Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh 06/10/19

Background:

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

No. I've also lived in several European and Middle Eastern cities.

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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?

USA. The trip to Dhaka was about 21 hours, and is not very difficult (just looooooong).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

My housing was very nice. An oversized luxury apartment, with marble floors, 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a nice kitchen, and servants' quarters that I used for storage.

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

Availability is good at the farmer's markets. The local fixed-price stores are ok, but more expensive, limited, and sometimes a bit (or a lot) wilted. IMO, fresh milk is good and inexpensive, but I ONLY purchased mine at Gourmet Bazar and sometimes Lavendar, as they both have a closed cold-storage container. I would stay away from Unimart unless they change their milk storage, which is currently an open cold-case, meaning that the milk on top is often close to room temperature. Often, I would find that my milk (processed only a couple days ago) had gone sour. UHT (box) milk is also abundant. Cheese is available, but expensive and limited. Generally speaking, Asian good products are widely available. Beef is available, with Bengal Meats being a good product. Pork is also available, but only at The German Butcher. If you want, they sell primal cuts that you can break down yourself (e.g half-pig).

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

I shippped mostly Latin food products.

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

Food Panda is great, as is Hungry Naki. You can also find restaurants that deliver.

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

Yes. Mosquitos everywhere from Nov-April. Be sure to seal your house as thoroughly as possible; not just for mosquitos, but also for the wicked-bad air pollution during that same time frame. Expanding foam, caulk, and duct tape are your friends. If there is an outside opening, block it.

On occasion, I also saw roaches.

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Daily Life:

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

US Embassy mail system. I don't know of any other facilities.

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

Household help is inexpensive. You need to give specific directions and guidance, VERY specific sometimes. You may find that they will attempt to borrow money in the form of pay advances (that they generally can't repay). As with any employee, if they aren't serving your needs, then move them along to another opportunity.

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

Not many.

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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?

Yes, but be careful. CC fraud is pretty common. ATMs are widely available in Dhaka, and are generally safe.

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

Local language helps, but is not necessary. There are plenty of language courses available.

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

Yup.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, they are. They are also generally packed with people and unsafe. Bus drivers are especially bad in Bangladesh, with little regard for road and passenger safety. I would avoid them if possible. CNGs (Tuk-Tuks in some areas) are tri-wheeled scooters with an enclosed seat area. They are driven by bus drivers who were too unsafe to drive a bus. I'd stay away from them, too. Last, there are abundant rickshaws. Slower and sometimes safer versions of the CNG.

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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 didn't bring one, as there are plenty of used cars available.

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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. I got a 50 MBPS fiber-optic for about $200 per month. Faster packages are available. It was on and working when I arrived (thanks to an AWESOME pair of social sponsors).

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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?

I had an Embassy-provided phone which was good enough. I also had a personal phone I used when I travelled. voice and data plans are available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of NGOs around, but I don't know much.

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

I enjoy wearing suits, so that's what I normally wore. Dress code at the office ranged from suit/tie to business casual. Local fashion was worn on some days. The diplomatic community had the normal range of formal events (Marine Ball, Burns Supper, etc).

I will make a plug here for the local tailors. They range from VERY good and expensive designers to cheap (but good enough) tailors.
- Zurhem is a fantastic and well-recognized designer who insists on quality and perfection - at a price.
- Dapper Bespoke is an extremely good tailor - high quality fit and materials. A bit less expensive than Zurhem, but well worth it.
- KL Sweden and Ferduz - Ok for an inexpensive daily wear suit that is a slight step up from "off the rack" regarding fit. Medium quality materials. You need something tomorrow? They can probably do it.

With any of the tailors, you can bring your own material in. The quality tailors will only work with high quality fabrics.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, especially for women. Unwanted touching (e.g. "accidental" brushing up, bumping with hands, and straight-up groping) is not uncommon. Rapes and sexual assault are also a common occurrence. Get used to being stared at and approached for dates, rides in cars, coffee, etc. This behavior cuts across all societal spectrums from beggars to Bangladeshi diplomats and senior ranking officials.

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

The air seems like it will straight-up kill you, no joke. It's the worst in the world during the winter time, and the Bangladeshi government is fairly impotent in to resolve it. Bring a high-quality air-filter mask. Bring a high-quality air cleaner. The Embassy issues four Blue Air filters to each residence at the moment. Bring two to three more, not kidding. Also, see above about sealing your house.

The quality of medical care is middling. Will they save you if you are dying? Probably, yes. There is a new clinic that has opened up in Banani called, "Praava." VERY good.

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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?

In the Winter, Dhaka's air quality is among the worst in the world. Go back to the last sentence and read it again. Read it several more times. I'm not messing around here.

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

I have no allergies, so I can't really expound on this.

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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)?

SAD is not really an issue here. The constant sensory overload from honking horns, pungent body odor, packed streets, unwanted stares and touching, wrong-way driving can be overwhelming.

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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?

Winter time is cool, and dry, but poor air quality and mosquitos. Summer is hot and humid.

There are a few "sweet spot" days in the fall and spring.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several good ones, but I never interacted with them.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a fairly robust community, and the adversity brings us together. The morale is ok.

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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?

Parties and clubs.

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

Single people, dating life can be challenging. Tinder is .... just don't do it if you're a woman. Men seem to do ok.

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

Not really, no. LGBT are not widely accepted and violence does not seem uncommon.

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

Yes. I don't know of any prejudices.

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

Women seem to be marginalized in Bangladesh.

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

Interesting photographic and shopping opportunities. I wasn't able to travel around much. There are, however, fantastic opportunities for regional travel.

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

The usual tourist spots are interesting, as is the old river port in Sadarghat, and the surrounding neighborhood, filled with shops.

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

Yes. Interesing knick-knacks, baskets, prints, art, and soft-goods.

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

You can practice your resilience techniques on a daily basis

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing, I was pretty well informed and prepared.

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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:

Furs.

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4. But don't forget your:

Pollution mask and air filter.

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

Not really.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Nope.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 07/23/18

Background:

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

Not my first expat experience, but my first in South Asia. I previously lived in Europe.

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

United States. It takes 20+ hours each way depending on connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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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?

Diplomatic misison housing is excellent. Very comfortable and roomy, the neighborhoods are relatively quiet and located in the Diplomatic Zone so they are quite close to work and other missions.

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

There are larger grocery stores where you can get all necessities. Local produce is abundant and good quality. Lots of options for food delivery as well.

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

Nail polish and remover. Laudry and dish soap. `

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

Lots of options. there are some nice but expensive restaurants, but the average middle of the road options are also good.

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

Mosquitos carry malaria, dengue, and chikungunya

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Daily Life:

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

No idea about local facilities, I send through 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?

Very affordable and they do great work. I have a driver and housekeeper. I tried to have my housekeeper cook when I first got here but the food she prepared was much to oily for my palate, so I stopped having her cook. She does a great job keeping my place clean, and I haven't had any issues.

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

I have access through my diplomatic mission so I'm not sure what the options are on the economy. There seems to be a fairly active contingent of the expat community and people try to stay fit and active through tennis and other friendly sports competitions.

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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?

Mostly a cash-based economy, but credit cards are accepted at most of the shops catering to expats.

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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?

Not a lot, but it is very appreciated when you do use it.

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

Yes it would be extremely difficult to get around. Lots of the multi-storied buildings do not have elevators, though most expat apartment buildings do.

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Transportation:

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

Not sure, I am not allowed to use them due to the restrictions of the diplomatic mission.

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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?

One that can get banged up. Traffic is tough here.

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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 was a breeze and very quick. The quality is average, and prices are affordable.

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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?

I use a local provider through my work. The quality is good.

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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 a few vets but the quality is hit or miss. There have been some serious issues with the vets but I think it is pretty easy to get animals in the country without quarantine. It is easy to hire help to walk dogs during the day as well.

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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?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are tons of NGOs here so I am sure it would be possible, but it depends on the restrictions of your main employer or sponsor in the country.

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

Modest dress for women when walking around in public, there are a lot of events where western clothes are the norm. Local women usualy wear sari or shalwar khameez to work. There are tons of shops with beautiful fabric and clothing options.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. People are still very cautious since the 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack.

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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?

Pollution is the worst in the world and it is very noticible and detrimental in winter months. Medical care is good if you have access to the expensive private hospitals, but anything serious would require medevac.

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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?

Horrible. It has a huge impact on health and is really detrimental to morale and ability to go outside especially during the winter months. Most of the time the AQI hovers around 100-150+ but it goes above 500-600 regularly in January and February.

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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 and muggy most of hte year and really rainy.

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Schools & Children:

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

International schools here are excellent quality and the kids seem to really like them.

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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?

Home help including nannies are readily available and affordable. I don't have any direct experience though.

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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?

Morale is pretty good. The people here are great and the social scene is fun and interesting if a bit repetitive.

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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?

Fitness classes, expat parties, poker nights, game nights. There are tons of options you just have to go out and find what works best for you and make the best of your time here.

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

There is a decent singles scene but it is small. I've heard that expats use tinder as well.

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

There is a sizeable LGBT expat community, but there are a lot of issues in the local culture with being LGBT. I'd recommend talking directly with someone in this community before coming to post if it is a concern.

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

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

The people are great. Bangladeshis are very friendly and open and the expat community is fun, active, and social. It is easy to travel the region from Dhaka as well.

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

Pearls and fabrics are amaazing and cheap here.

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

It is a challenging place to live but if you are able to be active and outgoing it can be fun and rewarding.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How bad the pollution would really be on my individual health.

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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 clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 04/11/17

Background:

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

No. I have served in many cities throughout the developing world: Latin America, Africa and South Asia.

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

Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two tours.

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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?

Apartment in Baridhara, very close to the US Embassy.

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

Groceries are generally available, including a wide variety of imported goods, although imported items can be rather expensive sometimes. Unfortunately, US embassy staff are allowed to visit only one grocery store, so most grocery shopping has to be done vicariously, with variable results.

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

Bring everything you think you will need or want. Since US embassy personnel are not allowed to visit any local retail venues, it is difficult or impossible to obtain most household items locally.

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

While many good restaurants can be found throughout the diplomatic enclave, including some excellent Thai, Chinese and other venues, Embassy staff are allowed to visit only one local restaurant. Food delivery services are available.

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

Cockroaches, termites, weevils, spiders, geckos, rats, bats...and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are ubiquitous and omnipresent...you will simply never escape them, constantly buzzing around you at home, at the Club, even in the embassy.

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Daily Life:

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

The US embassy provides mail through the DPO and pouch. Local mail service is very cheap and surprisingly reliable, but only use Registered Mail or the Express Mail Service, which provide tracking numbers.

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

Household staff is widely available and quite affordable. Most expatriates here have at least a part-time cook or driver. Staff used to have "ayahs" to help with the kids, but since families are no longer allowed at post, they are no longer necessary.

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

The American Club and American School have gym facilities that can be accessed through membership in the American Club. The facilities are not great. The fee is $300 per year.

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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?

Visa cards can be used locally at most of the upscale venues in the diplomatic enclave. However, Embassy staff are not allowed to visit any local retail establishments, so you will never really have an opportunity to use a credit card locally. There are reliable ATM machines in the Enclave, but US embassy staff are only allowed to use the ATM on the embassy grounds.

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

Local Protestant and Catholic churches offer services in English. There are also local Muslim, Bahai, Hindu and Buddhist communities that readily welcome foreigners, but they don't offer services in English. As it is, US embassy staff are prohibited from visiting any local religious establishments, except for the Vatican Nunciature next door to the US embassy, which offers Mass in English. There is also an informal group of US embassy staff who conduct Protestant services at homes every weekend.

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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?

Given the security restrictions, US embassy staff have almost no opportunity or need to use Bangla for daily living. Quite honestly, most embassy staff will never even meet any Bangladeshis except for their household staff and the local staff at the embassy, and they all speak English. While Bangla is an interesting language, there is really no point in bothering to learn it. One simply won't have the opportunity to ever use it since the embassy staff are completely isolated from the local population and have virtually no opportunity to meet or interact socially.

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

It would be nearly impossible for someone with physical disabilities to live and work in this city.

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Transportation:

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

Local transportation is very cheap, widely available and completely off limits to Embassy staff. As it is, local transportation can be rather dangerous, so even in the best of times, embassy staff were limited to taking rickshaws around the Diplomatic Enclave. People also used to travel by train and river boat, but embassy staff are no longer allowed to travel for recreational purposes anywhere in Bangladesh, by any means.

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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?

There is really no need to bring a car to post. Embassy staff are only allowed to drive within a one-mail radius...there really isn't anywhere to go, except to the office, the Club, and back. Many people share cars for this reason.

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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?

High-speed internet is generally available, not too expensive, and pretty reliable. The providers can install it very quickly, in just a day or two.

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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?

I did use a local provider but don't any longer. Since we cannot visit any local retail establishments, it would be impossible to sign up for a local provider nowadays. Since the Embassy provides mobile phones to all staff, there isn't any need, anyway.

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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 some local veterinarians, and some even make house calls.

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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?

US mission spouses are only allowed at post if they are employed at the US embassy or the American School. A variety of jobs are available with local NGOs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Given the security restrictions, the only volunteer opportunity is with a group that teaches English to the embassy local staff (local guards, custodial staff, etc.). Otherwise, embassy staff are restricted to a one-square mile area surrounding the embassy, and prohibited from visiting any local venue, for any purpose. Volunteering in this circumstances is virtually impossible.

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

Business casual at work. Formal dress is rarely required. US embassy staff are not allowed to visit any public places, for any reason.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, there is an ongoing terrorist threat that will place US embassy staff under virtual house arrest throughout the duration of your tour.

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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?

Dengue, chikungunya, flu, chronic respiratory problems, allergies, Nipa, Zika, H1N1, leprosy, tuberculosis, cholera and just about every other gastro-intestinal malady possible are rampant in Dhaka. In all truth, Dhaka is a fetid, densely populated petri dish, cultivating drug-resistant varieties of bugs as yet unknown to science.

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

Air quality is abysmal, ranging from "unhealthy" to "hazardous" throughout the year. During the winter months, the air is heavily laden with dust and fine particulates. Most staff develop chronic coughs or bronchitis during this time. Anyone who has ever experienced asthma will most definitely suffer a relapse while in Dhaka. Air quality absolutely impacts health, and certainly not in a good way.

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

Such people should know not to come here.

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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)?

In my opinion, a typical tour in Dhaka will entail perpetual affective disorder, depression and social isolation. In my experience, a tour in Dhaka is equivalent to forced confinement in house arrest. While the CLO and others try very hard to do what they can for morale, this is quite honestly the most difficult post I have ever served in throughout a 20+ year career.

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

The climate is generally hot and humid, and the sky overcast. During the monsoon, it will rain frequently and become even more humid. The temperature is quite pleasant during the short winter season. However, the weather doesn't really matter since most embassy staff will never have any significant opportunity to be outdoors due to the security restrictions.

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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 American School is very good, but children are no longer allowed at post, so it really doesn't matter.

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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

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Expat Life:

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

The expatriate community is relatively small. Given the movement restrictions that apply to embassy staff, there are, however, few opportunities to visit or socialize with other expatriates outside the US embassy community. Morale among the US embassy staff is uniformly poor, in my opinion. People try to stay positive, but even experienced staff will say that Dhaka is probably the most difficult post they've ever served at.

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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?

US embassy staff are prohibited from walking, using local transportation, or visiting any local commercial establishments, except for the American School, the American Club and few other diplomatic clubs. The expat community is fairly small, even smaller for most embassy staff since they will have few opportunities to meet or interact with expatriates from other countries.

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

Dhaka is a great post for single people who wish to stay single. Opportunities to date are virtually nonexistent. (For that matter, opportunities to socialize are virtually nonexistent.) Couples seem to do OK. Families are not allowed at post in view of the security restrictions.

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

While there is a vibrant local LGBT community, most embassy staff will not have the opportunity to experience or interact with this community due to the security restrictions. Additionally, ISIS and AQIS have been targeting LGBT activists and brutally murdered an LGBT USAID staffer last year. I would not recommend Dhaka for LGBT expatriates.

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

Yes...minorities of any sort have been targeted for assassination by terrorists. Women face many, many issues in Bangladesh. Gender-based violence is rampant. Discrimination against Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and the local tribal minorities is widespread.

