Manama, Bahrain Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Manama, Bahrain

Manama, Bahrain 04/12/17

Background:

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

No, this was my fifth overseas experience. My first in the Middle East/GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, مجلس التعاون الخليجي), is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.) I have lived in East and Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe as an expat.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

I am from the West Coast of the USA. From Bahrain, or any of the GCC countries to California (for example) is about 20+ hours depending on connections. To the East Coast (Washington, DC) it is at least 14 hours (with connections). There used to be a United flight that went from IAD to Kuwait City (for an hour) then onto Bahrain. This was the most direct flight, however none of the US carriers fly to the Middle East anymore due to the inability to compete with Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, and Turkish Airways. With the recent ban on electronics in hand-carry luggage, Lufthansa or British Airways would be the ideal way to go. Depending on which city you're originating from in the U.S. - Lufthansa or British Airways or KLM could be your contract carrier if you're traveling on U.S. government travel orders.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for exactly 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?

Housing is generally good - U.S. embassy personnel were assigned to villas (if they had families), or apartments. The embassy had recently acquired apartments in a tower near the chancery, making for a very short commute to work.



I lived on the other side of the island, on an artificial island in a very nice three bedroom apartment/condo. I liked my housing very much, and I think people were generally happy with it - having said that, there were always complainers. Traffic from that particular location can be bad (you have to pass two large shopping malls which are the center of activity on weekends, creating for bad traffic on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). Due to the events of the Arab spring, the most express routes to the Embassy were closed off by the government - so, while it wasn't far in terms of distance, it could take up to 30 minutes to get to work depending on traffic.



Employees who lived in villas commuted from an area near the causeway to Saudi Arabia. This was mostly highway driving, however due to the flow of traffic in the mornings and evenings, and several choke-points in the infrastructure - their commutes could be as bad one hour or more if they didn't time their departures correctly.



Some of the private sector expats had extremely nice housing, and personnel from the U.S. Navy base who were authorized off-base housing had very nice apartments in an area called "Amwaj" (also a series of artificial islands). However, commute times could vary depending on where you had to work.

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

Groceries were expensive. If you have access to the U.S. Navy base then I would suggest shopping there for household goods and beverages. Having said that, you could get better produce at the local markets, but at a cost. Overall, my biggest complaint was about the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, one could generally find everything one would find in his/her home countries if one knew were to look - even pork products.

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

Since you can't ship fresh produce, nothing really.

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

Excellent South Asian and Thai food - albeit prices can vary (and I'm not talking about the overpriced, flavorless restaurants that appeal to most Westerners). There were some good Italian places, but pricey, and one good Japanese restaurant in a hotel (with an actual Japanese head chef), but extremely pricey. With the exception of Nepali food, and one Thai restaurant, and one Chinese restaurant - nothing was worth writing home about. Generally overpriced, and underwhelming food and service.



There is a food delivery service that will deliver from almost all of the chain restaurants, and many of the more well known local restaurants - also, if you have a favorite restaurant, they will probably deliver as well if you ask them to.



GCC nationals LOVE American fast food, so every single American fast food chain (with the exception of maybe Popeye's and Wendy's?) is represented in Bahrain. There is also a Taco Bell on base (not my cup of tea, but people inevitably ask if there is a Taco Bell). Starbucks is everywhere, there is also Coffee Bean, Costa Coffee, and Caribou.

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

Nothing out of the ordinary, plenty of ants and cockroaches, but otherwise you don't see too many signs of life.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the Embassy or the DPO. The DPO was very quick. I had something FEDEX'd to me once from the US, it got to me quickly, but there was a lot of confusion and back and forth about the address. Bahrain Post is not known for its efficiency and reliability - and because of the DPO I hardly ever used the local mail system.

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

Everyone had some sort of domestic help, although it's not as cheap as in Southeast Asia, Africa, or other places. I paid ten Bahraini Dinar (about 27USD) for a half-day. If you want full time, it's obviously going to be more, although if they are live-in then you may not have to pay as much. Also, if you have a full-time employee you will be responsible for their return plane tickets once a year, their work permit, and I believe some sort of social security payments. The Bahraini authorities are pretty strict about this - so keep that in mind. For part-time, you can shop around and find another domestic helper who has a few hours to spare and may save money that way. I was definitely paying more than a lot of people, but my housekeeper was excellent.

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

The embassy has a gym, as did my building. Most of the villa compounds have some sort of gym, but they aren't maintained well, so if you're a hardcore workout addict - you'll have to go elsewhere. The Navy base also has a gym, but it's often crowded (not sure about the cost). There are nice gyms around the island, including a very nice 24 Hour fitness, but they can be pretty pricey. Some other people I know bought memberships at the "Rugby Club" (closer to the villa compounds and the Saudi causeway) which had a gym and pool facility - they seemed satisfied - I believe the membership was about $600-1000 a year for a single, but this included access to their restaurants, bars, and events. It's also the only place to drink alcohol during Ramadan, and probably one of the only places that serves food during the day during Ramadan. Also a good venue to meet other expats and well-to-do locals.

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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?

Generally widely accepted, but it depends on what type of business you are dealing with. A nice restaurant, Starbucks, or a store inside the malls - then of course they take credit cards. Local places inside the "souq," or cheaper South Asian restaurants - then definitely not. ATMs are safe as far as I know, however I had my American debit card rejected by many of the Middle Eastern banks. Best to save yourself hassle and look for an international bank like Standard Chartered, HSBC, or Citibank.

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

I am not religious, but there are plenty of non-Muslim Christian services throughout the island, as well as Hindu, and possibly Sikh. Not sure of any Jewish or Buddhist services available.

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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?

Arabic, none really. The Arabs will think it's cute if you try to speak Arabic, so it may help in making friends - but most, even those with a bad education can speak some English. All the wait staff at restaurants and hotels are Indians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, and other third country nationals that don't speak Arabic. Even the Bahrainis must communicate with them in English, so you'll be fine speaking English and never learning Arabic. There are local classes available, but some of them can be rather pricey. The embassy offers classes, but they are centered around more formal conversations and less relevant to day-to-day life.

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

Definitely - no transportation, bad sidewalks, Arabs don't walk anywhere because it's too hot, so if you can't drive yourself you're not going anywhere.

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Transportation:

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

I am pretty sure U.S. Embassy personnel weren't allowed to take the buses, regardless, the buses don't go anywhere, and are impossible to figure out (were only used by third country migrant workers). Taxis are safe, but not super cheap - and they had recently started an Uber service, however there were frequently no cars available.

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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 always think it's funny when I see responses to this question - most diplomats always say to bring something that you don't care about, as it it will get beat-up; this is often not true. While from a financial perspective it makes sense not to buy a brand new car and send it overseas, at the same time you won't look very official if you're driving a clunker. Particularly in the GCC - most of the private sector expats have very nice cars, and the Arabs love cars - I know it seems silly, but people often will take you more seriously if you're driving a nice car. When you roll up to the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons in your 1990s used whatever, people will not take you seriously.



Personally, I would recommend a nice SUV. You can get parts for just about any make and model (even U.S. models - gas guzzling cars are popular). Due to the fact that a LOT of parking is improvised (and thus parking in dirt/sand/jumping curbs), you're better off getting something that has all-wheel drive and good ground clearance. Parts are readily available, but can be quite pricey, however labor generally isn't (even at dealers).

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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?

Well yes, but it's not very good. Some of the apartment buildings had it included, but don't expect exceptional speeds. Having said that, even if you pay for it, it's expensive and not very fast. Most of the internet is not true cable or DSL, it's a re-broadcast 4G/LTE signal. So you're basically just using an amplified cellular signal, which is OK for streaming, but slow for downloading large volumes of data, and snails pace for uploads. I know some people had actual DSL lines in their houses, but you had to go through the state telephone company "BATELCO," which meant it could take weeks to setup, and even then the speeds were crappy. All this coupled with major internet censors/filters meant endless frustration. You'll probably end up paying $70-$100 a month for bad internet.

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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?

VIVA is the best - unlike internet in the house, the LTE on my phone was ok (albeit still censored). For about $30 a month I got 10GB, and discounted calling international calling if I needed it. I rarely exceeded the 10GB amount data package. Also, because VIVA is owned by Saudi Telecom, if you traveled within the GCC you could subscribe to data add-on packages while roaming, so for an extra $10 - 15 you could get unlimited data roaming while in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, etc. If you were a frequent regional traveler like myself, then it's a very convenient option to have.

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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?

There are, but not sure about how many or the number of them. I am not sure about quarantine, but based upon what I saw - I think it's relatively easy to import a pet. Keep in mind that dogs aren't loved in Arab culture as they are considered dirty, so you'll see a lot of stray dogs just wandering around. Rich Arabs do keep house dogs though.



Cats are considered powerful and magical, so you'll also see stray cats everywhere as people are afraid to touch them as they believe they possess magic (I'm not kidding) - having said that, people will often feed them, etc to stay on their "good side."



