Beirut, Lebanon Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon 05/12/19

Background:

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

I have many prior USG and other expat experiences before coming here.

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

Flights back to the U.S. run 14+ hours. Layovers and rest stops are common in Paris, London, and a few other European cities.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Less than a year.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is much smaller than other posts, although generally all of the apartments are completely adequate. About half have a spare bedroom and the other half don't. Storage can be nearly non-existent in some apartments. There are also quite a few where the kitchens and bathrooms might remind you of your first college dorm.

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

There's a grocery store nearby that is accessible on the shuttle. Produce is cheap, but has to be disinfected and the overall quality is much lower than what you would expect in the US. Many of the fruits and veggies seem to be rotting on the shelf. Spice selection is good, although there are probably a few that you won't be able to find. Beer selection is small. Local beers run about $1/beer, whereas imports can cost $3-4. There's a fairly large wine and liquor selection, all at reasonable prices.

The selection of frozen fruits and veggies is much smaller than what you would find in American grocery stores. Frozen pizzas and other pre-made meals are much more expensive and lower quality than what you would expect to find. Household supplies are ample and prices aren't that different from the States.

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

Most embassy people eat at the restaurant on compound, which is open from 0700-2030. Prices are quite cheap and the quality is decent. Motorpool will do food pickup from nearby restaurants.

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

There are snakes, spiders, and scorpions on compound, but there aren't many stories of them actually becoming a nuisance.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch only post.

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

Running rate for cleaning every week is US$50/week. There is one cleaner who has started recently who charges US$20/week, but she is pretty much fully booked up.

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

Almost everyone uses the on compound gym. It has all of the basics that you would need, but isn't too fancy. There's a gym nearby on the shuttle that a small group use.

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

Credit cards are widely accepted and everywhere will also take USD at the fixed exchange rate.

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

There are churches nearby that a few people go to.

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

Arabic is really not needed for day-to-day life. Nearly everyone speaks English at a good level. Post offers language classes for free.

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

Beirut is full of hills and steps, especially on the compound. It would not be suitable for someone with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

All of these transit options are off limits for USG personnel.

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

No cars allowed.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is very low quality and expensive. A 100 GB plan with spotty service, capped at a max DL speed of 5 mbps is US$70/month. Those who need higher speed or more reliable connections can get a LTE hotspot that costs US$110/month for 60 GB of data.

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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?

Nearly everyone just uses their issued phone.

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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?

A few people have pets and it sounds like there are a few veterinarians 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?

Spouses are restricted to working on compound. The time difference and spotty internet would make it hard to telecommute.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Due to movement restrictions, it would be hard to regularly volunteer except for one off special events.

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

Standard embassy dress. Some sections where suits, most are business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Beirut is a critical threat location and has restrictions that correspond to that. Most people find life here to be very hard and frustrating due to the restrictions.

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

I've been told medical care is completely adequate here. Anything requiring more than an overnight stay in the hospital would result in a medevac.

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

Air quality has some bad days. Officially I believe it's around twice as bad as New York as a reference point. Most of the time it is fine and clear, but there are days where you can barely see the city due to all of the pollution.

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

Relatively, Beirut isn't too bad for these considerations.

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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)?

The isolation and restrictions can be very pressing on mental health. Curtailments are not that rare.

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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?

Cool and rainy winters, hot summers. Overall it's colder than most people expect.

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Schools & Children:

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

Children cannot come to post.

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

N/A

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

N/A

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

N/A

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Expat Life:

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

There's a decent expat community, but it's much smaller than I expected. There are neighborhoods in Beirut and in nearby cities where there are tons of bars that naturally attract lots of expats. The embassy's location outside of the city and the movement restrictions make it hard to make friendships outside of the compound.

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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?

Due to our location and movement restrictions, most people do not have many, if any, friends off-compound.

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

The movement restrictions make it very hard to date, but a few determined people have managed to make it happen with some degree of success. There seem to be enough job opportunities for spouses, although an unemployed spouse here would probably be extremely unhappy.

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

I've heard there are a couple of gay bars and clubs, but the overall attitude towards LGBT people is not that welcoming.

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

It would probably be very easy if not for the restrictions.

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

The sectarian divide weighs heavily on Lebanon, but it shouldn't impact expats on a day-to-day basis.

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

The movement restrictions make it hard to enjoy most of the great things Lebanon has to offer.

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

Prices here are generally moderately to much higher compared to in the U.S., so it is not very appealing as a shopping post.

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

Until it disappears, the hardship and danger pay.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Save up some leave beforehand so you can escape while you're here.

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

Most people at the mission in Beirut did not voluntarily move here.

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

Sense of enjoyment for life.

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Beirut, Lebanon 07/11/16

Background:

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

No, this is my second post. First post was a country where families were not allowed to accompany.

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2. How long have you lived here?

A couple of years.

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

Spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

An apartment with a generator that runs 24/7 because the electricity is cut off throughout the day and night. Yes, it's 2016 but most apartments (no houses) have generators where you are allowed a certain amount of amps, I had 30amps but I knew Lebanese locals who got by with FIVE! Get used to keeping a running track of which appliances are turned on and don't be surprised when you go to blow dry your hair and you blow a fuse. Bring flashlights, my favorite is the one you can buy off eBay for $2 from China that doesn't need batteries.


Commute to certain areas may be 25-30 minutes to go 12 miles.

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

If you aren't living on a budget you probably won't care that most American household items sold at Spinney's (American style grocery store WITH American items) are double to triple the price depending on what you are buying. I am a foodie and cooking is my hobby. You can buy pretty much anything you can think of from Spinney's, with that said, please make note that you may see Tampons, Doritos, or Fritos, and then BAM! all of a sudden they will disappear for three months- keep a stockpile.


