Pristina, Kosovo Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina, Kosovo 07/31/19

Background:

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

No, we have also lived in Moscow, Russia.

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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?

Colorado, USA. Most people that fly from the States connect through Frankfurt, Munich, or Vienna. There are also quite a few flights through Istanbul if you don't have to fly a US Carrier.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Just over 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?

We live in a neighborhood, which is like a very US/Western suburb with townhouses and single family homes. Most of the residents in this neighborhood are with a foreign mission or are from wealthier Albanian families. There is also housing in the another neighborhood up by the US Embassy; both families and singles live in this area. "IV" is really great for families as the housing is big and it's a gated neighborhood with a big sand park. There is also a pool that is open during the summertime.

The commute to downtown Pristina/most embassies is about 15 minutes driving (no public transportation). People that live downtown can walk to most of the restaurants, which is nice, though the walk to the new US Embassy will be longer once it opens in September 2019. All of the housing comes with plenty of air filters, which is very helpful during the winter when the pollution is bad.

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

The cost of everything in Kosovo is much less than anywhere else in Europe, not to mention the US. Produce is very seasonal, and finding specific products is tricky. The general rule of thumb is if you see something that you want - BUY IT - because you don't know when you'll see it again. You can only find pork at a butcher shop in Gracanica (south of Pristina) or you can buy it in Skopje. The shops have increased their variety quite a bit over the last year and if we can't find something here we can either: order on Amazon, go to Bondsteel (very limited selection), or go to Skopje. We chose not to do a consumables shipment and are still happy with the choice.

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

If I were to send anything I would probably send Asian cooking products. You can now find Kikkoman Soy Sauce, but that's about it. Sometimes I have seen rice vinegar and sesame oil, but it's been a while. Also, any Latin America products like chipotle in adobo or dried chilis. Indian spices are also hard to come by and cilantro is nearly non-existent (unless you grow it yourself)

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

Lots of restaurants carry the same fare - we call it "Italian-ish" - pizza, risotto, steak, burgers (but with Balkan spices); some are definitely better than others. Recently we've had a sushi place open up that's expensive, but good, and a Mexican place also opened that has been getting positive reviews from expats. There is a Thai place run by a lovely Thai woman and her husband, and an Indian-ish place that is okay if you're a little desperate. In terms of "chains" that people might be familiar with, we have Dominos, Burger King, KFC, and Taco Bell/Subway at Bondsteel. Most places will deliver if you pay the cab fare. We often will call ahead and do carry-out on our way home from work.

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

No.

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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 (although that might change). I've never used the local postal facilities.

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

Typically people pay about 5 Euro an hour for household help. If you have a full-time person usually there is a monthly rate, I've heard it's around 600 Euro/month. Most people have at least a housekeeper and if the have kids then also a nanny or a steady babysitter. There are a lot of English-speaking Nannies available, everyone knows someone!

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

Not sure, most people use the one at the Embassy.

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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, though I always carry some cash as a back up.

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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?

It's helpful to learn the language, the US Embassy offers Albanian classes. Most people here speak English or German as a second language, so if you don't want to learn the language (or don't have time to learn) you can still get by.

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

Sidewalks are hit and miss, though they do seem to be building more. There aren't a lot of stairs, but I don't think that it would be an easy place to be in a wheelchair or have crutches.

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Transportation:

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

No experience with the local buses (there are a few). No trams and while I hear that there are trains, I've never actually seen one. Taxis are plentiful and affordable, lots of good companies to choose from and the dispatchers generally speak English.

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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?

Something with clearance as there are lots of potholes/construction/uneven roads.

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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, quick and easy to install.

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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 phones, but if you bring your own you can use Vala or Ipko. You need to go into one of their stores or a gas station every month to add money to your account (10 euro is average per 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?

I believe that people are happy with the vet care, there is also a very active dog rescue group here. Animals do not need to be quarantined. Keep in mind that there are lots of stray dogs and cats 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?

Most people that I know that want a job have found something, either at our Embassy or at other missions. Quite a few spouses telecommute.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of people volunteer to help with the stray dogs (fostering, vaccinating, working to send back to America for adoption). There is a local NGO that some volunteer with called the IDEAS partnership.

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

Business at work. It is a more modest society, but people definitely get dressed up to go out.

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Health & Safety:

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

I have not been concerned for my safety any more or less than I was living in Washington, DC. Always be aware of your surroundings, don't be stupid.

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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?

Air quality in the winter is terrible and all housing comes with air filters. The US Embassy med unit is great, and the local providers are good for things like x-rays and other smaller procedures (have known people to have their appendix taken out, my son broke his arm, etc.) They also send people to Skopje for something that needs more than Pristina, but less than a full medevac. I believe the medevac point for Kosovo is London.

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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?

Bad in the winter, lots of people wear face masks if they have to spend time outside. Not bad in the late spring/summer. The problem is that people burn lignite coal in their homes when it's cold and all of that PLUS the power plants PLUS the geographic position of Pristina makes for terrible air.

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

Bring a mask, be smart about your time outside. If you have food allergies... I would bring something translated into Albanian that you can show to waiters so that they understand the seriousness of what you are asking.

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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)?

Not that I have seen. Even in the winter we still get a lot of sun, even if it's cold.

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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?

Pretty mild, like DC.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two main international schools: ILG and QSI. My kids go to ILG and we've been really happy with it so far. ILG is bigger, with about 130 kids and has an Infant Creche- 8th grade. QSI is much smaller, but is really the only option if you have kids older than 8th grade. Ask the CLO to connect you with families so that you can get an updated perspective.

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

Not sure, though I'm sure that they would happily discuss options with you.

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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, both of the main international schools (ILG and QSI) offer preschool. The rates vary depending on if you're an "Institutional Payer" e.g., from an Embassy/or your employer pays, or if you are paying out of pocket. ILG is a bigger school, and it just became the first IB school in all of Kosovo. There is about one class per grade and each class is about 15 kids. The kids are a mixture of Albanian and foreign mission. QSI is much smaller, but does seem to be growing. It's students are primarily from foreign missions, but that also seems to be changing. ILG is out by International Village and QSI is by the US Embassy, both schools offer busing. There is not before/after school care, but there are after school activities offered.

There is also the Park School out by Germia Park, which does Montessori preschool education. It's a bit further out, but the families that I know that have kids there have been happy with it.

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

A lot of kids take swim lessons at STEP, and I think that there is an after school soccer group that some kids participate in.

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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 large expat community since there are so many missions here: UN, EU (several different groups here from the EU, other diplomatic missions. The morale seems to be good.

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

Many women join the International Women's Group (some men are members too!) Pristina is very small, so you see each other often, especially at some of the better restaurants. Downtown Pristina is entirely walkable and it's not uncommon to see someone you know when you're out. People get together in their homes, take weekend trips to Albania/North Macedonia/Serbia.

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

Most people travel a LOT, either by car or taking a cheap flight on WizzAir. Either with or without kids, there are lots of places to explore and it's fairly cheap and easy to do so.