Personally, I wouldn't bring a dog to Bahrain, unless it's really really small house dog that can only be indoors. It's too hot, there aren't many places for them to run around, and Arabs generally hate them.

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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?

Well there were many oil sector related jobs before the crash of the oil price, but now a lot of those jobs are gone. There are some opportunities in international schools, and if you're affiliated with the US Navy base or embassy each of those places will have some opportunities. Otherwise, there may be some in hospitality industry, but of those jobs are given to Filipino, Indian, Nepali, and other South and Southeast Asian workers as they will work for way less the money. Having said that, if you get a job working at an Arab petrol-industry related firm, you will be paid nicely (often more than the locals). There is also no income tax, so depending on the tax situation in your country of origin, you may be able to net a considerable amount of that paycheck.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not many that I am aware of, GCC nationals don't tend to be very philanthropic - however, I do believe my colleague's spouse volunteered at animal rescue? Maybe? Don't expect many opportunities.

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

During Ramadan I would recommend dressing more conservatively. Arab men in professional and government positions will typically dress in suits, or traditional clothing. Arab women in similar positions will always dress in traditional clothing. Having said that, due to Bahrain being the destination of sin in the region, you will see plenty of scantily clad women running around in nightclubs at night, and while people may stare at you if you're dressed less than conservatively, no one is going to say anything. There is no religious police unlike in some of the neighboring countries.



There aren't specific dress codes that are enforced with the exception of some high-end restaurants or night clubs - however, if you're going for any sort of official meeting I would suggest dressing as nicely as possible if you want people to take you seriously.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime isn't a major concern, occasionally one hears of the attempted purse snatching. People will definitely try and steal your mobile phone if you leave it unattended. However, Bahrain, like most of the GCC is basically a police state, and it's also an island. You won't get away with serious crimes, so people generally don't try. Murder is rare, and guns are unheard of.



There is a considerable risk for a terror attack. ISIS has threatened to strike Bahrain. Since the Arab spring there are weekly protests in Shia neighborhoods, resulting in clashes between the police and young men. Cars often get burnt, and there is a police presence everywhere. It generally won't affect the areas that expats frequent, but if you happen to make a wrong turn, you could end up in the crossfire between police and protesters. Luckily the protesters don't have guns, but they do have Molotov cocktails, and rocks. The police fire rubber bullets and tear gas - just be mindful of your surroundings at all times.

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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?

If you have a problem with heat, then you're going to have some major problems. Medical care is fine, most of the doctors are trained in the West, so that's good. However, the facilities aren't generally impressive, and the nursing staff tend to be third country nationals who aren't well trained. You'll be fine in an emergency situation, but for a long-term ongoing problem, or to have a baby, I would definitely leave the country.

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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?

Not great, a lot of dust storms during and right before the summer. The winters can be quite nice, it just depends on how much sand blows in from the Arabian peninsula. I am not sure how much it affects people's health on a regular basis, but if you have respiratory issues then you're going to have problems during the big storms.

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

I can't really comment on this - you can avoid eating most things that people are generally allergic to.

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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 one should be suffering from SAD in the Middle East - there is plenty of sun. Having said that, and as liberal as Bahrain is for the region, the culture can be frustrating and is definitely chauvinistic. Also, you're on an island with no where to really go, so this may bother some people. The region as a whole can be rather limiting, and you'll often have fantasies of being anywhere else but the Middle East.

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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?

Hot, and then really hot, and then mild for a brief time between December and February. It's hard to predict - but evenings after November until about March can be quite nice, and may even require a light jacket. During the daytime, you may see a low that may require to you wear a light jacket on an extremely cold day. It can occasionally rain during this season, and because the infrastructure wasn't designed to handle rain, the roads become totally chaotic. The embassy often floods when it rains heavily (which is maybe once a year).

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Schools & Children:

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

Many people sent their kids to the school on the US Navy base, others sent them to the British school (which is better but not US curriculum). There is a small Japanese school as well. I don't have any personal experience with this, but nobody raved about the schools. In the grand scheme of international schools, I think Bahrain's were pretty average.

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

I can't comment on this directly, but I believe there are very limited accommodations available.

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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?

Yes, but I can't elaborate as I don't have personal experience. I know my colleagues' children were heavily involved in many different types of sports.

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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 for the size of the country. Since the fall of the oil price, a lot the expat jobs have evaporated, and thus so have the expats. Bahrain is consistently voted as a top destination for expats (not entirely sure why, I am guessing because of the relatively liberal atmosphere for the region?). All the expats who live in the oil rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia come to Bahrain on the weekends. From their perspective, Bahrain is like an adult Disneyland - there are nightclubs, bars, alcohol, mediocre beaches, more alcohol, pork, and most things they can't get in Saudi Arabia. They also have the money to spend on inflated hotel room prices, brunches, and overpriced beers. So, overall morale is good outside of the Embassy.



Morale inside the Embassy was so-so at best. People who are Middle East-philes, and speak Arabic aren't putting Bahrain at the top of their list as career making posts. So most people who end up there do so because a) it's their first assignment so they didn't have much of a choice, or b) they couldn't get a job elsewhere. No one is ecstatic to be there, and most of the U.S. Embassy assignments are three years - and it's a long three years. The local Embassy staff are often third country nationals, who don't work well with the Bahrainis, and there is a lot animosity between the two groups. Each perceive the other as being treated more fairly by the Americans, when in fact the American supervisors generally just don't want to get involved. The third country nationals also can't speak Arabic, and can't accomplish anything when dealing with the host government; and the local Bahraini employees are exclusively Shia, which meant they also couldn't accomplish anything with the Sunni government. It all makes for a very frustrating work environment.

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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?

Generally going out to bars and night clubs, and doing this all day massive brunches on the weekends at one of the hotels. You can also become a member of the Rugby Club, or some other international clubs.

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

It's OK for families - they tended to be happy, although there aren't many open air, green venues, to take your kids to if that's your thing. But, families tend to be happy.



Singles: tougher situation - if you're a heterosexual male, you've got a limited dating pool, as the Bahraini girls won't date a foreigners (they generally don't go out at night), and the expat females can get any guy they want since there are so many more men than woman out and about.



For heterosexual females- if you're not looking for anything too serious you can definitely meet someone. If you're looking for something more serious, then you still may find something you want. If you're just looking for fun, and you don't mind dating a local guy, or a young guy from the U.S. military - then you really won't have any problem.

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

This is another funny question. I think it's intended to ask where or not there is a open social scene for the LGBT community, or if they have equal rights. However, it really can mean a lot of things. The short answer is no, the longer answer is more complicated. But I would describe the Middle East as one of the "gayest places in the world."



If you're a man, and you're just looking for other physical contact with other men - then the Middle East and Bahrain are excellent destinations for you. Arab culture has a long history of sexual relationships with other men, despite the fact that they deny that homosexuality exists in their culture. Men, especially Arab men seeking Westerners, will easily initiate physical relationships, as long as they are the "man." The concept of "gay" doesn't really exist, they are just having "fun." There are also at least two venues in Manama, that while not openly gay, are only frequented by men seeking other men.Most Bahraini men, and Arab men would never consider themselves gay, but if they understand the Western concept of gay and straight, a large percentage will admit to being bisexual if they actually decide to tell the truth. It's a phenomena that many Westerners have a hard time wrapping their minds around. Men sleeping with men is basically no big deal as long as you don't talk about it in public.



However, if you're looking for more substantial relationships, or a community, then you will be disappointed. While I did know some Bahrainis who had homosexual relationships, they had to be very careful to hide it from their families.



There are quite a few transgender Asian people, and transgender Arabs that I observed in relationships with Arab men. These types of relationships are a lot more accepted as the male to female is perceived as basically a woman.



Lesbians on the other hand, while I did observe what I thought were probably lesbians, especially from the really really rich GCC countries (Kuwait, Qatar, Emirates)- this is even more taboo than being a gay male. I talked to some Bahrainis who said they had lesbian friends, but I've never personally encountered a lesbian from the GCC. I think lesbians would have a very hard time meeting people for even the most basic of needs. I could be wrong though.

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

Only between the Shias and the Sunnis - and even they act like they get along just fine, even though there are deep seated animosities. The Sunnis control the place, but are only 20% of the native population, whereas the Shias are 80%. The Sunnis get the best jobs, the best housing, the best connections to the government etc, where as the Shias are marginalized.



Gender equality? Don't even get me started, while I said there aren't religious police, women do not have equal rights.

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

Going to Oman! I loved Oman! The nature is beautiful, the people are nice, and it's close to Bahrain.



There are direct flights to many major European cities, and Cyprus (only about 3.5 hour flight). Direct flights to Bangkok (6.5 hours), and Manila (about 9 hours). The downside is because Arabs can afford to travel, there are rarely good deals. Be prepared to spend a lot on airfare, and getting off the island.Even to other regional destinations like Dubai, Muscat, and Amman.