Items available at Spinney's:


-Philadelphia Cream Cheese (also cheaper cream cheeses available such as "Puck" which is not bad and about US$3)

-Bagels (from America and when they are about to expire they go on sale and have a sticker with the new price)

-Oscar Meyer Bacon (also goes on sale when about to expire) Thick cut, maple, center cut, etc.

-Root Beer (cans)

-Cool Whip

-Activia

-Baking supplies (McCormick items available)

-Boxed baking mixes

-Sour Cream

-Tostito's Salsa/Queso dip in a jar

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

-Tampons! The size and style you need may not be available, for example, at Spinneys they have regular or heavy flow, never seen light available. OUCH!

-Bring any clothing you think you may need, clothing/shoes are expensive here and quality is compromising

-Gifts, Toys, bring what you can, you will pay triple here

-Cereal (American cereal is about US$8 per box)

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

Restaurants are everywhere and have pretty good quality. There are wonderful Lebanese restaurants, sushi, Italian, and some American restaurants that are similar to Applebee's.

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

No malaria, no dengue, no yellow fever, this is one nice thing about living here.

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Daily Life:

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

As U2 would say, this is a place where the, "streets have no name." Do not expect to mail anything from here, and if someone sense you something you'll pay a lot at customs. DHL is available if you're desperate but I have no idea what it would cost...

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

Domestic help is priced based on the race of the person. Filipinos are the most expensive because they speak English, Bengali are usually the cheapest at US$5. Domestic workers are taken everywhere: grocery stores to push the cart, church to watch the kids, birthday parties to watch kids, out to eat to watch the kids, pretty much everywhere and they sit in the back of the car. From what I have seen, they are not treated very well in general.

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

Saint George USG (Roman Catholic) has an English mass on Sundays. The priest is American, and 95% of the parishioners are Filipino and welcoming.

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

People told me that the Lebanese speak English, but I found this only to be true for highly educated Lebanese, and the younger generation(s). Hair stylists, taxi drivers, and some waiters will speak English. Hair cuts are cheaper here, but I've found the stylists here do NOT listen to what you want, they do what they want and what they think will look good.

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

YES! It's difficult for someone without physical disabilities. You can absolutely not come if you have physical limitations. There are NO side walks and the whole country is hilly. I've actually never seen a person in a wheelchair here...

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Transportation:

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

Call a taxi, don't hail one.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Do some Google searching to find out how terrible the internet speed is. Different suburbs are better/worse than others. Internet in Lebanon is very expensive for poor quality.

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

Bring your own unlocked smartphone.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

A lot of expatriate spouses work at NGO's or for charitable organizations. Teaching jobs are also common. The internet is so bad here it would be hard to take online classes or telecommute. Lebanese pay scales are extremely low, I know a Lebanese lawyer (received her Master's Degree from the U.S.) and she probably makes US$ 30-40K.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of opportunities to work with Syrian refugees.

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

It's so funny when I go home and people ask me if I wear a hijab or a burka when I'm in Lebanon, and they are shocked when I tell them it's the exact opposite! This is the place to go if you are a fan of leopard print, 4-5 inch heels, cleavage, lots of makeup, lots of perfume, and mini skirts. The more, the better here!

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Health & Safety:

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

Do all of the necessary reading that you can, know where to go, where not to go.

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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?

Bring any favorite medicines that you have because they wont be available here (Sudafed, Claritin, Tylenol, Aleve, Zantac, Midol, etc.)

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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?

Google "lebanon air quality" the further up you are from the city the better the air will be, but it's getting worse each year. Even people who live in Broumanna can see the pollution rising up.

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

Many gluten-free and whole grain items are available at Spinney's, slightly pricey, but available.

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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)?

If you live in a compound and aren't able to leave at your own will, I would advise to bring some happy pills with you.

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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?

December-March it is rainy, cloudy, and about 50-62F. It is unbearably hot in August, all of your amps for electricity will be used for your air conditioning.

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Expat Life:

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

Small, no comment on morale.

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

Homosexuality is illegal. It's more of a "don't ask, don't tell" society. I've been told you would probably get around six months in prison if prosecuted, but I've never heard of that actually happening.

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

Lebanon is about 30% Christian. The rest are Muslim or Druze. Lebanese in their 20's-30's understand more about gender equality than the baby boomer generation.

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

Jeitta Grotto is neat.

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

See above ^

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

No, there's is nothing locally made that you will want to buy.

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

Being thankful for the city where you came from.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That English is not as well spoken as I thought it would be. I wish I had known more about the culture.

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

No. The lack of sidewalks and not being able to simply WALK outside is frustrating and depressing. The lack of clean air and green space is also a shame. The culture of showing off and extreme materialism gets old and is not one I would encourage a child to be raised in. Do not be surprised if someone here tells you that you: have gotten fat, you're too skinny, you look tired, your eyebrows are too far apart, your hair should look another way, etc. I thought Lebanese were like Italians, very welcoming, warm and friendly, this was a disappointment.

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

Kids.

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4. But don't forget your:

Brand-name clothes, cologne/perfume, gifts for kids or adults, books/DVDs, VPN account set up before you come, Shellac nail supplies to give you something to master and do while you're bored, anything else you think you might help keep you from being bored if you aren't able to leave your compound.

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

Caramel (movie)

Falafel (movie)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is an "open minded" country, you can wear (or not wear!) whatever you want. You will dress more modestly in the U.S. than here! Alcohol is available everywhere. But, Beirut is not the "Paris of the Middle East" anymore, those days are long gone.



People here like you because of what you can give them or do for them, keep a wall up for awhile until you really get to know them.



Driving here is insane, cars do not go through yearly inspections honestly (borrowing parts from their brother so they pass) be happy and thankful to have a big black shiny armored vehicle to drive you around.