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

Yes. They LOVE Americans here (and westerners in general) and people are very friendly and helpful over all.

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

Most of the problems are between the Albanians and the Serbians, but as an outsider living in the capital you do not see or feel that on a regular basis. One thing that is hard to get used to at first is that everyone has a war story, the war effected everyone in a very powerful and serious way.

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

The people are incredible: if you need something you just have to ask and someone knows something. Kosovars/Albanians are very entrepreneurial and are eager to please. Weekend trips to Valbona (Albania) are breathtaking, and there is great and pretty inexpensive skiing in Kapaonik, Serbia.

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

No, but you can easily get to places where you can go shopping!

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

Everything is so inexpensive. You can travel to so much of Europe from here. Roads keep getting better. People are awesome. It's a hidden gem for sure.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's good to educate yourself at least a bit about the 1999 war. It's very real for many people. Politics here are kind of a mess, don't fully expect to understand it all, ask lots of questions, people are very happy to share their stories and perspectives. Albanians are anything but shy!

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

Yes. Maybe not forever, but I'm very happy to be here now. We extended for another year as soon as we were asked, many others feel the same way.

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

Expectations that people will follow any kind of driving laws :).

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4. But don't forget your:

Positive attitude!

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

The Death of Yugoslavia, a six part series on BBC. It's old, we had to watch it on YouTube, very worthwhile. Travel in Blood and Honey (book), Balkan Ghosts (book).

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a great post! Reach out to people on Facebook or through the CLO to get the most up to date information. This is a very friendly and open community.

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Pristina, Kosovo 11/19/16

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 Prague, Islamabad, Lagos, Damascus and Ljubljana.

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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?

Austria. Flight connection is very good, Austrian Airlines operates daily flights. Bus connections take about 12 hours and are inexpensive. It's also possible to go home by own car; time depends on traffic and on waiting time at the borders, around 10 hours. If you go by road, better have an ID-Card, additionally to your passport; otherwise on the Serbian border, they will send you back, and you have to travel to Serbia via Macedonia, which will cost you additional time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

More than one year.

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

Diplomatic Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in Dragodan/Arberia, in a three-bedroom flat with a terrace with a stunning view over Pristina, 4 floors, no elevator. It is close to my workplace, only 5 minutes walking time to the office. There are houses and flats available at any size and budget. Bigger families may find houses in a gated area like International Village to be more convenient.

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

Most things are available, though you may not find the brand you are used to. Prices vary. Local products, seasonal fruits and vegetables are about 1/3 to 1/2 price of Western Europe. Meat (except chicken) is more expensive. Imported goods are more expensive. Whipping cream (made from milk, without sugar) is not available. Pork is available from butchers in Serbian communities (e.g. Gracanica). You will not find a choice of cheeses like white cheese, Kashkaval, Gouda, Emmental cheese, Parmesan; Mozzarella and blue cheese are more difficult to find. Soft cheeses, like Camembert, Brie,... are hard to find and only occasionally available. Balsamic vinegar is very sour; better bring your own. There is a limited range of spices.

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

Balsamic vinegar; durable cream for whipping, spices, specially Asian spices, coconut milk, freezing bags.

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

Many. I especially like Liburnia restaurant, Gresa, Pinoccio, Detari (fish and sea food). But in more than one year, I never ate anything really bad.

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

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Daily Life:

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

We are lucky to have Austrian KFOR soldiers here, and allowed to send and receive mail and parcels via them.

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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; many speak English or German. I pay 6 Euro per hour for an excellent cleaner, and 300 Euro monthly for a nanny who works 5 days a week, 3-4 hours a day. I heard that there are cheaper options; but I am satisfied.

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

There is Five Star Fitness that has a few branches in Prishtina. Other gyms are also available. I paid 130 Euro for a one-year membership.

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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 hardly use them. ATMs are common, but there is often a hefty fee for withdrawing money.

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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?

You don't need it actually. Many people speak English or German. Classes and tutors are available.

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

Definitely.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are cheap. Trains are rarely available. Taxis are inexpensive as well. They should have a taxi meter and switch it on. A ride within Pristina should not cost you more than 2 or 3 Euros during the day. At night, it's a bit more expensive.

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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 ideal, as streets are not so good and can be narrow and parking places are limited. Other cars will also work, but you have to be more careful.

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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. Though sometimes it is slow. It took me a few days to install.

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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?

Kosovo still does not have an own country code and uses either numbers from Monaco or Slovenia.

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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, good vets are available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Most stay at home. It may be possible to find a job at an international organization or as a teacher, but opportunities are limited.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Same as in Western Europe.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are no specific concerns, but it is good to keep eyes and ears open and not walk into demonstrations. Otherwise, same as in Western Europe.

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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?

Very bad air, due to the Obilic power plant, and to heating in winter. Medical care is not up to Western standards. Get a good insurance which will cover medical evacuation in case of emergency. If in doubt, go to Western Europe for medical treatment.

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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 bad, especially in winter. Many people have problems.

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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)?

Winter can be long, lasting from October to May. Sometimes it is very foggy, and air quality is very bad. Try to leave Pristina as often as you can in the winter.

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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?

Can be very cold in winter, with snow. Isolation of houses is a problem. Spring and autumn can be very wet, but also nice and sunny. Summers are generally hot and dry.

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Schools & Children:

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

ILG is very good, but recently only from Kindergarden to 5 grade. Best experience. Small classes, very motivated teachers. We are satisfied. There is also QSI (they just started), and for older children, and Pristina High School (from Middle school). I was told that it is good, but I have no personal experience.

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

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

International schools have kindergarten. ILG provides after-school care to 5 p.m. and various after-school activities.

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

Soccer, swimming, Karate, activities at school, music 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, decreasing. Morale varies a lot.

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

Going out to restaurants and bars.

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

For all, I would guess. But keep in mind health concerns and bad air quality.

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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?

There is friction with the Serbian community. There might be some kind of gender equality in Pristina, but anywhere outside the city, there's not.

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

Travelling a lot, within Kosovo, and to neighboring countries.

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

Hiking. Going to neighboring countries. Having coffee or a beer in one of the many restaurants and bars in the city.

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

Not so many. The filigree silver work is nice.

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

Nice people, good food, short distance to nice places abroad, inexpensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Good question. Probably about the really bad air and the inequality between men and women anywhere outside Pristina.

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

Generally yes. Kosovo it is much better than its reputation.

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

Prejudices. Western manner. Western driving rules and driving expectations.

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4. But don't forget your:

Raincoat, rain boots, warm clothes and good shoes for winter, hiking boots, swim suit, humor, patience.

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

Kosovo by Bradt.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Sometimes, there a power and water cuts. Sometimes for hours. And houses are poorly insulated which means you have lots of costs for heating but when it's really cold outside, you will feel it on the inside. Street asphalt or cobble stone is very slippery when rainy or snowy. They don't clean the snow like you are used to Western Europe. Better leave your car home and walk (if you have good shoes). Pollution is a big concern.

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Pristina, Kosovo 06/16/16

Background:

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

2 year assignment in Pristina Kosovo. Over 13 years experience in overseas environment. Pristina, Thailand, Hong Kong, UAE, Africa, Caribbean and more.