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

The best part of a tour in Dhaka is the end of that tour, and the best thing about Bangladesh these days is leaving. Honestly, Bangladesh is a beautiful country with wonderful, warm, welcoming people, beautiful scenery and many interesting things to see and do. However, given the security restrictions, most embassy staff will never have the opportunity to do any of that. Most people fly to Kathmandu, Kolkata, Yangon or Bangkok to get away from the dreary, daily drudge at any opportunity.

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

Given the security restrictions, embassy staff are prohibited from doing pretty much anything that might qualify as fun or interesting.

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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 are interesting handicrafts, antiques and artwork, but the only opportunity for shopping are the vendors that the CLO brings into the Embassy each week. Selection and quality are very, very limited. Most embassy staff nowadays will simply never have the opportunity to find or purchase the high-quality items.

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

None.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known about the draconian movement restrictions.

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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:

...sense of curiosity about the local culture...you'll never experience the local culture, and you'll never get to know the local people.

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4. But don't forget your:

...whatever it takes to keep you occupied during the endless, dreary evenings you will spend alone in your apartment.

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

No.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

My personal take: avoid a tour in Dhaka. While the differentials are high, they simply aren't high enough to justify losing two years of your life. You'll never get the time back, your service here won't be rewarded with anything special, and there are so many other, more interesting places to work. If you want high differentials, go to Pakistan. The quality of life there is infinitely better, you'll have far more freedom, and you'll make more money on top of that!

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 06/17/16

Background:

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

No; cities in South America, Europe, and East Asia.

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

The U.S. Flights from the East Coast can be done in one connection, generally through Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha, and take around 20 hours plus layovers. Flights from the West Coast take a little longer and may require two connections, generally through Tokyo, Hong Kong, and/or Bangkok.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Almost everyone is in apartments, which typically have 3-4 bedrooms, and are located in the Baridhara and Gulshan neighborhoods around the Embassy. Commute times depend on traffic -- it can (and has) taken 30 minutes to drive the 0.5 miles home to Baridhara from the Embassy, and it could take up to 1.5 hours to get to Gulshan.

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

There are a few home delivery grocery services, including Direct Fresh and Chaldal, and groceries from there are generally safe and cheap. There are a few local grocery stores with reasonably safe goods that are popular among expats. The Embassy commissary has lots of options, and I've gradually come to do most of my grocery shopping there and online via Amazon.

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

Most things are available on Amazon. I wish I had shipped some things that are not allowed on air freight: alcohol, certain cleaning supplies, nail polish and nail polish remover, etc. Chocolate should be hand-carried or else it'll melt in the mail (although I've had good luck ordering chocolate online in the winter).

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

There are a few high-quality restaurants, although the choices have decreased since the Embassy community is now restricted to a small part of the diplomatic zone. Food Panda, Hungry Naki, and some individual restaurants will deliver.

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

Yes, mosquitoes and weevils are everywhere, as well as the occasional huge cockroach or spider. The mosquitoes here carry everything except malaria. Freeze all of your food to avoid weevil infestations. Bringing some liquid ant traps is also a good idea.

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Daily Life:

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

Via 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?

Widely available and very inexpensive. Most expats have a driver and some sort of household help (maid, ayah, and/or cook).

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

The American Club has a small and basic gym. AISD has larger facilities, including a swimming pool. Both are free to Embassy employees and family members.

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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?

More and more places, especially restaurants and shops frequented by the expat community, are beginning to accept credit cards. I've used my credit card many times without incident, although it's a good idea to use cash if you're at all doubtful about the establishment's ability to protect your information. The Embassy ATM is the only one I 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?

Most people get by without any Bengali.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

I'm sure they're very affordable, but they're not safe. RSO has prohibited the Embassy community from using public transportation.

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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?

Import restrictions allow only cars less than 5 years old. Don't bring a car that you care about, as it will suffer from the Dhaka roads, humidity, and general abuse that the environment here will throw at it. It is best to bring a 20-year old SUV with high road clearance. These are widely available to buy within the diplomatic community.

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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, my internet is fast enough to stream TV, and costs around $45/month. The installation process requires a lot of patience, as workmen will arrive up to 6 hours late (if they arrive at all), and will need to come back several days in a row to drill holes in the wall/window to run the cables.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone and buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card, which costs around $10-12/month.

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Pets:

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

Not sure, as I don't have a pet, but I can't imagine that there are good veterinary services here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It's very difficult for spouses to find work outside of the Embassy. There are limited jobs at AISD and at local NGOs for spouses who qualify. Salary scales on the local economy are very low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There used to be volunteer opportunities with local schools, but I am not sure that they are available anymore, under the current movement restrictions.

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

Business casual within the Embassy, casual outside. Men and women should avoid wearing shorts, and women should avoid exposing shoulders, legs, and cleavage. Long skirts/maxidresses and a light shawl to cover the shoulders and chest are a good idea for women.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. ISIS and AQIS are active in Bangladesh, despite the current government's claims that the opposition party is to blame for the attacks. There are also domestic terror groups that have been active for some time. Embassy personnel are prohibited from walking, biking, taking rickshaws and public transportation, and moving about in the open; and are also restricted to a small part of the diplomatic zone.

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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?

Lots of health concerns. The air is terrible in the winter, when people burn trash for heat, and many people contract a cough that won't go away as a result. Medical care here is not good, and people go to Bangkok or Singapore for any health needs. I've heard that dental care here is decent, although I don't have personal experience with it. The movement restrictions and general unpleasantness of being outside will cause weight gain. Food safety is also a concern. Bring anti-diarrheals, a treadmill, and vitamins.

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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 Embassy recently installed an air-quality monitor, which has confirmed that the air quality here is terrible. Large particulate pollution in the winter, in particular, causes breathing issues. Don't come here if you have asthma.

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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)?

Just the mental health issues that result from being under constant terror threat and being required to live under strict movement restrictions.

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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 humid, with around 8 weeks of relatively cool and dry weather (which corresponds to terrible air quality). Monsoon weather in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most Embassy children attend AISD, but I don't have personal experience with the school.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium-sized. Morale is not good, although people are trying to do their best in a tough situation.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of entertaining at home and in the expat clubs.

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

It might be good for families with young children, but it is not good for anyone else.

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

No, ISIS and AQIS are targeting LGBT folks. A prominent LGBT activist and USAID LES was hacked to death two months ago.

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

Yes.

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

I've made a lot of friends in the Embassy community, which is rallying in a very difficult situation.

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

There are fewer things to do in Dhaka these days, but it's easy and relatively cheap to fly to Kolkata or Bangkok.

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

Pearls, artwork, framing, fabrics (especially silk), brass statuary, rickshaws and rickshaw art, custom-made clothing.

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

The work is interesting and demanding.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The terrorist threat. How difficult it would be to exercise.

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

No.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 05/18/16

Background:

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

No

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

Washington DC. Ranges from 24-30 hours, depending on connections through the Middle East or Europe

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year

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

U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Almost all housing is apartments. A few people have the first or second floor of a duplex. Commute time to the Embassy ranges from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, but that depends on traffic and it can sometimes take much longer.

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

You can find just about anything here. Prices vary depending on where you go. The commissary has become awesome lately, and you can find lots of American stuff there, although it might be expensive. We also rely heavily on Amazon.

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

Carpets, green cleaning supplies, high quality liquor.

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

Nando's Peri Peri, Pizza Hut, Gloria Jean's, Pizza Roma, and lots of good Indian restaurants (Lucknow, Khazana, Tarka, Roll Express, etc). Other good restaurants include O Kitchen/Holey Bakery (continental/Spanish), Izumi (Japanese), Bistro E (Continental), Turkish Bazaar, Soi 71 (Thai), Bamboo Shoot (Chinese), Goong the Castle (Korean), and some others. Nearly every place delivers. All these restaurants are slightly cheaper than DC prices. You can obviously get inexpensive restaurant food here, but it's better to pay more for quality ingredients.

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

Lots of mosquitoes (watch out for dengue), ants and the occasional massive cockroach

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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?

Readily available and gloriously inexpensive.

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

Yes. There is a gym at the American Club, and at the American International School there is a nice gym and pool which embassy employees and families can use for free. Some of the other expat clubs have yoga, zumba, Muay Thai, etc.

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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?

This is a cash economy.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

RSO forbids use of public transportation.

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

You can't import vehicles over 5 years old. Right-hand drive Asian vehicles are best.

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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. Fast internet that works with Netflix, Hulu, etc is about US$100/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?

Bring an unlocked phone and get a SIM card.

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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, vets make house-calls (although quality of vet care isn't the best), no kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

You can work at AISD.

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

Work: Business casual, similar to DC. Public: Men shouldn't wear shorts, women shouldn't wear anything short or revealing.

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Health & Safety:

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

YES. ISIL and Al Qaida are both present and active throughout the country, including within Dhaka, even though the Bangladeshi government denies that they are here and blames the murders the opposition party. A USAID LES who was also an LGBT activist was hacked to death last month in his apartment, and extremists are murdering foreigners and people with views different from their own (bloggers, professors, an Italian NGO worker, and others). We cannot stay out past 10PM, we are not allowed to walk outside at all, and our movements are confined to the diplomatic enclave. So, yes, there are special security concerns.

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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?

Yes. Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases (no malaria in Dhaka), bad pollution. I would never seek medical care here.

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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 good, especially from December to March

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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 and humid to hotter, more humid and rainy

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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 American International School is supposed to be pretty good.

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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 most people use an ayah (nanny) rather than daycare.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Large and morale varies. Some people try to stay happy and some people are Debby Downers.

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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?

Entertaining at home, going to restaurants. There is not a wide variety of things to do, but there is something happening every weekend, usually parties and get-togethers.

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

Honestly, I don't know if Dhaka is good for anyone at this point.

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

NO.

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

Yes.

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

Going on vacation and making good friends within the community

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

We can't go anywhere in Bangladesh besides the diplomatic enclave, which has no "hidden gems," other than some shopping.

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

Pearls, tailored clothes, antiques, framing, bone china

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

Saving money (although not if you travel a lot), lots of inexpensive pearls and other goods

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, but you need to travel out of the country (no in-country travel allowed) to stay sane.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That ISIS and Al Qaida had set up shop and were aggressively expanding.

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

No.

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

Shorts and sun dresses.

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4. But don't forget your:

VPN router

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 06/20/15

Background:

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

No, many other cities in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

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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. Best to do the trip in two days with a lay-over. If not, connect through Dubai.

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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.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments are ok but may collapse in an earthquake.

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

Expensive, but readily available.

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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?

Yes, but be careful about contaminated food.

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

Mosquitoes with dengue, malaria, etc.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic mail.

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

Good and cheap.

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

Limited and very expensive unless you can join the AEEA.

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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?

Seems ok at reputable banks.

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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?

Limited

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

Yes. No sidewalks, bad roads, elevators that break down frequently.

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Transportation:

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

No

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

Bring a 4x4 and expect to beat it up.

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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?

Link3 seems fine. About US$60/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?

Cheap and easy.

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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?

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Endless

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

Covered legs/arms

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Health & Safety:

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

Small bombs called "cocktails" and petrol bombs which target cars and buses during political protests.

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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?

Yes. Almost every unhealthy aspect of life is here (diseases, all forms of pollution, traffic danger, allergies, political unrest, etc). Some private health care is available, but most people go to Singapore for anything even remotely complicated.

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

Very unhealthy and downright toxic during the winter months (November - March).

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

Don't 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?

Hot and wet in the summer, dry and dirty in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several international schools. All seem to be good with AISD likely the best.

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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

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

Mainly at the schools.

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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 expat community due to development organizations. Morale is pretty low, people try to escape every few months.

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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?

Dinner with friends

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

It's a hard city for everyone. Hours of day in a traffic, significant pollution, constant construction noise.

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

I don't know, but I doubt it. It's fairly conservative and may still need to open up about this.

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

No, Bangladeshis are very kind people.

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

Good friends and welcoming culture.

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

Not really.

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

Antique brass

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

The Bangladeshi people are a delight. The city is a bummer.

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10. 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?

That you can't escape from Dhaka very easily. This makes the city feel ever present and claustrophobic. There are very few parks and a number of them are dangerous. They will likely soon be turned into concrete along with the rest of the city.

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

No

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

Privacy and clean lungs

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience and ability to work in a car

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

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307744620/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0307744620&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder&linkId=67EPLSQCPNKZKN2G

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 03/02/15

Background:

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

No - we've had two other government tours in Africa.

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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?

Seattle, and it takes about 40 hours by air to get to post. You can fly over the pacific West coast hub to SEA-NRT-BKK-DAC
or over the Atlantic via Istanbul: IST-DAC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most of the housing consists of apartments.

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

US$50. a week and you'll never go without.

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

yes - US$10 will get you a fancy dinner.

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

Dengue is a constant threat.

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Daily Life:

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

yes - at the clubs

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

more places are accepting credit cards, but it's a 80-90% cash society

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

yes

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

yes - US$30 will get you fast internet

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

yes

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

yes

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

casual

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Health & Safety:

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

Random car bombings are common during hartels - general strikes - which are daily.

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

During the rainy season it's better, otherwise in the dry season you can see air pollution particles.

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

It's comfortable in the dry season - during the rainy season it's 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?

The American International School of Dhaka (AISD) is terrible for elementary school children- I'll add a detailed real school report.

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

None.

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

not really, there are parent-led groups

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Expat Life:

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

yes

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

yes

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

no

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

international clubs

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

The food is good, and quality of life is high. People are friendly.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 09/29/14

Background:

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

No. Lived in Seoul for 2 years.

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

We live in a high rise apartment in a Diplomatic Enclave (just a perimeter, no gates). It's usually about 10-15 minutes by car but if there's traffic and closed roads as often they are, it could be 30-45 minutes. All depends where you live.

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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.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartment high rise. There may still be a few people in houses but that is almost over as they are not seismically safe. I find my apartment very comfortable and huge. 4 bdr, 5 bath (seriously, we use showers as storage space, who needs this many?). I have no complaints on housing.

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

Expensive compared to U.S. I stopped looking at prices at the commissary because if I need it, I don't care how much it is. Local market has a lot too, prices vary by brand or if it's imported. Fresh fruits and vegetables are tough because they have formalin which is like a preservative...I only feed my children frozen/canned veggies from commissary and make smoothies with frozen fruit. Fresh fruit I buy occasionally. There is no fresh milk, just UHT. No celery. Meats are expensive unless local (I always brought in luggage when taking trips out). Paper goods, laundry soap, dish soap...bring enough for whole tour but watch your housekeeper doesn't over use. Items are available here but expensive unless you use local brands.

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

More laundry soap (liquid restrictions through mail) and toilet paper (very cheap locally but I don't like it). Special food items like Mexican food ingridients.

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

Pizza Hut, and lots of other local chains like fried chicken places. I could spend US$25 for a family of 4 ordering delivery.

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

MOSQUITOS! Some are not as bothered but I am a magnet for them. Luckily I haven't had Dengue Fever but I know some that have. I am rarely outside at night and you'll make your favorite fragrance, OFF!

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Daily Life:

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

DPO/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?

Available and affordable...on average US$200 a month for a full time employee.

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

Yes. Our residence building has a gym, the American Club, American School (AISD), and Annex. AISD will charge you more if you don't have students enrolled.

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

I don't use them, except commissary (2% fee). Bring lots of checks. You will use cash mostly.

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

I know none and get around fine.

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Transportation:

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

No. I don't take ANY public transport. People occasionally ride on rickshaws (pedicab), affordable but agree on price before you get on, some get dropped off at different location without wanting to.

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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?

<5 years old (don't ask why). Bring something you don't mind getting hit/scratched. High clearance is better like a jeep. I've had problems with parts because my car is old (bought here). Lot of Asian brand cars around. Reliable car service is expensive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available but not as reliable (power outages) and slower. US$25-$100+ plans. I have the cheaper and it's good enough.

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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?

Cheap and available here. I brought unlocked phone. Long distance is very cheap, for example 1 hour call to U.S. is about US$5.00.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I don't think so.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. See CLO.

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

At work I would say the same as any other, many men don't wear ties because it's very hot here. In public women are the ones that need to be careful not to be revealing. It's easy to buy local outfits that fit our Western taste. Women cover breasts with scarves because of the staring (even without cleavage) and nothing too short. It's a primarily Muslim country but much more lax in that sense.