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Beirut, Lebanon 02/13/15

Background:

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

It was my second, after London, England.

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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?

14-15 hours to fly to Toronto, a bit longer to go elsewhere in Canada. There are no direct flights to Canada or the USA, so I always connected through a European city, though sometimes connecting through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt was cheaper.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I was in Beirut for two years from 2012-2014.

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

Worked at Canadian 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?

Other than Americans, who live on compound, diplomats and expats tend to live throughout the city, primarily in wealthier neighbourhoods. My commute time was about 20 minutes driving.

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

You can find almost everything and at a reasonable price. There are imported goods that are more expensive if you're concerned about having the same brands as back at home.

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

Nothing. I found everything I needed there.

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

McDonald's, Hardees, Pinkberry, KFC, Starbucks, Second Cup, Caribou Coffee, Burger King: all at prices similar or slightly higher than would be expected in North America.
There are also a number of local chains that have similar food that are just as good and often a bit cheaper.

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

I paid someone US$33 for a eight hour shift to clean my apartment once a week. There is lots of domestic help available.

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

Yes, but mothly fees are often in excess of US$100 per month.

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

I never had any problems though I have heard reports of some scams.

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

There is an Anglican church with an English service. There may be others that I am unaware of.

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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?

Arabic helps, but I was able to get by with French and English. Some of my friends who taught at the American University of Beirut got by with only English. It is easy to pick up some basic Arabic phrases to help with conversation.

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

Getting around in the city would be quite difficult: most buildings and sidewalks are not constructed with wheelchair or limited mobility in mind.

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Transportation:

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

Generally, they are both safe and affordable, but some taxi drivers will try to overcharge foreigners. At the beginning, it is better to use a reputable taxi service that you call and book in advance. As you become more comfortable with the routes you take and the way the local taxi and shared van system works, it may be possible to start to use them.

The shared vans are very cheap, but they are not always very safe as the drivers careen from one side of the highway to the other trying to pick up and drop off passengers quickly - there are occasional accidents and infrequent casualties from this system.

There are no trains that operate.

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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?

Lebanese roads are not always well maintained and driving is quite chaotic. Having parts replaced is not a problem.

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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. Speeds is not as fast as in North American or Western Europe, and the cost is about US$50/month.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are some, but not many.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Certain areas of Beirut are no-go zones due to political concerns and occasional targeted attacks or car bombings. At times, problems occur outside of these areas as well. The general security situation is often tense.
My colleagues at the American Embassy had a much stricter security program and lived on compound with only occasionally opportunities to leave. No other Embassy has such strict restrictions.

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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?

It is good. Once or twice a year there would be lots of sand or dust in the air but after a day or two this would pass.

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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?

There is some snow in the winter at sea level and much more snow at higher altitudes. In the winter you can go skiing or snowboarding at Faraya. For the rest of the year temperatures are quite warm but pleasant. It can get quite hot in the summer, but the beaches are a nice place to cool down.

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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 size is quite large. The morale is generally positive, though it depends on the security and political situation and does become negative at times.

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

For families with small children, the lack of green space in the city may be frustrating -- there are only a few parks and they are often far away and without parking nearby.
For singles and couples, this is an excellent city with a vibrant social scene: restaurants, clubs, outdoor activities (hiking groups, scuba diving, boating) are all easy to participate in if you speak French or English.

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

Yes. There is an emerging understanding among Lebanese of gay rights and organizations focused on improving rights for the LGBT population in Lebanon. There is an active gay social scene and some gay bars and clubs. That said, homosexuality is illegal and there have been occasional government actions including jailing queer refugees in clubs in particular. Westerners have not been targeted in these actions but it does demonstrate that things are far from what would be expected in a Western European or North American city.

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

Yes. People of colour are often presumed to be domestic or construction workers from another country, and mixed relationships (particularly black/white) are stigmatized by the Lebanese (particularly the more traditional or elderly Lebanese) -- until they discover you are from the "West" and then they tend to be more friendly.

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

Some of my favourite activities were:
- hiking with the group VAMOS TODOS on organized excursions around the city.
- going to the public beach in Tyr or to cheaper beach clubs in Batroun. (No need to pay US$20-$30 at Edde Sands)
- shopping at the farmers market organized by Souk el Tayeb.
- walking on the Corniche.
- having brunch at Tawlet Ammiq in the West Beka'a Valley

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

My favourite aspects of Beirut are the weather, the food, the diversity of landscapes and outdoor activities in such a small country, and the friendliness of Lebanese colleagues and friends.

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7. Can you save money?

Yes, it is possible to save money, but it is also possible to spend it all if you eat well and go out to clubs.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely. I really enjoyed my time in Beirut.

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Beirut, Lebanon 11/11/14

Background:

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

4th 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?

From Washington, D.C. frequent flights connect to Beirut via London, Paris, or Frankfurt with a total flight time at approximately 14-hours.

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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.)?

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?

The highest-ranking individuals on compound have decent housing. Everyone else is situated in modulars or apartments. If you have recently graduated from college and have been living in a dorm or a New York apartment, then you many find the housing to be generously apportioned. If you have been in the Foreign Service for some time or have previously owned a house, then you are likely to be disappointed. While the modulars are newer and generally larger, they suffer from the fact that they were never meant to be permanent structures: tiles rattle, water heaters explode, and walls melt. The apartments are older, mold-ridden, and smaller but have solid walls. The facilities department tries their best to patch together a 30-year old "temporary" compound. Though they do any amazing job and deserve high praise, things break faster than they can fix them. On a positive note, you will have a very short commute.

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

Most products available in the U.S. can be found in Beirut. Prices are comparable to Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, you can't always choose which grocery store you go to, and not all grocery stores are created equal.