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

Not really. I mean, going to Oman? Oman is a hidden gem I believe (although it attracts quite a bit of tourism already).

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

Not really. I bought some nice carpets but I think if you shop around in Dubai you can get them for cheaper; and you can get some decent wood furniture made cheaper than you would other places. Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary. People would have clothes tailored/altered, but the quality and fabrics weren't as good as in Bangkok or Hong Kong.

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

Well it's all relative - it's probably the best place in the GCC. People rave about Dubai, but I found Dubai to be overpriced, and underwhelming. It's also a lot more of a religious police state than Bahrain. You'd never hear about an unmarried couple being jailed for kissing on the beach or holding hands in public in Bahrain, but in the Emirates these things happen. Overall, I guess the biggest advantage is that it is "Middle East Lite," - it really isn't the worst place in the world, but unless you haven't lived anywhere better, you'll be happy to leave when you're time is up.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into.

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

I mean, it was fine while I was there, but I wouldn't go back for another assignment - or for that matter anywhere in the region (with the exception of maybe Oman).

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

Winter clothes, expectations of good service, polite driving habits, grandiose dreams of saving money if you work for the government, and work ethic (private sector expats excluded). The notion that all GCC countries are as fancy and as glitzy as Dubai - Bahrain once had the potential, but in a lot of ways its the unattractive sibling of Qatar and the UAE. Also the idea that all GCC Arabs are extremely conservative and religious. Most Bahrainis that I knew drink, and engage in all the other vices that Westerners do.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen if you burn easily, and a nice car if you can afford it. There isn't much to do except look good in your car and go to high end restaurants and lounges.

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

I think there is a book about the early history of Bahrain under the Brits that may be interesting. Bahrain was where oil was first discovered in the Middle East, so there has to be some literature on that - otherwise, it's sort of sleepy place historically. I would watch the movie "Syriana" as Bahrain is the real life manifestation of the prototypical petrol state that has totally squandered its wealth, and teeters on the verge of domestic conflagration. Also "The Kingdom," cheesy, but since Saudi Arabia is just over yonder, why not? I actually think "The Kingdom" accurately represents life in Saudi Arabia.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Like I said - it's not a bad place, but it's not the best place. I did make some very good friends, some of whom I would even consider going to visit in the future. If you have to go to the Middle East, this is definitely one of the better places to go.

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Manama, Bahrain 09/16/16

Background:

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

No--first Middle East post, though.

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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?

Washington DC. 13 hours to Doha, then a quick hop to Bahrain.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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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?

Fantastic. Huge, on a compound with shared gym/pool/tennis. Also includes maids room if you want live-in help.

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

There is a commissary on the Naval base and good local supermarkets as well. Its expensive locally, but a good variety of European/UK/US products. I occasionally DPO food ingredients (like nice salad dressings) but for the most part don't have an issue getting what I need.

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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?

There's TALABAT, an online delivery service that links all restaurants and delivers. You can even get Burger King/McDonalds delivered (not that I ever would). Restaurants are great and varied. All pretty expensive. Of USA chains there are Elevation Burger, IHOP, PF Changs, Pizza Hut...to name a few. Its hard to get great Mexican food. All the Middle Eastern restaurants are great.

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

Ants crop up now and again.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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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 cheap and available. Mostly Fillipino or Indian maids/housekeepers.

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

I don't use gyms outside of our compound gym, but there are several Tribal Fitness is a popular one. Quite reasonable to have personal trainers come to your compound as well.

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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?

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

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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?

English is everywhere.

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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?

Taxis are safe and clean, and Uber is used here by expats with no issues

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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 new one. The roads are good but it can be dusty and pot-holey. Some areas are a bit off-roady. SUV not necessary but being a safe car ---one that will "win" in a road accident.

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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?

Installation took us about 3 weeks but it can be quicker. Very happy with it. We use a VPN to bypass local blocks.

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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?

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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?

Good vets. Delmon kennels is awesome. Run by Brits who love, love, love the animals and they even have play camp and let the dogs swim.

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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 folks telecommute. The Embassy has local hire jobs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are several groups helping Bahraini poor, animal shelters etc.

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

Bahrain is pretty relaxed and you won't feel uncomfortable as a woman at the mall or in restaurants baring your legs or shoulders, but I cover up in the souk or rural areas just so that I don't get stared at. In general though I wouldn't wear short-shorts beyond my compound (or beach clubs)--just out of respect. But you wouldn't get arrested.

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Health & Safety:

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

The shia routinely protest the government with tire fires on the road and throwing Molotov cocktails at the police. They do not pose a threat to expats though. I do not feel unsafe here at all. If anything it is just annoying when you get stuck in traffic because of a protest. Mostly easy to avoid by just avoiding shia areas (no reason to go to them generally).

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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?

Dusty here, so don't come if you have dust allergies. It's not very polluted. Medical unit at post is excellent. Local hospitals I haven't had to use (knock on wood) so can't really comment.

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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?

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

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

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

Great weather for 8 months of the year, chilly-ish and maybe wet December-January, unbearably hot July and August and some of September. You get used to the heat though.

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Schools & Children:

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

BSB is a good school, the DoD school I have not heard good things about. There is another British school--St Chris which has a good reputation. Riff views is a fancy international school with small class sizes and has been very popular with Embassy families but its an hour's bus ride away.

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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, but I don't have preschoolers so can't really comment. People have good experiences, so I hear.

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

Yes, plenty. The rugby club has rugby (obviously), football and cricket.

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Expat Life:

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

50% are expats, mostly Brits. I think people like it here. Its not paradise, but it's easy living.

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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?

Embassy community, bars, clubs, rugby club--the usual.

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

I think it's good for everyone.

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

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

Well, its the Middle East ;)

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

Trips to Oman and Sri Lanka have been wonderful. People also go to Thailand, Zanzibar. Bahrain has some interesting forts, museums, and a wildlife park.

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

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

No real Bahraini crafts, so you get the usual carpet shops and souk type stuff. Malls are huge and western and have many chains, mostly UK department stores.

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

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The heat in the summer is horrible, best to leave if you can.

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

Yes, we have enjoyed it.

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

Bike.

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4. But don't forget your:

Flip-flops.

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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. Do you have any other comments?

Enjoy and make the most of it. Bring a positive attitude and leave frequently to have a rest from the dust and the frustrations of a Muslim country :) Enjoy the sunshine and food!

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Manama, Bahrain 11/17/15

Background:

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

No we have lived all around

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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?

West Coast USA, IT takes about 25-28 hours to get home depending on layovers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years- 2014-2016

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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 nice and spacious. It is about 15 minutes to the Embassy with good traffic, up to an hour with bad. Traffic is bad during rush hour and the drivers are crazy, but during other hours it is okay.

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

They are rather expensive but with the COLA you are just fine. You can find anything you could possibly want here and if you cant then order from Amazon.

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

Maybe summer clothes because they are really expensive here, but you can order from any online retailer at US price shipping. Any specialty organic items you can't live without or oils. Other than that you really can find anything you need or have it shipped in.

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

There is pretty much every American restaraunt you could want as well as every kind of food you want and they deliver to your door.

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

Ants and geckos, but not too bad if you keep your house clean which isnt hard to do considering everyone has full-time maids.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and 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?

Around US$500 a month for full time worker. Very affordable and easy to find.

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

Pretty much every neighborhood has gyms and the embassy does as well. There are gyms, but they are pricey.

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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 use our credit card everywhere and have never had a problem.

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

All and any.

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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?

None- everyone speaks english mostly.

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

Yes. It is not handicapped accessible at all.

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Transportation:

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

There really isn't local transport. You can hire a taxi, but they are quite pricey. You are better off to definitely bring your car and get ready for some defensive driving.

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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 but it has its moments of dropping frequently. Expect dial up speeds, but you can definitely use Netflix and all of those,, you just need a VPN. Sometimes it is great- other times its horrible.

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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?

There are lots of brands that people have and they all seem to work fine.

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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 but im not sure of the process as I dont own any.

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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 that I am aware of but the Embassy has lots of positions.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are plenty through the AWA and around the island from fridges to fill with food and many more.

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

You definitely want to dress modestly and business like for work.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are areas we cannot go to but for the most part I feel extremely safe here. The police are very good and are all over to keep things under control. It used to be much worse here, but as of now, it is good. There are protests occassionally but the RSO is great at notifying us, and they are usually in spots we arent supposed to go anyways.

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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?

Health care has been excellent.

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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 fine most of the time until sandstorms blow in. Then you just stay inside.

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

If you suffer from dust allergies you probably dont want to come here.

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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?

The weather is hot. Summers are unbearable, but if you can make it through July-mid November the weather cant be beat.

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Schools & Children:

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

All the schools here have been amazing. There was bad talk of the DODS school years ago, but it has really been great for us. The British schools are also top notch. Just be sure and register your children in January of the year before you come, because it is hard to get in.

