Baku, Azerbaijan Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan 01/22/19

Background:

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

No. We have also lived in several cities across Europe and Asia.

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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?

Baku is a 4.5 hour flight from Frankfurt and then another 7 hours or so to Washington, D.C. Flights operate almost daily between Frankfurt and Baku. There are daily flights to Moscow and Istanbul as well, but most USG employees go via Frankfurt. There are also weekly flights to Paris, Rome, London, and lots of other cities.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One and a half years.

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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 great. There are houses and apartments spread throughout the city. That is the one downside; while housing is clustered, you are spread throughout the city and traffic can make it hard to get from one place to another. Commute times range from a 10 minute walk to a 30 minute drive (45 minutes with traffic).

Apartments range from 2 bedroom to 4 bedroom. Houses are from 3 bedroom to 5 bedroom. One housing location shares a compound with one of the international schools. Some of the apartments are a nice walk to the Chancery, many are a nice walk to the Annex.

Houses have interesting decorations sometimes, but they are generally quite nice. I think most people I know are happy with their housing. GSO has done a nice job of sharing photos of housing and asking your thoughts when you fill out your housing survey.

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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 shop at the expensive western grocery store, you will pay a lot. If you shop at the regular grocery stores, you will pay less than the States. If you shop at the local markets (and can speak Azerbaijani), you will pay a lot less than the States. Most things are available locally, but you will pay a price for some imported goods. However, the grocery store Bravo has been expanding and popping up all over the city and they carry a wide variety of goods, including imported Waitrose (British) and Casino (French) products. There are also quite a few German imports available and certainly tons of Russian.

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

The CLO has a list of consumables, but the big things are specialty/convenience items (chocolate chips, boxed cake mix, canned frosting, stuffing, etc.)

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

There are quite a few varieties of restaurants available. Azerbaijani food tends to feature lots of meat grilled on a stick. There are several good Indian restaurants, a Thai place, a few Japanese places, Italian, and more. nuush.az will deliver food to your home from several different restaurants (think Grub Hub).

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

Some people have had mosquitoes and many have small ants, but nothing has been too terrible. One housing complex currently has a mouse issue, but the complex management is working to try to solve that.

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Daily Life:

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

We just got DPO downstream from Tbilisi. It still has some kinks, but they are being worked out. We also still have pouch. I don't know of anyone who has used local mail.

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

Cheap and readily available. Locals love children, so nannies are easy to come by and adore your kids. People also often employ housekeepers/cooks. Make sure you train your staff, but other than that, you are good to go. I know several people have drivers, especially for bringing kids to school.

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

Gyms are pricey here, but pretty good quality. Most people go to the international hotels (Hyatt, Marriott) or a very modern facility (The Club at Port Baku). All direct hire employees currently get access to the Landmark Hotel's gym free of charge too, which is great.

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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?

We never use our credit card. You can at some of the big hotels, but most people just use cash.

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

I dont really know.

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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?

You can get by with just English. The Embassy does offer spouse language classes and classes for officers too. Local tutors are readily available.

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

Don't even try. The Embassy isn't even ADA compliant. The sidewalks are rough.

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Transportation:

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

We can't use buses, but taxis are plentiful and cheap. So are Uber and Taxify.

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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?

Bring something with high clearance if you want to go out into the regions.

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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 is pretty good. Often your social sponsor can help get you internet before you arrive, but it typically takes two weeks, so ask early or wait.

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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 a phone or buy one locally, but I think most bring.

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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?

I dont have pets, but I have been told they are available.

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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?

Most work at the embassy. Local jobs require Russian/Azerbaijani language skills. Some spouses teach at the international schools or teach English.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a few. Many of the NGOs have been shut down, so not as many as there were, but still some.

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

It really depends on your job. Suit and tie for some (Pol/Econ), more business casual for other sections. Formal dress for the various Balls throughout the year (and there are quite a few because of the Brits).

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Health & Safety:

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

Some stray dogs, but in general, I feel super safe here.

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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?

There aren't local vaccines for many things, so please vaccinate yourself and your children.

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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?

Usually the air is pretty good. We sometimes get dust storms from the quarry or Turkmenistan, but usually its not bad.

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

Learn the local language; don't count on English.

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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)?

No.

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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?

The climate is pretty good. Its chilly in the winter, but so far has been in the 40s most of the time. Hot in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

Lots of good quality schools available. BIS and TISA are the big two, but there are others. People seem to like both. The Community Liaison Office (CLO) collects parent feedback, so ask a CLO staff member.

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

Not much exists. Make sure you are honest with the schools early on so you know if they can accommodate your child.

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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?

Great preschools available in English, Russian, and Azerbaijani. They offer much more than the States and are much cheaper.

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

There are some, but most are done through school.

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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's pretty big, mostly Brits/Scots due to the oil companies. People seem to have no problem making expat friends if they want them.

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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?

There are a bunch of groups and clubs, but it can be hard if you don't speak Russian/Azerbaijani.

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

This is a great city for everyone. Families love the schools and domestic help. Couples and singles enjoy going out and meeting other expats.

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

It's not a thing here, according to locals. No one is gay. However, the local societal norms have male friends linking arms and occasionally giving kisses. The same goes for females who walk linked arms, so some things blend.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

If you want to, you can certainly make local friends. The local staff are warm and inviting (often inviting officers to their homes). There aren't a lot of different skin colors here, so Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans will stand out. Locals usually think I am Russian, so I blend in, but not everyone does. There might be staring, but people aren't too aggressive.

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

I love strolling through the Old City. Its not a 'hidden gem', but its fun.

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

You may leave Baku with several (or lots of) carpets. They sell locally made ones and imported. People tend to buy a few because they are significantly cheaper than anything you'd pay in the States.

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

You can save a lot of money if you want, especially if you are willing to live more like a local. Childcare is cheap and good. Azerbaijanis love children and would do anything for them.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

You are remote and you do earn your hardship differential, however, most people love it here. Many people extend. There are some people who have very negative reviews of post, but those people seem to be few and far between.

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

Yes. I would extend if I could!

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

Leave behind your sense of rules on the road. Traffic is terrible and people do their own thing. Its common to see cars just decide to drive down the wrong side of the road so they can get somewhere faster.

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4. But don't forget your:

Seatbelts!

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

Read Ali and Nino. It is the national book.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Baku is a great Post. Overall, morale is pretty high.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 07/15/18

Background:

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

This was our second tour. We were in the Middle East before coming here.

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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?

We don’t have a real home base in the US, but usually travel to DC (about 19 hours with a stop in Frankfurt), Utah (about 17 hours with 2 stops), or Germany (6 hours direct flight to Frankfurt)

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

In general, housing is pretty good here and most people are very happy with their housing. Houses and apartments are good-sized and adequate. Commute times vary from a 10-minute walk to a 25-minute car ride. For most housing units, there is, if at all, little green space.



Of course, housing changes all of the time, but we live in a high apartment building “Turkish Red Brick,” a 10 minute walk or 5 minute ride away from the embassy, 10 minutes away from the downtown area, with three groceries stores within a 10-minute walk. Singles, couples, small families as well as bigger families have lived here. The Baku International School is about 15-minute car ride away.



The embassy rents new and very nice apartments right near the Bulvar, mostly for singles, couples and small families (about a 10-minute ride by car).
A little compound “Izmir Villas” is a great option if you want to be somewhat closer to the embassy (less than 10 min by car). Houses are American style and look very nice, but have routine maintenance issues.



Another compound is Grand Park, which also has nice single houses and is close to a big new grocery store. Again, routine maintenance issues.
If you would like to send your kids to The International School of Azerbaijan and live close to the school, but don’t mind the 25-30 minute commute to work, chances are high that you will live at the big compound Stonepay, which looks like a little dated American suburb. There is not really much around Stonepay, so you’re a little out there in your bubble.

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

Prices are decent as long as you buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and are grown in the area or are imported from nearby countries. The variety of produce is not the most amazing, but we were able to find most foods. It’s a consumables post, so you can ship typical American foods and drinks as they will be difficult to find here. People still cook a lot from scratch, so you won’t be able to find many good convenience foods.
About every six months, the Baku Employee Association orders goods (including frozen) from Aviano at a moderate price increase.



If you turn in your VAT receipts, you can get 18% back of your grocery purchases, which makes a big difference. For us, all of our VAT reimbursements add up to about $1.5k per year.

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

For the consumables shipment, I would focus on hygiene products (shampoos, hand soaps, nail polish remover, lotions, make-up), cooking oils (they mainly sell sunflower, corn oil and olive oil here), typical American baking and cooking ingredients (pumpkin puree, molasses, evaporated milk, corn syrup, chocolate chips), sauces for cooking, good mayonnaise (theirs taste very different), peanut butter (especially the ones without sugar can be either difficult to find or are expensive), different bean varieties, gluten-free products. I would also ship your favorite cereals as the variety is not that great here or packed with sugar and not enriched.



Good-tasting basmati, risotto, jasmine and mixed rice varieties can be difficult to find or can be expensive.
Different kinds of flours can be difficult to find or difficult to identify if you can’t read Azerbaijani or Russian (bread flour, whole wheat flour, cake flour, almond flour, flaxseed flour). I would also bring spices like pumpkin spice, cream of tartar and good meat rubs.



Typical American drinks like root beer, cream soda, or good beer can be difficult to find or are expensive. They have a good variety of cleaning products at the stores, but they are cheaper in the US.

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

There are many restaurants especially in the downtown area. Most restaurants are decently priced. I haven’t found many that are amazing, but the food scene seems to be growing. Lots of Azerbaijani restaurants, East European restaurants (Mari Vanna is our favorite among them), Turkish/Middle Eastern, and a few Asian ones that are mediocre. There is a Hard Rock Cafe and more and more decent burger places are popping up. Vapiano, which is an international casual Italian chain is pretty good and cheap, too.



Hotels like the Four Seasons, Hilton and Marriott offer great breakfast buffets for good prices. There are not too many food delivery services, but Papa John’s and other pizza places seem to be the most popular ones.

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

We live in an apartment building and never had any kind of problem with insects, but some of the houses have problems with ants or other insects, but nothing out of the normal.

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Daily Life:

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

Baku is currently a pouch-only post (Li batteries can be problematic). We never used the local postal facilities.

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

Household help is good and affordable here. Most of them are from Azerbaijan and are live-out. Expats usually pay between 7-10 AZN per hour. Two days off/week is the norm here.



