Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 09/29/14
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?
No. Lived in Seoul for 2 years.
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?
We live in a high rise apartment in a Diplomatic Enclave (just a perimeter, no gates). It's usually about 10-15 minutes by car but if there's traffic and closed roads as often they are, it could be 30-45 minutes. All depends where you live.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartment high rise. There may still be a few people in houses but that is almost over as they are not seismically safe. I find my apartment very comfortable and huge. 4 bdr, 5 bath (seriously, we use showers as storage space, who needs this many?). I have no complaints on housing.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive compared to U.S. I stopped looking at prices at the commissary because if I need it, I don't care how much it is. Local market has a lot too, prices vary by brand or if it's imported. Fresh fruits and vegetables are tough because they have formalin which is like a preservative...I only feed my children frozen/canned veggies from commissary and make smoothies with frozen fruit. Fresh fruit I buy occasionally. There is no fresh milk, just UHT. No celery. Meats are expensive unless local (I always brought in luggage when taking trips out). Paper goods, laundry soap, dish soap...bring enough for whole tour but watch your housekeeper doesn't over use. Items are available here but expensive unless you use local brands.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More laundry soap (liquid restrictions through mail) and toilet paper (very cheap locally but I don't like it). Special food items like Mexican food ingridients.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Pizza Hut, and lots of other local chains like fried chicken places. I could spend US$25 for a family of 4 ordering delivery.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
MOSQUITOS! Some are not as bothered but I am a magnet for them. Luckily I haven't had Dengue Fever but I know some that have. I am rarely outside at night and you'll make your favorite fragrance, OFF!
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?
Available and affordable...on average US$200 a month for a full time employee.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. Our residence building has a gym, the American Club, American School (AISD), and Annex. AISD will charge you more if you don't have students enrolled.
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?
I don't use them, except commissary (2% fee). Bring lots of checks. You will use cash mostly.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I know none and get around fine.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No. I don't take ANY public transport. People occasionally ride on rickshaws (pedicab), affordable but agree on price before you get on, some get dropped off at different location without wanting to.
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?
<5 years old (don't ask why). Bring something you don't mind getting hit/scratched. High clearance is better like a jeep. I've had problems with parts because my car is old (bought here). Lot of Asian brand cars around. Reliable car service is expensive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Available but not as reliable (power outages) and slower. US$25-$100+ plans. I have the cheaper and it's good enough.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cheap and available here. I brought unlocked phone. Long distance is very cheap, for example 1 hour call to U.S. is about US$5.00.
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?
I don't think so.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many. See CLO.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work I would say the same as any other, many men don't wear ties because it's very hot here. In public women are the ones that need to be careful not to be revealing. It's easy to buy local outfits that fit our Western taste. Women cover breasts with scarves because of the staring (even without cleavage) and nothing too short. It's a primarily Muslim country but much more lax in that sense.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Many demonstrations, mostly amongst locals and their government but there is occurence of violence. Just follow RSOs recommendations, I stay in when there is a Hartal. My children are not school-aged so I don't worry about them being somewhere else. I haven't been affected but I take precautions seriously. The upside is there is hardly traffic on those days.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
I would not want medical attention here. Dengue Fever, diarrhea, some respiratory issues, lots of colds/flus, and I have so much dust in my eyes from bad air.
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?
Horrible. When you come in from the plane, you can see a giant haze around the city. There's a lot of smog and people burn trash outside especially in "winter." The air stinks like a garbage can or toilet.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Seasonal allergies will just be worst here. If you have food allergy, then plan on cooking your own meals or having a cook. If you ask at a restaurant you might get a head nod and yes just to hear what you want.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
If you like hot and humid then this is it. Monsoon season in summer months (Jun/Jul - Aug/Sept). "Winter" is at the end of the year with actual comfortable days but mosquitos are at their worst. Air conditioning in vehicles and home is a must.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Almost everyone in our community attends AISD, I don't think there are better choices. No experience on quality.
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?
Yes, there are several for different age groups: Jinglebells, Grace, French School. Many kids are in school, even the under 5 kids. It's getting much better where more of us keep our kids home and there is an abundance of playgroups (most run by the ayahs). I don't know exact cost but it was not worth it for me especially wanting flexibility to travel out without worrying about school schedule.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
At AISD and private programs like gymnastics, ballet, martial arts.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and morale is what you make it. I started off not so good but I've made many friends now and am actually content.
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?
Going to embassy clubs. At home parties, Heritage Hour. At some point you should go to a Bangladeshi wedding.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Definitely not a good city for singles, especially women. Couples do okay. Many families here, I personally don't recommend this place for small children (nutrition/health reasons) but there are so many young kids.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Singles probably not. I now of some couples.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Women get stared at, super uncomfortable!!! There is definitely a class system here. Local rich people have no respect for the poor. Skin color is seen as "the lighter you are, the higher class you are"....they even advertise Skin Lightening Creams which is hilarious when we are at the pool tanning ourselves to be darker. These are just observations mostly among locals, I have not had problems myself.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Making lots of new friends, and as a stay at home mom, it's been nice doing things I would not been able to without an ayah (nanny) such as outings with friends, spa, etc.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
We make our own fun by gathering with friends. Be selective where you eat out or it can mean diarrhea (dhaka belly).
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Pearls, clothes, sarees, art.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving money I guess, but you can quickly spend it if you take many trips outside the country (use your R&R wisely). Domestic help is very affordable. Nice, close community (making friends is a must for morale).
10. Can you save money?
Yes, unless you need to leave the country every 3 months and feel you need a fleet of staff to live comfortably.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I would have a hard time feeding healthy foods to my family. You'll gain weight from both poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Both require much more effort because you no longer do your own chores, walk anywhere, etc...exercise takes more effort but doable.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes, bikes, revealing outfits.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunblock, mosquito repellent, patience in traffic, sense of humor, motivation to exercise. Oh, bring extra work shoes (men) the humidity and dust will make your shoes fall apart...often!