Yerevan, Armenia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/05/21

Personal Experiences from Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, Armenia 08/05/21

Background:

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

This was our sixth expat experience; we have also lived in Europe, South Central Asia and Latin America.

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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?

VA/TX Very long flights, departing in the middle of the night; no easy connections; long layovers through Paris or Vienna. Yerevan is not well-connected to other international destinations.

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3. What years did you live here?

2017-2019.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic assignment.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is generally larger than the US standard. There are several options. Downtown apartments cater towards the single or child-less crowd, with easy access to the city center, restaurants and bars. Distance to work is about 15-20 min depending on traffic. There is a neighborhood of fairly large houses, with a distance to work of 15-20 minutes (this neighborhood is not very walkable). There is another neighborhood also comprised of houses, with distance to work being 5-10 minutes (again not very walkable). There is a neighborhood at the edge of Yerevan, that is a gated community. It consists of large houses, and the distance to work is 20-35 minutes; it is very walkable. Families are placed in houses. The QSI school is located in the neighborhood of Vahagni.

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

Availability of groceries is good, depending on the season. In summer, fruits and vegetables are plentiful and tasty, but winters are tough in this category. We find most everything basic. SAS, Yerevan City and Parma are the mainstream grocery stores. We heavily supplement from Amazon and with consumables. Chicken and pork are very tasty and organic. Beef is tough no matter what part of it, and has a distinct flavor. There are good choices of cold cuts and local cheese, although international cheese is quite limited.

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

Too many to list: cereal, coffee, chips, snacks, cookies, beans, marinates, seasonings, mustard, ketchup, pickles, sauerkraut, all liquid detergents, oxy-clean, pasta and other sauces, wine, beer, soft drinks. All aerosols, paper towels, toilet paper, Kleenex, napkins, dishwasher tablets, kitchen sponges, and Dawn.

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

Most say there are good restaurants. We are foodies and we did not like what most considered good. We have a handful of restaurants we go to that are consistent, all are Armenian cuisine. All other restaurants serving international cuisine were a letdown. There are a couple of food delivery services, some folks consistently use them with varying degrees of success. We find that the language barrier and the delivery wait time are not to be worth it, so we cook a lot.

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

We have not had major problems. Other than mosquitos in the summer, gnats and bees are a nuisance. We see evidence of rodents in the garage, but for the most part, out houses are protected. Sand flies are unfortunately a problem, so protect yourselves and your dogs. In the summer, ticks are also abundant.

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Daily Life:

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

The embassy has a DPO, so it takes 3-4 weeks to send and receive packages from the US. Don’t have experience with local mail, and DHL and UPS exist but are expensive and slow.

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

Household help is available, quality varies and tends to be low. Rates are 2,000+ AMD per hour + transportation costs. A full time domestic employee will run about $500-600 a month. Gardeners and drivers are also available, as well as tutors.

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

There are a couple of gym chains in town, both are quite expensive. There is a gym at the embassy and the employee association has yoga and boot camp classes 1-3 times a week.

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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?

We use credit cards at main stores, otherwise, it is a cash society. I can’t comment on public ATMs, but the embassy has a cashier where you can cash checks.

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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?

English is not widely spoken. I have found the language barrier to be a huge obstacle in every day life. Armenian or Russian are a must. The Embassy has a language program, but I found the language to be difficult to pick up. You can get by at restaurants and perhaps even grocery stores, but everything else requires Armenian.

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

Yes, Armenia is not friendly for the disabled. There are no sidewalks outside of the city center, no ramps, lots of potholes, and it makes it almost impossible for wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are off limits and also are crowded and unsanitary. Taxis are plentiful and lots of people use them because they are cheap. No seat belts. I was in an accident in a taxi that did not have seat belts, and got hurt. Never took one again.

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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?

I would recommend an SUV. 4-wheel drive if possible. Roads are awful all around the city and the country. In the winter, city roads are not cleared and you really need a good vehicle and tires . Most makes like Toyota, Mercedes, Nissan, Honda, Opel are represented. Parts can be ordered via pouch.

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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?

We have the highest speed of internet, for $60/month and it is the worst internet we have had in 15 years. We have extenders, several routers throughout the house and it is still not great.

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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?

SIM cards are widely available, but plans are not that cheap. We have Google Fi.

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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?

There is no quarantine, importing pets is pretty straightforward, as always, expensive and a headache for owners and pets. There are vets, but only one who speaks English. Routine immunizations are fine, but for anything more serious – I would not trust the local care. Stray dogs and cats are everywhere.

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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?

Nothing on the local economy, and the salaries are a joke. Plenty of EFM opportunities, more jobs than interested applicants.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are plenty, whether for homeless shelters, dog shelters, orphanages, etc.

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

Business at work, business casual to casual everywhere else.

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Health & Safety:

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

It's a pretty safe country besides the usual safety precautions one takes in large cities.

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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?

Most everything requires medical evacuation. In my opinion, quality of local care is unbelievably substandard.

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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?

Air quality is very bad all winter long - like Beijing bad - and it does impact the ability to do anything outdoors. Embassy houses have air filters, most times, the indicator is red, which means that the air inside the house is unhealthy.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seasonal allergies in the spring.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Yes, people cope in any way they can with depression.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons. Long, cold and dreary winters. Super hot summers. The short spring and fall are lovely.

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Schools & Children:

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

QSI is the school of choice for Embassy folks, there is also a French school and another Cambridge International tiny school. QSI K-6 are probably ok. Anything after 6th grade - I would discourage anyone from considering. QSl is small, 110 students, with very limited resources. We were very disappointed with the school options.

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

None

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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?

No experience with preschool, but all are in Armenian. Not expensive.

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

Nothing besides your neighborhood tennis coach and private piano classes.

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Expat Life:

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

Very small. Morale is varied, a little on the lower side. It's what you make of it.

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

Expats tend to form fish bowls. Hash harriers and a hiking group come to mind.

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

I'd say it's great for families with young children. Singles may be bored, families with teenagers have a hard time finding things to do.

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

No, it is not easy to make friends with locals.

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

LGBT are discriminated against in this country.

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

Yes, all of the above.

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

A few days trips here and there. Not a whole lot.

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

Brandy tasting, winery visits, hikes, staycations at the Hotel Alexander. I did not find any particular hidden gems.

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

I found some hand painted ceramic ornaments that are nice.

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

I can't think of any other than it's cheap to live in Armenia. The pork barbecue is the best I have had in my life, and the brandy.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How undeveloped the country is, how poor the infrastructure is, how long it takes to drive anywhere, how much local driving habits would bother me day in and day out, and how bored I would be. I did not expect to give up on trying to get simple things done, because it was too complicated and it took too long. I did not expect to enjoy living in Armenia as little as I did.

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

Never.

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

Ideas that this is a European country.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience, resilience, and to lower your expectations.

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

Lost and Found in Armenia

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