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Health & Safety:

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

Many demonstrations, mostly amongst locals and their government but there is occurence of violence. Just follow RSOs recommendations, I stay in when there is a Hartal. My children are not school-aged so I don't worry about them being somewhere else. I haven't been affected but I take precautions seriously. The upside is there is hardly traffic on those days.

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

I would not want medical attention here. Dengue Fever, diarrhea, some respiratory issues, lots of colds/flus, and I have so much dust in my eyes from bad air.

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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?

Horrible. When you come in from the plane, you can see a giant haze around the city. There's a lot of smog and people burn trash outside especially in "winter." The air stinks like a garbage can or toilet.

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

Seasonal allergies will just be worst here. If you have food allergy, then plan on cooking your own meals or having a cook. If you ask at a restaurant you might get a head nod and yes just to hear what you want.

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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?

If you like hot and humid then this is it. Monsoon season in summer months (Jun/Jul - Aug/Sept). "Winter" is at the end of the year with actual comfortable days but mosquitos are at their worst. Air conditioning in vehicles and home is a must.

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Schools & Children:

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

Almost everyone in our community attends AISD, I don't think there are better choices. No experience on quality.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, there are several for different age groups: Jinglebells, Grace, French School. Many kids are in school, even the under 5 kids. It's getting much better where more of us keep our kids home and there is an abundance of playgroups (most run by the ayahs). I don't know exact cost but it was not worth it for me especially wanting flexibility to travel out without worrying about school schedule.

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

At AISD and private programs like gymnastics, ballet, martial arts.

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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 and morale is what you make it. I started off not so good but I've made many friends now and am actually content.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Going to embassy clubs. At home parties, Heritage Hour. At some point you should go to a Bangladeshi wedding.

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

Definitely not a good city for singles, especially women. Couples do okay. Many families here, I personally don't recommend this place for small children (nutrition/health reasons) but there are so many young kids.

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

Singles probably not. I now of some couples.

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

Women get stared at, super uncomfortable!!! There is definitely a class system here. Local rich people have no respect for the poor. Skin color is seen as "the lighter you are, the higher class you are"....they even advertise Skin Lightening Creams which is hilarious when we are at the pool tanning ourselves to be darker. These are just observations mostly among locals, I have not had problems myself.

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

Making lots of new friends, and as a stay at home mom, it's been nice doing things I would not been able to without an ayah (nanny) such as outings with friends, spa, etc.

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

We make our own fun by gathering with friends. Be selective where you eat out or it can mean diarrhea (dhaka belly).

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

Pearls, clothes, sarees, art.

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

Saving money I guess, but you can quickly spend it if you take many trips outside the country (use your R&R wisely). Domestic help is very affordable. Nice, close community (making friends is a must for morale).

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you need to leave the country every 3 months and feel you need a fleet of staff to live comfortably.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I would have a hard time feeding healthy foods to my family. You'll gain weight from both poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Both require much more effort because you no longer do your own chores, walk anywhere, etc...exercise takes more effort but doable.

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

Never.

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

Winter clothes, bikes, revealing outfits.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock, mosquito repellent, patience in traffic, sense of humor, motivation to exercise. Oh, bring extra work shoes (men) the humidity and dust will make your shoes fall apart...often!

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 08/03/14

Background:

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

This was my 4th overseas tour. I've also lived in Thailand, Egypt, and Slovakia.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2010-2012.

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

An assignment with the U.S. Department of State.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The Embassy was transitioning to apartments only. They're pretty decent. You can drive to the Embassy in 5-15 minutes from Embassy housing.

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

The U.S. Commissary is good, as is the British Commissary. You can get some decent meats and poultry at a local market as well as some U.S. brand groceries. The store is hellish, though.

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

Shoes. Plenty of shoes becuase they wear out fast there.

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

No U.S. chains. I ate at a "KFC" clone and got sick.

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

The easy pests there geckos. They'll live in your house and crawl around the walls. They're not a problem. The mosquitos are relentless. Ants are relentless. You have to spray yourself and the kids down with "Off" every time you think about going outside. Most, if not all, expats have the large outdoor bug zappers inside their house.

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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?

Plentiful and cheap. We had a full time maid/nanny, gardener, and driver. I think this costs us close to US$400 per month.

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

The American Club has a small gym that gets the job done.

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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?

Don't use them at all.

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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?

None. You won't be around people who don't speak English.

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

Oh, yes. There are no accomodations for those with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

No safe. They're prohibited.

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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 high-clearance vehicle. Nothing nice, as it will get dented. Traffic is atrocious. If I could do it again, I'd take a 1985 Ford Bronco and put pressure treated 2"x12"'s on the front and rear bumpers.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is available at home. The speed was ok, and it was expensive.

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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?

Get one when you arrive. The service and selection is decent.

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Pets:

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

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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?

My wife was the CLO at the British High Commission but that is extremely rare.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Unsure.

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

At work, formal as in U.S. formal. Public, dress like you're in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

Security is a big problem. Stabbings and robberies at gunpoint, in the middle of the day, in the diplomatic enclave. No one should venture outside at night alone. No even to walk across the street.

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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 at the Embassy is ok. But you will get sick from the food. I got food poisoning three times - from eating in the American Embassy cafeteria.

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

Air quality is atrocious.

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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 and humid summer, hot and rainy winters.

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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 American International School was so bad that we switched our child to the British International School. It was ok at best. Disappointing in all.

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

I'm not positive, but I think virtually zero.

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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?

We sent our youngest to a private Bangladeshi-owned/run preschool which was really good.

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

Soccer for the little ones at school.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large. People were simply trying to get through their tour.

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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?

Get together with friends at their house or, if you can deal with the traffic, meet them at a restaurant. It could easily take you an hour to drive 6 blocks.

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

It's not bad for anyone in terms of socializing, etc.

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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?

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

We met a lot of foreign expats there, which was great.

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

Fun, in Dhaka? Interesting? Zilch. Nada. There is nothing attractive about Bangladesh at all, and I've seen a lot of the country.

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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 are some awesome brass sculptures.

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

You can save money here but you will also spend quite a bit while traveling around the region. You have to get out of Bangladesh every few months or else you'll go stir crazy with the traffic, pollution, dust, noise, stupidity, crime, weather, bugs, more noise, more stupidity, and more noise. Traveling to Thailand is fairly simple, with direct flights, but really expensive.

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10. Can you save money?

A bit, 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 challenging of a place to live it is.

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

No, absolutely not. It was a 2 year jail sentence for my kids as the city is dirty, noisy, and dangerous. We were counting down the days.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 07/28/14

Background:

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

No - Beijing, Paris.

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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?

26 hours from Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months and counting.

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

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?

All embassy housing is within 3km of the Embassy. Large apartments, weird layouts but plenty of space. Not many houses left, as they're torn down and apartments are built. Nothing is seismically safe despite being an earthquake zone. This place will put Haiti to shame some day.

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

Very good commissary; 3 local grocery stores have large selection of imported goods; Direct Fresh BD delivers imported and local goods to your home. Selection varies, people tend to hoard when they find something they like. Costs are similar to the U.S., higher for some products and lower for others. The more you can shop local, the more money you'll save.

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

Favorite toiletry brands; dehumidifiers; every painting I ever loved (framing is CHEAP and good quality here).

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

Pizza Hut, A&W, KFC, Pizza Roma, Nandos, BBQ (Korean chain), Gloria Jeans (Austalian chain), lots of local restaurants deliver an hour after you call to order. Prices are about half what you'd pay in the U.S., except at U.S. chains, where price is equivalent. Rumor has it Burger King is coming.

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

Roaches, ants, wasps, spiders are common everywhere. Mosquitos are a real problem especially during dengue season. Malaria is not present in the city, supposedly.

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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?

Readily available; pay depends on hours and experience, but roughly US$150-250/month for a full time servant, nanny, driver, or cook. Locals pay their staff less and work them harder, inhumane by western standards, so it's easy to find good help if you know where to look, because expats are the preferred employers.

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

Small gym at the Club; better gym at AIS/D if you have kids or are willing to pay US$200/year.

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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?

Don't. Just don't. There's an ATM on compound that's safe, but every other ATM is like playing russian roulette with your personal information. Bring LOTS of checks - you will use them to get cash from the bank, to pay at the commissary, to load money onto your club account, etc. several checks each month.

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

American Club has a non denominational church on Fridays (Sunday-Thursday work week).

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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, unless you want to go rural or really native.

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

Yes. Think dirt or stone roads without sidewalks, crumbling staircases, etc. The only culturally acceptable occupation for those with disabilities is begging. Maybe they could use a good positive role model.

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Transportation:

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

No. CNGs are metal death traps on three wheels. Rickshaws are the most common place to get pick pocketed. Buses are held together with spit and tape, imported after they are decommissioned in other countries, like China, and usually over crowded including the roof. Most of it's prohibited, so plan to buy a car. Regional trains are okay.

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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?

Left hand drive is preferred but not required; nothing too low (lots of potholes and flooding), nothing too big (narrow streets and crazy traffic), nothing older than 5 years from manufacture can be imported by diplomats; try importing from Japan, as the dip plate market is very small with more buyers than sellers. Only one car per household, lot of restrictions. Your car WILL get banged up, scratched, dinged, hit here, so be ready to accept it. Most people install extra external bumpers.

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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, expensive and inconsistent speeds; plans starting from US$50/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?

If you don't have a blackberry, bring an unlocked phone. Good data and a lot of talk/texting will run you about 1,000tk (US$12.50)/month

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Pets:

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

No quarantine, but it's expensive and complicated to import and export. There's a vet who will come to your house (no clinic) and neuter your cat on your kitchen table. You get to clean up afterward.

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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?

Mostly NGO work or local salary levels.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Mostly working with slum kids.

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

Conservative. Local women wear the shalwar kameez, which is designed to hide the fact that a woman actually has a body underneath all that fabric. Many local women also wear head scarves. Foreign women should avoid exposed knees, shoulders or cleavage in professional settings and expect to be followed around if exposing the same in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Mobs, traffic incidents are common; political instability and rioting around recent elections but that's calmed down and was never focused toward foreigners; pick pocketing (especially on rickshaws) and the occasional expat targeted mugging; rabies from the stray dogs.

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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 here is abysmal. Most expats go to the icddrb which works with CDC; diplomats have Embassy doctors, or go to Singapore. Even the locals go to Singapore when they're really sick.

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

Air quality is some of the worst in the world - estimated to be worse than Delhi or Beijing; gastrointestinal illness is extremely common; water quality is terrible including presence of arsenic; much of the local produce and meat are laden with formalin and hard metals (expats spend a fortune buying imported); stray dogs all over the streets; locals tend to be lazy; huge (disturbing) beggar population which mutilates their own children as it is a generational family "business" and the disfiguration "helps" them "earn" more money; nothing to do in town.

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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. November-February is in the 70s F. March-June is humid but no rain, hot and muggy, temps in the 100s F with heat index in the 130s-140s F. Monsoon season follows; it is much more bearable and the cleanest time of year as the brick factories shut down when the rice paddies flood. It rains for just an hour or two on most days - beautiful lightning storms.

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Schools & Children:

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

AIS/D is where most kids go. There's also a French school, and a Christian school I think?

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

AIS/D is supposed to be good for "middle of the road" kids - too smart or too many special needs and they won't do well there. Don't expect your kid to get an IEP.

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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?

Expensive. Parents complain a lot.

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

Through school only, I believe. There is Scouts though.

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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; a little crazy. A lot of rich Bangladeshis have dual citizenship and mingle with the expats. Expats have a mix of reactions to this. Most of the community revolves around the clubs and the numerous annual balls, or around school for families.

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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?

Expat clubs. No one else has alcohol - Bangladesh is "Super Muslim" (as the t-shirt we all love says). Some of the bigger hotels host parties. Dinner parties. Board Games.

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

Families like it here. Singles either get into the club scene or go slowly crazy. Everyone travels as much as they can.

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

The expat community is great; Bangladesh is extremely conservative in this area, unfortunately.

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

Yes.

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

Goats, monkeys, mongoose sightings daily; elephants stopping cars for bribes; strong expat community, including the clubs; regional travel.

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

American Club pool and bar; Nordic Club spa; lots of board games. Jamuna Future Park now has a movie theater and bowling alley, in addition to the world's shadiest roller coasters and the hilarious food court. Lots of foreign restaurants in the Dip Enclave.

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

Lungis. Pearls. Bone china. Bronze cast statutes.

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

Saving money; cheap spa services; good Indian food; cheap household help (including live-in); cheap framing for art; bone china (1/10th to 1/4th the cost of the U.S.).

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10. Can you save money?

Yes. A thousand times yes. There is almost nothing to spend it on.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The pollution is rotten in the winter, but it gets better during monsoon season. Monsoon season really is the best. Don't drink the water in the shower or brush your teeth with it. The rules to cricket.

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

I think so. Even though life here sucks sometimes, the community is really good, and the culture is interesting. And it's just two years. I wouldn't move here indefinitely.

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

Short skirts, rain coats (too hot!), high heels, weapons.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, easy to wash sandals, costumes (so many costume balls and parties for expats), maxi dresses, light scarves.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Michael C. Hall recently did a series on Dhaka I think.

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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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Dhaka, Bangladesh 08/09/13

Background:

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

First diplomatic assignment - previous expat experience in Middle East and Europe.

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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?

It takes at least 21-22 hours to get to Dhaka from Washington, D.C. with a connection in the Gulf (Dhubai, Kuwait, Qatar). Sometimes Fly America will make you route through Europe first, then the Gulf. Others opt to fly via Bangkok and Tokyo, though I think that's longer. It takes two days to get here (leave evening of day 1, arrive morning of day 3).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since March 2012.

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy personnel live in one of two neighborhoods (Baridhara is close to the Embassy and the school, Gulshan is close to the American Club, stores, and restaurants). Nothing is more than a couple miles from the Embassy, but traffic can turn a 5 minute commute into a 35 minute one. Walking in professional clothes would be a hassle due to mud, dust, heat, and lack of sidewalks. Biking is dangerous because drivers leave NO space between cars and aren't used to sharing with cyclists.

Housing is good! The Embassy pool has gone through a major upgrade to become seismically compliant, which has resulted in putting people in new apartment buildings. There are very few single family homes left, but the new apartment buildings are spacious and have good amenities (finished rooftops, balconies). I am single and have a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment.

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

Cheap cheap cheap. Produce on the local market is inexpensive, but there are concerns it contains formalin to extend shelf life. I have my housekeeper buy from an organic grocer. The U.S. Commissary is huge and has a good selection of products at slightly higher prices than in the U.S. Lots of people buy groceries online and ship via DPO.

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

Equipment for a home gym.

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

There are lots of Indian, Thai, and Korean places to go. For American food, your best bet is the American Club, though there is an A&W and KFC. Fried chicken is very popular here. Meals can run you from US$5 to $50, with an average night out running in the US$15/person range. New restaurants are popping up all the time. We just got a Dunkin Donuts knock-off and have a couple Nando's.

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

Mosquitoes! No malaria in Dhaka proper, but there is dengue, which affects several embassy staff each year. Nifty electric bug zapper rackets and nets for sleeping keep things under control in the residences.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO or Pouch from the U.S. 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?

Very available and very affordable. I pay US$115/month for a housekeeper/cook to come six half-days a week. The Embassy newsletter is teeming with ads for gardeners, nannies, drivers, and cooks. People have no trouble finding and affording domestic help (and all residences have maid's quarters if you want someone to live in).

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

The American Club and American School both have gyms. The school (US$200/year for a membership if you don't have a kid there) has a lap pool and a bigger gym with ellipticals, treadmills, rowing machines, spin bikes, and lots of weight machines/free weights. The club (US$25/month membership fee) has a splishy-splashy pool and a smaller gym with weights and treadmills.

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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?

Credit cards are not widely accepted, but you can use them (for a fee) at shops and restaurants in the dip zone. It's very much a cash economy. There's a reliable ATM at the American School and in the Embassy.

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

Yes, Protestant and Catholic services available. There are local religious communities of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians in Dhaka.

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

Lots of English dailies (i get them home delivered for work). A basic cable package includes CNN, BBC, and lots of English language channels from India (HBO, Star Movies). I pay US$5/month for my cable.

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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?

English is not as well-spoken or widespread as in India. I learned Bangla for my job, so have had no trouble getting around. Lots of people get by with English, but they don't stray to far out of the dip zone that often.

