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

Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay 04/01/15

Background:

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

Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Slovenia, Nicaragua, Paraguay

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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?

Boston, there used to be a direct AA flight from Miami, but no longer - you must go through Panama, Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo.

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3. How long have you lived here?

almost 2 years

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

Department of State.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly houses, a handful live in apartments. I think most people like their houses/apartments. Like every post in the world, there will be a few who are not happy with their homes for a variety of reasons, sometimes the fault of the person, sometimes the fault of the embassy. It is no different here. Due to the high clay content in the soil here, brick is the norm in building.

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

Groceries and household supplies are about the same as the U.S.

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

things for your backyard. I managed to buy a trampoline from someone leaving, but that would be a great thing to put in your HHE-large and heavy things for your backyard that you will have trouble shipping - fooze ball tables, ping-pong, etc.

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

Fast food and decent restaurants are here. Cost is probably 10-20% less than U.S. prices.

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

There are ants and mosquitoes, Dengue is here, but seems to be on the decline. We are now facing Chikungunya, but I don't actually personally know anyone who has had it.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO or 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?

We love our empleada!! The cost of full-time help is very inexpensive. Salaries for live-in help is btw- US$250-400 per month. Non-live-in - US$300-400 per month.

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

There are gyms, but I wasn't that impressed. There is a really fancy country club that I am sure is nice, but it's really expensive. An EFM offers Yoga classes at the embassy and there is a great free park with a walking/running/ biking path right in the middle of town.

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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?

You can use them without problems.

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

Catholic mass every Sunday, maybe others too.

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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?

You really need some Spanish - very few people speak English.

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

There are some side walks here and I have seen some ramps. But this probably shouldn't be the first choice for someone with mobility limits.

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Transportation:

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

no trains in the entire country. Buses and taxis are generally safe, just use common sense.

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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?

I would bring a car that can withstand very bumpy roads, so one with good shocks. Other than the major highways and thoroughfares, very few roads are paved in PY. Most are dirt or cobble stone - don't think European cobblestone, think big rocks just thrown on the road in any manner. The drainage system is awful here so after a decent rain the roads truly look like rivers. We actually lost a car during a rain storm. High clearance will really come in handy after the rain.

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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?

yes, we pay about US$60 per month for 6 megabites.

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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?

The embassy has a group plan which costs me about US$10 per month.

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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 quarantine. Pet care available, but don't know about quality.

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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?

There are some EFM jobs at the Embassy, there a several schools where spouses work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes

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

Embassy is business with casual Fridays. In public people look fairly nice, shorts are not seen often.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are some concerns, we have had one embassy house break in here, but security upgrades have happened.

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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?

The medical care is just OK. I try to get as much of it as I can outside of PY.

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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?

I think it is pretty good compared to most capitals in the world. Not a lot of industry here. Two of my children have asthma and have done very well here.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

My kids have allergies here too, there are certain pollens and times of the year when they need to take more medicines. Many people who have never had allergies before, experience them here. Peanuts are not a common item in the local diet, although there are major peanut producers in the north.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Semi-tropical. There are really 2 seasons - a long hot summer-very hot (90-110F degrees) and short cool fall (40-70F degrees).

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many schools here that have good reputations. One thing that limits choice is the school year. There are only a few schools that have children start the school year in August and finish their grade in June. Other than several of the international schools, most others start the school year in February and finish in December. Our personal experience has been with a small school called PAIS or Pan American International School. We have been happy there. They have Kindergarten, 3-12th grade. Class size is about 10 or 12 per grade. The community is mostly middle class Paraguayans or long-term expats. The teachers are Paraguayans with high levels of English proficiency. My kids felt like they were friends with everyone in their class immediately. The classes are so small that it is almost impossible to exclude anyone-they need you for a simple game of kickball! My children speak a lot of Spanish there. Most classes are in English, but the children mostly speak Spanish everywhere in school except during academics. I think my 3 children have learned a lot there. I recently had them tested using Massachusetts Schools Standarized Tests for their grades and they did excellent.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think they try on a case by case basis. Best to contact the CLO or Nurse at the Embassy.

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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?

They are on every corner. Typical cost in about US$150-200 per month.

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

There are tons of programs for kids.

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Expat Life:

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

Not very big with varying morale. If folks are content to spend a lot of time at home, having barbeques with friends, and lounging around the pool, then they tend to be pretty happy. If you're looking for an exciting night life (or really any kind of excitement), spectacular scenery, or mountains and beaches, you may be less than thrilled to be in Paraguay. It's a pleasant place with pleasant people.

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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?

Fire-pit smores nights, pool parties, Asados (BBQs)

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

It seems to me most families and couples are happy-ish, but singles less so.

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

Paraguay is a fairly conservative and Catholic society, so tolerance for LGBT is less than ideal, with some high-level government officials occasionally making anti-LGBT comments. But I haven't heard of blatant prejudice or expats feeling ostracized.

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

I think Paraguay falls in the same category in these areas as most of Latin America.

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

We love swimming in our pool - most embassy houses have one. We have made our backyard into a kid paradise. There is a lot of home entertaining - barbeques are the national pastime. We have enjoyed visiting the Jesuit Missions (World Heritage Site), Encarnacion, Caaucupe, San Bernadino, Aregue, religious festivals, strawberry festivals, and of course Iguazu Falls, which is not in PY, but just over the border.

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

We have enjoyed learning a lot of new skills at great prices. The whole family is taking art classes, guitar, piano, tennis, sailing, etc. There is no shortage of affordable classes. If you can think of it, you can probably learn it.

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

nanduti- a sort of lace, Palo-Santo wood, ceramics,

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

Paraguay has the happiest people in the world according to a Gallup poll. It is sunny, the land is fertile, the economy is growing and yes, people generally have a positive outlook on life.

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10. Can you save money?

yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known more about the road conditions.

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

Probably, our family has been happy here. As stated above - Paraguay is pleasant, it's just not terribly exciting.

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

love of mountains and beaches. PY doesn't have them. You can take vacations to Brazil and Argentina easily enough though to get your fill.

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4. But don't forget your:

pool toys

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Mission (Two-Disc Special Edition),

7 Boxes.

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

Paraguay (Other Places Travel Guide) (Other Places Travel Guides),

Paraguay (Bradt Travel Guide Peruvian Wildlife)

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay.

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