Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 06/25/11

Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh 06/25/11

Background:

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

No. Seven other countries.

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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?

Coming from the U.S. most people either transit Dubai or Narita/Bangkok. The least stressful route would be through Dubai, since you only would need to change planes once (internationally).It takes my family and I anywhere from 24-36 hours to get to Dhaka.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

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

Assigned to U.S. Embsasy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments, not much more. Landlords have figured out they can make more money on high rise apartments and are tearing down very nice homes to build apartment buildings. The apartments are spacious, but construction is everywhere and you'll be lucky to find a place that isn't sandwiched between two buildings under construction.

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

Groceries are expensive. This post should have a COLA, but it doesn't. Most American's shop at the commissary to get decent brands. There are also some decent grocery stores on the local market, but you must be extremely careful with fresh foods, to include meats, vegetables, and fruits. Most foods will need to be soaked in bleach water for 30 minutes before preparing to eat.

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

Order a lot through Amazon.com and other grocers that ship to DPO and/or pouch. Most food stuff at the commissary is expired and local market stuff is sometimes questionable. Anything that doesn't expire quickly I would recommend shipping.

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

KFC, Pizza Hut, and A&W for fast food. The latter is horrible though. KFC and Pizza Hut aren't too bad. No other american known restaurants, but there have been some decent restaurants opening up in the past year.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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

Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, mosquitoes. In the winter they seem to disappear, and also in the hottest parts of the summer. Other than that, they are everywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

Send/Receive through DPO and pouch.

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

Cheap!One of the best parts about Bangladesh. My housekeeper, for example, is paid about $125/month. She works seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Drivers are a bit more, due to their high demand. Gardeners, housekeepers, nannies, all easily hired and usually very trustworthy.

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

Both the American School and the American Club have workout facilities.

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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?

The embassy has a safe ATM. Have never used a credit card here. I would advise against it.

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

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

Both are available. TV consists of a mix of Bengal, Indian, American, and European channels.

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

None. Haven't learned a single word of the local language.

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8. 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?

Not safe.

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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?

Buy one when you get here. Plenty of diplomatic vehicles are for sale. This is the worst traffic you've ever seen. A nice vehicle won't stay nice very long. I have never been involved in an accident anywhere else in the world. Here, I have been in about half a dozen minor fender benders.

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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?

Available, yes. High-speed?Not so much. I pay about $120/month for 1.5Mbps during the day and 3.0Mbps at night. That is the most reasonable I have found. Most others are much more expensive and not very reliable. Lookup Link3 for decent Internet.

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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?

Cheap domestically. Not sure about international.

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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?

No.

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

Very nice vet here. He will come to your house and do all the vaccinations and whatever else needs to be done for about an extra $10.

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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?

Embassy is slacks and collared shirt. Anything goes in public, I wear shorts and t-shirts on my off days.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a high crime post, but using common sense will keep you safe. I personally have had no issues with any security concerns. But they are out there. Petty theft, purse snatching, things like that.

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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?

Food borne diseases are common. Watch what fresh foods you eat. Ice is also a big problem. Embassy has its own medical staff, and are very good about getting you what you need.

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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 has to be one of the worst (if not the worst) places I have seen. My run times are cut down by about a minute and a half compared to places in the states.

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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?

Hot and humid summers. There are monsoon season's here, but they have been very mild since I've been here. Winters are very nice and cool.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School Dhaka (AIS/D) is regarded as the best school in Dhaka. I would agree to that. Some parents seem to think it is so much more. I think it is comparable to a public school in the states, nothing more.

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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?

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

American School has plenty of sports programs and after school 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?

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty high surprisingly, especially in the Embassy community. Although a rough place to live, we tend to stick together.

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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?

A few clubs at the large hotels, but as with everything else, has a Bangladesh spin to it.

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

I think families that are completely enveloped in their children's lives and do nothing aside from extracurricular activities might enjoy it here. Otherwise they'll suffer with the rest of us. Honestly I have no idea how singles survive Dhaka, aside from getting away one a month.

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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 am aware of. Bangladesh is a primarily Muslim country, but there are a good mix of Christian's and Hindu's as well. They all seem very open to others religions. I have noticed no racial discrimination.

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

Not many highlights. Getting out of the country is our highlight, but it isn't cheap to get out of here.

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

Pearls and Bone China are probably the best buys. Also some pretty reasonable deals on brand name clothes that are made here and exported to the U.S.

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

No real advantages to living in this third world. Things are not cheap, and living conditions are horrible. The household help is probably the only advantage I can see to living here, the help is very cheap.

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11. Can you save money?

Possible, but not as much as you would have thought coming to a third world country.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nope. I will finish my two years and never return to this place. An adventure it has been, but I will be glad to leave.

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

Winter clothes. Any expectation of privacy.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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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. Do you have any other comments?

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