It seems many families with school kids have a driver. Not sure how much they pay them monthly.

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

No idea on this, but the previous post report has more information on this topic.

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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?

We always had cash with us, as you never know if a place will accept credit cards. Most international hotels accept credit cards, but some terminals won’t accept American-based credit cards.

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

I have heard of people going to Christian English services, but I forgot the name of the church. There is also a small expat LDS group present here.

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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?

Of course it’s always helpful to know the local language, but we did survive with the most basic Azerbaijani. We usually just spoke English with people or used hands and feet, and rarely had a problem. Young Azerbaijanis learn English now and can understand basic English. Most Azerbaijanis speak Russian and/or a little bit of Turkish, too. Many products at the stores are imported from Russia, so Russian might be a little bit more helpful to learn than Azerbaijani, especially if you like to travel to other post-Soviet countries.

The embassy offers group classes every once in a while, and tutors are at the embassy to help employees.

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

Yes, very likely. Unless you're walking on the Bulvar or other downtown areas, it is difficult to even push around strollers because underpass escalators are not always turned on (with no lift nearby) and most curbs are very high and uneven. There are lots of steps, too, because Baku is a hilly city, which would make it difficult to get around in a wheel chair. They have recently made street corners accessible both by wheelchairs and strollers, but there are still many curbs that are too high.

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Transportation:

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

Most people either drive or take Uber or Taxify taxis, which are cheap. You only pay around 2-4 Manat for most rides. The purple London cabs are an option, too, but I find them much more expensive (starting at 3 AZN).



The Metro is safe to use, but the system is not very extensive yet, so it’s usually not the most convenient to take. It’s very cheap, though, at 20 qepik cents per ride. Both Metro and busses are usually packed

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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?

For city driving, any car will do. You see everything here from big cars to old, small Ladas. If you like driving around in the countryside, I would take a 4-wheel drive. Gas is cheap here, especially if you turn in your VAT receipts. Repairs are very affordable and good here, too. Dealerships do relatively pain-free and inexpensive repairs and maintenance.

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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 is not super fast, but we have not had many problems streaming videos. Internet bills vary from 20-80 AZN, depending on your housing and speeds you want.

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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?

We’ve used unlocked phones with a local SIM card and put money on them every few months. It is pretty cheap.

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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?

Most spouses try to find a job at the embassy, although there haven’t been too many open positions during our time here (especially with the hiring freeze). Some expats work as teachers at the international schools (TISA and BIS).

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

Depending on the section, it will be business or business casual. Azeris like to dress well in public. You never really see people in sweat pants, with crazy hairstyles or colors, lots of tattoos or piercings as they are still frowned upon. People always look very neatly dressed and styled. Women wear a lot more skirts and dresses here than in the US. I would bring a few formal dresses with you for Azerbaijani weddings, the Marine ball, and other expat balls.

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Health & Safety:

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

Baku feels like a really safe place. With cameras and police everywhere, pretty crime is low. No need to dress down here like in many other countries. Men behave very respectfully towards women here and will help you with heavy grocery bags, open doors for you. I have noticed that men don’t catcall here as I've seen in many other countries.



Azerbaijanis typically have dark hair and brown eyes, so people like to take pictures of your light-skinned kids and/or give them a hug or kiss.
People with darker skin and Asian people might get a little bit more attention just because they seem somewhat rare here.

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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?

We haven’t had any issues here. It’s a big city, so of course, the air is not as clean as it is in the countryside, but it hasn’t affected us.
Medical care is not the greatest, so most people are medivaced for anything more serious. Dental care is okay, but not great. Health Unit sends most people to WorldMed, but I would not recommend them anymore.



I like the Dr. Smiles Boutique a lot better, although her practice does not look as impressive as WorldMed does, but I find the services better there. She also seems a lot more honest. Dr. Latafet Aliyeva got her degree in the US and was a dentist there for many years, so she is very familiar with American standards.

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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?

The air quality is okay. It’s a big city with lots of older cars driving around, a little bit of sand in the air as it doesn’t rain too often, and the smell of oil from the Caspian Sea sometimes lingers in the air, so of course, the air is not as clean as in some countries or outside in the countryside, but we never had any issues. There was never a day when the air was too polluted to go outside.

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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?

No extreme weather. Baku has four seasons, but the spring and fall always felt pretty short. It does not rain too often and never very long, which is great, but it can get quite windy a few days a month.



We have had snow the first winter we were here, but didn’t have any during our second winter.

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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 children go to either TISA or BIS. Both schools are great, but parents seem a tiny bit happier with BIS. TISA is a lot bigger than BIS and is right next to the Stonepay compound where many oil people and other diplomats live. It can be a little bit cliquish from what I’ve heard.

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2. 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?

Both TISA and BIS offer pre-school classes in English, starting at three years. Not sure about the current prices at TISA, but at BIS we paid around US$8300 per preschool year with school hours from 8.45am-1.30pm.

A few other parents send their kids to Azerbaijani/Russian preschools for a lot less money.

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

Most kids join after-school clubs that are offered at the international schools. Violin and piano classes are cheap. We paid around 20 AZN for a full hour.
There are more and more activities for kids offered at various restaurants like making pizza, chocolate pralines, art, cupcake decorating, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

Not sure about the numbers, but the expat community seems medium-sized. Lots of oil people, other diplomats and business people.
Overall morale seems good. Most of our friends have really enjoyed their time here. I found that those who had several cushy posts before coming here (especially posts in Europe), had a harder time adjusting. We came from a harder hardship post than Baku, so for us, this place was much easier.
It might take a little bit to make friends beyond the people who live in your housing complex, just because housing is so spread in Baku and we didn’t have a Community Liaison Office (CLO) Coordinator for a while, but that’s all changing.

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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?

Lots of eating out and hosting parties and other get-togethers, just like at most posts.

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

This city is great for everybody. Life is affordable here and more and more fun activities are offered. People especially like that it is so safe here.

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

Yes and no. I think culturally, it is not really accepted, but it’s not as bad as in some other countries. I think people who are LGBT expats just don’t show in public, but I can see that you can probably find other people in the community.

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

Azerbaijanis mostly still have the traditional roles in their minds, with the women taking care of the home and children and the men earning the money, but I find Azerbaijani men very polite towards women. Azerbaijani women enjoy the same legal rights, but like in so many other countries, societal discrimination seems to remain.

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

We have really loved our two years here. We have liked our housing, house help is affordable, eating out is reasonably priced, so we felt like we could do and eat most things without feeling bad about spending too much money. The hardship pay is 20%, which makes saving money easy.



The Thai House offers 2 hour massages for less than $50, so we took advantage of that many times. One of our highlights in the city were watching a Formula 1 race and attending the Opening Ceremony for the Islamic Solidarity Games. During our time, we have had so much luck with all the great people at the embassy who were easy to work with, and we have become good friends with many of them.

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

We really like just walking around Baku’s downtown and old town and the Bulvar along the Caspian Sea. We love the interesting mix between Muslim, Soviet and European influences on architecture, music, food and culture.

We enjoyed going skiing in Shahdag several times (about 3 hours away by car) for very affordable prices. We have driven to Georgia (mainly Tbilisi) a few times, and stopped in several interesting Azerbaijani cities along the way. Gobustan and the mud volcanoes are fun to visit, too. There are also a few beach clubs at the Caspian Sea that are decent. Wizz Air offers cheap direct flights to Budapest, so we went there a few times.


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

Many people buy carpets. We love the art here and have bought several beautiful paintings for decent prices. Azerbaijanis like to use nice and bright colors in their arts.

Some people like buying copper bowls and plates, which are mainly made in a little village up in the mountains called Lahic. Sheki Silk is popular, as are scarves and Turkish bowls and plates. And anything with pomegranates on it. Azerbaijanis loooove their pomegranates.

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

The safety and affordability of things.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Azerbaijanis don’t smile much in public and tend to dress in darker colors, but they are very warm and good-hearted people. They are very generous, polite, honest (besides taxi drivers and sales people), down to earth, and are always willing to help. Azeris loooove children.

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

Yes, we could have easily lived here longer.

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

Driving rules. We like to say that in other countries you drive to not hit others but here you drive to not be constantly hit.

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4. But don't forget your:

Flexibility. Things don't always go smoothly here, i.e. stores are closed even though their website says that they should be open, so it's good to stay flexible.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 05/07/18

Background:

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

No, I've also lived in East Africa and SE Asia.

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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?

United States. Common routing is through Frankfurt or Istanbul.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

If you're in Baku with an embassy or corporation, you will likely find your housing size to range from adequate to large. If you're with an NGO or have to find your own accommodation at your own cost, you may have a smaller apartment. Housing does not have much storage space and closets are often quite narrow. But living spaces are good-sized and can easily accommodate social gatherings if you like to entertain. Average expat commute times range from 10 minutes on foot to 35 minutes by car. There is no specific expat neighborhood, but the general footprint of where most expats live, work, and play in Baku is fairly compact.

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

As usual overseas, you're not going to find all the international brands and products you love from home. If you have favorites, bring them with you or order online. Except for Georgian wine, local wine and beer is unexciting, however the vodka selection is fabulous! If you're not wedded to specific brands, you can find most products if you're willing to look and pay for them. However, going local is your better option. My housekeeper rarely spends more than 10 AZN on any given day for groceries and cleaning supplies for a family of two.

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

Ski equipment and clothing for winter weekends in Shahdag, although rentals are cheap. Camping and hiking gear if you like weekend outdoorsy trips.

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

There is a decent variety of restaurants for expats to choose from, mostly in the Fountain Square, Old City, and Port Baku areas. Georgian restaurants are a particular favorite among expats. Pizza delivery is common. We experimented with some other delivery options, but communication barriers when ordering, long delivery times, and uncertainty if the driver would find the apartment led us to discontinue that. Takeaway is not very common, although you can find shwarma or doner in many neighborhoods, and Cafe City offers takeaway at their various locations. Going out to eat is a regular adult social activity.

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

None that I'm aware of. Had ants a few times.

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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?

Most households have a part-time housekeeper. Those with kids generally have a nanny and usually a driver also. Baku has seen a steady stream of expats leaving as the economy has declined and NGOs have shuttered. Therefore, plenty of household helpers are looking for jobs. You can expect to pay in the range of 5-10 AZN per hour.

