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

Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay 04/28/10

Background:

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

No. Colombo, Sri Lanka and Paris, France.

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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?

16 hours, including required layovers in Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

US Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses with pools, apartments with pools. All are large and very nice. Commutes range from 5 to 25 minutes.

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

Much is available here, and all is reasonably priced as long as you aren't wedded to US brands. Good cheeses and fish are hard to find.

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

None.

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

Yes. McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut. US prices. But who would want that filth? There are plenty of other restaurants here that are very inexpensive compared to the US. And Churrascurias galore.

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

Mosquitoes for much of the year, but no worse than the MD eastern shore in the summertime -- and better than lots of other places.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Only one time per week, unfortunately. You get used to it, though.

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

Cheap. About $300 per month full time. More expensive for live-ins or part-time help.

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

Yes.

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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?

ATMs are everywhere, but they charge $5 per withdrawal. Credit cards are accepted at some places.

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

Yes.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No newspapers. DirectTV and cable are available. About $50 per month.

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

Spanish is an absolute must. Nobody speaks english. Some only speak guarani, but that's fairly rare in the city.

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

Not set up for handicapped people. No sidewalks, no ramps, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are cheap, and are the most widely used transport for locals. Taxis are surprisingly expensive for Asuncion, but they are everywhere and worth the money. They are never more than five minutes away.

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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?

An SUV is best for the potholes, floods and cobblestone roads. I have a car and it's ok, but an SUV is definitely best. Carjacking is very rare.

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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?

Medium speed. Between $30-100 per month. Stick with the $30 subscription. It appears to be the same speed as the more expensive options.

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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?

Get one here. Cheap and reliable.

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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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets are ok. Nothing else.

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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?

No.

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

Business attire at work. Jeans in public. There isn't one restaurant in Asuncion where you couldn't wear jeans.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is on the increase. Police are corrupt and ineffective, and there is corruption on a scale so massive one cannot expect justice of any kind.

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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?

Sort of. Emergency medical care at hospitals is terrible, so just hope you don't get too sick. But there are plenty of decent doctors.

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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?

Unhealthy. Unfortunately, it's often full or smoke and fumes.

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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?

It's very hot for about 4 months, hot for about 4 months, and quite temperate for about 4 months.

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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, Pan American International School, American Christian Academy, french and german schools, too. All are ok from what I understand. None are great.

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

American School makes accommodations.

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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?

Available and inexpensive.

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

Through school, 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?

Tiny.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good to very good. It's an easy place to live.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

People go to each other's homes and pools. Lots of BBQs with locals, too. Restaurants, clubs, etc.

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

For male singles it's a fine city. For female singles it's very tough. For couples and families it's a great city. Families have some trouble finding things to do that their kids enjoy - especially between the ages of 10-18. But all seem to enjoy living here.

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

Yes. There are many openly-gay people and none ever seem to have any problems at all.

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

No, although there are no blacks in this country. So if one is here, he or she definitely gets stared at quite a bit.

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

Hearing the Guarani language, exploring the countryside and learning about a new culture.

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

Restaurants, bars, a few parks. Further away are the Iguazu Falls and northern Argentina. Frankly, there isn't much to do nearby.

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

I don't shop much, so can't help here.

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

This is a fairly inexpensive country full of warm people. The fact that there are zero tourists makes for a fascinating (if not slightly surreal) experience.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, absolutely.

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

winter clothes and savings account. You'll be adding to it.

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3. But don't forget your:

spanish and willingness to pick up a new hobby.

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

"Tomb of the Inflatable Pig" and "News from Paraguay".

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"The Mission".

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a strangely wonderful place unlike anywhere else. It's partially first-world, but mainly developing. It's poor, but with much opulence, too. There are no tourists, and that makes for quite an insular existence. Fascinating and enjoyable.

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