Tunis, Tunisia Report of what it's like to live there - 11/26/14

Personal Experiences from Tunis, Tunisia

Tunis, Tunisia 11/26/14

Background:

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

Yes.

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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?

I took AirFrance back to the midwest. It's about 16 hours including the layover in Paris.

FYI - if you ever take TunisAir to leave Tunisia whether to get home or to visit Europe, you MUST know there's a 90% chance your flight will be delayed.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 Years & 3 months.

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

Trailing diplomatic spouse. I've written one of the more recent posts, however, our tour was extended for another year and so I feel it was necessary to share what I've learned in that time!

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Villas or apartments. A lot of the Villas are old and/or haven't been built well.

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

Groceries are the same or cheaper than the U.S., produce is MUCH cheaper than the U.S.! Things like squash and pumpkin are incredibly cheap.
There is no good junk food here which was nice, the only chips they have are Bugles...not even crackers!

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

There are too many things to even say......
any speciality things for baking (vanilla extract, chocolate chips), ALL BABY items (furniture, clothing, food, etc), clothing/shoes because there are no malls here and what they do have is expensive, dryer sheets if you have a dryer (there are none here), toilet paper if you're shipping a large container, make-up and other cosmetics.

When in doubt bring it because it's probably not here.

If you like Mexican food then you would be happy to know that tortillas, taco kits, and fajitas kits are now being carried in Monoprix Lac 2, and Carrefour.

Hamila (the Duty Free) has a nice selection of Alcohol/Wine and some food items.

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

Cockroaches came out of our drains which was nasty. Mosquitoes are also bad if you're by the water (Gammarth or Lac 2). Even if you aren't by the water I hear the mosquitoes are still bad.

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Daily Life:

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

I think we overpaid slightly compared to what other expats paid but it was well worth it, I miss our housekeeper a lot! We paid her 30 dinars and she did a great job (about 4 hours of cleaning).

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

There is a service in La Goulette (Roman Catholic) on Sundays at 11 in English. The African Bank made up 97% of the church and they're now gone so I hope the church stays open. There's also a Catholic church downtown, and a couple other churches I believe...

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

YOU MUST BE FLUENT IN FRENCH! If you don't speak good French your life will be challenging here, NO ONE speaks English.

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

Yes. There aren't many handicap friendly buildings. Even some doctors offices are on the 2nd or 3rd floors of apartment buildings and would be hard to get to.

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Transportation:

1. 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 would advise a smaller car, we had a 4 door sedan and it could be difficult driving sometimes (parking).

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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?

Internet was good and cheap, I don't know what we paid exactly but it was sufficient for downloading movies from iTunes and skyping everyday.

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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?

Maybe if you speak fluent French?

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Health & Safety:

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

YES. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. We had friends who were mugged walking from the march in La Marsa going back to their house. There were also break ins (no one injured) and a friend was driving and had a couple of guys steal his phone while in traffic (they had a knife).

Having your purse go through a metal detector while going to Carrefour got old really quick.

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2. 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?

I would say moderate to good depending on where you are at. My allergies did bother me quite a bit year round so bring your Claritin or Allegra!

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

As I mentioned earlier, I suffered a lot with seasonal allergies, I recommend bringing your medicine with you. They have Deslor 5mg here but it makes you drowsy.

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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 is pretty much living hell from June-August, reaching 106 Degrees Fahrenheit. Ramadan fell during the summer months when we were here which was difficult because the majority of businesses are closed in the day and you sweat in places you didn't even know you could sweat from!

People will wear boots and winter coats when it's about 60F, I would wear sandals.

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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 hear different things about the American school, I hear it's 30K a year and the classroom size is VERY small since the African bank left.

If you have children I highly recommend Dr. Sofia Helioui as a Pediatrician, she studied in Boston and speaks perfect English! I'm pretty sure she's on the website for the American Embassy. Her #: 983-146-61. I Think she's in Menzah 7

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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?

A good creche (daycare) is about 350-500 dinars a month. Our experience at a creche was good, they had a menu for the week posted for parents to see which our daycare in America did not do.

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Expat Life:

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

Whenever I saw other diplomats it always seemed like people were talking about who is leaving next and when everyone is leaving. There's not many people who love living here.

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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?

Not much! Eating out is about it...

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

I would not advise families to go here because there is nothing for kids to do. The parks are awful (one play area collapsed when my 23 pound child was playing on it and no one apologized or did anything). There is no theater. There is a new water park but I've heard it literally smells bad and the employees are lazy.

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

I wouldn't believe so.

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

Yes, if you don't look Tunisian be prepared to get stared at.

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

The couscous is delicious, I prefer it over Moroccan couscous. Visiting Roman ruins in Oudna and Dougga was a real treat. I've seen the Colosseum and I think that Dougga was MUCH better!

Making a few friends that I hope we keep in touch with.

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

If you have children 6 and under, I highly recommend eating at "La Galette" because they have some toys for kids to play with and they also sell clothing articles. It's baby friendly and the food is a little pricey but delicious. If you google it you will find the information.

Oudna and Dougga are the Roman ruins we visited that I highly recommend.

Go get a spa service at Movenpick and they will let you use the pool (indoor and outdoor) this was our escape while in Tunisia. The view is breath taking and the beach is private.

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

Pottery.

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

Having someone come to our apartment and clean for 30 Dinars was also a nice luxury that we didn't have in the U.S.

Saving money is easy to do here, the cost of living is generally cheap. There is NOTHING to do here so it's easy to save money, especially if you don't have kids.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes most definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I would have known that no one speaks English. I also wish I would've known how gross and nasty the public beaches are. I thought we were going to come here and be next to beautiful beaches but that wasn't the case. In the summer the beaches are like a candy bar with ants crawling all over them. Movenpick saved us here.

I wish I would've known how people stare here, this was a big culture shock for me. The way people always stared really took a toll.

I wish I would have done more research or even paid a visit before committing to come here. here is NOTHING to do here so you and your spouse if you have one will be spending LOTS of time together!!

Many expat women don't drive here because it's crazy, there are worse places in the world, but if you're not experienced then it's very difficult. There are some women who drive here but most don't.

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

Absolutely not, it was the hardest 2 years of my life. It was a learning experience and it made me a more grateful person, but I am beyond glad that it's over with. I would not advise coming here for more than 2 years to anyone. If you have kids I wouldn't even consider it, especially if they've lived in first world countries prior to living here...they will be miserable. If your child is under 2 you might be okay.

If you don't know French, learn it before you come!

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

Short shorts, low cut tops, stiletto heels.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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

Make sure whatever book you buy is recent, my husband bought one published several years ago and it said there's no alcohol available to buy here which is not true!

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Do your research before coming here!

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