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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?

Williamsburg, VA.

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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.)?

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, 3rd floor walk-up. We had asked for single-family housing since we have dogs. We have a small yard. There is a walkway from gate leading to the street and then up 2 flights to the 3rd floor. There is a shared attic/storage on the very top floor. The apartment is nice, more modern than some of the older homes. It has a laundry and two bedrooms plus an optional third bedroom/office. There is a small living room, a dining room/sitting room, and an eat-in kitchen. However, counter space and the sink are both small. The apartment does boast a great view of the city from a small front balcony.

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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 3 groceries within 1-2 miles of home, plus a plethora of small "mini-mart" groceries within a short distance of the apartment. Prices are comparable to U.S. or better. Very near the Embassy are these grocery stores: Viva Fresh (smaller than its larger parent store located off the M2 Hwy, but it carries all that you can feasibly obtain from any store locally. It has a large variety of products and produce and meats. It is one of two stores carrying U.S. style ground beef). Other comparable but smaller stores are: Vipros, Conad, Meridien and Tregu.

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

Ship your favorite toilet paper and paper towels; also dish detergent, baby detergent, personal shower wash/gels, and soaps. Bring these things until you can find comparable items locally.

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

Restaurants: Pinocchio's (local/Italian/continental foods and wonderful wines), Cleo's Pub/Restaurant (great burgers and spirits; also serves brunch on Sundays until 4pm).

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

No.

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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 if you are with the Embassy via DPO. Be aware that when you are ordering from US to Kosovo that some items cannot be delivered outside of U.S. So if there are things you really need, investigate as to wether you can get them mailed to Pristina prior to departure. The work around is to mail to a relative or friend in the States and then have them mail it to you.

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

So far I have not seen any established gyms. The Embassy has a small gym.

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

Yes, in all of the restaurants and grocery stores frequented by expats.

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

St, Anthony's (Catholic) has 5 p.m. services in English on Sundays. KFOR has both Protestant and Catholic services: Catholic service on Sundays at 2pm at KFOR and at Camp Bondsteel. Check with DAO for hours and days of services for both Catholic and Protestant services.

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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?

Language classes are offered by the Embassy. English is spoken in venues that are frequented by expatriates.

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

YES! If you have physical disabilities this is a HARD city to navigate. Roads and sidewalks are not easily managed, even for those with no health/disability concerns. The streets are cobblestone and are not always maintained. Road and sidewalk infrastructure is not the best. There is a stairway that starts at the top of the hill near KFOR and USAID and runs down to the "city-centre", and the stairs there are crumbling and you have to criss-cross the stairs to avoid slipping/falling on a broken step. This is the shortcut from top to bottom of the hill; otherwise you have to go out and then walk up streets to get to your home if it is located near the "Embassy Row".

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Transportation:

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

Yes.

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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 small SUV, 4WD vehicle, CRV, or RAV-4 type of vehicle.

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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. If you are with Embassy, they can assist you in getting it installed with 24 hours. Coverage may vary depending on where you live. In newly developed areas, service may be sketchy, as they are still working out the "bugs". If you are living in an older/developed place, coverage should be reliable.

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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?

Currently there are two major providers: IPKO and Vala. I use IPKO and have a pay-as-you-go plan that works reasonably well. Make sure that the plan you choose can be used outside of Kosovo if you plan to travel. And, of course, know what the charges are.

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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. That is something we used frequently for both our personal dogs and rescued dogs. Dr. Illyrian Jusuf runs a vet office at the bottom of the hill just one street over from the Embassy. He is wonderful, knowledgeable, and speaks perfect English. There are other veterinarians that may offer excellent services as well. There are no shops that offer high quality grooming services.

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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?

Unless you arrive with a job, it will be hard to find one. The jobless rate here is 60% plus. If you are able to telecommute, that is a viable plan. For the most part, the internet can accommodate telecommuting. If you are with the Embassy, you are asked even before arriving: "Are you planning to work?"Jobs with the Embassy are few and far between. If working is a prime concern for you, and you have a meaningful well paying job with upward advancement possibilities, think long and hard about giving it up for two years.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Volunteering with an animal-rescue service seems to be the most likely possibility.

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

Business/business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Because the country has no rules regulating the buy/breeding of dogs, people obtain and then discard animals (especially dogs) like trash, usually dumping them near the embassy. There is a rampant stray-dog problem. These abandoned dogs after often have been known to go after people, especially kids that they believe are hostile to them.

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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/bad air caused by burning of various fuel types, especially during winter or colder periods.

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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?

There is pollution caused by the burning of various fuels. If you have specific respiratory or other health concerns, it is something to consider --- because during the winter this is very prevalent. There is pollution from the energy factory as well.

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

Basically WASH everything before preparing it for a meal. Food is very fresh here, and it seems that there is little pesticide use. That being said, wash all fruits and vegetables before serving them.

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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)?

Winter blues, claustrophobia. There may be times when the area goes dark because of clouds or fog that settles over the city for long periods. During the winter of 2015-16 this was the case. Fog settled over Pristina, and you could only see 10 feet in front of you (barely), making it difficult to walk or drive at all.

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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 months are rainy and cold, sometimes with snow and freezing temperatures. The terrain is hilly, and roads are made of cobblestone and concrete/asphalt, so they are extremely slippery even on dry days. But throw in the cold weather, and then one should consider if driving should be an option.
Summer and spring can be very nice, temperatures in low 60s to mid-high 70s.

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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 School of Kosovo and QSI. If your kids are over 5 years old, I would recommend not bringing them here. Schooling is limited. QSI is right next door to the Embassy, but it is small, and a lot of classes are mixed-age; kind of like "Little House on the Prairie". A little one-room class room situation.

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

I doubt that there are any accommodations 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?

There don't seem to be any activities outside of embassy/clo organized events.

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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 variable: from long-suffering to upbeat and positive, depending why you are posted here and how often you can get out of Pristina. There is an expat community, but it does not appear to be cohesive. You have to make the effort. The community seems to take of the persona of the host country-city: not very welcoming or hospitable compared to what you find in other European countries.

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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 is UMIK, an mixed agency expatriate community that goes on trips and dinners together. And then there is the CLO. No comment.

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

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

I think efforts are being made, and it is growing in its education with regards to LGBT issues and understanding.

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

Does not appear to be.

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

Highlight: managing to rescue some of the stranded/abandoned dogs in the city, the local wine, Mass at KFOR.

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

None.

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

No.

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

You are here for either your career or your significant other's career. After that, there are NO advantages to living here. It is a good idea to read the Fact Book on Kosovo and its history in order to understand Kosovo's position from its own perspective and that of the world community before arriving here. That way you understand why, unlike Europe or other countries, it can be a disappointment. Then, on the other hand, the one advantage I can think of is that if you are starting a family and your kids are newborn-5 years old, it can be a good experience for all.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The political situation and Kosovo's standing in the world community. How it (as a country) feels about itself. The Serbia - Albania connection or rather disconnection. How the people feel about themselves as well. All of this plays in to how the state is or is NOT set up and runs.