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

Several hotels and Port Baku have nice gyms with quality equipment and pools. I'm a little hazy on the cost, but I believe they are over $1200 for a year. If you don't need all the bells and whistles, there are "local" gyms everywhere, which generally focus on weightlifting and have fewer cardio machines or other amenities. My local gym costs 35 AZN per month. There are also many community sports groups - Hash House Harrier runners/walkers, soccer, Ultimate frisbee, volleyball, etc. Some of the apartment buildings also have small gyms.

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3. 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 used a credit card once to pay for a hotel in Guba, and there was some issue with the AZE bank communicating with my US bank and the transaction wouldn't go through. After a lot of fussing, the hotel agreed to let me pay upon check-out, at which time the transaction went through with no issue. But after that experience, I decided not to bother with credit cards and always carried cash. Several of my expat friends use cards regularly, but you do have to be prepared for establishments that are cash only. ATMs are widely available and safe.

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

I always think learning the local language is helpful, and much appreciated by Azerbaijanis. I have an Azeri language tutor twice a week, and the language is useful in taxis, markets, restaurants, when traveling, etc. because you will definitely encounter people, especially taxi drivers, who don't speak English and there will be products in the supermarket with only Azeri/Russian/Turkish labels. However, my spouse has not learned any local language and gets around perfectly well. Learning Russian is perhaps more useful than Azeri, because Azeris assume foreigners speak Russian, and Russian is helpful for personal travel to Georgia, Armenia, or other parts of the former USSR. However, Azeri is closely related to Turkish, so Azeri is more useful for personal travel to Turkey or Turkic-language countries.

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

People with mobility difficulties will have trouble in Baku. The chancery has a small set of stairs at the entrance and it is the only entrance and there is no elevator or other way in besides these stairs. Beyond that, Baku's sidewalks are uneven and cracked and sometimes have stairs in them. Staircases at underpasses around town occasionally have ramps, but they are so steep I would not advise anyone in a wheelchair to use them. Sidewalks or curbs are often paved with marble/granite that turn into a slip-and-slide with the slightest bit of rain.

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Transportation:

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

Metro is clean, ridiculously cheap (less than $1 per ride), and runs regularly; I've never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train. It does get jam-packed at peak times, and body odor seems quite strong, especially in the summer. The bigger issue with using metro as a regular mode of transportation is that the system is not very extensive, so you may not be near enough to a metro stop for it to be useful for you. Most expats use Uber a lot. It is also ridiculously cheap (less than $5 for rides within Baku's central area) and convenient. The only difficultly is that Uber drivers do not reliably speak English and may not know how to read a map. And if you live in Stonepay/Royal Park, Uber drivers have a hard time finding it and getting past the guard booth to pick you up. There are also several local taxi services and you can always, always find a taxi on the street. With hailing taxis off the street, you need to bargain hard to avoid being ripped off and if you take the purple metered taxis, you may have to press hard for the driver to turn the meter on. Most taxis/Ubers don't have functioning seatbelts. I never felt in danger in cabs or metro, even as a woman at night.

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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?

Bigger cars definitely rule the road in Baku, especially expensive ones with a lot of bling. Four-wheel drive is nice if you plan to ski/hike/camp in the mountainous areas of northern and central Azerbaijan. Frankly, any car will do just fine, even to the mountains. You might have a harder time if the mountain passes are snowy, icy, or muddy, but in those situations you would be best off to change your travel plans rather than rely on 4-wheel drive to get you out of a jam. The roads in and around Baku are well paved. The Subaru dealership was helpful when we needed another key; otherwise I have had very little need of service or parts.

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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 speed isn't lightning fast, but I am able to do my web-browsing and video-streaming with low levels of frustration. My organization set-up my internet before my arrival.

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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?

My employer provided my phone and paid for the plan. It's easy enough to buy a personal SIM and get top-up cards, but you have to register the number with the government. Cell signal is excellent everywhere, including on the ski slopes of Shahdag. Azerbaijani plans have exorbitant international roaming charges, so be sure to switch off cellular roaming before you cross any borders.

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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?

AZE does not require pet quarantine. Cat import was easy enough with the standard health certificate and vaccination paperwork; I think it's just as easy for dogs. Azeris love cats. They don't often keep cats in the house as pets, but neighborhoods take care of stray cats by leaving piles of food and bowls of water on the sidewalks. Azeris are not so keen on dogs; many are afraid of them. In general, it is not acceptable in Baku to walk on the grass, so there are very few green spaces to take a dog on a walk. There is a good vet called AARC (I believe it stands for AZE Animal Rescue Center) that many expats use. AARC is located on the northern outskirts of Baku.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Azeris dress well. Guys won't even go to the gym in their gym clothes - they will wear street clothes and change at the gym. Women are always well-coifed, from their high heels to perfectly-arranged hair. I often felt like a slob in comparison and stepped up my wardrobe game and began ironing a lot more. Although miniskirts are entirely acceptable (the shorter the better it seemed), women don't wear shorts much at all, so I didn't either. Shorts are slowly becoming more common on men, although it's more of the foreigners than the locals wearing them. There are various balls to go including the UK, US, Irish, and Scottish. Formal wear would come in handy for those occasions, although it's never required.

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Health & Safety:

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

Baku is THE safest place I have ever lived, including in the US. Cameras everywhere mean that petty crime is practically nonexistent. Men stare at foreign women, but don't force themselves on them physically, so risk of sexual assault from strangers is low. Racial discrimination, however, is real. My African-American friends have complained about people staring, touching, and wanting pictures, although the attention is definitely curiosity rather than malignant.

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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?

I have had no health issues in Baku. The healthcare system isn't great, so medivacs are frequent for serious issues. I've gone to a good, inexpensive dentist called WorldMed.

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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?

Air seems great to me. I love the beautiful, clear blue skies in summer.

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

My seasonal allergies have bothered me much less here than in other places.

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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)?

None that I'm aware of. Just the normal expat difficulties of adjusting to the local way of life.

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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?

Baku has four seasons. Summer is from about May to September and is hot (30s C/90s F) and humid. Winter lasts about 3 months from December to February. It rarely goes below freezing and rarely snows in Baku. Autumn and spring are beautiful. It rains periodically throughout the year, with less rain in the summer. Baku gets amazingly strong wind periodically at all times of the year...which can make a windy winter day absolutely miserable.

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Schools & Children:

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

The International School of Azerbaijan (TISA) and Baku International School (BIS) are the most popular English-language schools. My friends with kids say these schools, particularly for high school, are great, but I don't have kids myself. There are other schooling options, too.

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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's very common to run into people you know when going out to restaurants, Fountain Square, Old City, so in that sense, the expat community is not large. Since the expat community is comprised of diplomats, oil companies, and other business people, you can make a variety of expat friends. I think morale is generally high, although many people have said it took them 3-6 months to adjust before they really start enjoying life in Baku.

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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?

Going out to eat or drink with friends is the norm, much more so than dinner parties or house parties.

There are many social groups for adults to join and they are very welcoming and fun. I have had some interaction with were InterNations. International Women's Club, and Hash House Harriers. Most groups have a mix of expat and local participants, so it's a great way to meet a variety of people. Many have Facebook pages, so it's easy to find them. I would highly recommend Hash House Harriers - they have both a running group and a walking group and get together regularly for dinner, drinks, or weekend trips outside of the Sunday Hash times.

The compact city center makes nightlife fun. You can start with dinner, move to a bar for drinks, and then head to a dance club or hear a live band, and all these places are often within walking distance of each other. Granted, there aren't a lot of options, so the scene can get stale if you desire a lot of variety. But most places don't require a cover and since there aren't too many places to go, you're likely to bump into some friends along the way.

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

I think singles, couples, and families all can and do have a good time in Baku. Azeris love children, and children are out at all hours, even at midnight on the Bulvar.

The local perception is that "good" Azeri women go home to their husbands or families at night, therefore a woman out at night unaccompanied by a male has loose morals. Unaccompanied ladies will get more attention, usually in the form of eye contact, rarely in the form of physical contact. There are many more Azeri males out at night, creating a heavily male gender imbalance in the nightlife scene. Therefore, many dance clubs have an entrance policy that each guy must be accompanied by a woman. Although I am not a single male, I have heard that it can be hard for men to date, because single Azeri women want to maintain the image of being a "good" girl who doesn't date around. All that being said, I find Azeri people to be incredibly friendly and interested in meeting foreigners, and Baku also has a good-sized, welcoming expat community, so any single person will easily make friends if you choose to.

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

Many Azerbaijanis are not accepting of LGBT people. I even had someone express surprise that I would be friends with a gay person, since he felt that was unacceptable. I think most gay people in Azerbaijan remain in the closet and it would be hard to be out in Azerbaijan.

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

The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is still very real in the Caucasus, and great animosity between the two countries accompanies that. It feels as though Azerbaijan is terrified of becoming a source of Islamic terrorism, so even though it's a Muslim country, the government closely watches conservative religious adherents. Azerbaijan is dominantly Shia and many Sunnis practice quietly rather than overtly. As a part of the former Soviet Union, atheism and lack of strong religious belief is common. Black people remain a source of curiosity for many Azerbaijanis, so they can expect to be stared at, asked to pose in photos, or potentially touched. Women are definitely considered the weaker, fairer sex. Chivalry is in no danger of dying in Azerbaijan anytime soon, but women have to work hard to be looked at as more than a pretty face. Men seem to have free rein to do as they please with their free time, while women are expected to be home taking care of children, dinner, and home. Azerbaijan is a strongly conformist society, with a strong desire by many to fit in, blend in, and not draw attention to themselves.

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

Skiing in Shahdag is awesome. It's only a 3-hour drive, lift tickets are fewer than 25 USD a day, and they offer inexpensive rentals and lessons. The resort hotels have all the amenities, ski lockers, and ski-in, ski-out locations. The mountains are beautiful and the slopes are well-groomed. Even if you don't ski, you MUST go for the weekend. You won't regret it!

Beach/pool resorts on the Caspian are tons of fun in the summer. The closest one is at the south end of Baku, so it's a quick trip there. Others are within a 45-minute drive. Dalga Beach is a favorite for both kids and adults with its water slides.

Tbilisi, Georgia is also great for weekend trips. The flight is only about an hour. Georgia feels a bit more like Europe, so it's a nice escape and Tbilisi has a lot of charm and of course fabulous Georgian food.

