Bratislava, Slovakia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/07/10

Personal Experiences from Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia 04/07/10

Background:

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

Have lived in 13 other countries over the last 20 years.

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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?

From Dulles it is no more than a 12-14 hour trip departing from Vienna.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years, departed, 1 year ago.

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

Affiliated with 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?

Houses and apartments many are very old but generally well maintained. Best place to live is in old town if you don't have children; if you do go for a house.

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

U.S. prices - and anything you want or need.

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

Nothing I can think of - everything is readily available.

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

Anything in the States is also here. But why would you? The food is fantastic and reasonably priced.

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

none that I saw.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO - Local post is OK if a bit slow.

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

Rare and very expensive - $45.00 for a maid.

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

Plenty but they are a bit expensive - $100.00 is a good price can be much more. The embassy does not have anything.

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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?

No problem; most use them.

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

Yes. Plenty.

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

Sling Box - or AFN. AFN is marginal - find a friend and go Sling Box.

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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?

None - most speak English at a very good level.

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

No problem at all.

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Transportation:

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

All - very affordable and excellent.

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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?

Any kind - just be mindful of the cost of gas.

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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, about $60.00 / month. Pretty good; occasionally down but not often.

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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?

Mine was provided by the embassy, so I am not sure. But I never heard any horror stories about cost or poor service.

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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)?

No problem at; all many dogs and vets are better than doctors here. You can also go to Austria.

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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?

Yes many; but pay is not up to U.S. standards. And then you do need the local language.

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

Slovaks dress well no matter when they are out. At work - depends on where that might be?

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, there is the occasional break in. Use your alarm and generally common sense in your night-time activities.

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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?

Great medical care is available, but it's not in Bratislava. They can handle minor issues and broken bones, but that is as far as I would trust them. Just about everyone goes to Vienna or one of the fine Austrian Clinics just across the border. Generally no more than ½ hour to 45 min.

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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?

good to moderate (in the winter).

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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?

Climate is very like Washington area - winters are pretty mild - summers not to hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have children, but I did not hear many complaints.

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

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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?

Yes and not to expensive.

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

Many.

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Expat Life:

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

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent away from work - most of the time - of course you have to factor in work; there are good bosses and there are bad. A good GSO helps.

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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?

More to do than you can ever do.

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

Great for all - plenty to do no matter if you are married, single or a couple. Single guys really enjoy it.

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

Very large gay community, many bars and events just for gays, no issues at all. However, there is a conservative element that does not mind speaking their opposition to it.

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

Religious: no problem, gender: it is a man’s world. Race is an entirely different issue. This is the one downside of this post. If you are black or almost any other non-white I would not recommend going to Bratislava. There are skinheads and every form of racist you can think of. Generally they mind their own business and never seem to bother anyone that is not a minority, and you will see police walking behind them when there is a group. But they are there and they will attack a lone person if the opportunity presents itself; it did happen while I was there on several occasions.

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

Very beautiful old city, cultural events all the time 12 months a year, great shopping, excellent hunting and fishing – did I mention fantastic travel opportunities? If you are bored here it is totally your fault.

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

Too many to list - as above and you can add anything you would ever want to do out side. Biking is big - boating (all types) camping etc.

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

To many to list - this is East Europe, and there is a mixture of cultures and great things to see and buy.

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

Bratislava is really a fantastic place. There is no shortage of anything, and you can get just about any place from there very reasonably. For example, if you drive Italy is only 4 hours – Vienna is 45 min by train or driving.

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11. Can you save money?

Definitely not - just to much to do.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

For sure.

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

idea that this is old Eastern Block - it is just excellent if you are not a minority.

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3. But don't forget your:

That if you sit in your house and complain it is no one's fault but yours if you are bored.

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

None right now - just good travel guides of the country and region

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Hostel - supposed to be about Bratislava - there are lots of hostels there and they are great and well used

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Nope. Just enjoy unless you are a minority, then avoid like the plague.

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