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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:

Animals, expectation of beauty, peace, privacy.

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4. But don't forget your:

Anything that makes you feel happy, upbeat and happy.

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

World Fact Book, State Department guides/policy papers on Kosovo, New York Times articles on Kosovo.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

My disappointment and regret in coming here is tempered by my age, travel experience (15 years as an expat), and my attempt to try to like the city and its people... all to no avail. You can judge a place by how it treats its poor and disenfranchised, its animals, and how it takes care of its environment with regard to making the city a cleaner, brighter place to live. But, sadly, I can only say they are in sore need of re-education in all these ares.

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Pristina, Kosovo 05/18/16

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?

DC is home. Connections are usually Frankfurt, Munich or Vienna. Total time is approx 15 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Year one of a three-year tour

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

U.S. 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?

Two types - 1) an international townhouse community (tennis and basketball courts, small market, restaurant, bar and dry cleaners) about 10 minutes outside of Pristina near the malls and grocery stores; and 2) houses/apartments that are a short walk to the Embassy. They are building a new Embassy, to be completed in 2018, and then no one will really be able to walk (or it won't be an easy walk.) Both options have pluses/minuses.

We live in the townhouse community and it takes 10-15 minutes to get to Embassy/downtown. During the summer when the diaspora returns or when it rains (roads don't have good drainage), the roads can get very congested and it can take 45-60 minutes to get home.

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

Produce here is great and cheap, but seasonal. You aren't going to find American brands, but if you look, you can find most things here. You do have to be selective about where you buy meat; fresh chicken is pretty easy to come by (packaged and imported from Slovenia) as is fish. I've given up on beef; the cuts are strange and unless you go to a halal butcher, it's hard to know how old it is. We eat well and entertain and spend about US$100 a week on groceries (which includes alcohol.)

There is a commissary and there's Camp Bondsteel, but we only use it to buy bacon. Local cleaning supplies, paper products, etc are fine, though if you want unscented products, you should probably include them in your consumables shipment. Otherwise, the only thing I wish we would have sent more of are ethnic ingredients (sesame oil, rice vinegar, hoisin, etc.), beer, and uniquely American things like chocolate chips, shredded coconut, vanilla extract. The quality of baking/cooking supplies like parchment paper, aluminum foil, saran wrap is poor here.

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

No American fast food. Pizza, qebap, and burek can be found everywhere. There's also a place to buy rotisserie chickens. Restaurants are cheap, plentiful and can be very good. Variety is lacking. Other than the standard fare (grilled meat/vegetable/pasta/pizza), there is also Thai, Indian/Nepalese, Spanish/tapas and a NY steakhouse-style restaurant.

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

None. Maybe some ants and there are yellow jacket type things that live in the greenery and come out in the spring, but that's about it.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Sometimes the pouch address is needed.

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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. Cleaning and/or babysitting is around 5 euros an hour.

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

The Embassy has a gym. There are gyms around the city. I don't have direct experience, but people say they are fine and cheap. Many people mountain bike in Germia Park.

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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 mostly use cash, but do use credit cards at the major stores. We cash checks at the Embassy.

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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?

Very little. Learn the necessities, but most young people speak (or understand) English. Someone will always help translate if needed.

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

Yes; hills and steps are everywhere. Steps are often in disrepair. There might be sidewalks, but it usually has crumbling mortar and a car parked on it.

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Transportation:

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

All are safe. There's a train to Peja, but that is more for the experience. Taxis are plentiful and cheap.

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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 4WD with some clearance is best for going off paved roads, driving up on sidewalks, and potholes. We have a RAV4 (like many) and the Toyota dealership takes the VAT form for maintenance. While this is ideal, any vehicle will make it. There are still Yugos on the road 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, fast, cheap and reliable. It is around US$175 for a year. We stream everything (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime) through VPN and have few problems. This can vary by housing location, some families have problems with stable internet, mostly due to specific provider and/or infrastructure issues.

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

You can buy a local sim and add money as needed.

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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 - you might find something, but pay is going to be very low.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. You can't travel to/through the north. Though it is a poor country, petty crime doesn't seem to be much of a problem (as long as you use common sense.)

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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 Health Unit can handle small things, but you'll be medevaced for anything complicated. Local medical care is not 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?

It can be unhealthy in the winter. They burn very dirty coal. We chose to live in the community 10 minutes outside of the city where the air is much cleaner (up on a hill with lots of wind.) Those living near the Embassy are more affected. The Embassy does provide air filters. An air monitor installed at the Embassy shows the air to be quite clean in the spring, summer, and fall.

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

There are a lot of fruit trees here and some people really suffer with seasonal allergies. I had terrible allergies in DC but none here, but my husband had none in DC but terrible here. You never know. Pollution/air quality can be bad in winter.

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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?

Four seasons. It's like DC, except it isn't humid. Winters can be mild or you can get a lot of snow. Summers can be hot, but since there's no humidity, it is really pleasant. There's a lot of wind.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two main ones that embassy families use - ILG and QSI. ILG is near the international townhouse community and QSI is near the Embassy. QSI opened in Fall 2015 and is now the Embassy school.

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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?

The two main English-speaking preschools are ILG and QSI. ILG has a two-year old class, QSI's preschool starts at 3 years. Our child attends ILG and we've been happy with it. It's a half-day program, cheap (around US$3,000), and the teachers are very loving. I don't have any experience with QSI's preschool program, but I know it is slightly more expensive. For younger children, people use nannies.

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

Our child isn't really old enough, but there are some kids activities/lessons. Not sure about sports - I know there is swimming and judo. There's a good resource (Misbah) for dance/art/music lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

Yes, good for all, though not sure about singles and dating. Also, families with small children seem to do better than families with older kids. There's no good high school option.

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

Yes, I think the previous posters captured it.

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

Travel has been amazing. Driving: Mostly on long weekends, we made trip to: Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. Longer trips you can see Croatia and Bosnia. Flying can get you to Central and Western Europe very easily.

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

Kosovo has some beautiful natural resources - hiking in Rugova, hiking in Dragash, the Gadime caves, various waterfalls. And a 4-5 hour drive takes you some amazing places. A small group does weekend mountain bikes rides throughout Germia park in Pristina.

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

Not much and most are food-related (rakia and honey).

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

Kosovo is centrally located in the Balkans making regional travel very easy. A five-hour drive will take you to some amazing places. Kosovo (and the Balkans) are very cheap; you can easily save money even if you travel. We think the weather is great - four seasons but not extreme. And summers aren't humid, which is a big plus. Albanians/Kosovars love children. There are very nice indoor play areas all over for young kids. Americans are generally well-liked here.

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7. Can you save money?

Yes. We travel extensively and still save a ton.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

More about the history of the region.

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

Absolutely. We extended, as have many people.

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3. But don't forget your:

GPS for traveling! Patience (things are not going to be done quickly or logically.)

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Death of Yugoslavia (BBC documentary) on YouTube

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Pristina, Kosovo 08/03/15

Background:

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

No. Third overseas tour.