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

Lots! There are no requirements for buildings to be accessible (with ramps or elevators) to someone with limited mobility. Sidewalks are inconsistent and bumpy and often full of construction materials, beggars, or mud. Curbs are high to prevent people from driving on them, and don't have ramps to get on/off.

That said, the U.S. Embassy and affiliated entities (commissary, club, school, residences) are all accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are prohibited from taking buses (watch the 2nd Amazing Race episode if you want to know why!), taxis, and tuk-tuks. You can take inter-city trains for trips - they are cheap. You can use cycle rickshaws or the motor pool like a taxi service if you don't have a car.

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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?

It's right-hand drive. I bought a car here, but some people import from Japan. The motor pool can service vehicles and are best with Toyotas (the vast majority of the motor pool fleet). Your car will get beat up in traffic here, so I wouldn't bring or invest in something nice.

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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 you pay for it! I pay US$80/month for internet (through Link3) that is generally able to stream content through a VPN (Hulu, Netflix). Some people pay much less(through Qubee), but that company restricts bandwidth through a "fair neighbor" policy.

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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 provides for its staff. You can buy a pre-paid or post-paid plan with Grameenphone. Data plans are inexpensive but slow. There is no 3G yet - we're still on EDGE.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Not that I'm aware. There are some local vets who do home calls (vaccinations) and can board animals, but most Embassy personnel get someone to pet-sit while they're away.

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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?

Local economy... not so sure. EFMs generally work for the embassy, an international NGO, or an international school. Those who want to be employed are.

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

Conservative. Women shouldn't show shoulders, cleavage, or thighs/knees. I wear a suit for work and tunics with jeans on the weekends.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are frequent strikes/protests (which can turn violent), but diplomats and most expats live in a 2 mile-wide diplomatic zone that is mostly exempt from the political action. On strike days, embassy personnel are confined to the dip zone (which is where we all live anyways and has lots of stores and restaurants).

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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?

None other than mosquito-borne or respiratory stuff previously mentioned. The Embassy has an RMO who can deal with most things, medicines are available locally, and the Embassy arranges medical evacuations to Bangkok or Singapore for anything major.

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

Very unhealthy. It's polluted and/or dusty 365 days a year. The monsoon temporarily clears the air. Lots of people have respiratory problems, and it's tough to exercise outside. The embassy provides air filters for residences, and cleaning the A/C filters biweekly/monthly keeps out a lot of gunk.

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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 and humid. The pre-monsoon season is the hottest (90s-100s Fahrenheit with heat index pushing it up another 10-15 degrees). Monsoon June-August with frequent and violent rainstorms. Winter gets down to the 50s and 60s. Humidity remains high (I mean 85-90% high) throughout the 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?

People come to Dhaka for the schools, especially for the good high school program at the American School (AISD). There are also British and French schools, and a handful of other international schools. People with kids at the U.S. Embassy are very happy with AISD.

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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?

There are a couple pre-K or playgroup programs around the dip zone. Other people hire nannies (ayahs) to stay at home with their kids.

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

Through the school, yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Big! The U.S. Embassy alone has 130 direct hires. In addition to all the other embassies here (there are 40 some-odd missions), there are lots of international organizations and development agencies, and about half a dozen international schools.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good. People know what they're getting into before they come and can make light of some of the challenges (poverty, congestion, traffic, pollution, lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy). There are lots of silly events throughout the year (goat races, costume balls, parties at the marine house or the nordic club). Some people are defeated by Dhaka, but I just stay away to keep my own spirits high.

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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 of dinners/brunches/movie nights at people's homes. Expat clubs, parties, CLO trips... the usual fare.

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

The majority of the embassy personnel are married with kids. Single people are by no means excluded, though. It's definitely not quiet or boring as a single woman, but it's a tough place to date.

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

Wouldn't be a problem if you came with a partner - As in most Islamic societies, public displays of affection are inappropriate for straight or gay couples, and it's normal for same sex friends to spend time together. There's a gay scene here, but I think it'd be lonely for a single gay person... your limited options for dating would just get smaller.

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

Anyone who doesn't look south Asian (whether you're White, Black, East Asian) will get stared at, but this is from curiosity rather than hostility.
Women get an extra large dose of staring. Men will take pictures of you with their camera phones. I've only ever gotten heckled once/twice (while jogging, which women don't do here).

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

Expat clubs have pools, tennis, spas, restaurants, and bars (an important thing in a dry country). Lots of restaurants available. Active and fun Hash every weekend. Lots of socializing in people's houses. Domestic travel to the Sundarbans (mangrove forest) or Sylhet (the hilly, tea-growing area) and day trips to historic buildings. Cheap flights to Kolkata and Kathmandu (US$200). A trip to Bangkok will run you US$350-$400.

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

Pearls, textiles, brass sculptures, rickshaw art, handmade furniture/frames.

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

You can afford to have an awesome lifestyle here since the cost of living is low. Some people hire cooks, housekeepers (bearers), gardeners, drivers, and nannies. You can get things made here out of textiles (clothes, slipcovers, household textiles) and wood (furniture, frames) at a low cost. The weather is always warm. You can save money or you can travel around South and Southeast Asia. Expat clubs are a good social hub, and the Embassy community is supportive and tight-knit.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely. It's a 30% hardship differential with a 15% SND. Cost of living is low. If you want to travel regionally, you'll not save as much, since cost of tickets out of Dhaka are high.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This is a fine place to serve. I was directed here and have been making the best of it, but I would not bid again on Dhaka.

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

Skimpy clothes. Winter clothes. Outdoors equipment.

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3. But don't forget your:

Stuff for home entertainment (parties, A/V equipment, home gym, play stuff for kids).

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Matir Moyna (the clay bird) is the most readily available in the U.S. The Amazing Race was here twice.

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

Tahmina Anam's A Golden Age and The Good Muslim (coming of age trilogy that parallels the birth of Bangladesh). The Bradt Guide is the best for domestic travel. Other books by Bengali Indian authors (Amitav Ghosh) can give you a good idea of what the culture and history is like. BBC, the Economist, and AlJazeera have good coverage of current events.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 04/11/13

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?

Washington, DC It takes 2 days (22 hours) through Doha, Qatar or Bangkok + Narita.

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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 U.S. Embassy and has been living in Dhaka for almost two years, 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?

Mostly apartments, either near the American Club (Gulshan 2) or the US Embassy (Baridhara). I'm single and I have a 3-bedroom apartment (or 2 bedrooms and an office). Many buildings have rooftop space (mine does). It is a 20-25 minute walk to work, an 8-minute rickshaw ride, or a 5 to 10 minute car ride (depending on traffic). It's either hot and dusty or hot and muddy all the time, so it's a little tricky to walk to work in the morning. Walking is okay in the cooler month(s) but then you have to beware of the swarms of mosquitoes.

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

Less than in the US.

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

None. Maybe a bread machine.

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

KFC; CP Chicken (from Thailand); Pizza Hut.

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

Mosquitoes are very bad from December through March. They are manageable the rest of the year. A bug net is essential (indoors with closed windows) during the height of mosquito season. Ants are also a problem, but they can be controlled with bug spray.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch and 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?

Very cheap and readily available at less than $100/month for a housekeeper who works 5 days a week.

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

Yes. The American Club has a small gym for members, as does the American School. Neither is state of the art, but both are okay (treadmills, some weight machines and free weights).

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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?

Easy at the embassy.

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

I think so.

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

Yes, available for free 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?

I speak Bengali at a 2/2 level. That makes living here easy. Not sure what it would be like if I didn't speak the language.

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

Getting around in general could be difficult. The roads are uneven. Sidewalks are rare. It rains constantly for 3-4 months of the year.

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Transportation:

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

No, use the motorpool. Trains are okay. Rickshaws are also okay.

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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?

Buy a car here --- it will get beat up in traffic.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, about $40/month for wireless 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?

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?

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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

Relatively modest. Business and business-casual at work.

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Health & Safety:

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

Sort of -- street protests that close down roads for the day, and some small explosions; but we've always been able to make it to work at the embassy. Protests can restrict mobility for embassy employees and their families to just the diplomatic enclave.

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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?

Our embassy RMO is very good. Otherwise, medevacs to Singapore.

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

Very unhealthy. I keep two air filters running in my bedroom at all times and still suffer from allergies. Bring extra eye drops and allergy meds (they are inexpensive on the local market).

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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 and humid. It is chilly in December/January (60s during the days; 50s at night).

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Schools & Children:

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

No personal experience with them (well, I sometimes use the gym and pool at the American School), but I hear good things from parents.

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

No personal experience, but people seem to have no trouble finding inexpensive nannies (live in our out).

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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?

The U.S. Embassy has about 130 American direct hires (I think).

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good.

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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?

Much of it is socializing in private homes.

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

Have you read the UK Telegraph report? Dhaka was just rated the worst city to live in. I don't think the rating is entirely fair, but I wouldn't say it is a "good city" for any of the groups. It is a good city for anyone who likes to live in an interesting place and can appreciate the challenges of a hot, crowded, relatively poor mega-city. It is a good city for someone who likes living in a city that is definitely not in the Unites States or Switzerland or New Zealand -- and who approaches traffic jams with a sense of adventure.

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

The sense of personal space in Dhaka is not like in the United States -- it's okay to be very close to other people of the same sex. Throughout Bangladesh, straight (and gay, I suppose) men hold hands in public. Two men holding hands would not seem strange to the locals. Culturally (and because of religion), homosexuality is frowned upon, but practically speaking, no one seems to notice.

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

Yes. In some neighborhoods, religious minorities (Hindus and Buddhists) are persecuted. With respect to foreigners, all are stared at, but mostly people are just curious. It's frowned upon for women to walk around in shorts or short skirts. Everyone stares anyway -- so you can always take your chances. I've never had anyone say anything really offensive to me or physically threaten me.

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

Meeting my partner. Making friends inside and outside the embassy. Riding in rickshaws. My wonderful housekeeper. Going to weddings. Wearing saris. Going to inexpensive nail salons (I'm not much of a salon person, but I like them here). Watching street cricket matches (and playing pick up). Taking photographs (people are almost always willing to have their photo taken, and the city is visually interesting). Dhaka hipsters (yes, they exist). Using electronic mosquito-killing racquets.

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

Swimming and sitting by the pool at the ARA. Running the hash. Going sari 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?

Pearls! Saris!

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

Saving money. Weather (it's always warm). The low cost of entertaining (sound systems, lights, DJ, food for 100 people runs about $150). Inexpensive china/porcelain. Custom tailoring, nice saris. The friendliness and sense of humor of most Bangladeshis (they recognize that this is a challenging place to live but make the best of it).

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, absolutely.

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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:

high heels.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of adventure!

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I am departing in two months and will really miss this place. The charm far outweighs the challenges. It's probably a place I would never otherwise have visited. But I'm so glad I had a chance to live here. I've made some lifelong friends in Dhaka.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 08/14/11

Background:

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

This is a first expat-living experience, but I have travelled significantly abroad.

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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?

Several routes, but from Washington DC via either Hong Kong, Dubai or Doha work best. Two planes involved; total transit with layover time aprox 30 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

US embassy spouse

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice housing here! Most families are in large houses with yards or apartments (no yards). It is getting harder to keep houses in the housing pool, so most new leases are switching to apartments. It seems the apartments have nicer, more open floor plans, fewer maintenance issues, and are safer anyway. We are a family of 4 (3 when arrived) and have a 5-bedroom, 6-bath apartment.

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

Groceries are mostly obtained through the commissary, which does an ok job, not great. Meat is hard to come by, and there have been avian flu and anthrax scares in meat. We brought about 100 lbs in checked bags from US. Local fruit/veggies/eggs are available and affordable but very seasonal. Bleaching is certainly necessary. We have our gardener grow what he can on the rooftop.

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

Whatever you can't live without, because you probably won't find it here. Bring good shoes, kids' toys, sunscreen, etc. Pouch saves us a lot by mailing.

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

Three fast food chains are in the area: KFC, Pizza Hut and A&W. All are mediocre, but are priced like in the US. Lot of local food, but we do not eat it for fear of stomach problems. There is the occasional nice meal out, affordable.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

One organic grocer with a limited supply.

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

Lots of bugs here, but we haven't had too many in the house (we are on 2nd floor). Large spiders, roaches, centipedes (huge). There are always ants, so just don't leave a food mess lying around.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO- GREAT! I don't even know if there is local mail; have never seen a post office. Mail is delivered by hand from a courier to your gate by the school-bus ayah.

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

Very affordable and very plentiful. We had resumes at our apt before we even arrived. The embassy keeps a list of available workers as well. We have a gardener, a driver and a housekeeper/ayah for under $350 a month. All work 6 days a week from about 8AM to 6PM.

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

Most work out at the American Club or AISD.

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

We don't use either, ever. It is a cash-only society. There is an ATM at the embassy.

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

Not sure, but I believe there are several Christian services around. There is a Catholic/Italian house also.

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

Daily Star in english. TV some english, more if satellite.

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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 if you are in Dhaka, pretty much everyone can speak English or grab someone else who can. In the outlying countryside, though, Bangla would be needed.

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

Much difficulty. No good sidewalks (very tall steps) and no accommodations for disabilities. There are some elevators, but most of them do not work.

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Transportation:

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

Some use rickshaws, but RSO not fond of them, and crime is steadily increasing on rickshaws with expats. I'd vote against using any local transportation.

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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?

It is left-lane driving, but we have a US car and do fine. Traffic is insane, and it's a free-for-all as far as rules go. Many people have small cars or a small SUV. You will get dinged or in an accident. If you are in love with your car, don't bring it. Roads are of so-so quality. The embassy GSO will do after-hours work reasonably. Parts are here, but they are pricey and hit or miss. Bring what parts you can, like wipers, oil filters, etc. There is no car-jacking that I've ever heard of... traffic doesn't move fast enough to be successful.

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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?

Ok service, about $50-$70 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Grameen phone, cheap and easy. We brought an ATT phone with unlocked codes and bought a sim card here. Have only refilled once in a year.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Pet care is good. Household help can take care of and walk the dog. No kennels. A couple of vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Several at the embassy and school, also out with NGOs.

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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, some business casual. In public, it is a muslim country, so it's better to be respectful - no cleavage, knees, shoulders, etc. I take a scarf everywhere I go to cover up a bit. No one would say anything if you didn't, but again, be respectful.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are frequent hartals, which are basically local strikes against the government. They do get violent, but not toward foreigners. Expats are quite safe, from what I've seen. Like anywhere, don't be out in bad areas at night. There is little to do then anyway. As a woman, I have felt very safe on my own walking uptown or in the markets.

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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 good at the embassy med clinic. Local hospitals can tend to some common problems, but I wouldn't want to do anything too involved there. I was sent to Singapore for ultrasound and back to US for delivery. Health concerns are principally dengue fever and intestinal issues.

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

Poor air quality pretty much year 'round, trash burning, and open sewers. The dry season is especially hard, often seeing black stuff in tissues, even when not leaving the house 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 is monsoon country. Someone once said that it is always dry-underwear season or wet-underwear season. It is always very humid, and temps often are 80-100F. There are a few cooler (60-80) months in the winter (Dec-Feb). Rainy (not all day) from May-October and very dry in the winter. We went from mid-Oct-March with hardly a drop of rain.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an AIS (American Intl School). We have only been in the pre-K program but are pleased with it. We have heard good things from K-12 families. Nice campus, huge diversity. Also French and Grace school have many expats.

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

I believe AISD can accommodate some special needs with success and care. No first-hand account.

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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?

Preschool at AISD ($7000-$8200 per year) or another preschool Jingle Bells (local and unsure of price). There are several others locally, but those these are the main ones. A full-time ayah (nanny) is widely available for about $150-200 a month, 6 days a week.

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

Yes, via the schools. There is also a Boy Scout troop here. PreK has a ballet class, there is swimming and bollywood dance locally in limited supply.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large, many NGOs are here. The embassy has about 100 US employees.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good, it's currently a nice group of people. Everyone pretty well knows what they've signed up for when they come to Bangladesh.

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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?

Mostly at home or others' homes. Some with the school or embassy. You have to make your own fun here. A lot of activities are listed in the weekly embassy newsletter.

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

Great for families! There is a large group here of all varieties. Families have a lot of time. Couples seem to do fine and travel a lot. Singles may have a bit of a harder time, but still there are many here and they stick together. Dating locally may be minimal, especially for women.

