Belgrade, Serbia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/05/12

Personal Experiences from Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia 04/05/12

Background:

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

Second.

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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?

Southeast USA. It takes about 14 hrs with connections

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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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?

Most expat families folks live either in a nice suburb about twenty minutes by car from the embassy or closer to downtown if they are here without no kids. Very nice housing in general.

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

If you buy local, prices are fair for food and toiletries. Local Green Markets are excellent during season and have some of the most delicious vegetables and fruits that any organic market could offer in USA. Imported electronic products are very expensive, and it is best to bring them from USA.

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

Electronics. If you plan to get a laptop computer or other items with batteries, plan ahead and bring them with you.

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

American Fastfood: McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC. Wide variety of many great pizza places. Local Serbian version of Mexican and Chinese. Wide variety of excellent European Cuisine restaurants at good prices ($10/plate)'

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Excellent if you buy from the local green markets. Some of the best fresh vegetables and fruits I have ever had, including tomatoes, red peppers, peaches, grapes, etc.

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

Nothing unusual in type or amounts.

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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?

We have a good housekeeper part-time. Cost is about 6 Euros/hour.

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

I have seen some gyms in various locations, but I have not tried any.

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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 have used the credit cards at many restaurants and shops without any problems.

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

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

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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?

The younger generation tends to know enough English. Older folks may not. We have used it little so far.

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

Newer facilities such as malls do have some accommodations.

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Transportation:

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

Extensive and safe public transportation with buses, electric trolleys, and trains. Many employees ride the bus to work.

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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?

Parking is very tight in the city. We have a big car which is difficult to park. That being said, it is not a big deal except when parking in the city. Roads are generally in good shape.

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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?

Our DSL clocks at 2-3 Mps, which is typical for US DSL. Service has so far been fairly reliable. The price is about $40/month.

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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?

Good coverage, cheap price. Bring your own cell (expensive here) and get a SIM card.

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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)?

We have been happy with the vet for our dog, who also does boarding when needed.

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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 much, mostly embassy-related or volunteer.

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

Business casual to business formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

This has been a surprise for us, as the daily living is very peaceful. Embassy neighborhood is the suburbs is very calm and families feel very safe. Political outbursts is always a possibility, but so far this has not been the case.

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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?

Overall decent local health care, but you need to know where to go.

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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?

Moderate air pollution in the air during winter, otherwise fairly typical for many developing countries.

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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?

Four seasons, with snowy, but not too cold, winter and beautiful spring and fall. Summer is warm with few spikes in heat.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most attend Internation School of Belgrade (ISB). We have been very pleased so far despite being a smaller school. Teachers seem to be very dedicated.

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

Minimal accommodation possible for mild disabilities, but otherwise not capable of taking kids with major disabilities.

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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?

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

Via school. If child is also very eager, you can do soccer clubs and tennis clubs in the community.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium, mostly American or European.

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2. Morale among expats:

High.

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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?

Serbians really enjoy the social life and have many good restaurants and cafes. Multiple parks throughout the city.

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

Yes for all. Families with kids love the neighborhood and easy/tranquil life. Singles/couples live in the city which has a more active lifestyle.

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

No. Very strong anti-gay sentiment in this region.

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

Overall, this is a very homogeneous country. There is a small Roma population that lives as a lower economic class in general.

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

Daily life is very enjoyable and peaceful. Beautiful trips within Serbia as well as to Rome, Budapest, Vienna, Slovenia and elsewhere.

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

Skiing in Kopaonik or Slovenia. Shopping/sightseeing in Budapest, Vienna or Rome. What else can I say?

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

Not much in the tourist souvenir stuff here. Spend you money doing some nice traveling.

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

Easy, livable city with low crime. Beautiful countryside. Peaceful neighborhoods. Easy driving to many interesting cities such as Budapest and Vienna.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. Overall life is cheaper than in the States for expats earning in US salaries.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, definitely.

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

Prior media impressions of Serbia: you will be pleasantly surprised,

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience to find a parking spot in the city center,

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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