Asuncion, Paraguay Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay
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 Asia, Africa, North and South America. Half of my life has been spent overseas.
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?
Miami to Asuncion took about 8 hours, I think. There is no longer a direct flight, so Asuncion to Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires or Panama to Miami is the norm now. Flying from Paraguay to the USA takes a very long time.
3. How long have you lived here?
Over 2 years
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US Embassy employee
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Nice houses are available and everything seems to be relatively close. My commute is 15-20 minutes each way.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries and household supplies are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Beer and wine are really cheap.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Hair dye. I'm glad I shipped my small SUV. If I had it to do over, I might have shipped a bigger one.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, TGI Friday, Pizza Hut, Domino's. These places are not expensive. They don't taste the same as their counterparts back in the USA.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We have ants, mosquitoes, weevils, termites. It's very tropical.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very plentiful and inexpensive. It's hard to find someone you really like, but eventually you probably will.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. I don't know the cost-- the Marine gym at the Embassy is free but will soon be demolished.
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?
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic and Anglican and Mormon
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need to know some Spanish since most people don't know any English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. The roads and sidewalks are terrible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are no trains. Buses are cheap and have pickpockets. Taxis are affordable but they vary in quality. Most do not have seatbelts or air conditioning.
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?
You should bring an SUV. The roads are horrible here. You need a high clearance, tough vehicle. Carjackings are almost unheard of, but you should keep your doors locked and your windows up.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
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?
No, pay is very low.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are plenty. Habitat for Humanity is here. There are also many churches you can collaborate with on volunteer work. I know of at least one person who volunteers with abandoned, disabled children. There are MANY missionaries here, and there are many Peace Corps Volunteers, plus former Peace Corps Volunteers. There's a lot of poverty and lack of education in Paraguay, so the opportunities are many and varied.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Suits and business casual at the Embassy with dress-down Fridays (half days!). In public, people tend to wear lots of shorts, sleeveless, and tight clothing.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Security is getting worse. Some foreigners get mugged for their money and passports. Riding the public buses results in pickpocketing and purse snatching. Home robberies are on the rise. Motochorros (criminals on montorcycles) are a problem. Law enforcement is lax.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There's dengue and chikingunya. Medical care is not bad. Dentists are inexpensive and some are quite good.
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?
It's moderate. There's lots of particulate matter in the air, but because there aren't that many vehicles on the road yet, the air is still relatively clean.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Lots of allergy medicines are available over the counter.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Very hot and humid most of the time. Occasionally cool.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American School of Asuncion is okay, not great. It's not very American and not very international. Most of the children there are Paraguayan. Many of the teachers are American and the administrators are American. The parents are overly involved in the school. The kids are kind of spoiled. I am looking forward to moving on.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I don't think they have any.
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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is small but happy. Lots of foreigners marry Paraguayans and choose to live here.
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 are shopping malls, movie theatres, outdoor markets, a couple of theaters that put on plays, musicals, ballet, opera, a yearly jazz festival, and the annual Harp festival. The town of San Bernardino is nearby and it has a big lake where people sail (you can't swim in the lake-- too polluted). There is a fun ecoadventure park about 1.5 hours outside of Asuncion. There's also hiking, bird watching, biking, etc. People keep themselves amused. Lots of barbecues and pool parties...
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families are pretty happy here. Singles complain that there's nothing to do.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
It's tough to be an indigenous person here. There is a lot of prejudice against native people. It's sad to hear Guarani people call themselves lazy. There are not many people of African origin here. Paraguayans do not appear to be highly racist, but if you talk to them privately, some of them are very racist. As for gender prejudices, this place is pretty sexist. Men have almost all of the power and most of the property.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I have enjoyed the slow pace of life here. People are very friendly and down to earth.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are shopping malls, movie theatres, outdoor markets, a couple of theaters that put on ballet, jazz festivals, and the annual Harp festival. The town of San Bernardino is nearby and it has a big lake where people sail (you can't swim in the lake-- too polluted). There is a fun ecoadventure park about 1.5 hours outside of Asuncion. There's hiking, bird watching, biking, etc. People keep themselves amused. Lots of barbecues and pool parties...
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money. If you don't like cold weather, you'll like it here. This is the heart of South America, so you can explore Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, & Uruguay pretty easily.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, I would.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat, wool clothing, snow gear, mountain climbing gear, scuba gear...
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, hats, swimming suits, camera, flip flops, binoculars...