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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 -- one hop, usually through Vienna or Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2013-2015

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

U.S. 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?

Two sets -- one suburban-style gated community with large-ish homes about 30 minutes from the Embassy compound, and a set of houses/apartments within walking distance of the compound. All are quirky, and few are designed with storage in mind. GSO are very responsive when it comes to fixing home issues, though be advised some are unsolvable.

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

Variety of produce is seasonal. Fresh chicken is only available at specific places -- most grocery stories carry frozen chicken imported from Turkey. If you are willing, you can get good beef and chicken from local butchers. Pork and fish are harder to find. Variety is lacking and its easy to fall into a rut. Some people took advantage of Camp Bondsteel to get American products, but we found the base disappointing.

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

Baking supplies. An air purifier for the winter. A better vacuum (the Embassy-provided one was just OK).

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

Fast food: qebaptores, burektores, all varieties of pan-Balkan snacks. Often delicious and very cheap. Restaurants are unpredictable. Some of the fanciest looking places are just "meh," but there are many very good ones. Prices are very low -- dinner for two with wine at the best places rarely tops US$40.

All that said, variety is lacking. There's one Indian place (run by Nepalis), one Thai place, and the rest are local cuisine or Italian-ish. The best places are in or around Pristina. It does get a bit monotonous.

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

Nothing major.

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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?

Available and affordable though you should be choosy. Some people have had problems with reliability.

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

The Embassy has a good gym, but this will go away when the new Embassy compound opens in a few years. There are a number of private gyms around, but I don't know how good they are.

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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?

Use sparingly. Skimming is common. Cash is king.

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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?

Realistically very little within Pristina. More helpful outside the city.

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

Yes. The city was not designed to be accessible.

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Transportation:

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

All are safe and affordable, though I've only ever heard of expats using taxis. The train only goes to Skopje (and is thus a bit useless.)

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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?

Highly recommend a 4WD/AWD small SUV. Very useful when you're going off paved road -- which you will be doing more than you expect. Also critical on icy roads in the winter.

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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. Sometimes faster than in the U.S. Not cheap (US$100+/mo) but worth 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?

If you don't get one through work, go local. Prices are low.

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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?

Probably not.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, especially with NGOs working with minority communities.

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

Business at work. Anything goes in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

For the Embassy, the Serbian-majority area north of the Ibar river is forbidden unless on official business. We had to travel in FAV. This policy gets reexamined periodically, but security in "the North" is unpredictable, especially after dark. In the rest of the country, the biggest hazard is crazy drivers. Crime is very low.

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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?

Tons. Medical care is notoriously poor, though the Embassy health unit is very good. If you have a serious issue, expect to be sent to Skopje or to London.

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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?

Moderate in the summer. Truly horrible in the winter. The two powerplants that supply most of Kosovo's power are right on Pristina's doorstep, and they burn the lowest-quality coal (which is abundant in Kosovo.) People also burn coal in their homes in the winter. All this leads to Pristina being enveloped in a vile yellow fog in the colder months. Its inescapable and revolting.

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

Pollen can be a problem. Vegetarians will have a hard time. And everyone will develop new respiratory issues due to pollution. Don't be surprised.

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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?

Beautiful if too short spring and summer. Cold autumn and winter, often wet and sometimes quite snowy/icy.

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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 direct experience. People seemed to like ILG. Post just became fully accompanied a few years ago, so this school thing is new.

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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?

They appear to be, though most people hire nannies.

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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?

Large though it's getting smaller. Morale varies based on how long they've been in Kosovo and the season.

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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?

Eating out. Clubbing, usually starting late and ending later. Day trips, hiking, group road trips.

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

Good for all for various reasons. For singles I hear nightlife can be quite something, though I don't know what dating would be like. For couples life would probably be very rich, especially with the travel. For families it was quite good, especially with comfortable housing and good childcare.

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

Yes with a caveat. There is acceptance of non-Kosovars being gay, but very limited acceptance of LGBT people in the local community.

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

Yes, of a sort. Albanians and Serbians instinctively do not trust one another, and live segregated lives. This is a major issue for the survival of the country, and will certainly affect your work if you are in the diplomatic or development world. Gender prejudice also abound, especially outside of Pristina. However, these prejudices seldom affect expats' daily lives.

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

Roadtripping. Northern Greece, the Albanian coast, the other former Yugoslavian republics, so many more. Travel within Kosovo can also be amazing for the adventurous and fearless. Challenging and very rewarding hikes, beautiful monasteries and Orthodox churches, fantastic nature outside of Pristina.

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

Kosovo is fun to explore, though infrastructure is lacking. Each small area has its own personality and flavor. Hiking in the Rugova gorge is a must (I wish we had done more of this.) And you can be in the neighboring countries in a matter of hours!

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

Limited. Some local carpets, silver work. Some interesting work by local artists. Nothing awesome.

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

Amazing travel in the region. Kind, warm, hospitable people. Good restaurants that are incredibly cheap. A very low cost of living in general. The best strawberries you have ever tasted.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How long and challenging the winter would be. How rejuvenating local travel could be (we put off our first out of Kosovo trip for far too long.)

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

Yes, probably. But two years was plenty and I wish we had traveled more.

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

Manolos (your shoes will be ruined), low-clearance vehicle, bike (unless you're very brave).

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4. But don't forget your:

Yak trax, SE Europe map/GPS, hiking shoes, sense of adventure.

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Pristina, Kosovo 06/25/14

Background:

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

First as an adult.

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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. Connections to PRN are generally via Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, or Istanbul. DC to Munich is approximately 9 hours and Munich to PRN is about 2.5 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years, 2012 - 2014.

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

Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most people live near the Embassy and can get there within 5 minutes' walking time. I lived about 4k from the Embassy and it would take me anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to get to work, depending on traffic (mostly due to never-ending construction).

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

A bit less than in DC. You can purchase giant bags of potatoes, onions, etc. for about 99 Euro cents. Staples are relatively cheap as well. However, you will miss cheddar cheese and pork (go to Gracanica if you have a craving) and bring any kind of comfort food with you if you can. American products are virtually non-existent.

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

Really good beer. Quick packaged dinners for lazy/tired evenings. Cheddar cheese in your carry-on. Real vanilla. American toilet paper and paper towels. Free and clear detergent. Natural cleaning supplies. High quality sponges. Mr. Clean erasers. Ziploc bags.

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

There is no such thing as fast food in Kosovo. There is a brand new American-style craft brewery that opened a brew pub, called Sabaja's. Check it out, especially if you're home sick. There are several delicious local restaurants, with Renaissance II being the highlight, along with Tiffany's, Pinocchio, Mozaik, Rron, and Basillico being my favorites. Not many places deliver though the Thai restaurant and Nepalese restaurant will throw your food in a cab.

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

None. You rarely see bugs (if so, ants) and small animals (i.e. squirrels) are virtually non-existent.

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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?

Nannies are affordable as well, ranging anywhere from 200 Euros a month (local price) to about 600 Euros (which generally includes nights, weekends, cleaning, and some cooking).