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

No prejudice locally. There are several gay/lesbian people in the community, and they seem happy, though there is no local dating.

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

Most people are muslims, but there are hindus, christians and buddhists here, too, in harmony. No prejudice that we see.

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

Some tours around the country were nice, but after you do it once, it is plenty. We enjoyed it as a jumping-off point to other SE Asia vacations, though it is pricey, and offers only inconvenient times for flights to get out of Dhaka. The household help is nice, and the people are friendly.

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

Not a lot. You have to make your own fun through community events or get-togethers. There is an American Club where most people hang out, play tennis or swim. No malls, no movies, no fast food (hardly). Driving within the country is not really feasible.

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

Wonderful and affordable pearls, beautiful fabrics, and affordable tailoring.

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

Dhaka is exotic for its color and people. Their is a wonderful family atmosphere, and household help is easy to find. You can save money... if you don't travel (but you will travel).

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't blow it on surrounding country travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, we'd still go. It has been a descent post and a good adventure. It's great for a young family if you can make your own fun. But would we come back a second time? Umm... nope. Once was an adventure, twice is just silly- there are too many other places out there to see.

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

Winter clothes (unless you travel to Nepal/China/etc), love for malls/movies/entertainment.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, PATIENCE and favorite foods/toiletries, 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?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bangladesh is about the size of Wisconsin with aprox 160 million people. The poverty and despair is immense. Prepare yourself to see sad things and impoverished people and many orphans. There is great need in Bangladesh, but it also has many beautiful qualities. Set your expectations realistically, or low, and you can have a nice tour here.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 06/25/11

Background:

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

No. Seven other countries.

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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?

Coming from the U.S. most people either transit Dubai or Narita/Bangkok. The least stressful route would be through Dubai, since you only would need to change planes once (internationally).It takes my family and I anywhere from 24-36 hours to get to Dhaka.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

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

Assigned to U.S. Embsasy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments, not much more. Landlords have figured out they can make more money on high rise apartments and are tearing down very nice homes to build apartment buildings. The apartments are spacious, but construction is everywhere and you'll be lucky to find a place that isn't sandwiched between two buildings under construction.

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

Groceries are expensive. This post should have a COLA, but it doesn't. Most American's shop at the commissary to get decent brands. There are also some decent grocery stores on the local market, but you must be extremely careful with fresh foods, to include meats, vegetables, and fruits. Most foods will need to be soaked in bleach water for 30 minutes before preparing to eat.

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

Order a lot through Amazon.com and other grocers that ship to DPO and/or pouch. Most food stuff at the commissary is expired and local market stuff is sometimes questionable. Anything that doesn't expire quickly I would recommend shipping.

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

KFC, Pizza Hut, and A&W for fast food. The latter is horrible though. KFC and Pizza Hut aren't too bad. No other american known restaurants, but there have been some decent restaurants opening up in the past year.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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

Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, mosquitoes. In the winter they seem to disappear, and also in the hottest parts of the summer. Other than that, they are everywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

Send/Receive through 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?

Cheap!One of the best parts about Bangladesh. My housekeeper, for example, is paid about $125/month. She works seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Drivers are a bit more, due to their high demand. Gardeners, housekeepers, nannies, all easily hired and usually very trustworthy.

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

Both the American School and the American Club have workout facilities.

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

The embassy has a safe ATM. Have never used a credit card here. I would advise against it.

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

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

Both are available. TV consists of a mix of Bengal, Indian, American, and European channels.

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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. Haven't learned a single word of the local language.

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8. 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?

Not safe.

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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?

Buy one when you get here. Plenty of diplomatic vehicles are for sale. This is the worst traffic you've ever seen. A nice vehicle won't stay nice very long. I have never been involved in an accident anywhere else in the world. Here, I have been in about half a dozen minor fender benders.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available, yes. High-speed?Not so much. I pay about $120/month for 1.5Mbps during the day and 3.0Mbps at night. That is the most reasonable I have found. Most others are much more expensive and not very reliable. Lookup Link3 for decent 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?

Cheap domestically. Not sure about international.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Very nice vet here. He will come to your house and do all the vaccinations and whatever else needs to be done for about an extra $10.

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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?

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

Embassy is slacks and collared shirt. Anything goes in public, I wear shorts and t-shirts on my off days.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a high crime post, but using common sense will keep you safe. I personally have had no issues with any security concerns. But they are out there. Petty theft, purse snatching, things like that.

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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?

Food borne diseases are common. Watch what fresh foods you eat. Ice is also a big problem. Embassy has its own medical staff, and are very good about getting you what you need.

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

Air quality has to be one of the worst (if not the worst) places I have seen. My run times are cut down by about a minute and a half compared to places in the states.

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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 and humid summers. There are monsoon season's here, but they have been very mild since I've been here. Winters are very nice and cool.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School Dhaka (AIS/D) is regarded as the best school in Dhaka. I would agree to that. Some parents seem to think it is so much more. I think it is comparable to a public school in the states, nothing more.

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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

American School has plenty of sports programs and after school activities.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty high surprisingly, especially in the Embassy community. Although a rough place to live, we tend to stick together.

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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?

A few clubs at the large hotels, but as with everything else, has a Bangladesh spin to it.

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

I think families that are completely enveloped in their children's lives and do nothing aside from extracurricular activities might enjoy it here. Otherwise they'll suffer with the rest of us. Honestly I have no idea how singles survive Dhaka, aside from getting away one a month.

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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?

None that I am aware of. Bangladesh is a primarily Muslim country, but there are a good mix of Christian's and Hindu's as well. They all seem very open to others religions. I have noticed no racial discrimination.

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

Not many highlights. Getting out of the country is our highlight, but it isn't cheap to get out of here.

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

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

Pearls and Bone China are probably the best buys. Also some pretty reasonable deals on brand name clothes that are made here and exported to the U.S.

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

No real advantages to living in this third world. Things are not cheap, and living conditions are horrible. The household help is probably the only advantage I can see to living here, the help is very cheap.

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11. Can you save money?

Possible, but not as much as you would have thought coming to a third world country.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nope. I will finish my two years and never return to this place. An adventure it has been, but I will be glad to leave.

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

Winter clothes. Any expectation of privacy.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 02/08/11

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 India, France, Russia, and Mauritania.

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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 the US to Dhaka, you'll either stop in the mideast (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bahrain), or in Singapore, Hong Kong, or Bangkok. There's also a brand new flight from the US to Dhaka via Istanbul on Turkish airways. Plan on 30 hours, one way. That said, flights around the region tend to be inconveniently timed, often don't offer daily service, and are unbelievably expensive for the short flights. In particular, it's almost impossible to get to India for a weekend, due to flight timings.

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3. How long have you lived here?

19 months.

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

I work at the 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?

Every Embassy employee lives within 10 minutes of the Embassy, in the diplomatic enclave (Baridhara and Gulshan). Single family homes are being quickly demolished in favor of large apartment complexes, but the apartments for Embassy employees almost all require size waivers (in favor of larger ones).Most other expats I know live in seriously large apartments, either in the enclave or in nearby Banani, which has more shops and restaurants.

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

Almost everything is available either on the local market or through the Commissary (or Amazon grocers).A variety of cheeses and fresh herbs, though, are difficult to find. The Commissary carries cheese, but all have been frozen in transit, which leaves them all crumbly. Fresh basil is non-existent. Specialty stuff is available at some local Korean and Chinese markets, and a few higher end grocery stores with imports.

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

On the contrary, I brought tons of food from Trader Joe's, which I still haven't eaten.

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

There are a handful of decent restaurants which have just opened in the last year and a half:Soi 71 (Thai), Mainland China, the 8 (fusion Euro-Asian), Roll Express (local), Khazana (Indian), Izumi (Japanese), Wasabi (pan-Asian), Fourchetta (Pizza), as well as a few more Japanese and Korean places. Generally, if you're looking for good tasting food that won't make you sit, not at plastic tables underneath flourescent lights, you're going to pay dearly for the privilege: $25-$50 per person is not uncommon, which is truly an outrageous sum in any other context in Bangladesh.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

If locally grown veg are organic, they're not labeled as such. The Embassy and American club always have vegetarian options, although eating out locally (even at nicer places) you're essentially limited to fried rice or fried noodles. Tofu is widely available (in markets, not at restaurants), but things like wheat gluten/seitan you'd have to order from the states.

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

Mosquitoes are omnipresent and ravenous, particularly in the dry season. Some people end up with (enormous) cockroach problems. My house is constantly infested with ants, although I hardly ever eat at home.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch and 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?

Very, very inexpensive.$80-$150/month for just about anything, full time. Alternatively, maybe $1-$1.50 an hour for part time.

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

Local gyms are available, but most Embassy employees use either the American club gym or the really, really nice gym at the American school.

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

There have been reports of people having their bank accounts hacked after using local ATMs - the Embassy has a safe one, but very, very few places take credit - happily, usually the places that expats tend to shop.

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

Yes.

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

If you bring an AFN decoder, that seems to give the best options (not available locally). There's a local English language daily, but it's not that good - people depend mostly on the internet and magazine subscriptions. Most people have cable, but there's just a handful of English-language stations.

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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?

There's a large enough community of house staff who speak English (to some extent) that you probably wouldn't need any Bangla at all - just send your housekeeper to do the local shopping. If you leave Dhaka or the diplomatic zone, though, you may experience difficulties.

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

It would be impossible to live here if you weren't independently mobile.

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Transportation:

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

We're not allowed to use city buses (but who would want to?), and the train doesn't go anywhere you'd want to. You really can't survive here without a car, but the Embassy has a readily available and inexpensive motorpool service that acts as a local taxi service, at least within the diplomatic zone.

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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?

Most people have station wagons, but doing it again, I'd get a small SUV - the roads here are truly abominable - huge potholes and speedbumps, etc. It's the law of the sea on the road, so people tend to make way more for larger cars. Parts are available for Japanese and Korean cars, but not necessarily for American and European cars.

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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 - prices (and customer service) vary widely from about $25/month-$100/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?

The embassy gives you one, but you might want to get your own for personal use. They're essentially the same price as in the states, though minutes are cheaper.

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Pets:

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

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

Non-existent, though your domestic staff can be asked to walk/feed/clean your pets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. If you're not with an embassy, Bangladesh will literally annotate spouse visas with "No right to work or perform volunteer activities."

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

Largely informal. Shirt, pants, no tie, no jacket.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not particularly. It's a fairly moderate Muslim country, and those inclined to violence seem significantly more focused on domestic politics than global jihad. That said, security guards are completely inept, and are mostly paid to sleep in front of you home. Occasionally, people on rickshaws have had their bags snatched, and one hears about the occasional knife-mugging. It feels safer than most large European cities, at least on a human-violence level. The insane driving and traffic is probably the biggest source of danger.

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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 are constantly ill: mostly respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections, though some come down with dengue and malaria. Medical care here is abysmal - Embassy employees get medevac'd to Singapore even for dental emergencies.

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

Air quality is horrific. Walking for ten minutes makes your lungs feel like you've smoked a pack of cigarettes. A thick, oily black dust descends on the city in the dry season, covering everything, and giving people frequent bronchial infections which it's difficult to shake off.

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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?

Horrifically hot and humid most of the year. The temperature finally gets to pleasant around December-February. Very, very grey skies for about 10 months out of the 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?

The American school (AISD) seems highly regarded by parents, and offers good after hours recreational classes for adults.

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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?

Ayahs (nannies) are ever present and inexpensive. Probably about $100-$150 a month.

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

Through the American school.

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Expat Life:

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

A few thousand: embassy employees, NGO employees, oil company employees and garments executives.

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2. Morale among expats:

High among families with young children - awful among everyone else. The U.S.Embassy - a "historically difficult to staff" post - tends to attract mid-level managers who are so terrible that they couldn't get a handshake anywhere else, and upper management, perhaps realizing this, doesn't do much to try to retrain them.

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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?

Nothing on the local economy. People throw elaborate house parties, expat communities throw lavish balls, and people drown their sorrows at expat clubs.

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

Families are about the only people who seem genuinely happy here - if you're willing to have your life consist of going to work, after school activities, and the American club, it's not a terrible place to live. If you're not a family with young-ish children, though, life here is pretty miserable. There's really nothing at all to do, no social outlets, no restaurants and cafes with what one would call 'atmosphere,' no clubs, no bars, no book stores, no malls, no movie theaters, no sidewalks, no pedestrianized streets. People tend to go crazy after two months and leave the country for at least a weekend, every two months (or more).

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

If you're a gay man, it's surprisingly easy to find casual encounters - fairly typical in most Muslim majority nations, as the gender segregation tends to lead men to be more open to sexual experimentation than in the West. There's a very, very small openly gay community, and only one (small, ineffective, and poorly organized) gay rights organization - Boys of Bangladesh).Once or twice a year they put on a large dance party for the LGBT community, but mostly it comes down to wealthy, well educated and well travelled gay Bangladeshis inviting their larger circle of gay friends to their homes for private parties, or expats doing the same. Relationships between gay expats and gay Bangladeshis are virtually impossible, at least if you expect your partner to live with integrity and honesty - gay Bangladeshis, while they might be out within the gay community, are almost never, ever out to their wider circle of friends, and certainly not their families. On an odd level, it's actually sometimes easier here to be gay than in the West - the concept of gay identity doesn't exist, educated Bengalis may literally beleive that homosexuality is something that exists exclusively in the West, and so publicly intimate behavior (holding hands, stroking hair, sleeping every night in the same bed) that would immediately lead a Westerner to conclude that two men are gay don't even begin to raise an eyebrow here. The scene for lesbians is non-existent. One lesbian Australian was here for more than five yaers and met two Bangladeshi lesbians in her time here.

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

Bangladeshis have more class issues than anything else, but their is some discrimination toward ethnic minorities and Burmese. White people are put on a pedestal on some levels, and resented on other levels. African American colleagues don't seem to experience outright discrimination by Bangladeshis, but deshis are extremely open about the fact that, for them, the whiter the skin, the better. (They're also alarmingly willing to call you fat to your face.) It's an incredibly patriarchal society, with defined gender roles and serious social prohibitions against physical contact between men and women. That's also, however, class related: wealthier, well traveled families are much more likely to be more 'western' in gender outlook.

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

Probably the nicest parts of Bangladesh are in Sylhet (the tea gardens), Chittagong (the beaches near Cox's Bazaar and St. Martin's Island) and Khulna (the Sundarbans mangrove forests).

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

Leave. Nepal, Bhutan, India, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Dubai are all accessible via direct flights - generally $300-$500 round trip, which sounds expensive, but if you're an Embassy employee on differential, you'll quickly realize that the ability to pay to leave is the entire point of the differential. Other than that, people eat at a handful of restaurants, hang out at expat clubs, throw house parties, or occasionally (usually early on in a tour, before you're entirely jaded) take trips to see the identical villages in different corners of Bangladesh.

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

Pearls, hand-tailored suits, clothing, and shoes, and elaborate wooden furniture.

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

Bangladeshis are very warm, welcoming, and friendly people - sometimes oppressively so. It's fairly easy to save money, and some items - fabric, pearls, furniture - are very cheap.

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11. Can you save money?

It mostly comes down to how well you can tolerate spending extended periods of time in Dhaka. The only thing to spend money on is leaving the country.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Not in a million years. I hope I will never, ever have to step foot in this godforsaken cesspool again.

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

Innocence. Lots of limbless beggars will be scratching against your window when you're stuck in traffic.

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3. But don't forget your:

frequent flier card. You'll be leaving frequently to stay sane.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Dhaka episode of "Amazing Race."

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don't come. Seriously.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 01/29/11

Background:

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

No, Chennai

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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?

DC

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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.)?

I've been going to middle school while my parents work at the embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most housing for expats is in the diplomatic enclave in the areas of Baridhara and Gulshan. There are large houses and apartments. The commute time varies greatly, based on traffic, but most people work and live in the same area. There are a lot of bicycle rickshaws on the road.

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

Some local stores (like Lavender) carry everything at pretty cheap prices. Local vegetables are cheap, but fruits are expensive.

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

I would ship my favorite shampoo and DVDs, as all of the ones here are pirated.

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

KFC and Pizza Hut (not good) are here and about the same price as in the States. There are good Thai, Korean and Western restaurants which are expensive. Local Bangladeshi food is quite cheap.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

I've never seen organic food or gluten-free products. Many people are Hindu so there might be more vegetarian options.