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

There aren't many.

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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 preschools all over. They are rather expensive, but are for 1 1/2-4 year olds. They go until 1 pm and since people have nannies the drivers usually pick up the toddlers and take them home to their nannies.

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

Yes, all schools have them as well as the Navy Base.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium and great community feel.

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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?

Malls, movies, and restaurants are the main things to do.

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

Its a great post for families. We have been extremely happy here minus the heat. Singles or couples may be bored quickly as there is not much to do, but traveling all over the middle eastern region would make it worth it.

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

Probably not.

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

Obviously the population is mainly Muslim, but you can be of other religions and no one seems to care or harass you.

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

My kids have loved Bahrain. Each neighborhood has a pool and playground and there are lots of activities for them to do between the schools and Navy Base.

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

There are plenty of British clubs, great food and malls although they are expensive. There are cinemas, and pools everywhere.

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

There is a large expat community. Everyone is very friendly and speaks English. It is a great family post and you can save money. It is an easy spot to head out to other Gulf countries.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How huge the houses were and that you really can order anything you need and it comes super fast. This really is a great post.

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

Yes

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

winter clothing and coats.

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4. But don't forget your:

Maxi skirts, linen pants, and flip flops.

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Manama, Bahrain 08/08/14

Background:

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

Third 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?

Washington DC. Flight time about 12 hours via Frankfurt or Dubai.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2010-2012.

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

U.S. Government (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 large homes. Singles and couples without kids live in waterfront luxury, brand new apartments next to City Centre Mall. Families live in spacious duplex or single family homes on gated communities in the suburbs. Commute time is 20-30 minutes, or up to 2 hours if there is a demonstration and police checkpoints.

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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 anything you want at NSA Bahrain Navy Base commissary. Otherwise, we recommend Geant and Jawad's for great produce and food. There is also a Carrefour french supermarket in City Centre Mall but it's not easy to get in and out of the mall.

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

Gas mask and kevlar vest. And artificial Christmas Tree.

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

Pretty much any fast food restaurant in American you will find in Bahrain, from McDonald's to Hardees. Lots of Baskin Robbins and Krispy Kreme. Adliya is a great nightlife area with world-class international restaurants, all very expensive. Expect to pay US$75 for dinner for two with drinks. Best restaurant in Bahrain is Bushidos, which becomes a nightclub at night.

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

Lots of geckos in our house. Lots of ants. The occasional mosquito but usually it's too hot for any life forms.

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Daily Life:

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

FPO.

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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 plentiful. Filipina maids charge about 2BD or US$6 per hour.

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

Most housing complexes have gyms. They range from awful to wonderful, most with swimming pools.

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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?

Most places take credit cards. I would not use an ATM due to high costs. You can cash checks at the Embassy.

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

Unknown, non-religious. But the base chapel has services for all denominations.

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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?

None. Everyone speaks English.

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

Yes. There are few sidewalks, and where there sidewalks, cars are driving or parked on sidewalks. Most old buildings don't have elevators

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Transportation:

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

No trains, buses are off limits. Taxis are plentiful but very very expensive. A 20-minute cab ride to the airport will cost about US$45.

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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?

A large SUV...not because you will need the 4-wheel drive capabilities, but for the aggressive factor. Drivers here are among the worst.

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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, and expensive. Try MenaTelecom. About US$100 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?

Embassy provided.

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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 required. Some vets in town have kennels and "catteries". Nonnie Coutts is the best vet in town.

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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?

We knew of Embassy spouses who worked as English teachers in the economy.

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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?

Formal. Men wear suits and ties even in 120F. Women can get away with more, but this is still a conservative country. Cleavage and mini-skirts are NOT ok at work.

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Health & Safety:

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

MANY. When we first arrived in Bahrain, it was very safe and you could pretty much go anywhere, anytime. All that changed on Feb. 14, 2011 when the Bahrain Arab Spring began. Since then, life has gotten horrible for expats. Many Western expats evacuated to Dubai. U.S. Embassy went on authorized departure for 3 months. Embassy personnel were moved to safer neighborhoods after we were getting tear-gassed on a nightly basis. When we left in late 2012, things were stabilized to what is now referred to as "the new normal". Embassy personnel are severely restricted in freedom of movement. About half the island is now off-limits. Despite taking all recommended precautions, we were twice caught in the middle of violent demonstrations. In one incident, police on one side of the street were firing tear gas and rubber bullets over our car, while protestors on the other side of the road were hurling rocks and debris at police.

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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?

People with asthma should be concerned about frequent dusty storms and wafting tear gas and smoke from protestors burning tear gas and oil drums. Quality of medical care is surprisingly good. Great dental. Try Seef Dental. And there's a great German hospital.

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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?

Unhealthy. There are regular sand storms in the spring during which you can barely see more than 10 feet in front of you. Many old cars spew exhaust. There are no emissions controls. Oh and did we mention the regular tear gas attacks? Police use tear gas like it's going out of style, attacking demonstrators so often that the tear gas wafts over into residential neighborhoods including embassy compounds.

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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, hotter and hottest. Temperatures of 120F are not uncommon in the summer, and 100% humidity. The only nice month is mid-December to mid-January when it actually gets cold.And by cold I mean low of 50F. It rains maybe 3 times a year, during which time the streets completely flood because there's no such thing as drainage in this country, and traffic comes to a standstill.

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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 Embassy families send their kids to DoDs school.

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

Many embassy personnel had kids with special needs, and stated they specifically picked Bahrain because of good special-needs services here.

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

When we left, morale was already bad and getting worse. Nearly everyone we know curtailed from post. For more details, read the 2014 OIG report on Manama. Size of expat community is smaller than pre-Arab Spring. Most expats in Bahrain are British who live in Bahrain and commute to the oil fields in Saudi.

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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?

House parties, running away from demonstrations and tear gas, going to bars and private clubs like the British Club, Dilum Club, Rugby Club. Friday Brunch is a fun, all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink experience that you must do. Movenpick hotel has the best brunch in town.

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

Apparently it's good for families, but I would not come here as a single or couple without kids. Better for young single women if you want to date U.S. Navy personnel. Very few dating opportunities for single men.

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

NO!! Homosexuality is illegal. And there are occasional newspaper articles about police raiding underground gay clubs and prosecuting and imprisoning people for homosexual activity.

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

Bahrain is the most sectarian-divided country I have ever lived. The majority of the population is Muslim, but every aspect of life is dominated by the Sunni-Shia division. The minority Sunni control the Royal Family, government, military and police. The majority Shia are underprivileged, poor, denied basic services and prohibited from serving in the police and military. (The Royal Family import Sunnis from Pakistan and other countries to serve in Bahrain military and police, never mind that they dont speak Arabic). Non-Muslim Westerners are expected to follow Ramadan restrictions such as no eating/drinking/smoking in public. There is a large minority Christian community, mainly Catholic from the large Filipino population. Bahrain often makes a big deal that they respect and appreciate their Jewish minority, but in fact there are less than 40 Bahraini Jews remaining in the country.

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

Dinner, drinks and swimming at the Dilmun Club. Exploring the Bahrain Fort and National Museum, both of which are surprisingly good. Scuba diving in the murky waters of the east coast.

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

Cheap flights out of Bahrain to nicer destinations like Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Cyprus and the MALDIVES!

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

Persian rugs.

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

Cheap men's suits (US$100) in the souk; touring the Gulf region.

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10. Can you save money?

Not if you dine out frequently, or fly out of the country regularly to escape.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That despite being an island, Bahrain has almost NO BEACHES. There is only one real public free beach and it's filthy and frequented by creepy guys and teenagers. All the good beaches are property of the Royal Family, located on military bases, or 5-star hotels. You can only visit the hotel beaches if you are a guest or pay US$5,000 or more per year for beach club membership.

I wish I had known that I could have curtailed before arriving with little to no consequence.

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

Absolutely NOT.

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

Winter clothes; skimpy outfits for women; cheery disposition and optimism. Abandon all hope ye who enter.

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4. But don't forget your:

Gas mask.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Bahrain is no longer the Pearl of the Middle East that it was considered pre-2011. You should give strong consideration before moving here.

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Manama, Bahrain 09/05/12

Background:

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

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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 D.C. travel time is 14-16 hours with a stopover in London or Kuwait.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor is affiliated with the US Embassy and has been living in Bahrain for about one year, a third 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?

Housing is excellent and much better than you will find in other parts of the world. Commute time is 15-20 minutes from all locations. The U.S. Embassy houses people is in one of two areas: most singles and couples without kids are in modern 3BR flats in Reef Island, close to shopping and restaurants. Families are in 3-5 BR villas on housing compounds on the sleepier west side of the island. The compounds are lovely neighborhoods with community gyms, pools, and playgrounds. All villas come with either exterior or 3rd-floor maid quarters. Kitchens and yards vary in size. Most villas are quite new and much bigger than what we are used to back home. Families are clustered in these compounds (where other mostly expat families also live) and all are within a 5-minute drive of each other. It’s easy to have playdates and get togethers with friends. There are lots of kids to play with in the compounds so it’s great for their social life. Some folks do keep to themselves so you can have your privacy if that’s what you’re looking for, too.