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

Baku and Azerbaijan has a lot to offer if you can keep an open mind and low expectations and approach activities with a sense of adventure rather then expecting a perfectly-laid out experience. Weekend trips into the Caucasus mountains offer a variety of scenic drives. As a small city and country, I don't think there are a lot of hidden gems, because you end up hearing about all the options of things to do. I would highly recommend what I call the "Caspian Cruise," which is a 30-minute out-and-back boat ride into the Caspian Sea for under 10 AZN. I also really love the view from Martyr's Alley.

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

Carpets are the primary item to buy. Otherwise, Azerbaijan has not yet figured out how to make and market their unique cultural heritage into a thriving handicraft industry. Many souvenir shops "specialize" in lame Made in China trinkets with Baku in big letters. I can and have found interesting items, but you have to dig through the commercial junk to find it.

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

I love the safety of Baku. After living in locations with high crime and terrorist concerns, it is so freeing to go anywhere, any time, and not worry.

The Bulvar is fabulous for strolling and people-watching, particularly when the weather is nice. You also get beautiful views of the Caspian and the Flame Towers.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

You may hear that Azeris don't smile, which Americans often interpret as being unfriendly. It is true that Azeris often have a stern-looking face and they don't smile much at strangers. But this doesn't mean they are cold, hard, unfriendly people. They are actually very friendly and will quickly open up if you make an effort to connect with them. Be open to meeting and getting to know them, and they will be open to you.

If you come expecting the culture, charm, infrastructure, and competency of Western Europe - even Eastern Europe - you will be sorely disappointed.

I think a successful tour in Baku is all about managing expectations. If you keep your expectations lower, Baku will likely surprise and delight. If they are too high, Baku will likely fail to live up and you may be constantly frustrated. Take things as they come, don't expect things to meet your American/Western mindset, and keep an open mind.

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

Absolutely! I love Baku!!

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

Desire for tasteful interiors. Your house is likely to have outlandish chandeliers and/or wallpaper!

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4. But don't forget your:

Fashionable clothing, otherwise you’ll feel like a bum next to Bakuvian men and women who always look like they’ve just stepped out of a fashion magazine.

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

Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 03/05/17

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.

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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?

My home state is on the west coast of the U.S. It takes a good 2 days to get there, usually traveling through Frankfurt and San Francisco.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in a large house inside a gated community. The community has a small market, a cafe, two outdoor swimming pools, fitness center with an indoor swimming pool, a playground and a soccer field. There are several locations for embassy housing. It's a good mix of apartments and houses. The location is typically dependent on your choice of school.

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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 very inexpensive. I can feed my house of 6 on about $100 per week. There are new grocery stores that have opened since we've been here that cater to the expat community, but any "western" products are higher priced and hard to get. It is a Muslim country, so pork/bacon is hard to come by, but not impossible. The commissary inside the embassy is very small, but does provide cheeses, meats, and canned goods that are otherwise impossible to find. This is a consumables post, so you want to import liquids like peanut butter, soy sauce and other cooking sauces, salad dressing (even though the lettuce is hit or miss,) I also import all my beauty products and laundry supplies, diapers and baby food.

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

I answered a little bit of this in the previous question. I did run out of sunscreen over the summer.

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

If you live close to town, which we don't, you can have almost anything delivered to you, from pizza to sushi. We can have our cafe deliver food to us and a couple pizza places deliver out here. There are a lot of decent restaurants, but I don't really enjoy the local cuisine.

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

We had a small problem with tiny little ants, but they were easily wiped out. There's a holiday during which the locals sacrifice lambs and tons of lambs are brought in for slaughter from the country farms. I noticed a huge increase in house flies during that time. We also have mosquitos. I recommend using the nets when you sleep at night.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic 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?

I have a part-time nanny who cleans, does laundry and dishes and takes care of my two youngest children. I think a full time house helper/nanny/cook is about $650/month USD. We had a driver to start out, before our car arrived and we paid about $500/month. The quality of work is hit or miss and I've often felt like I'm constantly being asked for more money.

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

We have a gym inside our compound. It's about $1200/year for the family. There are other places around town and most are about the same. There's a "Boardwalk" next to the Caspian Sea that is nice to run on as long as it hasn't rained...made of marble tile. There's also an old 2015 European Games dirt bike course that we've used to trail run. Our DOD organized the Marine Corp Marathon last year, so it has been an active post for running. There is a cycling group and a few people cycle independently on the outskirts of town since traffic can be heavy and unpredictable.

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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 don't use ours often, but a lot of people do. I think there are certain ATMs the embassy approves. It hasn't really been a problem.

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

There is a Catholic Church and a nondenominational Christian service in English.

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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 don't know any of it, but it would be helpful for getting gas, grocery shopping, ordering food, etc. You can get by without it, but it makes things harder. It's especially difficult when trying to communicate with the house helpers/drivers.

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

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Transportation:

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

Yes, we aren't supposed to ride the buses, but the American teachers do. Most people have found a taxi driver they like and use them as needed. I don't like getting a taxi from the street.

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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 wouldn't bring a nice car. I've been in two accidents and had my van door scratched in the parking lot at the mall a couple of times. The drivers are unpredictable and inexperienced.

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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 internet was installed before we arrived. We don't pay, it's part of the deal with the rent of the house. I think others do pay about $20/month. I'd say it's great about 80% of the time. We stream videos and music, download books and haven't had really any problems.

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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 purchase a local SIM card. It's a pay as you go plan and really, super cheap compared to the US. $10 usually lasts me all month.

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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 quarantine, lots of stray dogs-major problem cycling and running...I recommend getting rabies vaccine if you plan on being outside. There is a decent vet here and dog grooming is available.

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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?

I think most either teach or work at the embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Most wear suits or business attire at the embassy. There are several balls that you would benefit from having a dress/tuxedo for. Most locals wear a lot of black. It is a Muslim country, but very relaxed in the attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

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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?

I have noticed that a lot of cases are medically evacuated to London. We are fortunate to have a full-time nurse practitioner and an American doctor and local nurse in the embassy health unit. X-rays and MRIs are cheap. Medicine is cheap and easy to get.

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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?

I would say moderate to bad. It's an oil economy, so there's a lot of pollution in the air from that. It's also a very windy city, so we get dust and sand in the air. I did have problems my first spring here with my contact lenses, but I switched to a stronger cleaner and it hasn't bothered me since.

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

Carry an EPI pen. There aren't any true emergency services or 911 options.

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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)?

I have noticed that the fall and winter can be a little gloomy. The spring and summer is great, though.

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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?

There are four seasons here. It gets pretty warm during the summer. There are great water slide parks within an hour from the city. The fall can be rainy and gloomy, but we do get some snow and there is a ski resort within a few hours drive.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two schools that embassy kids go to. One is owned and operated by British Petroleum and is an IB school. It is on the outskirts of town and located within a gated community of mostly oil expat families, with an increasing number of embassy families. The other school is a QSI school located closer to the center of the city. I've heard great things about both schools. My children attend the American school and I have subbed there, as well. I have been very happy with most of the staff there and any problems I did have were addressed to my satisfaction. It is obvious that this school is going through some growing pains and has been under construction for several years. I believe the construction will be complete by the end of 2018 school year.

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

The American school is the only school I know of that accommodates special needs.

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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?

Both schools offer preschool, but it is fairly expensive. There are other options around town. Both schools also have after school activities.

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

Yes, most are done within the school, unless you're willing to have a non-English teacher.

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Expat Life:

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

I think we're medium size. Morale was great when we got here, but I feel like it's gone downhill a little bit recently.

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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?

The CLO here has been great. The embassy does a lot of get togethers, like happy hours on the lawn, holiday parties, coffees, etc. I would say this is a very social post. A lot of people go exploring, out to dinner, dancing, running, cycling together.

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

I think it would be an OK post for singles. We are a big family and I've enjoyed it.

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

Not horrible, but not widely accepted outside the expat community.

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

Yes, some gender inequality. My children are biracial and there's a lot of unwanted attention given to them.

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

I've really enjoyed the fitness community here. There are a lot of active people within the embassy that meet for runs and I have made friends. But, I think it really depends on your approach to this life. There are some who are absolutely miserable here.

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

There are towns in the outer regions that are interesting. Sheki was a fun trip. My husband has taken my oldest to the ski resort a couple times. Tbilisi is about 5 hours drive or a cheap flight away. Dubai is a cheap flight to get some sun in the winter months.

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

If you're into carpets and stained glass, and silk, then yes.

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

Since the decline of their currency, things are pretty inexpensive.

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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'd known how oil dependent they are and that the local food isn't that great.

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

Probably not if I had better choices. It's not a bad post, but I am hopeful that there are even better ones out there.

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

Logic and common sense.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

If you had asked me a few months ago about this post, I would say that it was the dream post. So, it's an ever changing environment with people moving in and out every few months.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 07/04/15

Background:

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

4th expat experience-Germany, Costa Rica, Peru.

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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?

East Coast. 4 hours to Frankfurt and 8 hours to DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Government assignment to 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?

There is a new rule for the embassy that only singles or married couples without kids get apartments and all families of 3 or more have to move into houses. None of the apartment buildings meet fire safety codes so to reduce the risk, the management decided to get employees out of the apartments as much as possible. The apartments and houses are nice and large with ok but intermittent utilities. The appliances are mostly European so they are smaller than we are used to but overall ok.

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

Groceries can be expensive if you try to eat American style but the local fare is reasonable. Most things are available, but not the Western type or brands.

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

Transformers! The embassy provides 4 big ones but we need more small ones and they are not available locally.

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

McDonald's, the worlds largest KFC, and a lot of kebab!

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

There are flying ants in the houses often, and some mice, but overall controllable and/or seasonal.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the embassy pouch mail.

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

US$800-1,000 per month for full time.

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

Yes for about US$1,000 per year per person.

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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 only use the ATM on the Embassy compound

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

There are enough to meet most people's needs.

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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?

Not required if you don't interact much but it is good to have a few words or phrases in Russian or Azeri.

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

Yes-bad sidewalks, no special supports for disabilities

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Transportation:

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

Trains and taxis are safe, buses are improving.

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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?

SUV is best but a sedan is ok.

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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-US$30-75 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?

You can bring one or buy one here.

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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 and no. There is one vet who is trustworthy at a rescue center 30 minutes outside of Baku.

