Bratislava, Slovakia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/22/17

Personal Experiences from Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia 06/22/17

Background:

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

Yes this was my first overseas experience.

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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?

Originally from New York. Very easy travel between Vienna and New York- direct flights on Austrian Air. Vienna is the closest international airport with access to US. Its about 45 minutes away from Bratislava.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years total. Already moved to next post and miss Bratislava.

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

US 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?

Housing is scattered throughout the city. We lived in a very modern and comfortable apartment. We have a larger park around the corner perfect for our dog and son.

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

Most things are relatively cheap despite being on the Euro. Food costs were low and eating out was generally cheap.

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

Garbage bags and toilet paper are terrible in Slovakia so we ordered from Amazon frequently. Also Cheerios. They only sell honey nut in Europe, so we ordered for our son.

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

Not too much delivery of dinner, but groceries get delivered through Tesco and was so convenient. Lots of great restaurants throughout the city of all types of cuisines.

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

We had a lot of mosquitoes our first summer but it wasnt too much of an issue in the following summers.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and diplomatic pouch are available.

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

Babysitters can be found through on-line services, Facebook, or word of mouth and generally are 5-7 Euros per hour. We found someone amazing for 5.

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

There are several gyms around. Most are relatively on par or cheaper than US. I went to Little Bit Fit where they have personal trainers for you every time you go as part of the membership and this was a bit more expensive.

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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?

Yes, no problems.

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

Everything seems to be available except mosques. I dont think Slovaks are very trusting of Muslims. Lots of different churches around. Chabad is small but very nice and has a preschool.

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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?

I learned a little Slovak when I first go to post and it was helpful when out shopping or in restaurants. Generally in Bratislava you will find people who speak English. Outside of the city, in the villages you wont have as much English.

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

Possible. The streets are still cobblestone in the Old City so walking with my sons stroller was sometimes a bit tough so I can imagine that someone with a wheelchair might find it to be quite difficult. However, the buses and trams were mostly accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis with apps are cheap and easy. Buses and trams are cheap and on schedule. Walking around town is easy too. All safe.

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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 think anything is good but roads and parking spaces can be narrow. Most Americans drove SUVs anyway. Toyota was probably the most popular because there is a Toyota dealer who can provide maintenance. We brought a Prius to post and had no problems.

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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, good service and cheap. About $20 per 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?

Bring an unlocked phone and service is about $20 per month- super cheap!

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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?

We used a Pet hotel out of town that had kennels which our dog needs. Others use a house where the dogs roam free but is not good for our dog.
Vet service is good. We used this guy: www.vetambulancia.sk.

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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?

Some spouses worked at the embassy, others had virtual positions, and others did not work. Teaching jobs can be found the most easily I think. Local salary will be less than US but cost of living is less too.

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

There isnt really a dress code but Slovak women tend to always be dressed to be seen with high high heels even in the snow. But I never felt judged or looked down on for dressing more casual. Generally Slovaks are very nice and friendly.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not that I felt. In high tourist season you just have to watch your bags/wallets/phones. I know there were two families who had bikes stolen.

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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?

Medical care isnt the best but there are good options nearby. Medissimo is a private facility in Bratislava, Heinburg Hospital is about 15-20 minutes drive in Austria, and many doctors in Vienna. There was a good English-speaking dentist in Bratislava who was reasonably priced and knew how to complete the government insurance forms.

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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?

No issues.

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

There are gluten free shops around. All menus have allergens labeled.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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

Four seasons. Summer can be really hot and humid and there are still a lot of places that don't have air conditioning, but overall its not too bad. Winter can be cold and grey and wet. We got snow but not too much.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several options, main ones used are QSI and British International.

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

The British International School had supports for kids with learning disabilities. Parents are also able to bring in their own specialists, including for autism services. I think QSI does too, but I am not sure.

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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?

Preschools are available either with international schools or "local" schools. No experience with them.

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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 felt fairly large. I made friends with people from other countries and also Americans not with the embassy.

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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?

Most people go out to restaurants or other people's homes. The two main squares downtown often have events which are a lot of fun and draw crowds. In the summer there are outdoor concerts frequently and you can sit outside at the restaurants and bars and listen or grab a gelato and listen from a bench. The malls are also really nice and have great activities for kids so they are a great meeting place for parents and kids.

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

Yes, Yes, Yes. Bratislava has something for everyone! A great nightlife for singles and couples, as well as so many amazing family friendly places... you cant go wrong!

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

Slovaks are very tolerant. I never felt there were issues for any groups.

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

Old Town is fantastic, but the villages are also really nice to check out. Also Devin and The Red Stone Castle. We also loved going to Schloss Hoff in Austria- about 35 minutes drive. The palace has a nice petting zoo and playground and if you go a couple times a year, its worth getting the season pass.

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

There are a lot of wine festivals in the neighboring villages which are fantastic. Despite being alcohol related, they are actually very family friendly and fun! Live music, street food, handicrafts, and rides for kids.

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

There is pottery in Modra. Theres a nice handicraft festival in the fall which has a lot of great handmade items.

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

Proximity to ALL OF EUROPE! I wish I could say we traveled as much as I would have liked but it is really close to everything and RyanAir hub is at Bratislava airport so you could fly, drive, or train all over Europe. Vienna and Budapest are so close that we spent a lot of time in those cities.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES!!!

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

Stress. Life in Bratislava can be very chill.

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3. But don't forget your:

Car. Public transportation is good for the inner city but there were a lot of places I would shop that were better accessed by driving.

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

"Letters from Slovakia" https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Slovakia-Humorous-Englishman-Republic/dp/1470190230

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