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

Due to the pouch restrictions, if there are any liquids you must have (lotions, shampoo, etc.) be sure to ship them in your HHE. If you have a balcony, a grill is a wonderful accessory for weekends on compound (facilities will kindly fix the adapter for the propane connection). Gourmands should bring any unique spices (chiles, etc.) that may be difficult to find. If you are blessed with a hobby that you can do at home, be sure to ship your materials.

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

The Lebanese food is simply amazingly incomparable to anything I have had in the U.S.! Beirut is an international city, so you can also find French, Italian, and Indian. Additionally, there is every heart-attack inducing U.S. fast food chain imaginable: McDonald's, Burger King, Hardees, Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery, KFC, P.F. Chang's, etc. Prices range from ridiculously cheap to horrendously expensive depending on the venue. Since opportunities to get out are so limited, there is a tendency to splurge and indulge when you have the chance.

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

Thankfully, most insects are benign if not disturbing. The compound is plagued by strange black millipedes, odoriferous when quashed, which wend their way into your apartment and onto your furniture; large tarantula-like brown spiders, which feature prominently in many a compound tale, usually set in the bathroom; and in some apartments cockroaches, which spray from the air conditioning vents. Now snakes, there's a problem!

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Daily Life:

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

Currently, Beirut is a pouch-only post with the attendant restrictions on liquids (less than 16-ounces). Washington, D.C. is enforcing these rules more and more stringently (even canned pumpkin has been rejected). The time to receive items varies from 2-6 weeks as the pouched is shipped on a space available basis. Be prepared for long waits during the Christmas season. BRASS sells postage for outbound mail, though sending items out can be challenging.

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

The maid mafia will hit you up soon after your arrival. The cost is comparable to the U.S. (US$50) per cleaning, though they work hard and do a good job.

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

There is a gym on compound, which is well equipped, free, and generally uncrowded. It is a wonderful reprieve from the long days at work, and provides a healthy means to reduce stress. There is an amazing personal trainer on compound with prices comparable to the U.S. (~US$50/session). In addition, the Beirut Recreational Association (BRASS) offers evening classes in yoga, Zumba, cross fit, and boxing. There is a pool on compound, which is open during the summer. If you have been planning to get into shape, then Beirut is a great place to do it.

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

There is an ATM on compound. I wouldn't recommend using ATMs within the city. Credit cards generally work, and you often have the choice to pay in U.S. dollars, which saves on foreign transaction fees. Every so often credit cards inexplicably stop working so be sure to carry cash. Most businesses accept either Lebanese or U.S. currency.

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

Many services are available, and moves to religious services do not count against your personal move (another source of contention in the community). Do not count on being able to attend the same service at the same location every week.

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

Sadly none. First, you will not have many opportunities to interact with locals. Secondly, most Beiruties speak 2-3 languages. Post has a language program, which offers both French and Arabic. Though space is limited, it is well worth the investment, if only to interact with the amazing instructors.

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

The seemingly infinite stairs, barriers, and hills make the compound difficult to negotiate even for the able-bodied.

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Transportation:

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

no self drive allowed 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?

BRASS offers two home WiMax Internet plans: a 1Mbs connection with 7 GB of date for ~US$40 or a 2 Mbs connection with 12 GB of data for ~US$60. In practice, you will never realize those speeds and your ability to stream video, Skype, and download movies will be fraught with frustration and despair. A number of people have sought alternative solutions on the local economy, which utilize the 4g cell phone network and have proven to be faster, more reliable though more expensive. In any case, the Internet in Lebanon is well below the U.S. standard so keep your expectations low and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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

The Embassy issues phones to both direct-hires and EFMs. If you have a personal smart phone, MTC and Alpha are the big phone companies. You can generally find SIM cards in the stores in the mall.

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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 requirement for quarantine, and you can find quality vet care, though this will count as a move and your dog will have to be crated in the vehicle. Aside from moves to the vet, your pet is not allowed to join you on personal moves, so they too will be restricted to the compound, which is tougher on the larger breeds than the small ones. During the last draw down, evacuees were not able to bring their pets along with them. With the security situation as it is, consider long and hard whether you would be willing to leave your pet behind.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

If you could find a job that allows you to maybe show up to work on an irregular schedule at a different location for 6-hours a week subject to resources and every-changing restrictions, then sure!

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The PD and USAID typically advertise volunteer opportunities in the community, which are rewarding and affirming.

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

If you have representational duties and engage with your Lebanese counterparts, then dress is professional. Other sections are business casual. Outside of work, the Lebanese dress to impress, so pretty much anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Yes. and Yes. There is a long history of terrorism against USG personnel in Lebanon. The RSO is in the impossible position of maintaining complete security in an inherently insecure environment with finite resources: an unenviable situation, which understandably results in a highly risk-adverse restrictive security posture. As a result, personal moves are limited to one per person per week subject to cancellation. As in any situation in which there is a scarcity of resources, this leads to competition for moves. You can invite other people on your move, which naturally lends itself to the creation of cliques. If someone invites you on their move, in turn you are indebted a move to them, resulting in a reciprocal relationship of "move lending," which doesn't easily allow for the newcomer to "break in" easily. Similarly the economy of moves creates "move envy" as any group grieves the ability of another group's access to moves as well as "move jacking" when others hijack your move, populate it with their friends and itinerary.

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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?

As one health practitioner stated, we live in a dirty, dirty environment. Since the compound is small, old, and generally overcrowded, it provides the ideal conditions for the cultivation and spread of disease. Flu, upper respiratory problems, and stomach ailments rage through the compound in two-three month increments like California wildfires. The water quality on compound is highly questionable as it ranges from outright brown to foul smelling. Sometimes you wonder if you are doing more harm than good by taking a shower. The medical care in greater Beirut is fantastic as most doctors are trained and educated in either France or the U.S. Some people are able to eat the local food with no problems, while others suffer chronically from intestinal maladies.

