Ljubljana, Slovenia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/05/10
Personal Experiences from Ljubljana, Slovenia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
We lived London for 3 years and spent a few months in Berlin.
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?
To fly home to Washington State, you go from here to Frankfurt or Amsterdam, then to Detroit or some place like that, then to the west coast. If you're paying for tickets on your own, you can get cheaper flights from Venice, but it's a 2 1/2 hour drive to Marco Polo Airport.
3. How long have you lived here?
1 1/2 years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Department of State/American Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing varies. We live in the city in a very modern penthouse apartment with a patio on the roof. Others live in houses in the suburbs, but, being a small city, that isn't very far away. Everyone complains about space in any of the houses in any European post. I don't feel cramped at all, more closets would be nice but we also have a large personal storage shed in the parking garage, as do most apartments here.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are higher priced than in the U.S. but you can get just about everything you need locally. There is an Air Force Base in Aviano, Italy with a large commissary and exchange about 2 1/2 hours drive from here.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get whatever you need. I quilt and I would have brought a lot of fabric with me, as there are only dressmaking fabric stores available and the cost per meter is about 10 to 12€, however, anyone who quilts knows that it's impossible to predict what fabrics you may need in the next 2 or 3 years. If you change your own oil in your car you should probably bring oil, but I doubt that you can put it in your shipment. Maybe you could call it vegetable oil. ;-)
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots of restaurants.... LOTS! For fast food there is only McDonald's.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No and I don't have screens.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have a DPO address as well as a pouch address. You can mail things home quickly if you send them from Aviano AFB but you cannot receive packages there.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I hear it's not cheap or easy to obtain.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, but I make it a habit to never go in one.:-)
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 not a problem, there are a few here and there that won't accept my card. You can use your credit card in most stores and restaurants.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an English-speaking non-denominational church.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
We have cable (as well as AFN), with the cable TV there is a lot of English-speaking channels, The History Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet, BBC, CNN, Euronews, many ESPN channels, lots of music video channels, Disney channel, HBO and Cinamax, to name just a few. There are many movies on TV in English with Slovenian or Serbain subtitles.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Many people under 30 or 40 speak good English, but speaking Slovene would be very helpful at times. It's a Slavic language, so you may get by easier if you already know another Slavic language. The embassy offers a free once-a-week language class. Trying to speak a little of the language always warms the locals up and makes them much more willing to help you.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This city is not set up well for a person in a wheel chair.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The buses are €1 unless you buy a card that you load with whatever amount you want, then the rides are only 80 cents. The trains are cheap and they go everywhere!
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?
Streets and parking spots are small. There are quite a few major car dealerships for getting your car repaired. We had our oil changed at the Toyota dealer and it was extremely expensive, even with the VAT refund. You'll need to buy a toll sticker for your car for driving on the freeway, 90€ a year. The Italian highways have toll booths and it's about 3€ to Aviano AFB each way. The drivers here are kind of crazy... but nothing compared to the Italian drivers. ;-)
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We have cable, internet and phone for 40€ a month, including all of the channels I listed above. We also have Vonage for our long distance calls to the US.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use a pay-as-you-go phone, but other folks have phones with calling plans. It's all affordable.
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 quarantine needed, but you do need to have a health certificate from your vet before you arrive as well as have the pet micro chipped with a chip that's readable in Europe (maybe it's called an ISO chip), as well as a rabies shot within a year before you come but not less than a month. Check with GSO on this before you come.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
We have a cat and haven't need a vet, but we know people who have used the vets and the boarding kennels here and have had no complaints.
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?
Zero, unless you get a job with either the British School or QSI. There are 3 or 4 EFM jobs in the embassy, and I believe they are all part time.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The embassy has a nurse. There are hospitals and dentists. We've received good care here, although doctor and dentist offices and waiting areas are stark and uninviting. I had a cavity and got a panoramic ex-ray for 29€ and the filling for 90€, both of which required payment in cash but it didn't take very long for my insurance to reimburse me.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
All four seasons with their text book weather patterns. Never leave the house without sunglasses and an umbrella. If winter has you down, you can either go skiing in the Alps or drive an hour away and be in Italy where it always seems to be a bit warmer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our son goes to QSI (Quality Schools International), with an American accreditation, which is a chain with it headquarters here in Ljubljana. The school goes from K through grade 12. There were 6 kids in high school (grades 9-12) this year with a graduating class of 1.QSI has been excellent for our son academically, socially... not so much. The other school is the British School of Ljubljana, I've heard good and bad about it. The high school population there is not much bigger than at QSI and I don't know if the high school credits transfer easily to an American School. There isn't any sort of sports teams associated with either school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Our son has an IEP and his school works very hard with us to assure our son is getting the most he can get out of school. It has worked out very well for us.
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?
There is a day care right next to the embassy and friends of ours have a child there and love it.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There is a softball team for kids and an American Football team for those over 16.The embassy has a softball team and plays in tournaments against the locals. Kids as young as 10 or 12 can play on the embassy team.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are a lot of English-speaking people here from American corporations like Goodyear and the like. There are a couple of expat groups you can join.
2. Morale among expats:
I think it's 50/50.I love it here, LOVE IT! Others do not. I believe it's what you make of it. Some people need hand holding and lots of embassy support to go out and find something to do. Being a very small embassy it is hard to get large groups together to do things. There is a fair amount of in home entertainment as well as dinners out with groups. The Marine House doesn't have as many Friday Happy Hours as one would expect, maybe less than once a month, depending on who's in charge.
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don't think there is a problem.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I haven't heard of any.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Scenery, wine, castles, lakes, good friends.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There's a large indoor water park as well as an outdoor water park, there is a zoo, an indoor go cart track, movie theaters in English, museums, huge caves (one has a train to take you down into it), lots of castles, lakes, mountains, skiing. There are lots musical events to attend and plenty of festivals... beer, lace, honey, wine, ski jump/Mardi gras, even a cow ball.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Beer, wine, lace, honey and sightseeing.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The beauty. The Alps are in your lap!Venice is 2 hours away, Vienna isn't much further than that. Zagreb is an hour away and Budapest is 4 hours away. It is absolutely beautiful here. The people are very friendly. There are castles and vineyards everywhere. It is a very safe city. There are 4 distinct seasons, it's cold in the winter, hot in the summer. Spring and Fall are delicious!All of the restaurants (ALL OF THEM) have outside seating. I could go on for hours about the advantages.
11. Can you save money?
I doubt it, but you didn't get into this career thinking you would now did you?You won't need the money when you're old for traveling so what are you saving it for?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, 10 times!
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
SUV and bad mood.
3. But don't forget your:
Bike, the roads are very bike friendly with bike lanes everywhere. And A Camera!
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
The movie, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, had some mountain scenes filmed here in the Soca River Valley.
6. Do you have any other comments?
I'm going to miss this place.