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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?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Orphanages, animal rescue, teaching English.

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

Business suits at work, casual outside of work. Shorts are not common on men or women.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes! Russia is our northern neighbor and Iran is our southern neighbor.

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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?

The air quality is bad, I have found used hypodermic needles on the ground, trash is everywhere, trash is burned regularly in the streets, chickens and chicken waste abound, people do not go barefoot outside and do not wear shoes inside. Medical care is adequate for minor issues only and anything major is med-evac'd.

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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?

Poor - people with no history of asthma or allergies develop them quickly here. Mold is pervasive and cannot be avoided. There is no longer the lingering smell of oil in the air constantly but the air is really bad quite often with smog.

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

Nuts are everywhere here! How many times to say the air quality is bad? Sometimes there are not even menus, you just are given kebab. It is almost impossible to eat out and know what is in the food you are eating. Stray cats are everywhere, even walking up to tables in outdoor restaurants.

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

Like Washington DC but a little milder. Snows once a year, hot humid summers

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Schools & Children:

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

TISA is fine, not great, but fine. My kids both enjoy school there. I have heard people are happy with BIS also.

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

Not much-a little but mostly it is up to the parents to privately find support.

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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?

Some after-school programs but not 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?

Expat community is large due to oil companies in Baku. Morale is pretty good. Sometimes embassy employees forget they are at a hardship post and complain about minor inconveniences, but overall the morale is good.

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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?

Visiting friends and coworkers, bowling, movies, outings to the regions, school events, coffee houses, eating out,

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

Yes-slower paced but sociable.

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

Not so much.

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

Women are rapidly becoming equals but this is still a male-dominated society. The Muslim influence is light but ever-present here. There is more of a Soviet feel to the city than a Middle-Eastern feeling to Baku.

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

Visiting the mud volcanoes, seeing the European Games in 2015

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

Museums, traveling to other areas of the country, camping.

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

Carpets.

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

It is a hardship country but filled with pleasant local people, slow pace, and it's easy to travel locally.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't fly everywhere close by or order too much online.

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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:

Expectations for clean air and water, consistent utilities, nice neighborhoods.

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3. But don't forget your:

Adventurous spirit, willingness to be challenged, openness to the diverse culture.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 01/29/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

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

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3. 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?

East Coast. Four hours from Frankfurt.

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4. How long have you lived here?

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. State Department and has been living in Baku for a year, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are several housing areas. In downtown, close to the embassy, are apartments, some across the street from the embassy. Most are walkable to the embassy. Somewhat further out (2 miles) are private, walled houses that are in 'neighborhoods' that consist of badly-paved alleys. During rush hour is is faster to walk than to drive. Even further out are two other housing areas, Badamdar and Grand Park. Badamdar is more private, large residences in walled compounds. Grand Park is a walled, gated neighborhood with non-walled houses and some small green areas. The commute time from GP and Badamdar is about 15 minutes in the morning and anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour in the evening. All of the housing is very large and most are quite nice. Almost all have three floors and a small garage. The yards are often, however, a lot of pavement.

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

You can get 85% of the things you can get in the US - but you will certainly pay more for some of them. The grocery stores downtown are at least 25% more expensive than the ones farther out. Milk is atrociously expensive - anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00 a liter. This is a very dairy-fat-loving culture, so you have an amazing selection of butter and sour cream with fat content all of the way up to 42% - but no fat-free items. Pretty much anything basic you can get, and in the summer produce gets very cheap; most fruits and vegetables going down to about 50 cents a pound. Cherries are delicious here, and very cheap. In the fall I was able to buy apples for applesauce for 25 cents a pound. Beef and lamb are available as butcher counter cuts, but they don't look like anything in the US, and even ground beef is $10/pound, since the price is the same for any cut. Anything imported is more expensive, and various types of cheese are even more, with Parmesan cheese topping the list at $15 a pound.

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

We had a consumables allowance, so we brought expensive/hard to find items. Peanut butter, coconut milk, olive oil, liquid laundry detergent, dryer sheets, chocolate chips, hygiene items, toilet paper, baking mixes, wheat (and a grinder - whole wheat flour is nonexistent), sunscreen, mac and cheese, whole wheat pasta, corn tortilla flour, cornmeal (although you can buy dried corn locally and grind it if you have a grinder).

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

There are an increasing number of fast food restaurants. Cinnabon, Papa Johns, Schlotzky's, McDonalds, and a few others. The prices are some more than in the US. There are lots of Georgian restaurants, some decent Asian ones, a good Italian, and Azeri restaurants. The cost (without alcohol) is slightly less than the cost at a mid-range US restaurant.

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

No unusual ones that I've come across. There are some mosquitoes in the summer, but they aren't very bad.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. Anything else is unwise.

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

It is very available; local women will come up to you and ask if you're looking. Good help, however, is usually best found in the expat community. The going price is between $5-$6.25 an hour. Most helpers in the expat community speak some English and will do a variety of tasks. However, if you like things done a certain way you have to be repeatedly specific.

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

Yes, but I've heard they are all quite expensive (more than US$1000 a year per person).

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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?

We don't use credit cards because of foreign transaction fees, but some stores and restaurants claim to accept them. My husband cashes checks for our money because the ATM has a very low limit of $350 per transaction. We've heard about 'safe' ATMS, so we only use the one at the embassy.

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

Yes. There is a Catholic church, and a few smaller Protestant groups. Just ask around the expat community.

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

If you're with the embassy, you can get AFN. Otherwise, satellite? For newspapers, there's the internet.

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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?

I came without a word of Russian or Azeri and have learned about fifteen words since I've come. That said, I stay home all day most days and so have very little contact with the locals. My husband speaks both, so when I go out to the grocery store he's with me. If I need a translator, I call my housekeeper. Most people have drivers who will act as translators.

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

Like in any non-first-world country, they would have a hard time here.

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Transportation:

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

Don't bring anything with low clearance because of potholes and rough roads. That said, every other car in the city is a Mercedes, so a sedan can make it. The clearance is mostly for peace of mind, and for getting out of town. Some of the villages have amazingly steep and rocky roads. I don't know much about service, except that's it's a better idea to have your driver take it in. Most people have drivers, as the embassy provides a transportation allowance for children in school which covers the cost of a driver. BP also has an allowance for drivers. Most people complain about the traffic and driving, but I get along fine without a driver.

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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?

Don't bring anything with low clearance because of potholes and rough roads. That said, every other car in the city is a Mercedes, so a sedan can make it. The clearance is mostly for peace of mind, and for getting out of town. Some of the villages have amazingly steep and rocky roads. I don't know much about service, except that's it's a better idea to have your driver take it in. Most people have drivers, as the embassy provides a transportation allowance for children in school which covers the cost of a driver. BP also has an allowance for drivers. Most people complain about the traffic and driving, but I get along fine without a driver.

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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, DSL at most houses, and cable in Grand Park. We haven't paid a bill yet (after a year), but I've heard it runs around US$40-50 a 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?

Several friends have brought i-Phones without any problems. Bring your unlocked phone because they are VERY expensive here. That said, the cell phone plans are all pre-paid and cost $.04 per text and $.12 per minute.
Several friends have brought i-Phones without any problems. Bring your unlocked phone because they are VERY expensive here. That said, the cell phone plans are all pre-paid and cost $.04 per text and $.12 per minute.

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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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Some people have dogs and cats, but I don't know what they do for care.

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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 of the schools will hire English-speaking teachers. There are some jobs at the embassy. If you really want to work, you can, but don't expect your dream job.

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

Women here dress up whenever they are in public, wearing four-inch stilettos even in the snow. Men also dress well; it's uncommon to see anyone over 25 in jeans. Shorts are seen as indecent.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a very safe country for foreigners, since it is a police state. There are cameras everywhere and the governments takes no pains to hide them so everyone knows that they are watching and acts accordingly. That said, all embassy houses have bars on the windows and security systems.

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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?

Perhaps if someone is sensitive to air pollution, it might present a problem. The medical care here is abysmal, as most doctors have bought their degrees. There is basic care, and an English-speaking clinic, but anything beyond that is sent to somewhere with better care (London, Dubai).

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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?

I've heard that the air quality is bad, but compared to our previous post (Cairo), it's not so bad. However, it's not something I'm sensitive to, so I haven't taken much note.

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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?

The weather is very pleasant. The winter is not too long, with the weather very rarely going below freezing. The fall and spring are quite long, with summer only being hot (over ninety degrees F) for six to eight weeks. There is always a breeze, which is nice in the summer and not nice in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two schools, BIS, a QIS school with a rather old and crumbling structure. The other, TISA, is an IB school in a western-style neighborhood with nicer facilities. I homeschool, so I can't speak for the quality, but most people I know are happy with them.

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

S friend with an ADHD child has been able to obtain a shadow teacher for their child.

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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?

There are several pre-school and daycare options - English-speaking and local schools. I have no experience, however.

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

Yes, mostly through the schools. A karate class meets in the clubhouse in our neighborhood.

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Expat Life:

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

Relatively large considering the size of the city and country. There are lots of oil people here, the embassy is smaller - about 70 US employees.

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2. Morale among expats:

It depends on what you bring to it. Anyone looking for a European experience will be very sadly disappointed. Anyone else who is looking for a reasonable family-friendly place for a few years is pretty happy.

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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?

There is a very active community at the embassy here, so there are usually dinners, events at the Marine House, small family parties. Since the embassy is so small, it's really easy to make friends. There are also several social groups for expat women.

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

It's a good city for families who have small children. Right now the embassy community has lots of small children. Older children might become bored because there isn't much mobility for teenagers. For those who enjoy music and theater, there's a lot to do, and also reasonable number of good restaurants. Most of the socialization is within the community, which is a very strong community. I imagine it wouldn't be very exciting for singles.

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

I haven't heard either way, but as it is 98% (secular) Muslim, I wouldn't imagine there would be much in the open.

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

Women don't drive here much. As a woman driving I get some strange looks, but no problems. Any religious proselytizing is strictly illegal, but quiet alternate religious activity is allowed. As for personal prejudices, I haven't had experience either way. From what I've seen, Azeris view foreigners fairly tolerantly and like a mildly funny joke.

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

We have really enjoyed the friends we've made here, and the relatively small size of the city. There are also some very pleasant public places in the city.