Housekeepers are available for about 20 Euros a day.

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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 Embassy and a new one right across the street. I believe it's about 20 Euro/month.

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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?

Bring cash. Almost nowhere accepts credit cards. ATMs are generally very safe. Just be smart and aware of your surroundings. Use an ATM that is actually attached to a bank just in case it eats your card. I used Raiffeisen and Pro Credit during my tenure without any incident.

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

No idea.

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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 much, but you should definitely learn Albanian niceties. It goes a long way. Most everyone under 40 speaks passable English. German is widely spoken as well.

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

Yes, they would have a very difficult time. No matter which direction you go, you're generally headed uphill. There are stairs everywhere. The streets and sidewalks are cobblestone or brick pavers and are very uneven.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are very cheap. You can get around downtown for about 2 Euros. If you go to the Albi Mall or Viva Fresh supermarket, right outside of downtown, it'll cost about 4 Euros.

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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?

Toyota RAV-4s were the vehicles of choice. Bring something with some ground clearance and a smaller 4x4 will definitely come in handy. Most people park on the sidewalk, so you have to be able to make it up there.

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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 it's quite good. If you go to IPKO yourself, you can get set up for about 120 Euros/year.

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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?

Unlock yours and buy a local sim card. 3G is slowly making its way to Pristina (IPKO I believe, but not Vala). Almost every place you visit will have free wifi. Just ask for the password and you'll get it with a smile.

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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?

Nope. There are vets, but I wouldn't trust them with more than routine vet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No, not unless you want to receive local wages (think 200 - 600 Euros/month).

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

All kinds. People from a variety of organizations will gladly accept your help.

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

Public - anything goes. Not strict at all. It is a very secular Muslim majority society. At work it depends on who you are meeting with that day.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, not really. Everyone knows everyone so street crime is rare but it does occur on occasion if you're not paying attention.

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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?

You get medevac'd for minor issues. Do not come to Kosovo if you have medium to severe medical issues. You do not want to go to a local hospital.

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

Horrible the instant it cools down. Lignite is generally burned in the homes and the power plant emits various harmful chemicals. Pristina is in a bowl and the pollution tends to get trapped in it. I lived a little outside of downtown and the wind patterns worked in my favor.

Also, be warned if you wear contact lenses. You'll be wearing glasses 24/7 when winter hits. The pollution will sting your eyes.

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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?

Summers are dry and hot, springs can be very wet, winters can be bitterly cold (though I never saw the legendary snow in my 2 years there), and falls are lovely.

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Schools & Children:

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

Not really available and not recommended.

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

My guess would be nothing.

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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. Preschool was very affordable - about 160 Euros a month full-time, including food.

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

No, not really.

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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 expat community is a decent size. You'll find folks from all over. Morale waxes and wanes; it just depends on the leadership and the weather.

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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?

Make yourself some good friends. Brunches, dinners, house parties, etc. are a way of life.

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

There's a decent dining/nightlife scene for those who like to eat, drink, and dance. However, there is not much to do for any group and it can get boring. You really need to make your own fun especially when it's cold out. However, once it warms up, the cafe culture is quite large.

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

Not openly; it's generally frowned upon by the local culture and there was a recent attack on an LGBT group. Things are changing, albeit very slowly.

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

There are definitely ethnic tensions amongst the local Albanian majority and the Serbian, Roma, and Turkish minorities. However, the younger generation seems very upbeat about getting past differences.

Also, men are definitely the preferred sex. If you're female, expect to get served after the men and to get cat-called on the street. Local women are expected to work, run the household, manage the children, and serve their husbands. Many have a tough go of it.

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

Visiting neighboring countries. Skopje, Macedonia is 1.5 hours away. The coast in Albania starts about 3 hours while the beaches of Greece are about 4 hours away. You can drive to Montenegro in about 5 hours and I highly recommend Kotor. Croatia is about 1.5 hours from Kotor. I highly recommend a visit to Plitvice Falls outside of Zagreb. It's absolutely breathtaking.

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

Hike the Rugova valley. Visit Prizren for silver filigree. Istog is known for fresh trofta (trout).

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

Filigree, rugs, wooden chests.

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

The people are incredibly warm and friendly. They absolutely adore children. The food is very good and the prices are very reasonable. Spring and summer is gorgeous, with roses blooming everywhere. Summer and fall bring fresh fruit growing from the trees all over town.

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10. Can you save money?

Not if you travel like I did. Take advantage of the Balkans while it's still relatively undiscovered.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

More about Balkan history - from the Illyrians to the Ottomans.

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

I would definitely return! It is definitely a hardship post - driving can be dangerous and the pollution is no joke - but I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

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

Attitude.

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4. But don't forget your:

Positive attitude. Kosovars are great - make local friends! Learn about the culture of the country and of the region. Bring your hiking shoes.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

In the Land of Blood and Honey
and

The Whistleblower.

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

Very few books are written about Kosovo. That being said, check out Elizabeth Gowing's two recent books.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This is a fantastic spot if you are adventurous; however, two years is plenty!

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Pristina, Kosovo 04/29/14

Background:

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

This is our third expat experience--we also have lived in Cairo, Egypt, and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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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?

Home base is Washington, DC. The trip here can be made in two flights, from IAD to Vienna or Frankfurt or any one of a number of options--sometimes it's actually less expensive and a shorter overall duration to have two European layovers. The final leg is on a small plane. The total flight time is ten hours, give or take, not including layovers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We moved here in spring 2013 and anticipate leaving in spring 2015.

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

We are a U. S. Foreign Service family posted to Embassy Pristina.

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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 available "downtown"--it isn't really downtown, because the Embassy is on the outskirts of town, but this housing is almost all within easy walking distance from the Embassy. These are apartments or single family homes. Some are on the small side, but newer additions are quite large.

The other option for housing is in a planned, gated community outside of town. It's 15-30 minutes to drive to the Embassy, depending on traffic and road construction; 10-15 minutes to get to downtown shops and restaurants. Embassy housing in this community consists almost exclusively of townhouses. There is a playground, a basketball court, and a pool in the community. This community is a 5-minute drive from a popular supermarket; there also are a couple of nice restaurants within a few minutes.

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

Your perception of whether or not there is a lot available will depend on where you're coming from. If you're coming straight from the U.S., you may be disappointed with the variety. If you're coming from a post in a developing country (as we were), this will feel just like the U.S. to you. Embassy employees can join the employee association and have access to an on-compound commissary that helps to fill in many gaps, and we can do bulk commissary orders as well. We have DPO shipping for embassy families, so Amazon is a good resource for filling in the gaps. Also, many things that are not available here are available in Skopje, Macedonia, less than 2 hours away with an easy border crossing.

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

There are no American restaurants available here. However, local restaurant options are good and inexpensive.

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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. The going rate is 5 Euro/hour.

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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?

Don't use them. Credit card fraud is rampant.

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

Chapel services on NATO bases for those who have access, Calvary Chapel, a local Evangelical church with English translation, a couple of Catholic or Orthodox churches with English translation, LDS.

