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

Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay 05/21/16

Background:

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

This is our fourth expat experience. We have lived in Georgia, Ukraine, and Ecuador previously.

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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?

Our home base is Ohio. We fly from Asuncion to Panama (usually) then the U.S. for our final connection to Ohio. It take about 24 hours (with layovers) to get home to Ohio but only 17 or 18 to get back because the connections are better.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We have been here for almost two years.

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

U.S. 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?

Embassy houses are generally spacious and usually have a small yard and a swimming pool. There are also some lovely apartments. Traffic can be very bad, especially in the rain. Your commute will probably depend on how many major arteries you need to cross. I think most people can generally get to the Embassy in 15 - 30 minutes.

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

American products are definitely more expensive but I think it is very cheap to buy fruits, vegetables, and meat that is locally sourced. Fish is ridiculously expensive and not that good. There is a very nice supermarket called Casa Rica and a chain supermarket called Superseis and you can find about anything you need except for real maple syrup and cheddar cheese. The Meat Shop (a Mennonite coop) has homemade peanut butter and amazing homemade breads. Mercado Cuatro is the huge market downtown that sells everything. There is a section run by the carpenters and a section for plants and herbs. But, much of it has the feel of a dollar store with tons of cheap products.

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

Maple syrup and cheddar cheese.

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

You will find Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Burger King, TGIF, etc.

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

Mosquitoes bring dengue and zika.

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Daily Life:

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

I use the DPO but many people use Paraguaybox to send and receive items from the United States. There are a few similar services.

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

I believe a live-in housekeeper is about US$80 - $100 a week. A housekeeper part time usually runs around US$20 a day. Domestic help is available although sometimes hard to find. A gardener costs about US$15 - $20 for a half day.

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

There are gyms available but I don't know the costs. There is a small gym at the Embassy. The Embassy is being rebuilt so I'm not sure what will happen to it.

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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?

I use both.

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

It really helps to know some Spanish. They love it if you can say a few words in Guarani!

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

Many of the roads are made with stones (so hard to cross streets) and the sidewalks can be broken up if they exist. There are not a lot of accommodations throughout the city.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, there are buses and taxis that are safe and affordable if you are careful. There isn't a train.

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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?

It is probably best to have a vehicle with high clearance because the roads can flood significantly during rainstorms.

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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, although I think it would be better to call it "moderate-speed internet access."

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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?

Most people bring an unlocked phone from the U.S. and buy a chip from Personal or Tigo upon arrival.

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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?

Not really. The pay is very low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The Facebook page "Asuncion Assistance Group" posts volunteer opportunities and information about groups looking for help. There is plenty that you can do but you might need to work hard to find opportunities. There are a few orphanages that look for volunteers as well.

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Health & Safety:

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

Less than many large cities although I have heard of one home invasion and one armed robbery. I feel very safe here although we take normal precautions.

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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?

Dengue and zika. There are a few well regarded hospitals including Bautista and La Costa. It is very affordable! I have friends who have had babies and surgeries here and have been very happy with the care they received.

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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?

Great, unless you are walking along the street!

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

There are flowering trees and plants all year round which makes for a beautiful city but might cause trouble for allergy sufferers.

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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?

Hot in the summer (November - February) and cool with a chance of heat in the winter (May - August). Rainstorms are fierce and punishing. It is best to have a high clearance car because flooding in the roads is a pretty big problem.

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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 two schools used primarily by the embassy. ASA (American School of Asuncion) is used by most families and has good reviews for the younger grades but it sounds like there may be issues with the older grades. PAIS, or the Pan American International School is currently used by one family and they seem very happy. It is a bit further for the Embassy. Our four children are in the French school and we love it because it is small, inclusive, welcoming and they are very supportive!

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2. 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?

Yes. There are lots of pre-schools and they are very affordable. Some people choose the school closest to their home to avoid traffic and others choose the English speaking pre-school near the International school. Many people also have nannies or housekeepers who help with child care.

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

There are programs through the schools and you can also find soccer, swimming, and a few other sports. Centro Paraguayo Japones has gymnastics (very full classes), karate, and a few other classes.

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Expat Life:

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

It isn't a huge expat community but morale seems to be great. People love living here. There is a Facebook page called "Expats in Paraguay" and that is a great place to ask questions and meet other expats. People are very friendly and welcoming and it is easy to quickly feel at home.

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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?

Going out to dinner, backyard BBQ's (asados), movies, and road trips.

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

I think it is great for families because it is safe, easy to get around, and there are lots of activities for children. Older children might be bored. There are quite a few singles here at post now and they seem to be an awesome group and go out for lots of adventures.

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

We loved Iguazu Falls, the second largest waterfall in the world (5 hours from Asuncion). We visited Bonito Brazil (a ten hour drive) to snorkel down clear rivers filled with fish and fauna. Salta/Pumamarca/Cafayate in Northern Argentina was my favorite trip with jaw-dropping scenery, cheap and delicious wine at the wineries, beautiful hikes and fun salt flats. It is about 18 hours by car but worth every single second. Many of the best roads are dirt but easy to drive on. We also enjoyed the ancient Jesuit ruins (5 plus hours), the sand dunes, and numerous camping and hiking trips. We also like to visit the art city of Aregua (1 hour plus) and the lake side San Bernadino (1 hour). My kids have loved their horse riding lessons, music lessons, and other sport activities. There are a lot of backyard gatherings and BBQ's (asados) and so it is a great place for families, especially with younger children. There is a cultural scene although it isn't huge. There are concerts, art exhibits, and athletic events as well. You just have to seek them out. There are also lots of great opportunities to volunteer.

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

Visiting La Recoleta, the old cemetery in the city, visiting the train museum, going to the yacht club in Aregua, visiting the parks, and going on road trips.

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

Wooden objects, pottery, paintings

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

I love the people and the relaxed way of life. Asuncion does not feel like a large city. It is very affordable and everyone is very kind and welcoming. I love the weather but it is very hot in the summer and can reach temperatures of 105F or more. Winter usually sees temperatures in the sixties but it feels really cold partly because the houses aren't heated! There are amazing road trips if you don't mind time in the car. You can visit Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina (even Uruguay) from here.

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8. Can you save money?

Absolutely!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. I will be very sad to leave. Paraguay is comfortable, relaxed, happy, and easy-going. My family and I have been very happy here. We have made a lot of local friends and we will miss them a lot. This is a welcoming country that quickly feels like a real home.

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

Snow gear!

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3. But don't forget your:

Bathing suits and mosquito spray!

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

"At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay" by John Gimlett and "The Paraguay Reader" by Peter Lambert.

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