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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?

Overall--good. In spring, there will be the occasional storms which bring thin particulate sand that works its way into your lungs and your house. Many of the residences are infested with mold that causes respiratory ailments.

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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?

Poised on the Mediterranean, Beirut generally has mild winters and warm summers, though summers can be stiflingly humid. Though it never gets cold, the winters are as volatile as the political landscape with weather ranging from lighting storms to mild sunshine (sometimes within the same hour).

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Schools & Children:

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

Beirut is a partially unaccompanied post so children are not allowed.

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Expat Life:

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

According to a recent survey, morale at post is generally abysmal with a few notable exceptions. With the events in Syria and closure of the Embassy in Damascus, every section in the Embassy has absorbed a tremendous amount of work. Due to the limited size of the compound, it is impossible to add positions; as a result, most sections are woefully understaffed. In general, expect to work 12-16 hour days, plus a day a weekend without the commensurate benefits of an AIP post. In theory you are afforded four Rest and Recuperation trips in the course of your 2-year tour, but with the workloads and staffing gaps, these are increasingly hard to schedule. The security restrictions add another dimension to the stress as planning a move takes a lot of time and effort, another reason why it is so disappointing when they are cancelled. Living and working together in such close quarters breeds antipathy beyond what one imagines they are capable of and creates awkward social situations (that colleague you just had an exchange with will invariably be on your grocery move that same night).

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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?

Be prepared to entertain at home. When moves get cancelled, people rally to host events in their houses. If you love to cook, then you will never be short on friends. If you are young and extraverted, you will love the compound community. Older and introverted people have a more challenging time integrating. Certain sections stick together.

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

Since opportunities to get off compound to interact with the Lebanese population are so limited, you are basically in a microcosm of Americana, which is generally quite tolerant of gay and lesbians.

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

There are a few long-standing sectarian issues in this part of the world from which you will be well insulated.

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

The unique constraints of living on a compound provide the occasion for friendships with people in sections and at grades with whom one would otherwise never interact. The local employees are smart, capable, generous, and friendly.

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

There are few secrets on compound but there are many fantastic things to explore in Lebanon. The National Museum has an excellent collection as does the Mouawad (the Sursock Museum is reportedly opening soon). You will likely go to Byblos more times than you can count, but it is always beautiful. Beiteddine Palace makes for a wonderful excursion as does Jeita Grotto and Our Lady of Lebanon (Harissa). There is excellent hiking in Tannourine, the Chouf, and Kadisha Valley. Downtown has wonderful galleries, shopping, as well as clubs and rooftop bars. If you have the opportunity Music Hall is a unique and wonderful experience. There are local wineries and wine tastings. In the summer, there are many beach clubs, which are more akin to bars in a pool. As you will soon discover, it isn't the dearth of activities that is so frustrating, but your inability to do most of them.

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

Not as many as you might think. The artisan and craft industry has been overtaken by the tourism and banking sectors, so unique traditional items are hard to find. Some of the local wines and food products are amazing, and a Syrian furniture dealer occasionally visits the compound. If you see something you like, buy it because you many never have another chance.

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

When you have the opportunity to get off compound, Lebanon is a staggeringly beautiful with something for everyone: swimming, skiing, museums, nightclubs, shopping, antiquities, and restaurants. Beirut is ideally situated for weekend getaways to Europe and the Middle East.

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9. Can you save money?

No. The COLA is not commensurate with the cost of living. You will spend your hardship pay on every opportunity to reduce stress and escape the compound with weekend travel, massages, and indulgent meals.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

They say that location is everything, and the Embassy is poised at a beautiful location overlooking the sea and sparkling downtown. Now I’m more persuaded that timing is everything. Two years ago when Lebanon was more stable and employees had guaranteed two moves a week with less of a workload, this would have been a manageable hardship. As the Syrian civil war has impacted Lebanon, Beirut has been transformed into a truly difficult hardship with restrictions commensurate with AIP posts without the attendant benefits.

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

Thoughts of exploring an amazing country, and hopes for professional development as you will be so overwhelmed with your daily workload that you will not have time or energy for other activities.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, forbearance, fortitude, professionalism, and dedication.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Lawrence Of Arabia (Restored Version),
West Beyrouth [Region 2],
Waltz with Bashir, and "Heritages" - Director Philippe Aractingi.

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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 Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel,
Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (Nation Books), and
From Beirut to Jerusalem.

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Beirut, Lebanon 04/08/14

Background:

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

This is not my first expat experience. I have lived in four other cities as a Foreign Service Officer.

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

My home base is California. From Beirut it takes me between 20-24 hours with connection through either Frankfurt, Paris, or London.

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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.)?

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?

On the Embassy compound, housing in comparison to other embassies is abysmal. You can expect high density, modular or apartment living with lots of mold and sewage smells. The water is bad (non-potable, smelly, ugly). The environment is damp. Maintenance tries its best but the buildings are either temporary (modular) or old and poorly constructed villas that have been cut up/remodeled into apartment units. The housing is mostly on a steep hillside so the commute to work is up several outdoor steep concrete stair cases which are fine in dry weather but can become treacherous in rainy weather.

One of the most wearing things about the compound is the constant noise - either from construction projects going on, from landscape machininery, from security forces drills. It has a very idyllic , peaceful appearance, but is in fact very loud, wearing and draining. Like living on top of a construction site 24/7. Power outages are commonplace and hard on all of your electronics, even with UPSs in place (some outages will outlast your UPSs)

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

Expensive. Everything is available here at D.C. prices plus about 15% or more.