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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 don't know any and I get along well.

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Transportation:

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

I have not used the local trains or buses. From all reports, the buses are safe, inexpensive, and predictable, once you figure out how to use them, which reportedly can be difficult. Taxis need to be called rather than waved down on the street. They are safe and affordable--approximately 5 Euro from housing on the outskirts of the city to the Embassy, or 4 Euro to downtown.

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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 is no quarantine and as Kosovo is not part of the EU, it's pretty easy to bring pets in. However, some pet shipping companies will not ship them directly here because they do not have a relationship with anyone on the ground here; we were quoted a very high price to fly our two cats into a neighboring country and drive them here. We were able to bring them in as accompanied baggage instead. There are several vets available, with varying levels of ability. I have no experience with kennels.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is not a good post for those who require specialized medical care. Even for rather routine specializations, most people choose to travel to Skopje, Macedonia (less than 2 hours away), to receive care. Expats who develop more serious health problems while here routinely travel to Thessaloniki, Greece (I think 3 or 4 hours away), for treatment. Local options are available but not particularly recommended.

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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?

Air quality is pretty good most of the time--but I live just outside the city, away from the worst of it. Those who live downtown say that air quality in the winter can be a problem, but it's nowhere near as bad as some other posts.

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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?

I enjoy the climate here, but that's because I enjoy winter and I've been without it at our two previous posts. If you don't like cold weather or snow, you won't enjoy the winters here. Summers are a bit warm but not horribly hot.

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Expat Life:

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

This is a good city for singles and couples--for a long time, post was limited to families without children. Since post was opened to families with children, the embassy culture has changed so that it is VERY welcoming to children. There are several indoor play areas and outdoor parks in the city. Nannies are readily available. The only potential problem is the quality of educational options, but as my child is not yet school age, I have no experience with schools and will leave further comments to those who do have such experience.

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

This is a great jumping off point for touring the Balkans. The people here are friendly and, for the most part, love America and Americans. It's a good place to save money (though that would be limited if you take full advantage of the opportunity to tour the Balkans!).

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3. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, absolutely.

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Pristina, Kosovo 04/30/13

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?

Washington, DC to Pristina was 9 hours flying time with short layover in Vienna, Austria.

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3. How long have you lived here?

July 2010 to June 2012.

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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?

Balkan homes typically were built for three-generations of family to live together. For rentals, landlords typically split the homes into three separate apartments. Interiors could have a small flight of stairs with several steps between the general living/dining/kitchen level and the bedroom level. No walk-in closets. You will need armoires.

A developer opened an "International" housing community a bit outside of town. Hearsay: it's good.

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

Same as Washington, DC. You can get pretty much anything you need. We mail ordered for quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes (without salt), pine nuts, dried cranberries, and any special American stuff. Just a sign of the salt: after you buy your first package of salt at the grocery store on arrival, you will never need to buy it again. It is about a one-pound box.

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

Many, many restaurants. Mostly Italian food, seafood, pizza, and Turkish food. There is only one Chinese place and one Irish pub. Street food is burek (stuffed pastry with spinach, beef, or cheese fillings). If you have a sodium-restricted diet, I recommend you cook at home. If you order a grilled trout, for example, it will be salt-encrusted. There are bakeries on every corner selling heavenly-smelling fresh, white Albanian-style bread in small and large rounds. If you want heartier bread, a PanExpert (German chain) has opened one location downtown.

If you like to eat pork (and they serve huge servings of it) go to Gracanica, the Serbian neighborhood about 20 minutes' drive outside town. They don't speak much English over there, so having the Serbian phrases would be helpful there, too. The Albanian population is nominally Muslim, so pork is not usually available at restaurants or grocers. Usually what you find is some dried pork imported from Croatia.

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

Some flies, as I recall.

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Daily Life:

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

We used DPO, but I did make an order for something from Austria, and it was shipped using our street address.

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

High unemployment. Lots of people available for 5 euros per hour.

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

Yes.

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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?

Use cash. Get it from a Raffeisen ATM.

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

Yes, Catholic and Protestant.

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

The local tv service had a few English channels but with tv programming that was from the 80s and 90s.

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

You could get around without Albanian, but it definitely helps for comfort level. I suggest at least knowing the phrases in the back of the Lonely Planet guide. They will love you even more! I suggest starting with the Pimsleur CD set for Albanian. Borrow it from your local library.

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

Many troubles. I would not recommend this post for someone using a wheelchair or power chair. Walking without any disability can be hazardous to your health, due to cars parked on sidewalks or uneven pavements. The Med Unit told us that foot and leg injuries were the most common, and there is the occasional wrist injury when someone tries to brace their fall. Before leaving the country, I did notice an effort to make some curb cuts downtown, but not in any organized fashion.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis were safe and cheap. 3 euros to downtown. 10 euros to Gracanica.
Buses are super cheap but are not recommended due to safety and comfort issues. 30 euro cents from downtown to Germia park.
Hearsay: the train from Pristina to Skopje is worthwhile, if a bit rustic, and is only once-a-day. For other tourism, drive.

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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?

Our regular sedan coupe was fine, but it did need new suspension parts after a year. We mail-ordered the parts through the DPO and had a local mechanic do the job. It was all fine. Mostly German-manufactured autos on the road driven by locals, but expats brought a lot of Japanese cars, particularly a lot of Toyota Rav4s, which did well. I would not rely on a local service provider if the car was newer with lots of computer operations. They know the old-fashioned way, mostly. I did notice a Honda dealer in Skopje, about an hour south of Pristina.

Driving around town can be crazy due to driver behavior. I was glad we took an old car, so a few scuffs did not bother us. It is also very dusty and dirty there due to the dry climate. Fortunately, car washes are only about 5 Euro, and you can sit in a cafe and have a 50-cent macchiato while you watch and wait.

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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 can't remember the cost exactly, but it was not a deal-breaker.

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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?

At the time of our stay, the telecom service in Kosovo was limited in that if we drove over the border to Serbia, it would not work. So we needed to buy SIM cards from the VIP company in Serbia. Otherwise, the SIM cards we got in Kosovo would work in all other bordering countries, but with roaming.

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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)?

More vets are opening. Lots of stray dogs and cats. A new NGO formed during our tour which was attempting to encourage spay/neuter instead of the local government's program of two nights of shooting a year.

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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?

With multinationals.

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

Work: Professional for professional office, political, public affairs, jobs.
Young people: casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Thefts occur. Do not leave items inside the car in plain view. A thief will smash a window to get a watch and some change.

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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?

Dentistry is okay locally. I think the one dentist that everyone went to was trained either in the U.S. or in Germany, but he spoke English fluently.

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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?

Germia Park is known as "the lungs of the city" since the air quality in town can be poor due to the burning of soft lignite coal for both power generation and heat. Downtown Pristina is surrounded by hills, making the air feel like it is stuck in the bowl of the city, so a hike in the outskirts is a pleasant relief, especially in winter when residences also burn lignite and wood in their home fireplaces. If you have allergies or asthma, the air quality may make it worse, or you may need to change meds/inhalers.

