Asuncion, Paraguay Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay 08/18/14

Background:

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

Many cities in Europe, the Caribbean, some South American posts.

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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?

DC Area; flight is via Miami (2 hours) to Asuncion direct (7 hours); United / Copa also fly via Sao Paulo / Panama City.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Still here, about a year.

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

Government- work at the Embassy.

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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, town homes and single family homes. Traffic can be slow and frustrating but nothing like DC.

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

Grocceries are generally more expensive than the U.S. although meat is cheaper. Fruits and vegetables are available year round with less variety than other South American countries. Seafood selection is limited (all frozen except for locally caught catfish).

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

Canned ethnic foods i.e. refried beans. Also BBQ sauces, salad dressings, Old Bay, etc

An extra pair of tires would be a good idea, although it is super cheap to have flats repaired.

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

McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Quiznos, Subway, TGIFs, and local fast food establishments. Prices are same or cheaper than the States. KFC is supposed to open in the next several months.

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

Mosquitos, ants. Scorpions and tarantulas are native but I haven't dealt with any.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO / 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?

Good, inexpensive (US$300-$350 month is average for embassy families).

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

The Embassy has a gym, although it will be demolished in preparation for the construction of the New Embassy Compound. There are private gyms whose costs are comparable (US$50-$75 / month) to those in the States.

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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?

Both acceptable; watch out for transactions fees

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

Catholic.

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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?

A working knowledge of Spanish is definitely required. Most Paraguayans don't speak any English as Guarani (local indigenous language) is more frequently taught in schools.

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

Individuals with mobility issues may have a difficult time due to uneven sidewalks / pavement as well as less than courteous drivers potentially running them over when the light turns green.

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Transportation:

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

City buses can be dangerous for petty theft. Taxis are usually ok, are marked, and usually organized by neighborhood. Coach style buses for travel from city-to-city are 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?

Higher clearance recommended due to potholes, surprise / unmarked mountains...err...speedbumps.

Roads can also flood during / after rain storms, so clearance is s plus as well. 4x4 generally NOT needed.

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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?

Fastest speed is 10MBS for US$150 / month. Slower / less expensive speeds are available. Internet is handicapped due to having to go through cables (Argentina / Brazil) to U.S., so you may get a fast speed here in country, but have it reduced by 10 going to the States.

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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?

Bring your own handset as they are substantially cheaper than buying one here.

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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 qurantine, yes it is available, but I'm unaware of quality of kennels. Pet care = your maid staying at your house and taking care of your pet. Vets are SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper than the U.S.

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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?

Local ecnonomy pay is abysmal in comparision to US. Teaching positions are available, however previous experience is generally required.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some; Habitat for Humanity is active here.

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

Work is generally business casual and casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Watch out for street crime but nothing worse than most major cities.

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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 poisioning is always a great way to start a weekend. Dengue is present, although not prevalent. Emergency care is available, however anything serious that can be / will be medevac'd.

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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?

Generally clean, but can be dusty. Pollution of cars / buses near the roads can be bad, but hasn't affected my breathing at all. Tropical climate, so allergies are always present.

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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?

Generally warm, but change from one day to the next in the winter. Summers are 100+ Fahrenheit with high humidity. It can go weeks without falling below 80-90F degrees. Winters are very pleasant, but temperatures can change drastically from one day to the next. NEVER freezes.

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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 School of Asuncion is the primary international school and where most embassy kids go. There are other options but less frequently attended.

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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?

No experience, although services such as this are generally less expensive than the States.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Good Embassy Community; laid back lifestyle. Other expats are few and far between- WHY would anyone come to Paraguay?

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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?

Several movie theaters (some movies in English with Spanish subtitles), some decent bars / restaurants. Big name concerts will tour through Asuncion on occasion November - March (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, 30 Seconds to Mars, Coldplay).

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

Mediocre for all.

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

Paraguay is a conservative country, however, there is an active LGBT community here.

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

Not that I'm aware of.

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

Inexpensive dining out / good meat. Warm, friendly people, regional travel.

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

Regional travel is great. Some people enjoy spending time in the countryside on weekends.

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

People like the lace (Nanduti), filigree silver jewelry, and other local artisanal crafts. Most of it is not high quality.

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

Laid-back lifestyle, warm climate (brutally hot summers), saving money.

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10. Can you save money?

Sure, although travel back to the States can be expensive depending on when you go.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Been able to speak / understand more Spanish. Also how insualar Paraguay is; it is a family oriented / focused country and that can make it hard to socialize outside of work.

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

Sure.

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

Expensive clothes (humidity = mold, also moths are present). Low clearance vehicles. Non-present vehicle brands i.e. Buick, Cadillac, GMC.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bring cold weather clothes (for when it is chilly) and also to go skiing / snowboarding in Chili / Argentina.

If you use aeresol sunscreen, it is VERY expensive here.

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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:

"Siete Cajas" (7 Boxes) - a local Paraguayan film that depicts the city's central market (Mercado 4) and has won many awards.

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