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

Virtually everything is available. Imported goods are pricey at Alosra and Waitrose, but less expensive produce and local products are found at Geant, Carrefour, and Lulu’s. The Navy base also has a grocery store but prices are higher than in the States. Still, it’s a great option for finding some of your favorite staples. Alcohol is available at the base. We often complain about having to visit several stores to find everything we want, but really - so much is available. Having lived in Africa, the food availability here is a luxury.

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

WWe love our bouncy house that we bought at the last minute before coming. We use it indoors! For about 4 months of the year, it’s too hot to go outside so the kids and their friends really enjoy it. Many families have trampolines in the backyard, which also get a lot of use. In the compounds the kids all ride bikes, tricycles, scooters, etc. Pool gear will also get use.

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

Lots of fast food but it is more expensive than in the States. All variety of international restaurants abound, food is excellent, and only some of it is cheap. I’d say DC prices or higher, in some cases. If you have access to the Navy base there are a few over there as well. Delivery is a very popular option here, most restaurants and especially fast food have this option available.

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

Some houses have ant problems and occasional flies, but this is definitely not Africa. It’s only a minor annoyance. It is possible to keep doors and windows open without screen covering; however, most keep them closed due to dust.

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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 an FPO address 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 easy to find a full-time or part-time helper. It will cost about $400-$475 per month for a full-time, live-in maid (6 days a week, including some evening babysitting). Part-time help costs $5 per hour, so it’s much more expensive to do it that way. The women are predominantly Philipina or Sri Lankan and they speak good English for the most part. They clean, provide some childcare and perhaps even help with a bit of cooking. Quality varies and you will need to interview several people and perhaps even try them out to find a good fit. Though it is easy to find a helper it’s actually quite difficult to find an excellent helper. If you can get a reference from a departing expat, that is ideal. All housemaids are foreign nationals and need visa sponsorship to live in Bahrain. Transferring sponsorship gets complicated, especially if the person has been working for a family that wants to charge a fee for their release. Navigating this process is a hassle but having help in these oversized houses is an incredible perk and can greatly increase the quality of life since we can spend more time with family and friends.

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

The U.S. Embassy has a small gym, the compounds have gyms of varying quality, and there are several local studios for yoga/spinning/fitness classes. Tennis lessons, sports leagues, and horseback riding are also available. Running is possible for 6-8 months of the year and even some biking is possible if you can brave the roads. Swimming is easy, of course. Some people join one of the Clubs: Dilmun Club, Rugby Club, Yacht Club, Ritz, etc in order to take advantage of their sporting options.

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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 use both without problem. Beware of foreign transaction fees.

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

There are Catholic, Protestant, and LDS churches.

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

We get the news online. There are several local papers in English that focus primarily on local issues. International news in English can only be obtained online.

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

None. Post language program offers Arabic lessons to those who are interested.

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

It’s better than in a developing country, but you still don’t find the same accommodation that we have in the States. Ramps are rare, but elevators are common. Sidewalks, when existent, are very inconvenient.

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Transportation:

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

No trains or buses. Taxis are safe but not super cheap. You really need a car to get around.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car is suitable but for resale and repair, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda would be easiest. Used cars on the market are overpriced so it’s best to come with a car if you can ship one.

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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 comes in 3 speeds (slow/decent/pretty good) ranging from $50-150/month. Even the fastest is not as fast as in the States, but with some patience you are able to stream videos and use Skype.

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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’re dependent on them.

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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?

Incoming pets from the U.S. do not need to be quarantined if you follow the rules for the pet import certificate.

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

There are several good options for pet care, including a local U.K. trained veterinarian and U.S. trained veterinarians on the military base. Because of the extensive expat community, there are also several good kennels to board pets, but most people use pet sitters when they travel, which can be much cheaper.

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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?

Currently a couple of family members have jobs on the local economy (art gallery, teaching, health), several others do freelance work (photography, film), and there are many jobs at the Embassy for spouses who want to work. The Embassy is working hard to meet the needs of the spouses who want to work.

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

Business at work; moderately conservative summer clothes outside work; conservative cocktail attire in the evenings. Western dress is completely acceptable here, but you’d feel uncomfortable with sleeveless shirts or short skirts. When going out, people dress up more than I’m used to in the U.S. Between diplomatic functions, evenings out, and the many (optional) balls around town, you will get use of your evening wear. There are great stores here in the mall, but the prices can get exorbitant. I’d advise coming with a well-stocked summer/spring wardrobe.

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Health & Safety:

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

Since February 2011, there have been ongoing and frequent clashes between protesters and police. These take place in a few key spots on the island which you can mostly avoid, especially by following the daily announcements from the US Embassy. Protesters burn tires, block traffic, and throw Molotov cocktails; police respond by blocking access to the neighborhoods and using tear gas to dispel the groups. To this date, protesters have not targeted Westerners. In many ways it feels as though there are two Bahrains – the bubble we live in on the Western side of the island and these Shia village hotspots where there is nightly activity. At present I feel completely safe and experience only occasional inconveniences from the political unrest. There was an authorized evacuation from March to May 2011 but it’s back to business as usual now. Earlier this year, the US Embassy moved families that were near protest areas to quieter neighborhoods (Jasra/Hamala and Janabiya) so that we would not be affected by the tear gas and road blocks.

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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?

It is dusty, so allergies can be a problem. Medical care is quite good; you would go elsewhere only for highly specialized care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good most of the time. It can be dusty, particularly during wind storms in the winter.

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

Cool and sunny Dec-Mar (50-70F), warm and sunny Nov-April (80-90F), hot and humid May-Oct (100-120F). Most families, local and expat, leave for July and August when it’s unbearable.

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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 majority of Embassy kids are at The Bahrain School (DoD) or St. Christopher’s (British). People seem happy with the Bahrain School and a bus takes the kids the 30-45 minute drive to the other side of the island. St. Christopher’s has an excellent reputation and fantastic facilities; the student population is mixed between elite Bahrainis, Western expats, and a smattering of others. You need to apply early and likely won’t get a warm fuzzy reception, but once in, the school families seem to love it. The British School of Bahrain and Riffa Views are also very good options and there is a French school as well, though it’s quite a drive to get there. The British and French schools start at age 3, so it becomes harder to get a spot as the child gets older. Be sure to contact all the schools in advance to find out how and when to enroll. If you show up in August your options are limited.

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

Pre-schools will accommodate from what I have seen. For older kids there is a good special needs school called The Children’s Academy and it’s right in the neighborhood where many expats live (Hamala).

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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 many wonderful preschools to choose from, either with the British or American curriculum. They start at age 2. Early Learners, Little Gems, Budaiya Preschool, British Preparatory School, and The Learning Tree are a few. Our kids go to the Ajyaal Montessori which teaches in Arabic in addition to English. We couldn’t be happier (there is a 6+ month wait list so get on it early). These are 5-day a week, morning-only preschools and they’re not cheap ($4000-6500/year). A few offer the option to go 2-3 days a week. None have after school care, so if both parents plan to work, you will have to rely on a nanny for afternoon care.

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

Yes! I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of options here. There are sports teams and classes at the schools; plus there are swimming, music, tennis, gymnastics, soccer, and many others classes outside of school for all ages. Prices are similar to the States – about $12-20/class.

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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. About 50% of people on the island are expats. Most are maids and laborers and the rest are in the diplomatic, financial, or oil/gas sectors. The U.S. community at the Embassy is about 50 officers plus children. With the naval base here, the total number of Americans is in the thousands.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fair to excellent. It’s all about your expectations! Bahrain is not beautiful or exciting, but it can be a really nice life with some great perks. It’s a more relaxed and tolerant environment than the other Gulf countries; there’s also less of the artificial glitz that Dubai has. Work life at the Embassy is busy and can be stressful, so you’ll never be bored. We love it here and are thrilled to serve 3 years in Bahrain. An attitude to make the best of it will take you far. As with anywhere, the people you are with really make a rich experience out of anything.

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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?

Your social life can be as busy as you want it to be. There is a ton going on just in the Embassy community, and plenty in the greater community if you prefer, ranging from casual BBQs to evening balls and everything in between.

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

It can be enjoyable for all, although I think the singles are a bit bored. While there are a variety of nightlife options, the small expatriate community—although larger than most other posts—can quickly become claustrophobic. Couples and singles can find a variety of ways to spend their time, including salsa dancing lessons, cooking lessons, great movie theatres, and some unique cultural offerings.

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

Being gay or lesbian is technically against the law in Bahrain, although the law is rarely enforced. There is a limited underground gay and lesbian nightlife.