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

There are various small villages and towns to go to in the mountains (in the summer). We've enjoyed swimming at the beach. There are various small natural sights - burning hillsides, mud volcanoes, petroglyphs - and small cultural sights. A ski resort opened this winter. The bulvar is pleasant to stroll along in the spring and fall, and the old city is quaint.

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

Lovely hand-made rugs, including authentic Persians from Persia, copper vessels.

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

There aren't any particularly special advantages. It is a reasonable city to live in, with good housing, and a good variety of cultural options. It is easy to travel to the mountains or to Georgia.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you're reasonable. If you come with State, the COLA, differential, and language pay turn into a 50% salary bump. We are a family of six, don't travel much, cook from scratch most nights, and don't buy lots of parmesan cheese, so we're able to save about half of my husband's take-home pay. If you don't have extra pay incentives, it would be harder.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, definitely. We would have extended if it would have been possible.

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

fast sports cars, first-world expectations, need for bacon, and sweatpants.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience for illogical driving, ability to use squat toilets, and desire to make good friends.

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

Ali and Nino: A Love Story
by Kurban Said, Azerbaijan, 4th: with excursions to Georgia (Azerbaijan (with Excursions to Georgia))
by Mark Elliot

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a good, fairly quiet post for those who are looking for one. The embassy and expat community are very close and sociable with lots of opportunity to make friends. The housing is also very generous. We've had a great time so far.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 12/22/11

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?

East Coast: NJ. About 15-20 hours fly time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

October 2010 to current.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Each housing neighborhood varies. There is both suburbs and downtown living. There are both apartments and houses. The commute varies for each area AND due to Eurovision the commute time has tripled if not quadrupled in length of time to get from the 'burbs to the Embassy.

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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 work for the government, then it is highly highly recommended that you do consumables shopping (Costco, BJs etc) to ship out here! Especially toiletries and liquids of all kinds (detergent, soaps, oils, etc). Most families do one additional consumables while here. The groceries/household supplies here are extremely expensive and of poor quality in comparison to US standards. You may find some similar names, Tide, etc., but again it's not the same in any shape way or form! You can easily spend $50-60 USD each time you walk into a grocery store, regardless of whether it's for a handful of items. Examples: Avocado: US$11.50.Chocolate Chip Morsels: US$12. Everything that is "American" is insanely expensive. Only a couple groceries that carry our type of products. Shopping here has been the biggest challenge. AND, there is no one-stop-shop here! You'll have to go to at least a minimum of three stores to get maybe two to five items (no joke).

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

More toiletries, olive oil, baking goods, chocolate (baking), detergent/softener, perfume/cologne.

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

Only two McDonald's I'm aware of. KFC. They are in the process of bringing few other fast food places downtown during the Eurovision. Don't recommend any! Don't know the prices off hand.

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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?

Organic: No such a thing! Vegetarian: Lots of canned/jarred veggies. Allergic-friendly: No such a thing (No gluten-free etc). I need to follow a gluten-free Diet and I can't find anything. Order before coming and if you run out, get it on Amazon!

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

Didn't notice any problems here.

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Daily Life:

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

Dip pouch through the Embassy.

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

It is highly, highly, recommended for spouses to get a personal driver, either part-time or full-time. More than 90% of families have them. PT: $ 300-400 manats (USD$380-500). FT: $ 500-600 (US$630-760). Also, a nanny or housekeeper is recommended. PT: $ 300 manats. (not sure for FT). Houses are quite large and very laborious work to clean, since it's so windy and dusty!

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

Yes, they're in most large hotels and few stand-alone gyms. They are insanely expensive. The year membership ranges from $1,200 to 1,900 USD. There is only one place that I highly recommend for the line of workout equipment, which is top of the line, however, that is the most expensive gym membership ($1,900). Due to the cost, this is the first time I've not used a gym.

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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 credit cards: you need to use cash only. Very seldom are there CC machines AND it is not recommended they be used here anyway. Trips to ATM will become second nature and a must! And only certain banks are recommended as "safe" to pull money from! Seems that the machines here have a mind of their own and don't always function -- so be aware!

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

Christian, Catholic, and probably others. This country is mainly Muslim.

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

AFN is the satellite that has some English channels. Newspaper-no English or magazines in English. Forgot the cost of the AFN TV.

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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?

Well, most people more than 30 years old know Azeri and Russian. The younger than 20-year-olds only know Azeri. I learned some Russian before coming. It really is necessary to know one of the languages. I know enough words to get me by at the markets, etc.

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

Many difficulties. The roads, drivers, and many other factors do not accommodate those who use a wheelchair or have other disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Trains-no. Buses-no WAY! Taxis--yes, but depending on the driver! Be aware that they drive crazy here!

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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?

No low cars. SUV are needed for the clearance. There are an absurd amount of potholes and uneven streets. I can write a book for this section. All people who work on cars here have no clue about anything, so be sure you know your vehicle. If not, get a manual and be sure to have someone local with you to help with translation. I haven't seen any robberies/carjackings here. People leave cars running with keys in the ignition go to the store and car is still there. This is very common here. So theft is not an issue.

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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?

Varies w/ companies. Not terribly costly.

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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?

Azercell or Bakcell are the two common company providers we mostly use here. If bringing phone from US bring a simple phone -- No iPhones etc.

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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)?

The Customs Clinic Vet is the best Vet in comparison to our US standards. No others in town compare. It's about 40+ min's away from Baku. Kennels: the Custom's Clinic does board on rare circumstances. Vika whom is a Vetinarian and also dog sits for most expat families. This country is not a dog-friendly one. However, they love cats. There is high number of stray cats and dogs here. Be sure animals and people have rabies vaccinations!

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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 at all!

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

Work: Casual/Formal-depending on what department. Public: Men-NO shorts! Women: conservative and also no shorts. Capri's are fine. I would not wear anything revealing because all eyes will be on you!

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Not suggested to go out alone or with a group of ladies after 10pm downtown. Make sure you are up to date with RSO of anything you should be aware of.

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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: Skim to none. The Med Unit at the Embassy and SOS International. Hospitals not up to US standards. Depending on what the medical need is -- most time you get Medevaced out of here to another country. Air is a huge problem so there are a lot of respiratory problems here. A close tie to Respiratory issues is gastrointestinal problems. Salmonella poisoning, food poisoning, diarrhea, high fat/oil used in food in restaurants here-stomach upset. Be sure to bring Maalox, GasX, Pepto Bismol!

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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?

Any child with Asthma or severe allergies shouldn't come here. Air quality here is atrocious. The oil here is always evident by smell and you can see it in the air. It comes from all the exhausts from the Lada's and buses. Don't drive with the windows down in the car! There is never a time that your clothes and your hair are not drenched like gas or oil smell! YUCK.

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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?

Winters are anywhere from the 20's to 50's from October to March or so. Spring is still on the cool side. Summer is hot and humid. I mean really humid. You need AC in your car and house/apt! July and August are the warmest months. I say early fall is the best. I like September the best as far as climate goes!

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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 have no children. But, there are three schools: TISA, BIS, & OXFORD British school. All are good from what I hear.

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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?

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

Not sure.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly large.

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2. Morale among expats:

FANTASTIC! I must say that being my first post abroad... This is by far the best expat community I've ever been part of. The first half of our time here there was a mix of personalities and the second half everyone seemed to get along fantastically!

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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?

Only within the Embassy Community. We always have a phenomenal time! Anything local is expensive, and in the native language, so it is hard to enjoy if you don't know the language. It is hard to make local friends here.

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

Families: not much for the kids to do here. Singles: Not really. Couples: Yes.

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

Absolutely not -- this is a Muslim country!

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

Not quite sure -- possibly.

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

The fantastic time I've had with the expat/embassy community!

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

Not much. Unless you're into seeing a ton of museums.

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

Rugs and pashminas.

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

Touring. Lots of museums to see if you are into that sort of thing.

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely NOT!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, BUT NOT for a two year post! This is a high-threat post, so I say 1 year should be plenty!

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

Bicycles, running shoes, love of movies, shorts and tank-tops, your 'nice' car, rollerblades, skateboard, high-heel shoes (you will break your ankle for sure on this uneven pavement), and 110 volt appliances.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen! And everything you need and want from the US. If you can find it here it comes with a fat price tag if you want to spend it. Patience -- you will need a lot, I mean a lot, of it anytime you step foot out of your house/apt on the roads.

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



Famil IsmailovAzerbaijan by Mark Elliot

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Go on YouTube and put in city/country name.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Because of Eurovision, this city has turned upside down. The first 6 month's being here is not what it is like now. The driving is horrendous. Most people don't want to leave their home because of it. All roads--I mean ALL roads--are being constructed on and there is no such a thing as detour. I hope once this is all said and down for 2012 hopefully the roads and driving are more manageable! Otherwise it's best to live downtown and walk wherever you need to go.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 09/09/10

Background:

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

This is my fourth expat 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?

East Coast - flights via London or Frankfurt and it takes about 15-20 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

US Embassy Employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For embassy personnel housing is a mix. Apartments - some right across from the chancery and others about 5-10 minutes walking distance from work. There are a scattering of other apartments and houses. Construction quality is poor. Houses for embassy personnel are assigned in accordance with rank, family size. Depending on traffic it can take 30-45 minutes (or even an hour if it is particularly bad) to reach the embassy.

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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 expensive and the selection is not good. Make full use of your consumables.

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

Pasta sauce, cereals. It is all available here, but expensive.

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

McDonald's, Fake KFC, Baskin Robbins are here and are expensive. There is a food court at the mall with a number of Russian and Turkish fast food chains. There are good restaurants here, too, but they tend to be expensive. There are two decent Chinese restaurants and an Italian restaurant which are reasonable and not far from the chancery.

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

Some fleas due to stray dogs.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch at the embassy.

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

Available and not too expensive. Quality is not great.

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

Yes. The Hyatt has a gym and many embassy families and singles are members. It is expensive, but you get the VAT back and they offer various Embassy and corporate discounts bringing it roughly in line with what you would pay in the US for a gym. (Of course, the gym there isnt that nice....). I've seen older teenagers use the facilities.

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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?

There is an ATM at the embassy and it is recommended you use that one. Credit card fraud is a big problem here, so stick with cash if possible.

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

Yes - non-denominational and Catholic.

