Baku, Azerbaijan Report of what it's like to live there - 09/12/23

Personal Experiences from Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan 09/12/23

Background:

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

Elsewhere in EUR and AF.

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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?

DC, USA, allot 24 hours for travel. It is no fun to travel in and out due to odd flight times. Note, land borders closed (still from Covid??) so flights are your only option for getting away beyond Azerbaijan regional travel

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What years did you live here?

2023-present.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, 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 located in stonepay/royal park or Izmir Villas. Large apartments spread out downtown. Can only speak to the houses so far. Stonepay is far from the Embassy and city center, especially in traffic. Izmir is like a single suburban block within the city. You can walk to work from there in 25-30 minutes. With traffic so bad, only live in Stonepay if you really want the TISA (British) school and a bigger home/more greenery. Izmir homes smaller, less greenery but better condition and commute. Both communities have well, community, with the kids running around with each other and riding bikes, etc.

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

Good availability, quality is good but seasonal. Consumables is appreciated though because US products are expensive and things can suddenly be hard to find.

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

We planned our consumables well so am not missing anything. You want the usual culprits like vanilla extract, PB, maple syrup, asian and latin spices and specialty sauces.

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

Local food and Georgian delivery is best. People claim some Indian and Sushi is okay but truthfully meh. Fast food e.g. burgers, wings, and fries type places decent. Bolt is an easy app for delivery.

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

Be careful about attracting ants.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch. DPO takes 2-3 weeks, pouch three weeks.

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

Affordable but hard to find someone willing to do it all (both cleaning and nanny work). or both cleaning and cooking. Locals like to specialize but still be full time or at least paid full time. 10AZN/hr is standard with most helpers also expecting "transportation pay" as well as a one month bonus when you depart post and to also to be paid for weeks you are away from post. You are looking at $800-900/month for full-time but can probably pay much less if you just do a part time cleaner or part time nanny just for the hours you actually need. There are more people looking than there are jobs so maybe go outside the expat bubble, and you will find better and/or more affordable help on the local market. Drivers can be anywhere from $500-$800 monthly for full time depending how much you use them and if they are covering gas, using their car or not etc. Stonepay residents seem to have more of a need for drivers than Izmir or apartment dwellers.

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

Hotel gym.

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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?

Yes, but some won't work, better luck via apple pay or other phone apps. ATMs from bank branches are safe.

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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?

Google translate is your friend. Russian and Azerbaijani is nice to have but not need to have unless you will actually use it in your work e.g. Consular or (maybe?) public diplomacy

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

YUP!

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Transportation:

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

Metro doesn't go anywhere useful. For taxi apps, select comfort or comfort plus for Wolt (like Uber) if you want working A/C and seatbelts in a car.

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

One you don't care that much about with a little clearance. Driving is nuts.

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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, but don't expect privacy; use a VPN. It will be installed before you arrive.

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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?

Google Fi so you don't have to 'register' your phone.

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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?

Plenty of EFM jobs at embassy ranging from part-time escort to EPAP. Some folks teach at the international schools.

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

Business casual. Formal at only at the Marine ball.

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Health & Safety:

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

Don't expect digital privacy.

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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?

Air isn't great but could be much worse (thanks the winds for it not being worse). Anything difficult re: medical care gets you medivaced.

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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?

see above

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

Nuts are abundant.

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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?

Four seasons-ish but pretty hot and dry in summer. windy in fall, little to no snow in winter unless you go up to mountains.

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Schools & Children:

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

BIS is the American school and growing in numbers and popularity. People seem quite pleased these days. Kids 12 and up would likely still prefer TISA still (British/IB school) for sports.

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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?

People seem to like 'Bumblebee' Montessori if it works for your residence/commute. BIS starts at 2 years old and up and TISA as well with halfday/full day options at both. People also use nannies.

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

Yes, through the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Small-medium size. Morale is what you make of it. Post runs really well at least given the operating environment so that is always helpful for morale.

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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?

Hash harriers, BBQs while the kids run around, assume there are going out nights for people without kids. The Community Liaison Office (CLO) does a good job at organizing inclusive events.

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

Good for all except LGBT will have difficulty given local laws and sentiment.

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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?

Locals aren't the most open but they are helpful when asked. Not sure about actual legit friendships though. Africa and east Asian Americans might get stares but no outright hostility, more out of curiosity. Others who blend in will be mistaken for locals by guards and LE staff.

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

No, you will not be able to show affection publicly with your partner or spouse, it is not socially acceptable. That said, there are LGBT people serving here.

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

As noted above, African-American and east Asian Americans might get stares but no outright hostility, more out of curiosity. Others who blend in will be mistaken for locals by guards and LE staff.

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

Not really hidden, all the sites you can see within a week so note that for visiting family. Perhaps better to meet up with them elsewhere with more straightforward and developed tourism industry

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

Financial incentive given the current 20% hardship diff, SND for the third year, LDP if you qualify.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Wish I knew more about working with the government.

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

Yes, was right post for right point my career. The tight-knit communities in each housing area is nice for families with kids.

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

turn signals.

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4. But don't forget your:

patience for driving culture here. curiosity for the interesting mix of cultures here.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Hardship light/hidden gem still stands true but this is not EUR proper by any means...neither culturally or geographically nor European standards of living. So that 20% hardship diff is appropriate but then there are times where you are quite pleasantly surprised at what random things do work well

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