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

I do not feel any. Many Bahraini women wear the full abaya with head covering and some cover the face as well. It takes some getting used to but overall this is a much more open place than Saudi. In Bahrain women work and drive, and those who do not cover are also accepted. Women are not taunted or harassed like they are in some other places.

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

Community events, swimming and tennis lessons, trip to IKEA in Saudi, Friday brunches, Spring of Culture performances, and regional travel. Living on a small island, communities can be strong and tight-knit. Opportunities for social gatherings don’t face much competition and are highly enjoyable.

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

Go to a performance during the Spring of Culture, spend a day at one of the waterparks; hit the mall; learn to scuba dive; throw a pool party; visit the Maldives (or Goa, Jordan, Oman, Israel, Turkey); run the Dubai or Bahrain marathon; host a game night; spring for a day at the Ritz or Sofitel to enjoy their beach; get some clothes tailor-made; plant a garden, learn to sail, enjoy expensive and inexpensive Moroccan spas, or go to trivia night at one of the Irish pubs.

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

I can’t say they are unique or truly local, but you’ll likely spend it on rugs, dinners out, travel, house help, and/or preschool. You definitely won’t spend it on gas as filling a car will cost only a few bucks.

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

Regional travel, multi-ethnic cuisine, excellent weather with mild winters, and the opportunity to experience an expatriate-friendly version of the Middle East.

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11. Can you save money?

If you’re not paying for housing it’s definitely possible, though you’ll have to make an effort.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. We’re one year into a three year tour and I already know it will be hard to leave. We’ve made wonderful friends, the schools are phenomenal, work is stimulating, and we love the sun.

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

Ski gear. Surfboards.

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3. But don't forget your:

Positive attitude, patience on the road, hats, sunglasses, sunblock, and pool toys.

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

After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam by Lesley Hazelton - a wonderful depiction of the history that still dramatically affects Bahrain today.

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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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Manama, Bahrain 04/08/10

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 Algeria, Jordan and Spain.

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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?

Our "home base" is Seattle, Washington, and the trip is long and arduous. It will soon improve (inshallah) since United started a direct flight from Manama to Dulles. From there to Seattle in only about 20 hours! (I can't believe I said 'only'.) Otherwise it's a stop in Dubai or Kuwait before hopping on a US carrier to Dulles.

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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.)?

DOS 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?

Embassy employees enjoy quite decent housing. Most families (and singletons) normally occupy stand alone three bedroom villas in guarded compounds. These compounds often include pools, gyms, playgrounds and yards. Of course, it's too hot to venture outside for most of the year, but when those few months come around it's very, very nice to have the amenities. The only drawback is the commute from the Embassy and the Navy Base. Most Embassy personnel live in Budaiya or Saar area on the western half of the island and the morning and evening commutes can be deadly. The distance is only about 10km, but I've spent an hour in traffic due to congestion and construction. Beware of road rage.

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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 available. There are several 'package stores' where you can find any alcohol you like (for a price!) and most western style grocery stores have pork sections. The availability of certain items may vary from store to store, but after a time the discerning shopper knows where to find what they need. The only items I sometimes cannot get are quality pet foods (aside from paying crazy prices at the vet) and some favorite lo-calorie foods from home. Otherwise, we are truly spoiled for choice.

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

Really, can't think of a thing. Everything is available here. If you havea favorite product that you can't live without, you'll probably find it here, but it will be double the price. Stock up at home.

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

The food here is really good. American and Arab fast food chains abound. I'm not kidding either. If you see the streets near the Navy Base, you would think you were in the States. At the low end:The shwarma, juice and samosa stands are fantastic and cheap. At the high end, there are some fabulous continental cuisine restaurants, along with various excellent regional fare. And everything in between. This is really where East meets West and it's very easy to gain weight here!

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

There are always insect problems, but I think less here than in, say... the Congo. Ants are bad in spring, so are mosquitoes, and there are normal cockroach problems, depending on where and how you live.

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Daily Life:

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

We use FPO and pouch service. It's very convenient (again,we're spoilt) , but for others, there are several good services around DHL, FEDEX, etc.

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

Widely available and affordable. You can find live-in help (and villas normally come with domestic quarters) for about 120 to 150 Bahraini Dinars/month (about $400) or you can get part time help for 1.5 to 2BD/hour ($5).

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

Yes, there are some very modern gyms in the area, though quite expensive. There are often workout facilities in the residential compounds, but these can be a bit old and ill treated depending on where you live. It's worth investing in some home workout gear... being outside in the summer is just not doable.

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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?

It's safe. I've been here a year and have had no problems.

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

Yes, all christian denominations, Buddist, and hindi. Haven't seen a synagogue, however.

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

Yes, two main English language newspapers and the standard Gulf Showtime/Orbitz satellite packages.

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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?

Absolutely none. English is the common language here. In fact, if you TRY to use Arabic, 7 times out of 10 you'll get blank stares since most of the working population are expats!

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

Not as many as in other places I've been, but it wouldn't be easy here, particularly in the older parts of the island.

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Transportation:

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

No trains (it's an island!). Avoid the buses. Taxis are safe but VERY expensive -- particularly if you pick one up in the souk and don't confirm that he's using the meter. Talk to the sailors, they'll tell you.

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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?

All cars are fine... particularly the more popular Japanese models. Plenty of parts and car repair is fairly inexpensive. It's pretty much the only thing that is.

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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?

It's available, though spotty and expensive. There's a new provider in town, so that may improve. The Kingdom of Bahrain blocks a number of naughty websites, so if you want to cruise porn or read seditious political materials you're out of luck.

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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?

They are necessary and easy to get. Embassy employees are normally issued a cheap phone and a post-paid service, but family members will have no problem getting their own service. Coverage is very good, too. It's a small island!

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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?

Technically, yes, but if you coordinate your pet's paperwork in advance, you can be met at the airport by a government vet and then have a thirty-day 'home' quarantine.

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

There are some very good vets around (for a price!) and same goes for kennels. I'm pleased with the quality of care my animals have received.

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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 really. It's difficult to get a working visa, and you have to get the proper sponsorship.

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

Conservative casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Bahrain suffers from seemingly cyclic tensions between the Shia majority and the Sunni ruling Muslim sects. We see an increase in anti government demonstrations and tire burnings during the cooler weather. This can result in violence, but it is almost never directed at expats. It's wise to keep away from it if you can avoid it. It's a bit scary to be stuck in traffic near burning tires and chanting kids.

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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 generally good. Plenty of decent western style care is available (for a price! Do you sense a theme?) and plenty of general practice as well. It pays to ask your neighbors for references, though, as it will save you some 'interesting' experiences.

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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 varies depending on the wind. It can be very good on a still day (hot and humid, but breathable). But if it's windy, the whole island will almost disappear in a cloud of dust, which sometimes doesn't go away for days.

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

It's very HOT and HUMID in summer. Quite miserable, particularly if you have to work outdoors. Okay in mid-spring through late fall. The winters are fantastic, however. For the three months it lasts, everyone is outside, and there are lots of outside activities sponsored by Bahraini and expat societies and clubs alike.

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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 schools are good and can be competitive. I don't have school age children yet, but for those who do and who don't want to enroll their kids in the DoDDs school in Juffair-- submit your applications early!The DoDDs school has a decent reputation- and a very good one for the early years. The big issue--as noted above-- is the commute to the other side of the island, which can be a lot for a little kid. There are private International schools on the Western part of the island that are quite good and very close to housing. There's also a great French school near Manama. Expats are not permitted to enroll in local Bahrain schools.

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

There are a few Embassy families that have found good schools for their special needs kids. I believe they are satisfied with the schools.

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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 many good international preschools in Bahrain and the curriculum ranges from US conventional and Montessori to UK, Indian, etc. My son goes to the Budaiya Preschool, a UK curriculum school, and we're very happy with it. The teachers are wonderful, both communicative and caring, and the student population is extremely diverse. My child shares his class with over half a dozen nationalities, which offers quite a lot of learning opportunities. The preschool also provides transport to and from school and they do Arabic classes three days a week.

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

Many! There are so many private programs available that it can be difficult to limit yourself to just a few. They do cost a bit, however, so that may in itself limit the over-ambitious parent.

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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.That's why this place has so much to offer. Lots of expats working in Saudi Arabia use Baharin as a base for their families so there's a very diverse group of people here. The population of Bahrain is half expats (mostly Southeast Asian and Indian).

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Some really like it, some really don't. Some peoples glasses are half full...some half empty. Totally depends on your own luck and outlook.

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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?

Lots to do depending on circumstances. Also, not much to do, depending on same. Social life is mostly home based entertaining, or club based with the odd charity gala thrown in.

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

This is a very good post for families and even for couples, but singles might find it a bit tougher. Unless you're a joiner (plenty of clubs around) you might find it boring. It's a small island and it can be difficult to get off of it. As mentioned, after the first few months, you've pretty much seen it all.

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

Homosexuality is illegal in Bahrain, but of course it exists. I don't much about the scene, though I'm sure it's out there.

