Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 02/24/08

Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh 02/24/08

Background:

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

No, I have lived in three other cities.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

The best route is coming trans-atlantic from the U.S. British Air has direct flights from London.

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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 excellent. Everyone associated with the embassy lives in baridhara or gulshan. Apartments are spacious and houses tend to have strange layouts and small yards. To the embassy, a typical commute is about 5 minutes. Commute times anywhere around the diplomatic enclave is about 20 minutes (with light traffic). Commute time to downtown is at least an hour.

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

Household supplies are easy to come by. There are several areas of stores with imported goods. The availability of certain groceries can be limited - supplies dry up randomly. If you shop on the local market, goods will be cheaper than in the U.S.

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

I have APO access so I order everything there via the internet.

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

The restaurant scene is improving. There are literally thousands upon thousands of restaurants - though many have the same menu of Chinese-Thai-Indian food. There are good restaurants and I have yet to get sick from the food here. The good restaurants tend to run about US$10 per person for a good meal.

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Daily Life:

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

From what I understand, you don't. None of my non-embassy friends send or receive mail. However, all the major shippers are here (DHL, Fedex, etc.).

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

It's available but the quality varies. Most people employ at least two people - some three or four.

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3. 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've used both without problem. The grocery stores, tourist shops, hotels, etc. all accept credit cards. That said, however, this is pretty much a cash economy.

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

If you're Christian, Muslim or Hindu, you're bound to find something that suits you.

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

There are several daily English language newspapers though I don't know the cost. You can get the Economist here but I've heard reports of government censorship of some articles. Television is only US$8 per month and you get a decent number of English-language channels, some of which show the latest season of popular U.S. shows.

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

None. People get really excited if you speak to them in Bangla but it is not necessary to live here.

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

Many. This is not an accessibility-friendly city.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

It is supposed to be British style but you end up driving wherever there's a free spot on the road.

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

I've taken the train and it was safe. Friends have taken the luxury buses without any hassle. All are affordable. The airlines don't have the best reputation but more private ones are popping up all the time and a round-trip domestic flight costs about US$100.

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3. 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?

Toyotas are the way to go here. I prefer having an SUV because of the potholes and floods.

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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?

It isn't really high speed but it's good enough to skype and download television shows via itunes. It costs $US21/month.

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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?

Get one. There are several major companies - I haven't heard anything special about any one way or the other.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Mobile phones or Skype.

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Pets:

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

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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?

If you're associated with the Embassy then most people seem to work with one of the local hospitals. Any work outside of that is difficult to get because of embassy security concerns. If you are here privately, there are tons of NGOs that employ foreigners.

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

All Bangladeshi women wear local dress to work and men wear pants and ties. Many foreign women also wear local dress (especially those employed with NGOs). Otherwise, business casual. In public, no tank tops, no short skirts or dresses.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

This depends on the time of year. In the winter, when people burn a lot of trash, it is poor. In summer it is all right but it is never good.

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

Embassy people are prevented from doing a lot, but any real security threat is difficult to see. I've known a few people who have gotten mugged on rickshaws but that's about it.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The health concerns are the same as in any other developing country. There are two or three decent hospitals.

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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?

Humid and rainy much of the time. However, it gets colder than you'd think in the winter. A light jacket is necessary.

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Schools & Children:

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

From what i understand, the academics are great but the social scene can be dodgey - especially in the high school.

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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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Expat Life:

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

Large - especially if you're willing to branch outside the American community. There are many people here doing really interesting work from garments to NGO to large corporations.

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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?

There's a lot going on. There are many parties and game nights, fancy balls, dining out, bowling....most things you find in any city (other than bars) although the quality or quantity won't measure up to other places.

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3. Morale among expats:

Generally pretty good.

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

it's a good city for what you make of it. Despite what you might think, there is a thriving social scene. There are parties often. Several restaurants have music nights on a reglar basis. The clubs are a good place to hang out and there is somewhat of an art scene - galleries often have showings. From my experience, it isn't any easier or harder based upon your relationship status. Dating opportunities are limited, but still exist.

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

You won't find any gay clubs. As is common in other Muslim countries, men and women walk around with each other holding hands.

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

Women get stared at all the time. I've only experienced about two instances of harrassment in my two years - it's limited to staring and gawking. There are racial prejudices though nothing security-related. It's limited to poorer service or stereotypical interactions.

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

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

Picture framing is fabulous. The local art scene is quite good and many people have gotten fabulous works. Tailor-made clothing, bedspreads made out of saris, pearls, pearls, and more pearls. There's lots to buy here - some great presents can be found.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely. Traveling outside of country can be expensive but I've still managed to save a ton.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I had a good time, despite a lot of frustration.

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

Love of orderliness and common sense - especially on the roads.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, sense of humor, Star Alliance frequent flier miles and more patience.

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

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you can dream it it can be done here. Seriously. There seems to be a way to get anything made or accomplished here as long as you are very patient and know the right place to go.

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