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

Mosquitoes are very common and worse in the winter.

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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 pouch. I'm not sure about the local 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?

Cooks, cleaners, drivers, day guards, and nannies are available and cheap and cost less than $200/month.

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

There is a gym at the American Club, and AISD has a new gym. I haven't seen any outside of these.

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

There is an ATM at the embassy.

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

There are Christian services available at the Westin.

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

There is English cable with 80 channels for about $15/month.

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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?

Zero. Most people speak at least a little English.

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

There aren't really a lot of sidewalks outside the diplomatic enclave.

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Transportation:

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

Bicycle rickshaws are very cheap for short distances. Taxis are usually only found at the airport but are NOT safe. Nobody takes buses or trains.

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

Bring an SUV. The right-of-way on roads goes to the bigger automobile.

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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 slow and around $50/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?

Grameenphone is better than Banglalink because of better connections.

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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, at least 2 weeks.

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really unless you work for a foreign company or NGO.

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

Girls should dress conservatively. Guys can wear whatever they want.

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Health & Safety:

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

In the diplomatic enclave it's usually safe. During hartals (government-organized strikes) it can be dangerous.

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

There are some pretty good hospitals, but if you have an issue they usually send you to Bangkok.

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

Good to moderate depending on the part of the city. Baridhara is good, but outside can be bad.

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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?

From January to early March the weather is a bit milder. The rest of the year is quite hot. Summer and early Fall is the monsoon season and Spring is the hottest part of the 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?

There are Grace School, Green Herald, and American International School Dhaka (AISD). Most embassy kids go to AISD. The high school has an IB program. The are lots of extracurricular activities for high school and less options for middle school. The school uses Macs over PCs.

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

There is a school psychologist. There are no special classes. There is at least one special needs kids in the middle school.

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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?

AISD has a preschool for kids 3 and older. Nannies are cheap.

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

There is SAISA, which competes international in tennis, swimming, track and field, basketball, volleyball, and soccer for high school. Middle school has swimming and track as part of SAISA. There are intramural basketball, soccer, and volleyball for middle school which also compete against local schools and lots of after school sports for elementary.

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Expat Life:

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

The community is rather big but spread around.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. People seem to be happy.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Not much. It seems to revolve around the American Club and visiting other expats.

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

The school is good and a lot of families are happy with Dhaka because of the school. Others might find it boring because there is not a lot to do other than go to the American Club.

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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?

The people have problems with Pakistanis, and it is a male dominated society.

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

Boat trips down the river.

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

You can have custom furniture made. They have tea plantations and river boat rides outside the city. In Dhaka, the American Club has swimming, gym, playground, tennis, and a good restaurant.

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

custom-made teak furniture.

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

The clothing is very cheap and mango season is delightful.

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11. Can you save money?

yes, if you don't buy imported fruit and have your cook buy local foods

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I made lots of friends here.

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

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

mosquito repellent.

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

Lonely Planet Bangladesh

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Amazing Race Dhaka

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I thought that it would be a really tough place to live at first, but it was not nearly as bad when I got here.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 01/07/11

Background:

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

No. Ouagadougou, Niamey, Ndjamena, Nouakchott, Dakar, Bamako.

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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?

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3. How long have you lived here?

under one year

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

government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most of he expatriate community lives in either Baridhara or Gulshan. Most, but not all, embassies, NGOs and aid agencies are there, too. However, the Secretariat of the government where all the government ministries are is 10 KM away, which takes between 1 and 3 hours by car. You could usually walk faster, if walking 10KM were practical.

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

Western goods are limited and expensive when avaialable but there is plenty of local staple foods including rice, lentils, other beans, and vegetables. Fruit is of quite poor quality and can be expensive. It is very difficult to find decent lettuce. Fish is often not safe to eat becasue formaldyhyde is used to create the appearance that it is fresh. There was an outbreak of anthrax which meant that for a several month period, most red meat was not readily avaialable.

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

more books.

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

Very few good options. For instance, there is only one decent Chinese restaurant, one decent Italian restaurant, one decent Indian restaurant, one decent Thai restaurant, a good steakhouse and several Korean restaurants. This in a city of 16+ million persons. Though it is not an Islamic Republic and 20 percent of the population or so is not Muslim, alcohol is not sold in restaurants or shops.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Vegetarians could do well with vegetables, rice and lentils.

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

Mosquitoes are by far worse than in any place in Africa we have served. While there is reportedly no malaria in the capital, there is dengue fever. Several expatriates in town known to us have fallen ill with it in the past 6 months.

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Daily Life:

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

Luckily through diplomatic mail.

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

low cost and plentiful.

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

At embassies and clubs.

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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?

Not too safe but can be done.

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

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

Cable, mostly pirated from India and in Hindi, but there is some English.

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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?

It would be useful to speak as much Bangla as possible. Most people, even professionals and intellectuals, as well as government officials up to the highest level struggle in English. People of lower socio-economic status typically speak no English at all.

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

Even people without physical disabilities have tremendous difficulties getting around the city because of the volume of humanity and cars.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable but unsafe.

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

You can live easily without an auto and would be doing the country a service if you did not bring one in.

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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. from $40 per month for wireless.

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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?

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not much.

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

This is a conservative muslim country.

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Health & Safety:

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

There has been little in the way of crime or terrorism threats here in the past, which may explain why most Westerners, including embassies, seem to have a blithe attitude towards personal security threats. Household security is more lax than in any post where we have served in Africa. There were similar perceptions and attitudes in Nairobi and Dar e Salaam with regard to terrorist threat levels before the attacks on U.S. Embassies there.

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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 one of the most insalubrious environments we have ever been in. Prepare to be ill regularly because of the poor air and water quality. Even rinsing a toothbrush in tap water is not recommended.

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

Very unhealthy even if there has been a successful move to compressed natural gas for most public transport vehicles. Our 4 young children all suffered from upper respiratory illnesses requiring anti-biotics multiple times during our first year.

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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 a candidate for the most inhospitable climate of any capital city in the world. It is like Abidjan squared in terms of heat and humidity for much of the year. December and January are cool. During the hot period, there is a pervasive smell of sewage/feces throughout the city.

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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 American international school has a great reputation but one that outstrips reality in our experience so far. The administration is often not responsive to parent input and criticism. There is rumored to me significant drug and alcohol problem at high school level. Quality of math and science teaching often seems sub-par. Insufficient after school activities for children even though their cost is supposed to be covered through tuition. A school year that starts too early (August 7th or so) and which has a too-long Christmas break (nearly one month).Both of these--the early start and the long Christmas break--are to accomadate the teachers apparently (there is a regional international school conference in early fall which requires that school be out of session for a week in October). Skipping the fall break and cutting back Christmas break to a week (or 2 maximum) would allow school to start begining of September or at least late August. August is also one of the most oppressiely hot months.

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

The school recently took a very retrograde attitude towards the daughter of a colleague who was arriving after the opening of the school year in Dhaka. His daughter needed an evaluation for a mild learning disability, and the school administration attempted to force the father of the child to take her out of the country for an assessment, since the school's assessor was "booked up" for a month. The principal also proceeded to mock the quality of the school where the young woman had been studying previously in South America.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are several local facilities in Baridhara including Jingle Bells. Both French and American schools have pre-schools.

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

School programs are available.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Those who thrive on the club life, or have a very rewarding professional situation, or are able to get out of Dhaka into the countryside are happier than those who are not able to have these coping mechanisms.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is much entertaining in the homes of expats.

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

It is not a good city for families, singles, or couples. It is also not a good city for most Bangladeshis who live here, except the super rich.

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

It would not be a good city for straight, gay, bi-, oversexed, undersexed or a-sexual persons.

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

Many Bangladeshis will stare at anyone who looks different from themselves, so different racial groups will experience that.

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

A 5.1 earthquake in October that shook houses and caused little damage.

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

Very little. There are very few restaurants, coffee shops, parks, or other public or open spaces where one can divert oneself.

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

Spices are great.

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

It is a realtively convenient jumping off point for visiting other countries in the region such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

No. You will need to spend what you would have saved to get out of the country every other month.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

car.

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3. But don't forget your:

mosquito repellant and 100% deet.

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

Bangladesh's Cruel Birth. By former US Diplomat Archer Blood.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is not politically correct to say that a place is difficult for expatriates because we live a privileged existence. But Dhaka is the most difficult assignment for living that many in the foreign service/diplomatic/development community will ever experience -- even if they will never say that out loud.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 10/25/10

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 the US, over 24 hours. One can go via Bangkok or Singapore, or the other way, via Dubai, Qatar, or Abu Dhabi.

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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.)?

Worked at the US Embassy for two years, my sixth 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?

Most US Embassy expat staff live in Gulshan and Baridhara. In Baridhara, you might be close enough to walk to the embassy. Gulshan is a little farther away, but unless there is heavy traffic (a high likelihood in the mornings and in the late afternoon/early evening), it's only 10-15 minutes one way. Even with traffic, driving from the embassy to Gulshan was not majorly time consuming- no more than 30 minutes even in the worst traffic. As for housing quality, the embassy housing pool has some very nice apartments and homes, but they also have many that are old, outdated, and have chronic problems. Many of these homes are also very dark, and if you are unlucky enough to be put in a first-floor apartment, you might feel like you are living in a cave! Aside from the crushing workload and long working hours, the poor quality of my housing was one of the worst aspects of my tour. I also had more than one key household appliance burn out -- the load shedding is bad, and it is easy to fry appliances in Dhaka. I advise anyone going to Dhaka (particularly with the US Embassy) to investigate your housing very carefully before coming. There are some very bad houses and apartments in the housing pool, and it may be hard for you to move once you arrive at post and are unhappy with your house or apartment.

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

I was disappointed with the grocery stores in Dhaka and did most of my shopping at the US Commissary. While not particularly cheap by US domestic standards, they had a fairly good selection of a variety of products.

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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?

Nando's, Pizza Hut, and KFC are all here. I'd say they were all relatively inexpensive. There's also a deli at the Westin Hotel that is pretty decent, offering good coffees and sandwiches to go. The clubs all serve food. The American Club recently redid its menu and has improved its selections. The Nordic Club is also a good place to go for food. Other notable restaurants include Khazan (Indian) and Spaghetti Jazz (Italian).The sit-down restaurants at the Westin are good (but expensive) and brunch is available both there and at the Radisson. Outside of the International Clubs and the Westin, alcohol can be hard to come by, but many places do allow you to bring your own.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

All of this is very limited. You might be able to order or obtain some items through the US commissary.

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

Lots of mosquitoes -- and increasing problems with Dengue Fever in Dhaka. And threat of Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis in some parts of the country outside of Dhaka.

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Daily Life:

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

Via the US Embassy pouch and DPO, both of which were very slow and problematic during the course of my tour.

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

Cheap and readily available, although quality varies and trust issues abound. Be very careful and selective about the help you hire.

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

Yes, at the various clubs mentioned above. Tennis is very popular.

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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?

This is generally not a problem. I used my ATM card at HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank with no issues, and I received all funds in Taka at the prevailing exchange rate with the US dollar.

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

I think so, but I don't have details to share.

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

There's the Star, the leading English-language newspaper in Dhaka. And on cable there is Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, and some local English-language news. The usual options. And they are all cheap.

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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?

At the U.S. Embassy, none, but those who choose to study the language will find it helpful, in all aspects of life.

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

Lots of difficulties.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy staff are not allowed to take this type of transport, although the use of Rickshaws is presently allowed.

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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 small SUV is nice to have, and I highly recommend purchasing one, particularly a Toyota that's used. Dhaka traffic can be intense, so you should assume that your car will get some dents in it during your tour. Spare parts for Japanese cars are readily available.

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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?

I had a so-called "dedicated line" going into my house, but it wasn't consistently fast enough to reliably use Skype, Vonage, etc. It was cheap (I paid 2,500 Taka per month) but not impressive in its speed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Grameen Phone offers great service throughout the country and is quite inexpensive, even for international calls and texting.

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Pets:

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

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

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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?

There are opportunities, but people I knew who had good jobs had special skill sets (e.g., public health or IT) and had to do much of the legwork themselves.

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

Conservative, particularly outside of the embassy. Normal business attire is fine at the embassy, but those working out on the local economy (particularly women) will want to dress more conservatively.

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Health & Safety:

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

There were rickshaw robberies and reports of occasional shootings and bombings, mostly related to internal political struggles between the two rival political parties.

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

I rarely used the embassy medical unit, and aside from various stomach ailments, I had few problems during my tour. As stated earlier, the quality of the air and water is very poor. I had various skin blemishes throughout my tour that took two weeks to disappear after I left 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?

Very unhealthy. The air often smelled of feces and other foul things. The water supply is also very unsafe. As a result, I had skin and eye difficulties while living in Dhaka.

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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 and humid with a seasonal monsoon, typically in June, July, August, and into September.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School/Dhaka (AISD), has an excellent reputation, and most people seemed happy with it, although I had no children attending the school myself. The extracurricular facilities are nice, with a pool, gym, and a tennis court coming soon. US Embassy staff, including those without kids, can gain access to these facilities for a nominal annual fee.

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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?

AISD has a preschool, and I have heard good things about it. I think there are other preschool options available for expats as well.

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

There are programs available at AISD and other international schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Thousands.

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2. Morale among expats:

All over the map. Some families were very happy. Many across all spectrums found a nice niche for themselves in the expat community and formed nice groups of friends. For some, job stress and excessively long working hours overshadowed and diminished the ability to get out and enjoy the local culture. Others simply longed to be somewhere with more luxuries and options that are typically offered in the bigger cities in the region, such as movie theaters, shopping malls, good restaurants, more local travel options, etc.

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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 never felt comfortable having anyone over to my cave of an apartment, but some people consistently entertained throughout their tours. Entertaining can be a great way to make friends and yet another good reason to have a house or apartment suitable for that. There are the clubs, where people go for happy hour and similar merrymaking, but that scene gets old fast.

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

The school is quite good, so many families with school-aged children seem to like it. For couples, and particularly singles, there are limited social options available, but some singles felt the lifestyle was too restrictive and social options lacking.

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

On the surface of Bangladeshi society, no, but there have been gay couples at the embassy who enjoyed their tours, as well as gay staff who have managed to make social connections in Dhaka's gay scene.

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

This is a society with major class issues. This is most apparent amongst local staff working in the embassy and some elite Bangladeshis, who in many cases, go out of their way to distinguish themselves and show superiority towards those who are servants, rickshaw drivers, and others from lower social classes. This is an unfortunate generalization that obviously does not apply to all, but the attitude is pervasive, and I'd be amiss if I did not mention this issue.

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

Visiting the Sundarbans and Srimongol. Taking boat trips and getting out to the countryside.

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

Shopping at Aarong, Kumudini, Sally Ann, and other stores. Hanging out at one of the clubs- American Club, Canadian Club, Australian Club, Nordic Club, etc.

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

Textiles, freshwater pearls, china, getting clothes made, custom-made furniture, picture framing, and tons of local handicrafts.

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

This is a good travel hub (albeit expensive) with direct flights to Bangkok, Dubai, Dehli, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Bhutan, Malaysia, and Singapore, amongst other places. There are lots of interesting things to buy, including pearls, china, and textiles. If you don't travel or buy too much, it is possible to save money. Finally, the culture and history of the country are very interesting.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, I would have been able to save substantially more if I had not traveled so much. Living in Dhaka is quite inexpensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but I would do what I could to make sure I didn't have a job that required frequent 14+ hour days and substantial weekend work in an understaffed office with staff that required a significant level of oversight. These issues impinged greatly upon my ability to get to know and enjoy the culture -- and even the ability to get out and enjoy a game of tennis. So yes, I would go back if my job fit into a more reasonable work week: 50 hours or less. If I had fully understood the workload and the capacity issues in the office I worked in before I arrived, I might have sought to go elsewhere.

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

Skis, nice shoes, china, nice car, and pearls.

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3. But don't forget your:

bathing suit, sunscreen, used SUV, patience, love of travel, and interest in South Asian culture.

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

Brick Lane

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Brick Lane

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This was a tour where my work at the embassy overwhelmed every aspect of my life. The office I worked in had a number of capacity issues, severe understaffing, and a crushing workload. All of these things overshadowed what might have been an interesting cultural journey. While I learned a lot and it has helped my career to have worked in such an exceptionally challenging environment, I wish I had more time to smell the flowers, so to speak. To simply walk the streets with the families all decked out in red during the Bengali New Year, etc. instead of being cooped up in the office, exhausted and stressed out on an almost continuous basis. Do some legwork to find out what kind of team you will work with. I knew many people who had jobs in the embassy that allowed them to work a lot less than I did, so this scenario will not apply to everyone, but it may apply to some, so do your homework if at all possible.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 04/27/10

Background:

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

Yes.