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

There are indeed. If you're of European or Arab descent, there are no glaring issues. If you are of Indian or Asian descent then you will face discrimination.

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

As I said, there's a lot for kids to do! My son adores the various clubs, gyms and water parks (there are THREE!) here. There are also periodic cultural festivals that are geared toward families, and those are fun.

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

Sailing, archeology (there are always digs going on), shopping.

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

Nothing really local, but Persian carpets and handicrafts can be bought at decent prices. Also lots of East Asian crafts.

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

The comparative ease of life around here is a particular advantage of this post. This is a very westernized country, and anything and everything is available-- at a price, of course! Crime isn't a huge problem, and the amenities are great. Every kind of restaurant imaginable is here, and there are lots of indoor activities for the kids to do in summer. Forget about touring after your first two months, though. It's an island, and unless you have a boat or like to fly, you've seen it all. Saving money can be difficult as well.

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11. Can you save money?

Well -- I suppose you could if you're frugal. If you want to participate in sporting events, enjoy some nice dining, take home a few carpets and do some regional traveling (India is so close!) then nope. And really, why try? This can be a fabulous opportunity!

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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:

heavy coats, mini skirts, and burka expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

swimming gear, lightweight clothing and money for carpets.

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

I don't know of any for Bahrain in particular, but the History of the Arab Peoples, by Albert Hourani, is a good (though general) base, and so is Understanding Arabs, by Margaret Nydell. I wish there were more.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Nope, none that I know of. It's a pity.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bahrain is a very cosmopolitan place. It's not as glitzy and urban as its Gulf neighbor Dubai, but Bahrain has more of a settled, greener, feel and can be a very pleasant place to live. Many of the resident expats have been here upwards of 15 years and they still love it. That said, most places are what you make of them, and Bahrain is no different...If you've been to other Gulf countries, however, you'll realize what a pearl Bahrain really is.

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Manama, Bahrain 06/24/09

Background:

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

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2. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Government, US Embassy.

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

7 hours via London.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses on compounds, all are a little different. Compounds usually have a pool and a playground.

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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 available here but expensive. My grocery bill is double what it was in US. It is an island, and most items are imported. But you can find great produce from other countries here.

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

Not much. I order through APO as long as I don't need something immediately. We are allowed to shop at the NEX, too. You can get everything here, but it just costs more.

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

Most major American chains are here, including Chili's, and they all deliver! Watch your waistline when the heat hits. A DQ Blizzard brought to your door is SO TEMPTING!

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

Ants and some cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

APO

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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 cheap. We have a live-in housekeeper/cook/nanny. She is great and works up to 40 hours a week for $400/month.

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

Yes, nice gyms, and many compounds have a small facility for free.

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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?

Safe, I use both.

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

Yes, Catholic and Protestant. Mormon. Not sure if there are Jewish services. Obviously Muslim services.

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

Yes, we bought an AFN box. The local paper in English is cheap. You can get all the magazines here, too, but it is cheaper to buy them at the NEX.

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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 get by fine with no Arabic. Everyone speaks English.

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

It would be difficult but not terribly so. There are some ramps and elevators.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are not recommended, but taxis are fine -- and not too pricey.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any will work. Many people have huge SUVs to intimidate other drivers. I drive a Mazda, which is nice in tight parking here. A few of us bought second cars from other expats upon arrival and are having maintenance issues.

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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 and expensive. We pay over $100 a month for the fastest connection with the most downloads. If you download a lot, watch out! They will charge you a huge fee if you go over the limit.

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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 will need one because you will probably have a minor car accident. I use a prepaid one with Batelco. Decent service.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but they do not seem to take good care of pets coming into Manama. (Gulf Air)

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

Decent pet care, I believe.

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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 really. Possibly teaching.

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

Most people dress well here. You rarely see shorts or short skirts; not many tank tops either.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate to Unhealthy. Dust has led to many sinus infections/allergies. Lots of mild illnesses get passed around.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Nothing additional required.

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

It is fairly safe here. I do not go out much late at night. Not too much petty crime, but car accidents are daily events, and you will have at least a fender-bender during your tour.

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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?

Germs spread quickly, and you will often have the most recent "bug" that is going around. Some sinus issues, too, due to the insane amount of dust in the air. Medical care is not expensive, and the quality is good for minor problems.

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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?

Hot. Hot. Hot. Dust storms and HIGH humidity.

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Schools & Children:

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

Two great British curricula and a new Amercian one-Riffa Views. All have long waiting lists, so apply immediately. Dodd's school is traditionally used but it is an hour away from housing.

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

There are limited options.

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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, but again there are waiting lists. We used Budaiya preschool, and we were very happy with the reception class taught by another embassy spouse. Now our son will attend St. Christopher's.

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

Yes, Chaoss and My Gym for the younger sets. Dancing and martial arts are also offered. Rugby club has soccer and rugby. T-Ball and horseback riding are also here.

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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. Lots of oil companies with expats from all over.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. We all find it a little dull sometimes.

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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?

Dining out (or in) mostly. There are some nice movie theaters, but some scenes are cut out. There are many malls to walk around in. Social clubs are popular.

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

Good for families and couples. Singles, especially women, may have a hard time. It is a moderate-to-conservative society. Many people wear the traditional dress.

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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?

Women who are dressed immodestly may get looks and sometimes be harassed. Locals are biased against many of the immigrant workers here, and some of them are treated very poorly.

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

NO BEACH! You will spend your time at the pool, possibly join a club to socialize. Shopping and eating out are really it. Many people leave the island and travel because it gets a bit dull.

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

Great carpets and wood furniture. Lots of imported goods from India.

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9. Can you save money?

Not much. Everything is more expensive, and you will leave the island to travel and take the edge off of boredom here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it is a little dull, but also easy, relaxed living. My kids are small, so I wouldn't be off doing too much right now anyway. We all love the pool.

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

dreams of the beach. There are no real beaches here! Bring your winter gear. Also, there are plenty of stray animals that need homes.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunglasses, sunscreen, and swimsuit.

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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?

It is almost impossible to be outdoors from June through August. Most expats go home for the summer months. Skip the "Tree of Life" visit. Manama is a permanent vacation, but one that you get tired of quickly. Learn to enjoy family time, and get together with friends, and this will be a nice post. Travel to Asia, Africa or other ME countries for culture and interesting activities.

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Manama, Bahrain 12/01/08

Background:

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

No. Amman, Jordan and other South Asian countries.

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2. How long have you lived here?

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

Work.

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

Most flights go there. British Airways has good planes and service, the best service is provided by Gulf airlines like Emirates, Etihaad.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Everything from 1 bedroom apartments to mansions - made out of brick not wood. Traffic is getting insanely heavy especially during commute hours. Could take you 2 hours to go 5 km. But they have an amazing system of highways, so can span the country very quickly, just near the city center the traffic bottlenecks occur.

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

Comparative to that in U.S., if not cheaper. You got to know where to go, but even if you go to the large supermarkets relatively cheap. And a lot of veggies and fruits are available year round because they import a lot.

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

Nothing, everything is readily available plus more variety because of the many different nationalities.

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

Most American fast food restaurants are there. But since it is a very diverse country, half of the residents are expats, other cusines are very readily available.

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Daily Life:

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

Can go to the post office.

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

Indian, Phillipino, Pakistan maids are available. Either for day work or for full time. They are not treated fairly and receive very low wages, so on one hand you can get them very cheaply but then it depends on your moral state of mind.

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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?

Just like the U.S. and other places, safe and secure because eventually they are managed by the same firms. Plus credit card fraud less of an issue here than in the U.S.

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

Yes, there are mosques and churches.

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

There local newspapers, plus you get international newspapers as well, sometimes a day late because of the travel from the local country. For TV there are a few channels available locally, and then you easily catch signal from Saudi, and they have like 4 English channels which show movies, shows etc. largely U.S. ones. Can opt for using a cable service, many do, and can see many channels. And the service is not very expensive. Can go for Showtime, Orbit (which has many channels), plus can get South Asian channels as well.

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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?

None, English is widely spoken - the country got its independance from Britain in 1972.

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

Without a car hard to get around for anyone, otherwise they are getting more and more considerate in making ramps etc.

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Transportation:

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

Right hand, like U.S.

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

Public transportation is limited but there are plans on improving it. Taxis are overpriced, buses are scarce, everyone tries to get a car, even if its just a old dusted model.

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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?

You can find everything here, don't really need to bring anything. They love cars here, and speed in them too!!! The most common companies are Toyota, Honda and Nissan. In american companies GM. Roads are smoother and much better maintained than in US. Should go to the Traffic Directorate in Isa Town once you get here to make sure you can drive with your license and if there are any legal issues with it.

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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, 256k for US$27 monthly, higher you go the more expensive it gets. They need to improve this, the reason for such low speeds and high costs is lack of competition.

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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?