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

Yes. The English-language newspapers are pretty bad. Many embassy personnel have either AFN or the local cable. Local cable is pretty cheap (maybe $20 a month?). There are a number of English channels (CNN, BBC, National Geographic, Travel).

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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?

A little Russian is helpful, especially with taxi drivers. If you pick up a few phrases in Russian and/or Azeri you should be ok for shopping, eating out.

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

Many. The city is not at all set up for someone with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

The metro is off-limits to Embassy personnel. Taxis are plentiful. They do not have meters, you have to negotiate the fair before getting in. They always start at something unreasonable, but you will be able to get them down to an affordable price.

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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?

Roads are bad and the driving is pretty crazy. Bring a sturdy car.

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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 - cost depends on what provider you choose. Also, they are always running specials (pay for 4 months, get 5 free).

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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?

Everyone has one - the embassy issues employees cell phones. Stores selling them are all over town.

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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)?

Not that I am aware of.

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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?

I haven't heard of any outside the embassy and schools.

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

Shirt and tie at work, depending on your job. It is not an overly formal society in terms of dress. People dont wear shorts here.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, as long as you follow the RSO guidelines.

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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 is very poor.

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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?

Very unhealthy.

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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?

Hot summers, cold winters. Strong wind.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two schools (BIS and TISA), and both have a good reputation among parents.

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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?

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

At the schools, yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Large

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2. Morale among expats:

A mix. Like anywhere it is what you make of it.

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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?

People tend to make their own fun. There is a new movie theater opening soon (supposedly). There are also bowling allies, a coffee shop and the pool at the Hyatt if you are a member. Not much else.

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

I think it genuinely depends on the person - some families with older kids have a tough time as there are very few things for them to do. If you are self-sufficient and enjoy entertaining at home - and going to other people's homes - you will be fine, regardless of marital status.

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

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

It is a very male-dominated society.

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

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

Mud volcanoes, Old City carpet shopping, entertaining in homes, going to restaurants. There is a new mall that opened with a play area for children and Baskin Robbins (!). Overall, you need to be willing to make your own fun.

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

Carpets. You can find good carpets here. You have to know how to bargain though.

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

For many, the work is interesting.

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11. Can you save money?

If you live off consumables and never leave your house yes. Otherwise, no.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. It is a rough posting.

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

Idea that this is Northern Virginia. It is not.

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3. But don't forget your:

Positive attitude and patience. You will need both.

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

The Oil and the Glory by Steve Levine.

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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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Baku, Azerbaijan 08/21/10

Background:

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

No.

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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 east coast of U.S it is about 15 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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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?

Very mixed. There are some huge houses with pools (although they are drained, and everyone is forbidden to swim in them this year) and some very small duplexes or apartments. Housing is a big source of unhappiness here. The housing board is completely illogical: their decisions are not based on rank or age/sex of kids. Housing is not even remotely up to western standards.

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

Expensive, since anything of quality is imported. Meat is horrible here unless you like lamb.

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

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

McDonald's and Mary Brown (a KFC wannabe). Cost is higher, and the "fast" concept is not followed.

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

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Daily Life:

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

Mail goes through the embassy. 2-3 weeks minimum.

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

Cheap; $30-35 a day, but rarely English-speaking.

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

Yes, but they are prohibitively expensive. The Hyatt hotel has a pool and a gym. But it costs approximately $1000 per person per year, and teens are not allowed to use gym.

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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?

RSO recommends only using one on embassy grounds. Reports of fraud/theft otherwise.

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

Two: Catholic and non-denominational.

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

There are no English-language newspapers that I know of. Cable is $80 or so a month. AFN is here, but it is on Europe time, so we get everything 3 hours later.

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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?

You need Russian at the very least. Not many people learn Azeri (except for the numbers, which you will need in the markets). Most labels are in Russian or Azeri.

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

Insurrmountable difficulties. The city is not at all disability-friendly.

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Transportation:

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

Forget trains and buses. They are not recommended for safety reasons. Taxis are without seat belts (mostly), but they are relatively cheap -- if you know what to pay.

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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?

Only SUVs. Roads here are in horrible shape, and drivers are the worst in the world. You need the size of an SUV to protect you. There are lots of expensive SUVs here (trying to run you off the road) and soviet Ladas. Repair shops are available for for Mercedes, Toyota, Hyundai, Mitsubishi.

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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?

Varies. Between $12-30 month, but not reliable or fast.

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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?

Buy a prepaid card here. Cheap and easy to get.

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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?

Yes.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No.

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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?

No.

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

Fairly formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not overt. This is a very chauvinistic society, though, and women drivers are treated with hostility.

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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?

I have heard too many nightmares: misdiagnosed strep, botched root canal. Plus multiple medevacs.

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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?

It is considered bad, and one family recently curtailed because of asthma problems from the dust here.

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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?

Goes from very hot to very cold. Wind like you would not believe. House-rattling, car-rocking wind.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two schools, and parents happy with both. TISA is bigger and BP sponsored. It follows the IB system at all grade levels. BIS follows the American curriculum, but only younger kids seem to go there.

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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?

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

Through the schools and during the school year only.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge, because of oil company employees. 4000-5000.

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2. Morale among expats:

Oil people seem happy, but they have more money for trips out of here. Embassy morale is low, but that is due to housing, GSO, management, cost of flights, and the lack of things to do (except drink).

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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?

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

It is probably best for drinking singles (there is little else to do) or people with very young children who are amused at home or at friends' houses.

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

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

Yes. Foreigners are cheated constantly (taxi and markets), and it is expected/accepted. Women are treated very poorly.

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

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

Very little. Visit one or two museums, the walled city, the fire temple.

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

Rugs, wood carvings, copper.

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

Not many. There are a few interesting sites -- enough for about six months. Nice rugs, but they are too expensive for most of us.

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11. Can you save money?

No. All of your spare money will go to netgrocer.com or to government-controlled airline prices.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Absolutely not. But that's probably due more to the embassy experience than the city.

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

bicycles, running shoes, love of movies, expectation of bargain rugs.

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3. But don't forget your:

steely nerves for 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?

Mark Elliott's book on Azerbaijan. You will get lost without it if you venture out to see some of the unique parts of Azerbaijan.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

None.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Baku, Azerbaijan 10/01/09

Background:

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

One of many.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

16-20 hours. From Dulles via London or Frankfurt.

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

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Traffic is horrible here. Typical commute to the embassy is approx 20-30 minutes.

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

Everything is expensive here. $10 for a gallon of milk, but that's what your COLA is for.

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

Camping equipment and anything liquid (laundry detergent, salsa, parm. cheese, etc..)You can ship liquids via the pouch, so choose your consumables wisely!!

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

McDonald's, and we actually just discovered Mary Brown's (similar to KFC). There are also good oriental and Thai restaurants here.

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

None

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Daily Life:

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

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?

A full-time nanny/housekeeper costs about $500/month.

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

Yes but very expensive. The embassy says that they have one, but it's pretty sad.

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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 typically use the ATM on the embassy compound, but I've used others around town when I had to and haven't been ripped off (yet).

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

All denominations. We attended a non-denomiational church which meeds at the BIS school.

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

Not sure about this one, we had AFN.

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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?

We got by with none but it is very difficult. The older generation speak russian and azerbaijani, but the younger generation only speaks azerbaijani.

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

Near impossible.

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Transportation:

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

Very affordable.

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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?

You can get by just fine with a sedan, but you really want to bring something with a little ground clearance. It doesn't need to be 4WD, but to enjoy your tour, you're going to want to get out of the city.

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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?

Available and pretty reliable. Depending on the plan you choose, could be anywhere from $40-$120.

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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?

Very cheap here.

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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 were satisfied with the vet service here.

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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?

A few.

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

Very formal..The locals wear suits for construction jobs!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very unhealthy. We've known a few families that have had to curtail due to breathing issues.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Just the usual..

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

My family and I feel very safe here, even walking in the city late at night. Use common sense as you would in any city.

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4. 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 full-time nurse on staff, and she is very helpful/knowledgeable. There is also an SOS clinic that has western-trained doctors.

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

Similar to DC but not as hot in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our children attend BIS which is a QSI school and they love it. TISA is also another option. It really depends which part of the city you live in.

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

None.

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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?

When we first arrived the QSI school offered pre-school and we have no complaints.

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

Yes, soccer, basketball and a few others I believe.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. As with any post, it is what you make it. We have enjoyed our time here.

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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?

Good restaurants and shopping.

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

There are a lot of families here, so keeping small children entertained here is very easy. For the older children it can be tough.

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

I don't see why not.

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

No

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

Lots especially if you get out of the city. Mud volcanos, fire temple, old city, candy cane mountains and lots of places to go camping and hiking.

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

Carpets!

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I might have extended another year, but with so many other countries to see, 2 years was a good tour.

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

sense of order and your antique car.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience and sense of humor.

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Baku, Azerbaijan 11/05/08

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. How long have you lived here?

9 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Washington to London then to Baku.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Ranges anywhere from apartment living to houses. most live in enormous houses. It takes about 25-45 min. to get to the Embassy depending where you live and how bad traffic is.

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

You can pretty much get anything here if you are willing to pay the price for it. Western products are very expensive (US$8 for a jar of salsa). Fresh produce and vegetables are relatively cheap. Be prepared to make everything from scratch.

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

Baby food, cereal (VERY EXPENSIVE about US$8 a box), snack bars. Coca cola products are very inexpensive here.

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

McDonald's is the only fast food and it's ok quality. there are a couple of decent English/European restaurants. Forget about eating red meat here. It is GROSS. The only main source of meat is chicken or sheep.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Readily available. A full-time nanny/housekeeper will run about US$600 a month; same for a full-time driver.

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3. 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 one uses credit cards. Cash is the means of payment everywhere. atm"s are available. I would recommend using the one at the Embassy.

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

Yes, non-denominational, Catholic.

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

Yes. Not sure we use the AFN box.

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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?

A little helps but you can usually get away with non if you are willing to find a translator.

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

No smooth roads. They are all very bumpy and nothing is wheelchair accessible. it is even hard to get around w/babies and strollers. you can"t easily take strollers into any store. Most stores are either upstairs or downstairs so wheelchairs or strollers are out of the question.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right hand side. It's anything goes here. Everyone makes up their own lanes. a two lane road usually ends up being a 4 lane or 5 lane road.

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

Taxis are safe but a little pricey. A roundtrip to the Embassy (about 25 min. drive) will cost you about US$10. You can take the local buses but they are usually over crowded and not very child friendly.