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

United States is my home base. About 24 hours flight with at least one stop.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been living here for seven months.

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

Government, U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For families, the houses are usually gigantic. For singles and couples, there are some great apartments near the embassy. It takes me 5-10 minutes to walk to the embassy, but I do happen to live near it.

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

In Dhaka almost everything is half the price of what you would pay in America. But only if you buy local brands. It all depends on how picky you are.

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

More electric APS units.

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

A&W, KFC, BFC, and Pizza Hut are all in Dhaka. Overall, western brands are limited. However, there are many good restaurants at great prices for Indian, Thai, and Bengali foods. Less so for Italian and Japanese.

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

There are lots of mosquitoes here, and I would recommend bringing lots of mosquito repellent. There are quite a few ants as well, but ants are not much to worry about.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy personnel use the pouch/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?

Very affordable. Most expats have a cook, a gardener and a driver.

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

At the American Club there is a small one. The American School has aerobics classes.

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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?

Very few places accept credit cards, and there are very few ATMs. Cash is king. The embassy has an ATM and a bank branch to cash checks for their personnel.

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

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

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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?

Some for daily life, but it is not essential for embassy personnel.

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

This would be an extremely difficult post for anyone with major dissabilities.

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Transportation:

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

There are small baby-taxis (3-wheeled gas powered), and rickshaws are everywhere.

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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?

Right-handed driving is the norm. However, we brought our American-style car here and have not had any problems. Driving is extremely aggressive here, so your car may get scratched at some point. Traffic is very difficult here.

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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, most people use Agni. Speed is adequate, not ideal. The electric box burns out often due to power outages, but Agni is very prompt to repair it.

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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 cheap here. Do not bring one from USA.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Fair but cheap.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No, but there are invaluable volunteering opportunities.

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

Conservative for the locals. Casual at the embassy.

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Health & Safety:

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

Most of the time I feel safe when I walk to work every day. My wife jogs every day. There is the occasional mugging, but much less than in any major city in USA.

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

The embassy has a health unit with a medical doctor for embassy families. Three local private hospitals have made many improvements for expats in Dhaka. Gastrointestinal problems are the most common issues for expats. There is no malaria in Dhaka, but we have dengue occasionally.

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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 in Bangladesh is polluted (as it is in many developing countries) and you do see a lot of trash being burned. Overall, it is as one would expect.

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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?

In Dhaka it is a lot like southern Florida. It is most of the time between 80F-90F degrees, and most of the time it is humid. During the winter the mornings were a little chilly, but during the afternoon and evening it was warmer but still humid. If you go to SriMongol during the winter, it can get cold. In southern Bangladesh there is some flooding, but if you are in Dhaka there is nothing to worry about.

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Schools & Children:

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

AISD is the most popular choice, and the teachers there are great. My children love AISD. It is gigantic, with a giant soccer field and a pool. Academically it is great. This is one the main reasons families bid and/or extend their tour here.

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

Limited only.

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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?

Most people send their preschoolers to the French school or to the American School, both are fine.

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

Yes, there are tons, but mostly at the school.

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Expat Life:

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

Moderate, very international.

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2. Morale among expats:

Families tend to have good morale due to a great school. Singles have a harder time

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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?

It is difficult for singles. Families mostly go to the American club or local restaurants.

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

Mostly this is a good post for families with young children. High schoolers do benefit from a good school as well, but they have a harder time socially. It is not as good for singles.

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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?

Some people do stare at you because you are very different. You get used to it after a while, and most do not mean any harm.

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

I have been to the Sundarbans and it was a blast! We saw crocodiles, fish, deer and wild boar. And some people say they saw a bengal tiger, which is hard to find in the Sundarbans. I also have been to SriMongol plantations, and they were incredible.

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

Going to Old Dhaka was fun. The Sundarbans jungle tour in a boat is a great experience.

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

There are great deals on export-level clothing and on brass items.

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

It is a friendly culture and the food is great. You get to save lots of money, as food, restaurants and services are cheap. If you like warm weather, you will like Dhaka.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, particularly if you are not picky for American items only.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, with a family. Not if I were single.

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

winter coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

sun tan lotion and mosquito repellent.

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

Forget the books, gather information on the internet. It is more actualized. I was amazed by the lack of good book information for expats coming to Bangladesh.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Same as above.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Most of the expats who come to Bangladesh and do not do well are those that come with a preconceived notion and only wish to fulfill it once they get here. The culture truly is a warm culture, and there is great food -- if you like it spicey.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 10/30/09

Background:

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

This is my first longer-term expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

I have lived in Dhaka for 15 months (out of a two-year assignment).

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

U.S. Embassy.

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

The most direct routes to the U.S. involve 17-19 hours of flying time. Routes through Hong Kong, Dubai, and other Gulf cities work best--flying through New Delhi is perhaps most direct in terms of flying time, but involves a long layover.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

U.S. Embassy housing is generally large and very nice (the situation for most expats seems similar).It is all located in the diplomatic enclave (which sounds more like a walled fortress than it really is); commutes are 2-15 minutes driving (though this is unpredictable given the traffic).

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

Fresh products and staples bought on the local economy (produce, meat, eggs, sugar, flour, etc.) are much cheaper than in the U.S.There are a few supermarkets that carry imported products at very high prices. Thankfully, the U.S. Commissary is amazingly good, well-stocked, and not outrageous (prices are similar to or a bit less than in D.C. - alcohol is very cheap).

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

With the pouch/DPO and a good commissary, there are few things that I can't get (though I use drugstore.com frequently).Larger items that don't fit through the pouch are important to buy before packing out--artificial Christmas trees come to mind. Don't expect to buy a TV here as they are pricey; however, many people buy TVs on vacation in Bangkok or Hong Kong and bring them back as checked luggage.

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

There is KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W, and Nando's (plus lots of local knock-offs).There are many restaurants but few good ones. Dinner at the most expensive restaurants (other than the ones at international hotels) runs about $15/person--no alcohol, but you can bring your own.

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

Mosquitoes are a constant problem, especially since they can carry nasty diseases like dengue fever (on the upswing in Dhaka) and Japanese encephalitis (thankfully rare).

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch/DPO.Local mail is very unreliable; for anything important, use courier services, DHL, or Fedex.

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

Very available and inexpensive--about $110-175/person each month for full-time work. Many expats have drivers, housekeepers/cooks, nannies, and gardeners/guards.

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

Yes, and inexpensive--there is a decent gym at the American Club, as well as one at the American School that is open to the official American community.

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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?

Some stores in the diplomatic area take credit cards, but people rarely use them--this is mainly a cash economy. ATMs are widely available in Dhaka, including name-brand ones like HSBC and Standard Chartered.

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

There are Catholic and Protestant services in English--not sure about others.

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

Yes, there are several English newspapers (home delivery is inexpensive), plus one online news site (www.bdnews24.com).The cable package (only about $5/month) includes several English channels, none local.

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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?

Many expats get by with none, and certainly many people here think they speak English. But learning Bangla can be very helpful in certain situations, and it certainly opens doors and builds goodwill.

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

Well, no one with any money here (local or foreign) walks on the street, so the spotty sidewalks and open sewers probably don't matter. Buildings are generally not accessible, however, but at least full-time help is very cheap.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are not allowed to use local buses, taxis, or auto-rickshaws (CNGs).They are affordable, however. Intercity buses and trains vary--they can be dirty and dangerous (bus accidents are very, very common on intercity roads), and expats rarely use them. Bicycle rickshaws are allowed, though you can't get that far on one. A car is definitely needed.

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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?

Most people buy at post since cars here are right-hand drive. Cars older than a certain limit (six years, I believe?) cannot be imported. Toyotas are very popular. It's good to have something used and not too valuable since it will get beaten up. A small SUV is nice to have, especially when the streets flood, but many people have sedans as well. Note that traffic here is insane and a major impediment to getting out and doing things. It is literally beyond description.

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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 fast enough for Skype (but too slow to watch video online) costs about $37/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 personnel get them; it is very important to have a cell phone with you at all times. Grameen Phone seems to have the best coverage.

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Pets:

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

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

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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?

Decent, yes, though finding paid work can be a challenge. There are many NGOs and international organizations, international businesses, and international schools--and jobs at those don't always require Bangla.

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

Generally, business casual at work. Dress for women tends to be more conservative; some expat women feel uncomfortable in knee-length skirts. Western dress on local women is very, very rare.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy. The air doesn't feel that dirty, but there is lead in it.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Besides the standard ones, we were told to get rabies and Japanese encephalitis vaccines.

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

There have been terrorist attacks in Bangladesh in the past. Mob violence is common (for example, mobs often form at the scene of car accidents and have been known to injure or kill the driver perceived to be at fault).Muggings are fairly common. That being said, most expats (including all those with embassies) live in the safest area of town, and many have cars (making them less likely to be out and about and mugged).

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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?

Lead in the air, bacteria in the water, improperly prepared food. Many people get hit by stomach problems frequently. More exotic diseases such as dengue fever are not uncommon. The Embassy Med Unit is very good, and local hospitals are rapidly improving. However, serious health issues still require a medevac.

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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 and humid most of the year; June to September is rainy. The most pleasant time is winter (December and January), when there is no rain and temperatures during the day are in the low 70s (F).

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have personal experience, but from all I've heard, the American International School of Dhaka (which almost all embassy families use) is quite good through the high school level. It is a major draw for families at this post.

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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?

The French school's preschool seems popular, as it is less expensive than other international options. Ayahs are inexpensive and generally very good.

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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?

Not sure of the numbers, but much larger than I expected--besides embassies, there is a huge community of aid workers and those staffing international organizations, plus some in international business, especially the apparel sector.

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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?

People tend to get together at restaurants or in homes. The only bars are in private clubs (such as diplomatic/expat clubs) or hotels. Groups throw large parties in hotel ballrooms frequently.

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3. Morale among expats:

It varies, but generally pretty high, including among the U.S. Embassy community. Dhaka can be tough, but people make the most of it.

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

It is probably best for families with young children--they enjoy the American Club and the school, help is inexpensive, etc. Older kids seem to like the school but may get bored. It's not a great scene for singles or couples--there just isn't that much to do. For singles, there is a decent-sized expat community; dating Bangladeshis is rare, however, as local social/family networks are very insular, and many marriages are still arranged. That being said, people all try to make the most of it.

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

No--this is a very conservative society. The scene is small and very underground.

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

By and large, Bangladeshis are pretty tolerant, but there is certainly a long and tumultuous history of conflict between Hindus and Muslims throughout the region. Bangladesh has made strides toward greater gender equality, but huge problems still remain. However, expat women are usually treated more like aliens from Mars than like women.

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

This is the big challenge. People spend a lot of time at the expat/diplomatic clubs, where alcohol is available and cheap. There are pools and tennis and squash courts (lessons are so cheap they're practically free).There are restaurants, though very few are good enough that they would be popular in the U.S. (there is very good Bengali/Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food available).Some expats (but not most) get into the local cultural scene--art galleries and dance performances. People entertain at home. Balls (often charity fundraisers) held at the large hotels are very popular, both among expats and well-off Bangladeshis. People do city tours in Old Dhaka and boat trips on the many rivers. Some people travel to the Sundarbans (World Heritage site mangrove forest), Sri Mongol (tea estates), and Cox's Bazaar (beach resort popular with locals).The problem is that few of these activities are enjoyable/high-quality enough to want to do over and over again.

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

Pearls, silk, and custom-tailored clothing are my favorites. There is also nice pottery, art, custom-made furniture, and china (many top international brands have factories here, and you can buy the overruns at dirt-cheap prices).Custom framing is a steal.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely. The biggest expense is regional travel. It would be very hard to live here without getting away every few months.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but one tour is enough.

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

Cold weather clothing. Anything precious that would be damaged by high humidity. Your nice new car.

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3. But don't forget your:

OTC meds that you favor; any toiletries or specialty food products you like if you don't have pouch/DPO access.

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

A Golden Age by Tahmina Anam; Brick Lane by Monica Ali is partially set in Dhaka.

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

A Golden Age by Tahmina Anam; Brick Lane by Monica Ali is partially set in Dhaka.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Clay Bird (Matir Moyna)

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Sometimes stating the objective facts about Dhaka sounds like negativity, but by and large I am very happy to be here. I would say the traffic is the biggest problem I face--when going a mile takes a half-hour, leaving home starts to get less appealing.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 08/06/09

Background:

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

My third.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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

Affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

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

You can travel either east or west to get here. Either way, it takes at least 30 hours from most places in the Continental U.S.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The spacious housing offers little storage space. The floors are tile. The bathrooms can have some interesting color combinations, and kitchen layouts may be interesting. There is a mix of houses and apartments. All are within 15 minutes of the embassy.

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

In season fruits and vegetables are cheaper. Meats can get more expensive if you are looking for good quality. Shopping at the commissary can get expensive.

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

Not much. We came pretty prepared.

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

Pizza Hut, KFC, and A&W are here. There is also a Nando's. The cost is slightly less than the States. For decent restaurants you can find Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Bangla-Fusion, and Italian. There is a Tex-Mex place, but it's awful. Curry is not a spice that belongs in a taco!

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

Mosquitoes pose problems here with dengue fever.

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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?

Very affordable. Most people have at least a part time housekeeper. Many people have a cook, housekeeper/, gardener, and driver. Most wages are between $100-$150 per month per person.

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

Yes, at the ARA and the American School.

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

There are a few ATM machines. Most Mission people use the one located on the embassy compound.

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

Yes, Catholic and protestent.

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

International Herald Tribune. You can get CNN International, BBC, and Al Jazeera-English from cable. Some people have AFN. I'm not sure how they got it.

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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, but learning the niceties will earn you a smile at the local shops.

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

many. There are no accommodations made with the exception of an elevator and ramp at the embassy.

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Transportation:

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

No.

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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?

Right-hand drive vehicle that you don't mind getting beat up. Driving here is crazy. Something smaller with clearance would be best. The RAV4 seems to work well with the small parking areas and monsoons.

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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?

This depends on what plan you get. It runs between $30-$75.

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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?

Get one.

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Pets:

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

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

There are a few decent vets but no kennels. Embassy personnel are very helpful in watching each other's animals.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. Many NGOs are here. Numerous expats have found rewarding jobs. Lots of spouses work at the embassy, too.

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

Conservative. The embassy used to be business casual. I've seen more suits lately.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very unhealthy. Burning trash is a way of life here. The congested city only adds its vehicular exhaust to the air. In the monsoon season, the air is less polluted. However, without the rain to cleanse the air, so to speak, it gets very, very dirty.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Lots of riots. While they are generally not targeted towards Westerners, they can get out of hand quickly. Also, crime has risen dramatically in the last few months in the diplomatic enclave area including break-ins of resident's homes, beatings, and muggings. It's a big city, with big city problems.

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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?

Lots of stomach and respiratory problems. The Med Unit is great. There are a few hospitals that can tend to minor issues, but larger problems get medevaced.

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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?

From March to October it is hot and muggy. Monsoons can cool it off, but only momentarily. From October to February, it is warm. You should bring a light jacket for evenings during the cooler months.

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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 school is excellent. The teachers are good; curriculum is good; facilities are excellent. It seems better in the elementary school than in the high school.

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

I have heard they do make accommodations.

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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?

n/a

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

Swimming, soccer, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

medium

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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?

Mostly in homes, restaurants or at the Club.

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3. Morale among expats:

This completely depends on the person and (from my viewpoint) the office they work in. There are people who are deliriously happy here, while others would get on the next flight if they could.

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

Hm. It can be. I think families with school-age children do the best. Couples are problably next as long as the spouse has meaningful employment. Singles probably have the toughest time.

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

I don't think so. There is a small scene, but this is a very conservative society. If you are bringing your partner, you'll probably be ok.

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

Yes, yes, and yes. Those who are Hindu occasionally bear the brunt of religious violence. Men are deferred to. If you are a young woman, you will have to work extra hard if you are in a position of authority.

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

Lots of sports activities. Lots of day trips to a variety of temples. Riverboat rides. Trips to Kolkata, Sylhet and the Sundarbans.