Can go for Batelco or Vodafone(Zain). You can get something called a simsim from batelco which is a prepaid card and you can use that with a sim card bought from them. IPhone is available but the retail cost is like around US$1,600, but it's unlocked.

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

Skype, or local companies like Batelco.

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Pets:

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

Yes, but limited.

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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?

The job opportunities are there, but the government wants to give jobs to Bahrainis as well, especially because a lot of them are graduating from universities in recent years and because it is their country and it is small, jobs for expats maybe less than what they used to be.

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

Not really enforced, but you are expected not wear skimpy clothes, especially women, like mini mini skirt in the middle of the day in a mall but not really enforced.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate, except during sandstorms which are rare (you can count them on your fingers).

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

Not really. Small country, crime is there but largely limited to theft and not really murders or violent crime.

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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?

Medical is not that good, there are a lot of private hospitals but I have lived in Jordan and have to day they have a much better health care system.

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

It gets mild from November to February. July to October gets really warm. But the country is like under an AC blanket so not really affected.

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Schools & Children:

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

St. Christophers School- British education (O-levels, A-levels till grade 13), British embassy school, Bayan School- American education. Many Indian, pakistani, south asian schools. I studied at St. Christopher's and everyone there including the librarian is from UK, very good school, has a very high standard of education. When compared to schools in UK, based on the % of students getting A's it ranked 15th (in the world, of course there are other schools at the same level). Teachers expect students to be excellent, and the studies there can be harder than in universities (in US).

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

They are understanding and try to accommodate them, but not so well as in U.S.

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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, can get a nanny or some companies have day care as well. There are privately run Kindergartens as well.

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Expat Life:

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

About 50% of the total population.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on your position - most are workers and labourers who are low paid and work because they have to. Others are highly paid and find the life is very calm and easy going and not too much pressure, plus they end up making more than they would in their home country.

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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?

Malls, clubs, etc.

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

It is a good place for families, and raising children. And if you get bored can go to Dubai for a weekend, fares are not that high.

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

The culture is not really tolerant of gay/lesbians yet.

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

Racially: a lot of Indian workers are here and they are not treated well by locals, low pay substandard treatment. Religious: depends in which community you hang out in, the richer the person the more understanding they are. Gender: its decreasing now, a lot of females in the work force. University of Bahrain, the largest university there, has 44% female student population. There is a university just for women.

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

Small country: few things to do. Some parks, beaches, F1 track where you can get all kinds of lessons in driving plus watch now regular racing, like professional drag racing.

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

Cultural gifts, and the Arabic perfume which is very nice and hard to find outside of Middle East. Gold, jewelry.

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9. Can you save money?

Ohh yes.

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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:

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3. But don't forget your:

Family photos!!!

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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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Manama, Bahrain 08/26/08

Background:

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

No. I've lived in Europe and in the Caribbean.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Long enough to start counting the months remaining (and they are still in the double digits).

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

U.S. Government.

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

Most flights out of Bahrain leave at 1am and most people arrive on the 8pm flight...I would try to break up the flying time with a 2 day stop-over in Europe.

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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 can be 4 to 30 villas in a compound (neighborhood). Manama is about 30 miles wide - you can be at work (anywhere in Manama) in 15 to 20 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'll either learn to do without, or you'll find something else that works. Pork (sold in special rooms) is US$28.00 a KG. I won't buy ground beef on the local market. The base has been out of ground beef since Aug 1. Although they have angus for US$6 /lb - try feeding your friends and family with that! Mozzarella is US$6.00 for grams of mozzarella! On the other hand, Coca Cola bottled in Bahrian is US$0.26 / can on the local market (more expensive on the base). Everyone uses net grocer.

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

It is difficult to say. The things that I would ship are perishable. Either they are too expensive here, or they don't have them. I miss a good piece of beef, I miss Dole spinach in a bag, I miss good salads, I'd kill for mozzarella that I could afford to eat.

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

Most American fast food places are here, but you can only eat so much of that and it is expensive. A 6pc chicken McNugget and Coke (no fries) will cost US$3.75. An all you can eat Chinese restaurant is US$50.00. 4 oz of steak will cost US$15.00. It is very expensive to eat here.

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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?

I pay US$150 a month for someone to clean my villa 3x a week and do my laundry 1x a week. Although I just read below that the person pays that much for a live in!

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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 always hold my breath when I use my cards. Geant somehow swiped my card 5 times and managed to freeze my card. I'd carry cash, but everything is so expensive that you'd end up carrying over US$500 in you wallet.

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

Yes.

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

Yes and no. There is English language TV - if you like watching a marathon of bad talk shows all of the time. This is where all of the bad TV shows come to die!

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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?

NONE

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

Many difficulties. If Manama can't remember to put parking spaces in their building plans, then they won't remember to put handicap features. Also, I've had quite a few elevators close on me - no safety features!

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Transportation:

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

Whatever. Manama has great roads - if you can see them. To get to my house I look for a light pole in the middle of the sand. When I see the light pole I know to turn (even though I can't see the road). Therefore, righ hand drive / left hand drive - does it matter?

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

No. No. No. There is NO public transportation for an expat or Bahraini. There are cars called taxis but I'm not sure what they do because if you call one they tell you that they have a car available in a few days. If you contract a limo company, they might come. You can find taxis at hotels, but a taxi ride anywhere will cost about US$15.00. That is a ripoff considering that gasoline is less than US$1.00 per gallon.

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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?

I'd bring any of the Toyota SUV's. They are a good size & you can manage your way around/ through any place. If you have a large SUV, you might have to back out of roads to let another car through.

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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?

What high speed internet? There is crappy internet at a very high price. You can pay US$27 for 256kor US$160 for 2 mg.

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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?

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

Depends on how much money you want to spend. The phone company can charge a dollar a minute. Skpye is good and so is vonage. However, the internet is very expensive here ( and terrible).

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Pets:

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

There is a vet and there are kennels. Just be aware that the locals relly dislike dogs. The kids will throw rocks at your 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?

Define decent. Don't come here expecting to further your career. You can find something to keep you borderline sane and get US$5.00 / hr.

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

I wear professional attire at work and jeans on the weekends. I'd be in big trouble if I went to the mall wearing shorts and a tank top or a spaghetti strap shirt/or dress. In public, most of the women wear abayas. You will stand out for not wearing one, so don't make things worse by REALLY standing out. On the other hand, you don't have to walk around wearing a turtleneck. I always carry a cardigan or a shawl just in case.

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Health & Safety:

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

Most of my friends take Claritin daily. I'm not quite sure if the sand storms have anything to do with it. I would not come here if I had asthma. Health careis so-so. Right of way for an ambulance is not the norm here!

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

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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?

Let me just say that if I had appendicitis - I'd buy an airplane ticket out of here asap. I trust the health care in latin america more than I trust the health care here. Basic health care is ok. Anyone can give you stitches. You just have to make sure that you won't get an infection.

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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, humid, hot, sandy, eye infection from the sand, hot, humid, sinus infection, hot, 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?

I'm single, but I do know that there are issues with some schools. Do your research and ask many questions. If I had kids I'd probably send my teenagers to school in the U.S. I haven't been impressed with the education.

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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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Expat Life:

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

I've heard rumors that they exist,however it is too darn hot to go out and find other people to talk to.

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2. Morale among expats:

All there is to do here is meet up for a drink. Families have a better time because they can plan playdates. Singles just hang out at the Rugby Club and count the days.

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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?

I'm getting tired of repeating myself. Expect to either do NOTHING or drink. For example, the base currently has 1 selection of ground beef (the Angus beef). Then, there is the alcohol section at the base - there you'll find every kind of beer, hard liquor, red wine, white wine etc.

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

Manama is good for families (with young kids) because at least they have someone to be with! I've heard the older kids complain that there isn't anything to do here. Manama is TERRIBLE for adult singles (of any age). The kids are right, there is nothing to do in Manama.

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

I really don't think that would be wise!

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

Racial - yes. Religious - not really. Gender - it depends - if you are a different race, then yes you will have problems. If you are a female and blond, then you will be ok.

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

Same old list from the other postings.nothing new to add. There is NOTHING to do here.

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

There aren't any local items.you can spend your money on cheap imported items made in India. For example Pashmina scarves start at US$6.00.

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9. Can you save money?

Not a chance. In fact, you should pay off your credit card and student loans before arriving here. After a few months you'll be broke and planning a lavish trip out of here!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Bahrain is fine for two income families. Otherwise, good luck to you. If I had a choice I would not be here under my present condition (single)!

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

Pool float & beach party ideas.

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3. But don't forget your:

Books and DVD's.

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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?

You can survive here. You just have to have a good support system. Before coming here, stop shopping at your fav. stores for 30 days. When you go back in, look at everything that you put in your shopping cart - that is what you'll need here as your comfort items. If after 30 days you really look forward to Dove soap, bounce sheets, Zataran's, yellow rice, etc, then bring it with you.

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