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

The air is very dry, year-round. Drink lots of water, especially with all that coffee. It's like Arizona dry. It is dusty in the summer. Winters are cold. Our first winter had no snow, but in the second winter the first snow was in October. Then in January, we got dumped on straight through March. The highest accumulation was about a foot at a time. Road-clearing equipment is generally not available generally so the snow just piles up and gets compacted by driving. Take your Yak-trax or other crampons for your winter boots, since the compacted snow piles can become icy.

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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, but not yet to U.S. standards.
American School of Kosova is private, owned by Albanians, run by Albanians and Canadians, but with many American teachers.
Pristina High School - not-for-profit. Many American teachers.
International Learning Group - not-for-profit. Many American teachers.

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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?

Large with the Bilateral Missions from many countries, and several multinational missions. Plus all the school teachers.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. People stay a long time and people return.

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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?

Clubs, music, bars.

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

Yes. We are a couple with no children, but singles found plenty of nightlife, and families seemed to be enjoying it as well.

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

It depends. There is a growing awareness among the local culture and some acceptance, but there is a large negative cultural bias. There was a recent violent demonstration when Kosovo 2.0 magazine launched one of its quarterly issues addressing the concerns of the LGBT community.

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

Hearsay only: I have heard that a couple of colleagues of Asian-American and African-American descent were not comfortable.

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

Things continue to change and improve in Kosovo all the time. The people of Kosovo are very friendly and the Albanian majority especially express affection for Americans. As an example, the city arranges a large July 4th celebration each year on the main walking avenue (the avenue is named for Nene Tereza = Mother Theresa).

The population is young, average under 30. The Universities seem crowded. Unemployment is around 40% and café culture is strong. You will see many people hanging out for hours at cafés nursing a 50 eurocent macchiato. Otherwise, groceries are about the same price as we see in Washington, DC. Nearly everything is imported as the agricultural sector still needs some work. They cannot produce enough to feed themselves and they are resistant to co-ops to make the best economies of the land.

One of the best things about living in Pristina was how close it was to visiting other places in the Balkans. A drive to the border takes around an hour and can be unsafe in the dark due to vehicles without lights and people dressed in black walking along the highway, so we planned always to return in daylight. Even with that limitation, we drove around and saw a lot in just 2 years - Macedonia (wine tours!), Greece (Thessaloniki, Meteora, Chalikidiki), Montenegro (Tara Canyon, Perast), Serbia (Belgrade, Novi Sad), Croatia (Dalmatian Coast, Zagreb), Bosnia-Hercegovina (Sarajevo), Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria.

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

Germia park, eating out, travelling to cultural/historical landmarks in Kosovo, travelling to Kosovo's neighboring countries and especially the Adriatic coast!

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

Donations when you visit the Ethnological Museum, private donations to the Kosovo Ballet so they can afford new shoes. They are severely under paid and under supported, in general.

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

I went in setting my expectations at the lowest level. That way, whatever the post-conflict region had to offer would be a pleasant surprise. Our mission considered it a hardship post. It was not that hard, really. There were a lot of good restaurants, and a new big grocery store opened up outside of town, but there was a small market on every other block for the essentials. The hardship is in the air quality and in getting around on foot and by car. For a good bike experience, I recommend first driving to better roads outside of town.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of wonder and surprise for all things different and all that the Balkans have gone through. It is Europe, yes, but it's not the Western Europe of the tourbooks.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

BBC Documentary based on Little & Silber's book. Find it on Youtube.

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









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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Pristina, Kosovo 09/21/12

Background:

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

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

Overnight flights from U.S. east coast to Vienna, then 90 minutes to Pristina.

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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 was affiliated with the U.S. Government and lived in Pristina from 2009 to 2011, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments, mostly without yards. All within walking distance to the Embassy and a slightly long-ish walk to the city center (or a very quick taxi ride).

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

Decent for both. Produce is mostly seasonal and delicious. You can get slightly more expensive produce out-of-season. Several European brands of cleaning supplies, etc. are 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?

There are no internationally known fast food franchises, but lots of fast food is available from small vendors. There are more decent restaurants than you'd expect, due to the large international presence.

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

I don't recall any major problems. Houseflys, ants, mosquitoes as expected, but no huge roach or other issues.

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Daily Life:

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

The Embassy has DPO service. International mail is best done via DHL or the like.

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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 - pricing varies by frequency of service and whether you require an English speaker or are okay with Albanian, Serbian or Gorani.

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

The U.S. Embassy has a decent on-site gym. There were a couple of small gyms in the city that non-USG expats used and seemed to be pleased with.

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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 used both and never had too much trouble, although the availability of ATMs was limited.

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

Yes, I know Christian services were held, but am unsure of exact denomination.

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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 courtesies are always appreciated, but many people get by on English.

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

Many. Nothing is wheelchair accessible, including the USG facilities.

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Transportation:

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

Yes to all, though the buses are not really that convenient. The taxis were so cheap I never used the bus.

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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?

Streets are narrow, so a big SUV is definitely out. A sedan is fine for 90% of what you will do. If you want to get out into the really rural areas, something with higher ground clearance is good. RAV-4 and Outbacks were popular. Parking is a hassle in the city.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, you can get wired or wi-fi at home for a reasonable price. Service is pretty good.

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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?

Service is good and not too pricey.

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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)?

I'm told there is at least one decent vet. There are lots of feral dogs and cats wandering around.

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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?

Definitely.

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

Business dress is the norm for office attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are still sporadic episodes of ethnic unrest but it's calmed down a lot. No major concerns on street crime, although a friend's apartment was broken into when he was at work and his computer/tv stolen.

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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?

Anyone with respiratory issues would be miserable in the winters.

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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 in winter. Lignite coal is the main fuel used, and the smell and pollution are very bad. It's much better in summer.

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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?

Continental. Four seasons, with snow in winter. Most streets are not plowed, so you should bring tire chains...and YakTrax for your boots --- the cobblestones get very slippery.

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Schools & Children:

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

None available at the time, though I hear that's changing.

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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?

Large.

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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?

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3. Morale among expats:

Decent, though in winter it goes downhill b/c of the pollution.

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

Probably better for couples than singles - most of the singles had a difficult time trying to date locally. But still plenty of stuff to do, though nightlife options are limited.

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

Kosovars are still homophobic, but there is a large international community so the gay community seemed to be OK.

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

Yes, still some problems with race issues. A little bit with gender too.

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

Visiting some of the Serbian Orthodox monasteries - they are beautiful.

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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?

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

The Albanian majority Kosovars genuinely love Americans and are very welcoming. The ethnic Serb population is a little less pleased but still very welcoming. Summers are very pleasant, and there are many outdoor activities, including hiking. There isn't a lot to do or see culturally, but it's also easy to get to Greece adn Macedonia by car for a weekend, and by air to many other European destinations.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it was definitely worthwhile, and I felt like I was making a difference. But I was definitely ready to leave.

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

Yard stuff.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, board games, snow tires and boots.

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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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