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

Embroidered items, silks, Royal Doulton China (there is a factory here).

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you travel out of Dhaka a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. This is more to do with the work environment than Dhaka itself. Dhaka is difficult but doable.

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

Parka, new car, new appliances (the inconsistent power fries electronics).

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3. But don't forget your:

Rain boots, mosquito repellant.

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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:

Slumdog Millionaire. It was not filmed in Dhaka, but it has a similar feeling.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

You can have a nice life in Dhaka if you so choose. The cost of goods and services are inexpensive, and most of the Bengalis are gracious and warm.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 03/13/09

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

One year so far, one year to go.

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

U.S. Embassy employee.

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

Connecting through Dubai on Emirates from the East Coast. Hong Kong from the West Coast.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A mix of apartments and houses. All are huge, although we hear the units in the housing pool are going to get smaller in the future, there is no evidence of that yet. Almost all are within 10-15 minutes of the Embassy (walking or driving).

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

Moderate on the local market. Expensive if you want to eat the way you do back home. The commissary is very good, but costs add up quick. With pouch and APO, we can order almost everything else.

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

If you like to BBQ, ship a grill, and anything that is too big for the pouch or APO.

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

There is a Pizza Hut, but I have never been. Most of the fast food chains here are knock offs. The best legit fast food chain here is Nando's. Many of the local restaurants are quite good and have a variety to choose from - Korean, Japanese, Indian, Thai, even Tex-Mex.

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

Mosquitos are a problem year round, but the worst in the winter. Malaria is not a problem in Dhaka, which is a relief. However, dengue fever is during monsoon season.

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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 pouch or APO/DPO. It takes about 2 weeks.

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

Plentiful. Cooks/maids, drivers, and ayas are US$100-200/month. It is almost necessary to have a cook/maid for shopping and cleaning your enormous apartment/house.

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

Yes. The American School has a nice gym that is very affordable.

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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 is dicey. We use the ATM at the Embassy almost exclusively or cash checks at the Embassy bank. Some businesses and the big hotels accept credit cards, but it is mostly a cash economy.

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

I think there are two English language churches. I am not aware of any other religious services available in English.

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

Yes. Newspapers and cable are cheap and available in English.

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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?

Not much. You can get by in English, but Bangla does make things easier.

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

Many. There are no public accommodations for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

All public transportation is cheap, but it is not always recommended/authorized by the powers that be. That said, we took the train for a weekend trip and enjoyed it. Taxis, rickshaws, and buses are an adventure I would not recommend, especially not at night.

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

One that you don't mind getting dinged up, because it will. A rickshaw will hit you at least once while you are here. And probably a car too. Most people either buy cars when they get here or order from Japan.

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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 is not really high speed. You are also given a download/upload quota. Prices start at US$20/month, but we pay US$80/month to support our download habit. It is fast enough to do video chat on Skype and iChat (which is much better sound quality than using a land line).

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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?

Get one. They are cheap and coverage is great.

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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?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If you work in public health or development, you have a good chance of finding something worthwhile. Almost every development organization and international ogranization is represented here. There are some jobs at the Embassy, but they are mainly clerical.

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

Business casual at the Embassy, but it depends on the section. Most men do not wear a suit every day. Women rarely have to wear suits.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very unhealthy. Air pollution in the city is horrible and worse in the winter when everyone is burning garbage. Noise pollution is also a huge annoyance.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

The best news - no malaria prophylaxis.

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

The biggest security hazard is walking or driving on the chaotic streets. We have not felt threatened by crime since we have been here, but we have heard of some incidents of theft targeting expats. Most incidents have occured at night while walking or taking a rickshaw. For the most part, we feel pretty safe.

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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?

There is a regional medical officer. There are also two decent hospitals for basic care. Everything else requires medivac.

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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 and dry or hot and wet for 8 months of the year. Mild and pleasant from December to March.

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Schools & Children:

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

Don't have kids. We hear that the American School is great through middle school, but there are many unhappy high school parents.

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

People with small children have nannies called ayas. I think their average pay is about US$100-200/month.

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

Not sure.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium. Lots of expats working in the development field and some in the garment sector.

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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?

Entertaining at home is the main form of entertainment. The international clubs host big parties often. There is a long and active ball season that starts in October.

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3. Morale among expats:

Varies, but on average I would say good. People generally try to make the best of it.

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

Couples and families with small children seem to have the best experience here. Most singles have a hard time, but some do okay. There is a big expat community from the NGO and garment sectors with a decent single's scene.

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

No. If you are not brining a partner and want to have a dating life, do not come here.

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

Definitely. This is a majority Muslim country with deeply ingrained gender disparity that is both religious and cultural. It can be frustrating to live and work here.

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

Tennis is very popular and very cheap. Golf is also cheap and accessible. The American Club has a pool and tennis courts and most Embassy people hang out there for at least part of the weekend. If you have a friend with a boat share, short day trips on the river are great. There is not a lot to choose from in the way of weekend trips, but it is possible and there is a good tour company that arranges cultural excursions that are quite good. There is always shopping. And you can't miss the Sunderbauns.

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

Pearls, rattan and teak furniture, saris, rickshaw art.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, but we haven't saved much. There are tons of places to travel to in the region and it is expensive to get out of Dhaka. There is also a big temptation to fill your huge house with stuff.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. It has been a great first tour for us. I don't know if we see ourselves coming back, but you never know...

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

Winter clothes, anonymity, new car.

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3. But don't forget your:

Mosquito repellent, sense of adventure, patience.

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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:

Clay bird.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Dhaka is a hard city to live in and it is easy to feel cooped up. I think more than two years would be difficult.

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 11/20/08

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

5 years (1994-1999).

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

Married to a Bengali national. Raising a cross-cultural family, working in development as an editor, consultant.

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

Cross the Atlantic.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Can't comment. I lived with the extended family, and didn't have to think about this much. My sister lived with a group of Fulbright scholars, however, in Gulshan, and though it was pricy, it seemed to go well.

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

Imported goods are available for an arm and a leg. More and more department stores available, however, with more reasonably priced items.

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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?

More and more, western-style restaurants are available. They have trouble duplicating textures and flavors we expect, but when those cravings strike, it will do.

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Daily Life:

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

You can send letters in the mail. Just figure on a couple weeks for it to get there.

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

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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 was able to open a dollar account, but only with the help of an employer. I opened a taka account with an ATM.This was a fine experience.

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

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

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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?

Learn as much as you can. They'll love you for it.

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

Lots of difficulties.

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Transportation:

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

Drive on left side of road.

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

Never rode trains, though it sounds interesting. Buses are pretty good, though you will need to wait in lines. All kinds of motorized and petal-power taxis and rickshaws available and safe if you have some language and coaching.

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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?

Traffic is terrible. Better to pay someone else to drive for you. Also, emblems and parts are stolen off your car if you don't put someone in charge of looking out after it. Leave your car at home.

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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?

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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?

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

This is a tricky question. A work permit is something that is technically required. I didn't get one, and found work. But I think I was lucky.

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

It's always good to honor a host country. Dress modestly when you are in the street, but don't forget to bring your shorts and spandex for when you are among expats.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy in central Dhaka.

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

Blend in. Follow your gut. Bengalis generally love foreigners, so don't be afraid.

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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?

Quality of health care available is fine. The US Embassy has a medical unit with anything you might need for common stuff. There are also practitioners with ancient healing knowledge of varying quality. You should check this out as well. Eirveidic, homeopathic, herbs, Chinese Medicine, etc.

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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?

Monsoon, hot, chilly, damp.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School/Dhaka. I worked two years as the high school secretary. Good school.

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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?

Pay more and get a local individual that comes highly recommended.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large expat community. At the Embassy, you can ask for the DAWC directory with contact numbers for expats, along with maps and all kinds of other useful information.

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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?

International clubs, weddings. Hook up with the DAWC for the expat events: Dances, Yard Sales, Bazaars, caroling at the ambassador's house, etc.

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3. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Some love it. Some are counting days until they leave. Still others are shut down, emotionally.

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

Probably better for singles, depending on your objectives.

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

Possibly, depending on objectives.

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

Yes, but not overt.

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

Tea with the locals, take a boat trip with a fisherman and his family. Visit a village and stay with a family. Interview college students. Watch children play. Eat food produced by recommended street vendors. Learn the language from laborers. Go to a healer.

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

Saraya's Silk Tapestries, Scarfs, Wicker Items, Nok Shikatha.

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9. Can you save money?

Possibly.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Electrical adaptors.

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

Up and coming Title: Tahole: The Politics of Love, by me.

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

Up and coming Title: Tahole: The Politics of Love, by me.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Good luck to you!!

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Dhaka, Bangladesh 10/27/08

Background:

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

No, many.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Government.

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

Through 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?

Good housing is hard to find.

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

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

Sports equipment, electronics (multi system TV).

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

Pizza hut and KFC.

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Daily Life:

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

Thank goodness for APO. I would hate to be here without it. I mail order everything.

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

Very cheap but finding staff that speak good English can be a challenge.

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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 don't use ATMs here but there is one at the Embassy.

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

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

Cable TV is available but many people also have AFN (only three channels though).

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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?

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

I think it would be difficult.

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Transportation:

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

The left side of the road.

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

NO! Not safe at all.

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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?

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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?

Cheap, about US$30.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Very cheap. Most people buy cellphones and then just do the "pay as you go" option.

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

Most people use Vonage and/or Skype.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No, we hear many of the spouses complain about the lack of jobs/work.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Very unhealthy.

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

Yes.

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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?

YES.

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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?

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Schools & Children:

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

Caution - if you have a child with special needs. Caution - if you have a child in high school.

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

Caution - very little. Communication has been terrible.

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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?

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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?

Very busy. There isn't much else to do.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good.

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

Great for families with young children.

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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?

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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?

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9. Can you save money?

No, you will spend it all traveling.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No but mainly because of the school. I have been very disappointed with AISD.The elementary and middle school have been okay but the high school has been extremely disappointing. There isn"t much to do here for the older kids. Drinking and drugs is a problem in the high school.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and patience.

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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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Dhaka, Bangladesh 03/02/08

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 many places.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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

I work for the U.S. Government.

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

It's best to fly through England or United Emirates.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most are big and close to embassy; getting anywhere here takes time because of the traffic.

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

Costs are low for local items and those are plentiful. Imported items can be expensive.

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

Nothing.

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

KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W, plus many good restaurants.

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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?

Plentiful and inexpensive. Most people have multiple domestics both male and female.

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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?

There are no problems with ATMs.

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

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

Yes and quite inexpensive.

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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?

Nothing is wheelchair accessible here.

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Transportation:

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

Right, like the U.S.

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

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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?

Roads can be bad so SUVs are a good choice; older vehicles are generally better as there are many accidents.

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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?

Not high speed but usable and about US$20 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?

Get one. They are cheap.

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

Calls are inexpensive over regular phone lines.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

At NGOs.

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

Relaxed.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy.

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

Some but not in the diplomatic enclave.

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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?

Get all your dental and medical checkups before you come.

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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 and humid; hot, humid and rainy; or dry and cool.

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Schools & Children:

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

Great! They are top notch in both elementary and middle school. I don't know about high school.

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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?

Big.

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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?

Good.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good.

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

Yes to all.

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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?

Not that I know of.

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

Eat, shop, play tennis, go swimming, or hang out at the clubs.

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

Pearls, ratan furniture, silk, brass, embroidery, material, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. If you don't go overboard on buying all the wonderful handicrafts available.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. The morale at the Embassy is very bad. It is an extremely stressful place to work. If I was not attached to the embassy, yes, I would like it here.

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

Snow boots.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella.

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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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Dhaka, Bangladesh 02/24/08

Background:

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

No, I have lived in three other cities.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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

The best route is coming trans-atlantic from the U.S. British Air has direct flights from 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?

housing is excellent. Everyone associated with the embassy lives in baridhara or gulshan. Apartments are spacious and houses tend to have strange layouts and small yards. To the embassy, a typical commute is about 5 minutes. Commute times anywhere around the diplomatic enclave is about 20 minutes (with light traffic). Commute time to downtown is at least an hour.

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

Household supplies are easy to come by. There are several areas of stores with imported goods. The availability of certain groceries can be limited - supplies dry up randomly. If you shop on the local market, goods will be cheaper than in the U.S.

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

I have APO access so I order everything there via the internet.

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

The restaurant scene is improving. There are literally thousands upon thousands of restaurants - though many have the same menu of Chinese-Thai-Indian food. There are good restaurants and I have yet to get sick from the food here. The good restaurants tend to run about US$10 per person for a good meal.

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Daily Life:

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

From what I understand, you don't. None of my non-embassy friends send or receive mail. However, all the major shippers are here (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?

It's available but the quality varies. Most people employ at least two people - some three or four.

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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've used both without problem. The grocery stores, tourist shops, hotels, etc. all accept credit cards. That said, however, this is pretty much a cash economy.

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

If you're Christian, Muslim or Hindu, you're bound to find something that suits you.

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

There are several daily English language newspapers though I don't know the cost. You can get the Economist here but I've heard reports of government censorship of some articles. Television is only US$8 per month and you get a decent number of English-language channels, some of which show the latest season of popular U.S. shows.

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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. People get really excited if you speak to them in Bangla but it is not necessary to live here.

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

Many. This is not an accessibility-friendly city.

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Transportation:

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

It is supposed to be British style but you end up driving wherever there's a free spot on the road.

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

I've taken the train and it was safe. Friends have taken the luxury buses without any hassle. All are affordable. The airlines don't have the best reputation but more private ones are popping up all the time and a round-trip domestic flight costs about US$100.

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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?

Toyotas are the way to go here. I prefer having an SUV because of the potholes and floods.

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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 isn't really high speed but it's good enough to skype and download television shows via itunes. It costs $US21/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?

Get one. There are several major companies - I haven't heard anything special about any one way or the other.

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

Mobile phones or Skype.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If you're associated with the Embassy then most people seem to work with one of the local hospitals. Any work outside of that is difficult to get because of embassy security concerns. If you are here privately, there are tons of NGOs that employ foreigners.

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

All Bangladeshi women wear local dress to work and men wear pants and ties. Many foreign women also wear local dress (especially those employed with NGOs). Otherwise, business casual. In public, no tank tops, no short skirts or dresses.

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Health & Safety:

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

This depends on the time of year. In the winter, when people burn a lot of trash, it is poor. In summer it is all right but it is never good.

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

Embassy people are prevented from doing a lot, but any real security threat is difficult to see. I've known a few people who have gotten mugged on rickshaws but that's about it.

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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?

The health concerns are the same as in any other developing country. There are two or three decent hospitals.

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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?

Humid and rainy much of the time. However, it gets colder than you'd think in the winter. A light jacket is necessary.

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Schools & Children:

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

From what i understand, the academics are great but the social scene can be dodgey - especially in the high school.

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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?

Large - especially if you're willing to branch outside the American community. There are many people here doing really interesting work from garments to NGO to large corporations.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There's a lot going on. There are many parties and game nights, fancy balls, dining out, bowling....most things you find in any city (other than bars) although the quality or quantity won't measure up to other places.

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3. Morale among expats:

Generally pretty good.

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

it's a good city for what you make of it. Despite what you might think, there is a thriving social scene. There are parties often. Several restaurants have music nights on a reglar basis. The clubs are a good place to hang out and there is somewhat of an art scene - galleries often have showings. From my experience, it isn't any easier or harder based upon your relationship status. Dating opportunities are limited, but still exist.

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

You won't find any gay clubs. As is common in other Muslim countries, men and women walk around with each other holding hands.

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

Women get stared at all the time. I've only experienced about two instances of harrassment in my two years - it's limited to staring and gawking. There are racial prejudices though nothing security-related. It's limited to poorer service or stereotypical interactions.

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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?

Picture framing is fabulous. The local art scene is quite good and many people have gotten fabulous works. Tailor-made clothing, bedspreads made out of saris, pearls, pearls, and more pearls. There's lots to buy here - some great presents can be found.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely. Traveling outside of country can be expensive but I've still managed to save a ton.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I had a good time, despite a lot of frustration.

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

Love of orderliness and common sense - especially on the roads.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, sense of humor, Star Alliance frequent flier miles and more patience.

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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?

If you can dream it it can be done here. Seriously. There seems to be a way to get anything made or accomplished here as long as you are very patient and know the right place to go.

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