Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 08/03/14
Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This was my 4th overseas tour. I've also lived in Thailand, Egypt, and Slovakia.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
An assignment with the U.S. Department of State.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The Embassy was transitioning to apartments only. They're pretty decent. You can drive to the Embassy in 5-15 minutes from Embassy housing.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The U.S. Commissary is good, as is the British Commissary. You can get some decent meats and poultry at a local market as well as some U.S. brand groceries. The store is hellish, though.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Shoes. Plenty of shoes becuase they wear out fast there.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
No U.S. chains. I ate at a "KFC" clone and got sick.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The easy pests there geckos. They'll live in your house and crawl around the walls. They're not a problem. The mosquitos are relentless. Ants are relentless. You have to spray yourself and the kids down with "Off" every time you think about going outside. Most, if not all, expats have the large outdoor bug zappers inside their house.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Plentiful and cheap. We had a full time maid/nanny, gardener, and driver. I think this costs us close to US$400 per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The American Club has a small gym that gets the job done.
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?
Don't use them at all.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. You won't be around people who don't speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Oh, yes. There are no accomodations for those with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No safe. They're prohibited.
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?
A high-clearance vehicle. Nothing nice, as it will get dented. Traffic is atrocious. If I could do it again, I'd take a 1985 Ford Bronco and put pressure treated 2"x12"'s on the front and rear bumpers.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is available at home. The speed was ok, and it was expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Get one when you arrive. The service and selection is decent.
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?
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?
My wife was the CLO at the British High Commission but that is extremely rare.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work, formal as in U.S. formal. Public, dress like you're in the U.S.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Security is a big problem. Stabbings and robberies at gunpoint, in the middle of the day, in the diplomatic enclave. No one should venture outside at night alone. No even to walk across the street.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care at the Embassy is ok. But you will get sick from the food. I got food poisoning three times - from eating in the American Embassy cafeteria.
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 atrocious.
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 summer, hot and rainy winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American International School was so bad that we switched our child to the British International School. It was ok at best. Disappointing in all.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I'm not positive, but I think virtually zero.
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?
We sent our youngest to a private Bangladeshi-owned/run preschool which was really good.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer for the little ones at school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty large. People were simply trying to get through their tour.
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?
Get together with friends at their house or, if you can deal with the traffic, meet them at a restaurant. It could easily take you an hour to drive 6 blocks.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's not bad for anyone in terms of socializing, etc.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We met a lot of foreign expats there, which was great.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Fun, in Dhaka? Interesting? Zilch. Nada. There is nothing attractive about Bangladesh at all, and I've seen a lot of the country.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are some awesome brass sculptures.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money here but you will also spend quite a bit while traveling around the region. You have to get out of Bangladesh every few months or else you'll go stir crazy with the traffic, pollution, dust, noise, stupidity, crime, weather, bugs, more noise, more stupidity, and more noise. Traveling to Thailand is fairly simple, with direct flights, but really expensive.
10. Can you save money?
A bit, yes.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How challenging of a place to live it is.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No, absolutely not. It was a 2 year jail sentence for my kids as the city is dirty, noisy, and dangerous. We were counting down the days.