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

One of the services provided in recognition of our inability to leave the compound is that the motorpool will go and pick up food from local restaurants. While it is a nice gesture, be prepared to gain weight. You will have access to McDonald's, Burger King, Dominoes, KFC, Lots of great Lebanese food, Chinese, Japanese, a restaurant and snack bar on compound, and not lots of opportunity for activities to burn it off.

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

Mosquitos, some small insects (cockroaches, ants), spiders, small lizards. Nothing spectacular.

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Daily Life:

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

We use diplomatic pouch to receive packages but cannot receive any liquids over 16 oz. and cannot send packages through the pouch. In order to send packages, we have to use a private service which is prohibitively expensive.

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

US$25-30/day.

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

The Embassy has a full on (free) gym which is used by lots of very big and burly men. At all hours. There are also activities on compound that the CLO sets up in case you want to do some activities with the same people that you are already working and living with. At this point, most of the activities are geared toward first/second tour officers who make up most of the population.

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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?

Every place takes both Lebanese Lira and U.S. dollars. There is an ATM on compound and bank cards will sometimes work out in town and sometimes not.

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

Several throughout town, Catholic and Orthodox.

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

Arabic or French would be helpful but not necessary.

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

Yes. Typical developing country infrastructure. Watch where you walk.

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Transportation:

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

Most of us are not allowed to self drive.

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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?

On compound, the Internet service is a constant thorn if you get the regular Internet service at about US$40/month. The only way to get dependable service is to upgrade to the 3G or 4G service and pay US$150 or more per month.

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

We are provided cell phones by the Embassy.

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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?

Pets are taken care of. Veterinary care is readily available and a vet can be easily accessed. Be sure that your pet has all of its shots.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Actually, there are some! Public Diplomacy occasionally recruits volunteers for events out in the community, although the 'move' is sure to count against you...

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

Most people are fairly casual, depending on the section.

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Health & Safety:

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

We are limited to a compound. So security is akin to a minimum security prison.

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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?

Although the water is treated, you are warned not to drink it or brush your teeth with it. We are in a closed compound, so illnesses tend to spread throughout the community rather easily. Food-borne illnesses are also rampant, especially during the summer.

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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?

Mostly good, but a few days a year, the smog hangs over the city and the air quality is poor.

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

Cool and rainy in the winter and uncomfortably hot and humid in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

This is a semi-unaccompanied post for U.S. Foreign Service officers. Only adult family members (spouses) are allowed

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Expat Life:

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

On compound, morale is horrible. People get close to the end of their tour and are counting down the days Because it is 100 or so people living and working in a small environment with several different layers, it has all of the worst aspects of high school. The gossip flourishes, the lack of leadership abounds, the backbiting is neverending, the cattiness, the backstabbing, on and on It's 18 acres of Peyton Place and as the demographic age gets younger, the similarity to high school gets stronger.

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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 not enough of an opportunity to explore the country. It is the only post I've been where it actually feels not at all like being in a foreign country so much as it feels like being in a prison. Most of the entertaining/social life is either getting together with people you live and work with or going out to eat with people you live and work with.

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

The beautiful scenery and the people.

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

Who knows. Embassy personnel are limited to one trip (maximum 6 hours) off-compound per week. This is in an armored vehicle with a driver and, depending on the locale, with body guard. Each trip, or "move" can include up to five people, so theoretically, you can include others on your move and others can include you, thereby increasing the number of times that you can get off compound. In addition, the Community Liaison Officer, or CLO, arranges moves to the grocery store (several per week) and various moves throughout the week/month for entertainment purposes as well as a weekly church move.

However, the use of excessive moves in any given time period WILL count against you and the warden can threaten to suspend your privileges if he feels that they are being abused. (A very subjective call which has no recourse) If you venture beyond the run of the mill venues (the malls, the grocery stores) you will have a body guard shadowing you, so you can forget about spontaneity and discovering any secret or hidden gems. Your trip itinerary will need to be submitted days in advance so no secrets there.

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

Syrian furniture is very nice and unique. It comes in all shapes and sizes from small jewelry boxes to large chests and benches, tables and chairs.

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

The scenery is beautiful and the Lebanese people are very open and warm.

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7. Can you save money?

It's difficult. Sometimes the only thing to look forward to is going out to dinner. Or buying a nice bottle of wine. When you are out for only a few hours a week, a weird thing happens and you want to cram a lot of living into a few hours. You end up over-eating and over-spending - wanting to splurge before you go back to your compound for another week. R&Rs out of here, even to neighboring countries are necessary for sanity. All flights out of Beirut are international flights. We are not allowed domestic travel in excess of 6 hours.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known that I was going to be kept a prisoner in such a beautiful country, taunted everyday by such a beautiful seascape.

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

Absolutely not. It is not at all like going to a foreign country. It is like being under the thumb of the U.S. State Department policy of the moment and whoever is gunning the hardest for the best EER. Run, run as fast as you can, as far as you can from U.S. Embassy Beirut. It is not worth any amount of danger pay.

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

Tourist spirit - you will be a prisoner, not a tourist if you are posted at the U.S. Embassy here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Reading material and indoor hobbies. You will be spending a lot of unproductive down time.

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Beirut, Lebanon 01/25/14

Background:

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

I worked and studied in Italy (Florence and Sassari) for three years.

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

I don't really have a home base but flights to the U.S. were generally through Europe (Frankfurt, London, Rome, France) or through the U.A.E depending on the airline. No direct flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

August 2010-July 2013.

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

I taught at an international school.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Foreigners tend to live in the neighborhoods of Hamra, Achrafieh, or increasingly Mar Mikhael. Though the city is small traffic can be terrible making a 10-minute drive take 45 minutes. Often you'd be better off taking a leisurely walk, though the Lebanese will certainly look at you funny for doing so.

