone who tells you it's safe is either uninformed or deceptive. You will have to be willing to accept the risk of uncertainty when it comes to security.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There's a Doctor on staff at the Embassy and a good pediatrician at the Lebanese Embassy.

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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?

Northern California type weather. It's great!

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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 no international schools.

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

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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?

There are excellent preschools but taking advantage of them is at your own risk because the security sitation is so unpredictable. I did not enroll my children for that reason.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

Wow. Where do I start. A recent visitor from HQ here did a survey said the morale was the lowest he'd ever seen. As it stands, policies have taken precedence over people. Part of the problem was an OIG survey that mandated certain changes, but the survey was done well before the suicide attacks of 2007 by people who don't live here. It's almost surreal some of the policies that they are trying to implement. They have been not only harmful, but illogical at a time when security is paramount. Sadly, many are growing very bitter and cynical towards the internal leadership here and the stress level is high.

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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?

Bring, movies, toys and lots of entertainment if you have a family as you will spend a lot of time at your house for the foreseeable future.

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

For families, the city itself isn't the problem as there would be outlets and activities for children if it were secure. However, the limitations imposed on us because of the security situation, while difficult, wouldn't be half so difficult if the leadership at the Embassy were more responsive to the needs of families. Unfortunately they have not been. In fact, such requests by those of us with families have been dismissed or ignored.

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

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

None that I have noticed except for people trying to kill you because you don't follow their brand of Islam.

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

Algeria has many fascinating places to see, but you won't have easy access to any of them unless the security restrictions are lifted or unless you can arrange for a security escort. In that case, I'd recommend the Casbah, Tipaza and although I've never been Timgad with its Roman ruins, Ohran, Ghardia and Tamanrasset.

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

Beautiful tiles, metal work, traditional jewelry and clothes.

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I loved the first year here, but with the threat increasing, and with the attitude of the current internal leadership as it is now, I would not bring my family here again. If the Embassy did even the minimum of what they should be doing to accommodate families, I might recommend it for those with very young children who don't need daily social outlets.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Battle of Algiers, it's a socialist propaganda film, but worth a view.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you have children don't expect the internal leadership at the Embassy to go out of their way to accommodate the needs of your family while you are here. You will need to be prepared to go it alone or be prepared to put up a good fight for change. Also, keep an emergency suitcase packed with whatever your family will need for 24 hours. We had to evacuate our house for a night after the December 11 bombings. The bomb was 400 meters from our house.

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