Kolonia, Federated States Of Micronesia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/17/21
Personal Experiences from Kolonia, Federated States Of Micronesia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
We have served in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
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?
The USA. You will have to travel via Hawaii and Guam or Hawaii to the Marshall Islands on an "island hopper." You would be wise to stop for a few days in Hawaii as the trip takes about two days total.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The houses for diplomats are all over the place in regards to the size. We live in a one-story, three-bed, 2 bath house with an attached garage and a small yard. Some houses have generators which is great because the power shuts down all the time. The houses that don't have generators are going to have a rough time. Buy lots of surge protectors, as you will lose some electronics because of the constant power surges.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
If you like bananas, coconuts, rice, ramen, and fish then you can live here on the cheap. Otherwise, you will do nearly all of your grocery shopping at Ace Office Supplies. It is expensive, but they carry nearly everything an expat could want. Imported fruits and vegetables need to be consumed immediately as they are basically rotten when they are put on the shelves. Meat is very expensive. The other grocery store which is across the street is called Ace Commercial. They sell alcohol. The beer is cheap, but it is limited to Bud Light, Carlsberg, and Asahi. Wine and liquor are expensive. There are three stores on the same block and they are all called Ace.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More liquor and good wine. You'll need it. Everything else you can order through Amazon.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
For expats there are four acceptable restaurants.
Hideaway- Best restaurant on the island. Good sushi and chicken. Great atmosphere.
Mangrove- The best bar on the island. They serve sushi, chicken wings, and french fries.
Arnolds- Pizza place. They deliver.
Ocean View- Best view on the island. Good drinks and decent food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are a lot of ants and some houses have rats.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Dip pouch. Also, there is a functional US Post Office here.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
You will probably not be able to find reliable help. If you do find someone they will not show up every day and they will not call you to tell you they are not going to show up. We pay $40 per day for our cleaning lady, but she is sporadic. Most other people do not have a helper.
You will pay between $20-$40 for someone to mow your lawn. They will not show up regularly. They will show up when they need money.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a very small gym at the embassy. There is a small gym at the Genesis hospital. There is a boxing gym that is in pretty rough condition, but they have boxing, Zumba, jiu-jitsu, and dance classes.
There are tennis courts.
There is a swimming pool that was great, but it has been shut down for nearly a year and there are no plans to re-open any time soon.
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?
You will need cash at most places. Ace Office and Ace Hardware are the only places that consistently have a working credit card machine.
There are only four ATMs on the island and currently, all of them are broken. To get money you have to cash a check with the embassy cashier.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is one English Catholic Mass every week. All the other faiths are in Pohnpeian.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Everyone speaks English. You may get more street cred if you learn Pohnpeian, but it isn't at all necessary.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
If you are disabled then you don't want to come here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are taxis. They are unreliable and not at all safe.
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?
This is the most important thing I can share: DO NOT BRING A CAR HERE. Order a car from japanesevehicles.com. Japan dumps all of its used cars here and they are cheap. If you bring a car here it will get destroyed by the climate. You won't be able to sell it for what it is worth because of the glut of cars coming in from Japan. If you park your car under a coconut tree and a coconut falls and breaks your windshield, the car is considered totaled. If you order a car from one of the Japanese import sites the car will be here when you arrive, it will be cheap, and you won't be upset if something happens to it. I cannot stress this enough. You will regret bringing a car here.
If you must bring a car then you can bring anything, as there are no rules here. But don't.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet was installed upon arrival. We pay $75 per month. It is slow.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You only have one choice. Bring an unlocked phone and you can buy load cards from FSM telecom.
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?
Heed this advice: DO NOT BRING A PET HERE!!! There are no vets. There are no kennels. There are street dogs everywhere and they will tear your dog to shreds. It is also nearly impossible to get your pets out because there is no vet. I cannot stress this enough. If you have a pet that you love under no circumstances should you bring it here.
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?
There are a couple of embassy jobs: Community Liaison Office (CLO) Coordinator and management assistant. I'm sure you could teach at one of the local schools, but the pay is low.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
This is the most casual place on Earth. You will have meetings with men who will be shirtless and barefoot.
You can literally wear anything, but if you want to be dressy then khakis and a polo shirt would be fine. A lot of women forego their regular clothes for local Phonpeian skirts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are no security concerns to speak of. Most people are high on the local root called Sakau. So you have to be careful when driving.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
In my opinion, the medical care here is terrible; I really don't think it could be worse. If you are sick or have a pre-existing condition then look elsewhere. I found the main hospital to be filthy. The pharmacies don't carry many prescription medicines. You will need to be evacuated for everything. I also found the dentistry here to be bad. There are no specialists of any kind here. You should be the picture of perfect health if you decide to come here. There is no optometrist. You cannot get glasses or contacts here.
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 great. There is no industry here.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
This is a jungle. It is wet and hot. Bring skin creams for breakouts.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It seems a lot of people curtail before the end of their tours. This is a very difficult place to live. There are no mental health providers here. People struggle with their mental health here.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Wet and hot all of the time. It basically rains non-stop from December through March.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are two schools that expats use: CCA- which is a Protestant Christian Academy and there is a Catholic School. There is a lot of religious indoctrination at both schools and the quality of education is very poor in my opinion. In my opinion, your kids will be behind when they get back to the US if you send them to one of the local schools. If you bring children here, you will need to homeschool them or you will need to supplement what they are learning at home.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There are no accommodations for children with special needs. Do not bring a child with special needs here unless you are going to homeschool them.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There were swimming classes, but the pool has been closed for nearly a year and I don't think it will reopen any time soon. There are some pickup soccer and basketball games but there is nothing organized.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very small. Some people get on very well here and others lose their minds. If you want to get into the expat community then you must join the fishing club.
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?
Join the fishing club. Drink at other people's houses. Go scuba and snorkeling with the Pohnpei Surf Club.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is not a good place for singles or families with school-aged children. This place is best for couples that have no children and love isolation. Dating is difficult.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It should be fine. They are pretty laid back.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It is not easy to make friends with locals. They are friendly, but they are loyal to their families and usually socialize within their family groups. They don't like Chinese people here.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
They don't like Chinese people. Other than that they are cool.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The natural beauty is spectacular. You will marvel at the sunsets and the star-filled sky. The water is amazing. Shockingly there are no real beaches here. So if you want to enjoy the water you have to go out on a boat.
There is a UNESCO heritage site called Nan Madol that is fascinating.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
I hope you like fishing and beer. If not, you are in for a rough tour.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
No pollution. They don't have COVID 19 (yet).
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
In my opinion, the work ethic here is poor. Funerals are the main social function for locals.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and patience.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Sex Lives of Cannibals. It is about Kribati, but it basically the same.
6. Do you have any other comments?