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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 plenty of stores that have goods imported from the U.S. and elsewhere. Local brands are of course a cheaper option. Most stores don't stock items regularly - so if you see something you really like, stock up.

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

Subway, Burger King, McDonald's, KFC, etc. are all available at slightly higher prices than in the U.S. There are also Lebanese fast food options. Tons of choices for restarants from casual to upscale. Everything can be delivered in Beirut!

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

Nothing specific that I know of.

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Daily Life:

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

You don't. Sending packages is very unreliable and they may get stolen. Just as an anecdote: My first week in Lebanon I had some post cards to mail and as I was walking with a Lebanese friend, I stopped and dropped them in the yellow mail box. My friend looked at me with a shocked look and said, "What are you doing?" "Mailing some post cards," I said. "That works???" I think they eventually arrived to their destinations.

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

US$5-$7 per hour for cleaning. Many people get live-in help and it's quite affordable.

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

They are widely available but quite expensive. Many are more like health clubs and charge a premium. Prices can be around US$100 or more. I have seen some low key gyms for areound the US$50 range but they did not look appealing to me at all. A CrossFit gym just recently opened up in Kaslik. If you lived near there that would be an interesting option.

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

It's easy and safe. Only small mom and pop stores don't accept them.

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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?

Most people speak French and English in addition to Arabic. Lebanese Arabic is helpful for taxis, small shops, and certain neighborhoods.

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

I would imagine so! The sidewalks are used for parking, hanging out, storage, etc. They are often uneven and the curbs are of varying heights. It can be difficult to navigate a stroller so I can't imagine something like a wheelchair. Also, electricity goes out on a regular schedule making elevators inoperable.

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Transportation:

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

There is no good public transportation. There are reputable taxi companies you can use (I like Charlie Taxi) and there are also shared taxis called (service taxis) and mini buses. I often used service taxis with no problem at all. It takes a while to get used to them and to be confident enough to demand the correct price but once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad and really cheap.

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Phone & Internet:

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

You can get a pre-paid line or a fixed line (meaning you pay for usage at the end of the month). I started with pre-paid and later switched to fixed so I could have internet access. It's much more expensive that in the U.S. and there is no such thing as unlimited data or minutes.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

The pay isn't good in Lebanon but there are some opportunities particularly in journalism, magazines, etc.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I have heard of people volunteering in Palestinian camps or with migrant workers. There are many NGOs so I'm sure many more opportunities.

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

In public anything goes. You can see everything from mini skirts, low cut tops, and stilettos to a full covering. Dress for your own comfort level. In the work place it would depend on the particular business.

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Health & Safety:

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

Certainly there is always the threat of things like car bombs or an attack by the Southern neighbors but in my time living there, it wasn't too much of concern. I never felt personally unsafe, in fact the city is quite safe in terms of crime, theft, etc. That said, there have already been 4 car bombs in the first month of the year (2014) and tensions are rising due to the situation in Syria.

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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?

Good care available at hospital such as AUBMC.

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

I would say moderate. There aren't a lot of green spaces to take advantage of in the city.

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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?

Mediterranean climate. Long summer with great weather often into November. Rainy and cold in the winter. Very humid in summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

For English speaking programs, International College and the American Community School are the best. I did not hear good things about Wellspring. There are also several French language programs (IC being one of them). Both IC and ACS are good and I wouldn't say one is better than the other, they are just different. If you are in the market for an international school I would recommend checking them both out and talking to parents before deciding.

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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?

I know several young couples who had babies while living in Beirut and they were all able to find good daycares/preschools.

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Expat Life:

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

Decent size. Many expats are journalists or university students. I'd say the morale is mixed. Some people love Beirut and others find it quite challenging. I think it depends on where you are coming from and what your expectations are. Lack of greenspace/parks, etc seemed to be troublesome for many.

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

There are plenty of bars and restaurants, beach clubs (costly), wineries, snowshoeing/skiing, hiking. There are a lot of outdoors groups to help you get out of the city and into nature.

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

I would say it is good for all types of people.

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

I don't know that it is particularly good, but I did know gay people in Beirut.

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

Many Lebansese are prejudiced against people of color. If your are black or Asian you may be mistaken for household help. Most Lebanese families have domestic helpers from Sri Lanka, Ethipoia, Philipines, etc.

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

Skiing on a sunny day with no jacket, boating on the Mediterranean, exploring the vineyards, visiting the ruins at Baalbeck, living in Hamra, so much!

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

Mar Mikhael is an up and coming neighborhood and there are a lot of interesting shops and restaurants popping up. Tawlet is a restaurant with food from around Lebanon that is worth checking out. Don't wait until the end of your stay in Lebanon to try Armenian food like I did.

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

Living on the Mediterranean is great. The weather is generally favorable though quite humid in the summer. The people are very friendly and welcoming. The food is delicious. The country is small but there are many places to discover.

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9. Can you save money?

Beirut isn't particularly cheap so it depends on the job and pay.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat!

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2. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

West Beyrouth [Region 2]

Caramel

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


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Beirut, Lebanon 04/23/12

Background:

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

No - Costa Rica, Argentina, Honduras, France.

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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 - 20 hours (including layovers) through Frankfurt, London or Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years (April 2010 - now).

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

Husband's job.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

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

Equal to the States. Most things are available, but you'll pay a premium for imported food (e.g. a pint of Ben & Jerry's is about $10). Not everything imported is available all the time or at every grocery store (e.g. sometimes veggie burgers are available for 2 weeks and then you never see them again).

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

More toys and kids clothes. Things here are quite expensive, especially for the nicer quality or US/European brands.