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3. 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?

SUV - do not bring anything with low ground clearance as it will not make it on many roads. anything with 4WD would be great. the roads are very rough here with many potholes and rough, uneven dirt roads. There are many major car dealerships here: Nissan, Toyota, Volvo. Do not bring an American made car (Ford, Chevy) as there are no parts for those. Tires are much cheaper in the states so purchase an extra set and bring with you. You will need them. We have already had 3 flats in 9 months.

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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 US$160 for unlimited a 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?

Make sure you have an unlocked one and you will be able to purchase a sim card and use it here. US$28 will get you about 90 min. worth of talk time.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are many good local vets.

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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?

View All Answers


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

Business attire at the Embassy. Out in public anything really. Men don"t wear shorts but the American men do. Women don"t really wear shorts either.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very dusty and dirty. Everyone here smokes. When it rains the air is "clean" and clear for about a day or two and then the smog returns.

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

i haven"t come across any yet.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Do not come here if you have asthma. It is not a good place for people with bad asthma problems and you will have problems with allergies too. It's very dusty here.

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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?

They have four seasons: summer is very hot but not too humid.

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Schools & Children:

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

They are ok. I am told not the best for high school. They seem pretty good for pre-school, elementary, middle school. the British school is very expensive though if you are not being re-imbursed for it.

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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. Pre-schools tend to expect a little more from children (such as not scribbling on paper, being quiet in lines, etc.) kind of strick when dealing with 3 year olds but overall not too bad.

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Expat Life:

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

Probably about 500 people.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very good; very close-knit group of people, very friendly and helpful.

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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?

Not much unless you are into the bar scene.

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

Families.

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

No.

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

They hate female drivers. They look at us like we don"t know what we are doing and tend to try to run us off the road more so then the men.

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

There are some interesting places to see but mostly you keep occupied with playgroups and embassy functions. Not a lot to do in and around the city.

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

Carpets.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes if you shop wisely and buy a lot of clothes and food items before arriving.

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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:

Rollerblades, skateboards.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, rainboots (it gets very muddy here when it rains).

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Be prepared to be gawked at if you are a blonde woman. The men will readily stare at you and try to hit on you. They seem harmless enough but it can get frustrating. Clothes cost a fortune here so stock up. You can find stuff if in a pinch but be warned that it will probably fall apart within a few months of purchasing. Also, the water is very hard here so your clothes tend to wear out faster.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 09/29/08

Background:

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

Second expat experience. Previously lived in Minsk, Belarus.

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2. How long have you lived here?

4 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Baku to Frankfurt to Dulles.

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

U.S. Military.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Singles and couples without children will live in apartments. Families will live in large houses.

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

You can find almost anything you are looking for here. Once you learn which grocery stores carry which products you will not be as frustrated. Western type products and brands you are familiar with are available but are rather pricey.

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

Hobby materials - though you can order this stuff online and it will be here in 2-3 weeks.

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

There are many good restaurants in Baku. McDonald's is the only Western type fast food. You will find plenty of good food - Georgian, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Lebanese, Pizza, even Mexican.

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Daily Life:

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

We have pouch service. You pay postage only for items less than a pound. Items over a pound there is a pouch fee.

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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 pay 3 manat per hour for our housekeeper who works 12 hours per week.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use credit cards in some grocery stores and restaurants but we tend to pay in cash in most instances.

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

Services are available. I have recently seen and advertisement for nondenominational. Not sure about other denominations

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

There are free newspapers available weekly in my apartment lobby.

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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?

It is fairly easy to get by day to day in English but having basic Russian or Azeri will be helpful.

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

This is not a disability friendly city. The sidewalks and pavement are uneven, elevators are small and builidings are not well equipped with wheelchair access.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as U.S.

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

The embassy security officer has suggested no using buses or subway system and suggests using a specific taxi service. Most travel around the city will cost 5 manat - about US$6.00

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3. 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?

A vehicle with low clearance will not be your best bet here. Higher clearance vehicles or small SUV's will do just fine.4wd is not necessary but may be helpful for travels to the regions.

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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?

DSL/Wireless internet is available for around 60 manat 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?

You should carry a cell phone. The embassy provides phones for employees. Spouses will need to purchase a phone and SIM card. Minutes can be easily purchased.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

You have a Vonage phone line in your home.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I haven't used a vet yet, but there are several to choose from and one clinic that advertises western standards. There is a dog groomer that I've used many times and she is wonderful. Dogs are not well accepted by the local people in part due to their Muslim culture and in part due to fear I think. There is a large stray animal population and I think many people think dogs will hurt them. There are dog parks and very little grass so walking a dog and potty breaks are very difficult. Small dogs I think are more accepted than larger dogs.

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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?

View All Answers


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

Even though this is a muslim country you very rarely see women fully covered. Business casual is appropriate in most settings.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy to very unhealthy - people with allergies should be prepared to take medicine almost daily to aid with congestion. The wind blows and dirt and debris are tossed about. Sunglasses are almost mandatory to keep debris out of eyes on windy days.

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

No real obvious concerns. You should treat this as you would any other city worldwide. Use caution, don't walk alone after dark. Make sure someone knows where you are going, etc.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Embassy health unit staffed with a nurse and nurse practitioner. SOS clinic for whatever the health unit can't handle and emergencies. Ok care however I wouldn't let them do any invasive procedure other than draw blood.

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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?

Hot in the summer when the wind isn't blowing. Tolerable when it does blow. Cool and rainy some days in the fall.

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Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

We are all in this together. Some people really enjoy it here and others really don't. The experience is what you make of it. I have really enjoyed meeting the people in the expat community.

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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?

There are lots of restaurants to go to and many have very comfortable settings - sofas and coffee table type setting for hanging out and chatting.

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

Good for singles, families and couples. There are many expat social groups that you can become involved with and the embassy is really good about social events.

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

Unsure.

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

This is a Muslim country so women are not usually in positions of authority.

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

There are a few museums in Baku. Since the expat community is so large here you can almost always find someone with a common interst.

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

Carpets, pashmina scarves.

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9. Can you save money?

If you buy local products and eat at home yes. If you MUST have western products or eat out a lot it will be more difficult.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Doubtful because of the dog situation.

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

High heel shoes (you will break your ankle for sure on this uneven pavement).

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor.

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

There are good and bad points to every country. Baku is a small city and once you've seen it you've seen it. You have to amke your own fun here.

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Baku, Azerbaijan 09/09/08

Background:

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

No, I have lived in five other cities.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

16 hours from DC.

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

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 singles/couples live in apartments while families with kids have homes. The commute is anywhere from 15-45 minutes.

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

You can find almost anything, although you'll probably have to go to 2-3 stores if you're looking for something particular. Baku is relatively expensive and getting more so.

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

Clothing, shoes (Baku seems to chew them and spit them out), car parts, camping/hiking gear, formal dress for the various events throughout the year.

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

McDonald's and some Turkish fast food restaurants are here. Indian, Thai (although the two that used to be there closed down right before I left, Mexican, Italian, Lebanese, Turkish and kebab.

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Daily Life:

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

International mail takes about 3 weeks from the U.S.

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

Available, but I would recommend getting a good recommendation from someone. It's pretty cheap (15 manat for about 3 hours - around US$18), but quality can vary.

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3. 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 no problem in Baku, I am not sure outside the city.

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

Yes, non-denominational, Catholic, and others.

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

Yes, a couple of cable options or AFN. Relatively cheap.

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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?

Azerbaijani really helps you get around and garners lots of good will, which makes living in Baku much more pleasant. You can also get by on Russian in Baku, but it doesn't inspire the same positive reaction.

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

Lots! No accomadations are made, including in most apartment buildings or houses.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as in the U.S.

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

Didn't take much public transport since I had a car, but taxis are pretty affordable (US$5-6 to most parts of the city).

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3. 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?

SUV--it's great for driving in the city (streets aren't the best and drivers seem to respect big cars) and out on the country roads or dirt paths.

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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, lots of options from dial-up to high-speed.

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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?

Everyone has one. Azerbaijanis don't leave messages, so most expats just get used to texting.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

If you work as a teacher or in the ngo/oil sectors.

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

Business or formal dress for work or events. More laid back on weekends, although shorts are never acceptable - for men or women (maybe for kids). Most men wear suits and lots of women wear dresses or skirts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very unhealthy. Air is generally dusty and gritty with trash and oil refinery chemicals in the air. Water quality is pretty bad too -- and you can see the off-color if you're filling up the tub.

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

No - I always felt incredibly safe despite the intense stares.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Pollution, stomach issues, tb. I would only go to the international clinics and even then you're rolling the dice. Local clinics are in a sorry state as is the training of many of the local doctors.

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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?

Hot summers, colder winters (comparable to DC). Baku is also a winding city, which helps in the summer, but can get annoying when the pollution really starts to fly (and when you have to wash your car every 3 days).

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Schools & Children:

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

BIS and TISA. No personal experience.

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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?

Available but I don't have info.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large with diplomats, oil company employees and ngos workers in Baku.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. Best among those who are smart enough to get out of town for a fews days at least once every 3 months. It makes you enjoy your time in Baku and time away.

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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?

Most people are very social. There's the drinking scene, the camping/hiking adventures and a few sports (softball, ultimate frisbee, biking, hashing-if you can count it a sport).

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

Good for all. Plenty of expats around, so having a social network or even two isn't hard. People are generally friendly and many like to get out of town on weekends for camping or other mini adventures, especially in the summer.

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

No one is openly gay in Azerbaijan, but there does seem to be a small underground scene with at least one or two clubs around town on certain nights.

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

It's rare to see women out alone (especially at night) or in any kind of management position.

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

Camping in the Caucaus mountains and other nature adventures outside Baku. Visiting some small towns like Sheki or Lenkoran. Get to know the locals and visit family homes in the villages. Go to weddings, funerals and other cultural events. In Baku, going to dinner or for drinks with friends.

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

Rugs, copper, trips.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. If you speak Azerbaijani and live primarily off the local market.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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

Shorts and bad attitude.

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3. But don't forget your:

Camping gear and sense of adventure.

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

Ali and Nino.

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

Ali and Nino.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

James Bond.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Your life here will be what you make of it, but everyone can have a great time. I would recommend a good mix of work friends, expat friends and local friends to keep things interesting.

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