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

A lot of the fast food restaurants from the States are here (McD's, Burger King, Hardee's, KFC) at the same price. And then there are a number of local fast food places. Plus falafel, schwarma, and manaouche everywhere (for super cheap).

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

Gluten-free food is available in all the major grocery stores.

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6. 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 don't. everything gets stopped at customs and charged, so it's easier to have visitors bring things over.

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

Very inexpensive ($5/hr for cleaning). US$400-$500/month for a live-in maid/nanny (although that doesn't include the agency fees or airline tickets). Most domestic help is from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, or West Africa.

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

Yes, but gyms are expensive for the most part.

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

Very easy. There are ATMs everywhere. Credit cards are accepted most places. Especially nice is that you can be charged in dollars on your credit card so that you don't have to pay a foreign exchange fee.

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

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

Yes.

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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?

Very little. Almost everybody speaks English or French.

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

I can't even imagine. It's a pain trying to get a stroller around the streets of Beirut. Cars park on every sidewalk; there are no curb ramps; etc.

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Transportation:

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

Very safe and very affordable. Buses cost about 80 cents (1250LL). Services (shared taxis) are 2000LL (just over a dollar), although sometimes as a foreigner, the driver will charge you "Service-sen" (2 service fees).

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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?

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, but it's fairly expensive and not that 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?

They are expensive! People use SMS and missed calls to avoid charges.

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Traffic -- there are no real rules of the road. But other than that, it is very safe. I feel safer walking at night than I do in DC. And there is practically no petty theft.

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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?

Most all the doctors trained in the US or Europe.

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

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

HOT in summer, cold & rainy in winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

Supposedly really good (ACS, IC, & Wellspring are the top ones in Beirut).

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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?

Lots of pre-schools taught in both in English and/or French. More difficult to find an Arabic-focused pre-school. Very affordable.

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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. Morale among expats:

Good. Although there doesn't seem to be a lot of good friendships between expats and locals, unless they are relatives.

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

Lots of bars, restaurants, clubs. A very "see and be seen" atmosphere. Some really good restaurants and a lot of overpriced ones (for the quality of the food).

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

Okay for families (there is a substantial lack of public green space, or green space in general). Great for singles and couples.

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

Yes.

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

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

Good quality of life - restaurants, bars, schools, etc.

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

Beach clubs in the summertime. Skiing in the winter.

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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?

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11. Can you save money?

Not as much as you would think. Dinners out run about $50-100 per couple. Movie tickets are about $7. Entrance to the beach clubs can be up to $25/person.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I think so.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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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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Beirut, Lebanon 09/17/10

Background:

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

Bruxelles, Harare, Santo Domingo, Mosul, Tunis.

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

From Washington it's about a 14-hour journey, connecting through one of the major European hubs (Heathrow, Frankfurt or Paris) because direct flights are still not allowed due to 30-year-old hijacking concerns.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year, 2009 to 2010.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The US Embassy houses everyone on the compound in either apartments, villas converted to multi-unit housing or two bedroom temporary trailers. Everyone has amazing apartments in the best neighborhoods in Beirut. Even people lower on the economic scale, such as freelance journalists, can find a Washington-quality apartment at a reasonable rent.

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

Everything is available, though odd shortages (three months without plain Cheerios for examples) do crop up with specific products. Local produce is extremely high quality and seasonal, and it costs half to a third of imported food. The local Whole Foods-lite and Safeway-esque places are priced at Washington levels.

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

If going as an American diplomat, bring things to keep one busy, because you will be restricted to the compound most of the time, i.e. books, DVDs, etc. Otherwise, travel light.

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

Anything and everything, at Washington - even New York - prices.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the diplomatic pouch, though LibanPost has a decent reputation.

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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 at prices ranging from 150 to 200 USD/month for weekly cleaning.

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

The embassy has its own well-equipped gym. In town there are gyms, tennis/squash clubs, both freestanding and in hotels.

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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 my credit card in nearly every restaurant. There are plentiful ATMs, though sometimes with only one of the two major US ATM networks. HSBC has several branches throughout the country, and your card will always work. Lebanon is a full dollarized economy, and both currencies are accepted from north to south.

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

Lebanon has a thriving Christian religious scene with several denominations holding weekly or monthly services in English.

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

The Daily Star has been publishing daily for over 50 years, but it's not a paragon of journalism. Nilesat has a full range of international and American channels.

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

I think Arabic and French greatly expand one's experience in Beirut. That said, 40-75% of the Lebanese, depending on social station, speak good to better-than-native English.

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

Beirut is not a wheelchair-friendly city.

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Transportation:

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

Again, all transport for the US Embassy is in bodyguard-driven armored cars. Others reported very positive experiences with taxis and intercity buses to the ski slopes, Syria, Jordan, and even Turkey.

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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?

American diplomats cannot have their personal cars. Others drive the full range. Some prefer a rugged SUV, others a beat-up sedan because of the high likelihood of a low-speed fender bender.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Available but expensive and slow.

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

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Vets are well trained and often board-certified in either the US or France.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Yes, but it can be hard to be fully legal as work permits are difficult to secure.

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

Formal business attire at work, otherwise there are no special restrictions. At the beach, people go nearly naked.

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Health & Safety:

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

The US Embassy still operates as though the Lebanese civil war (1975-1989) were still on, meaning a fortified compound, bodyguards and armored cars. No one else has similar security. Multi-nationals and other Western diplomats all live on the economy and drive normal cars around.

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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?

Doctors and dentists are well trained and often board-certified in either the US or France.

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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?

Beirut should have worse air than it does due to the massive traffic, but the sea breezes and the mountains help make it about as bad as Washington.

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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?

Classic "Mediterranean".Hot but not sweltering summer, perfect fall and spring and slightly chilly winter when it rains. Unless you're in the mountains for a weekend of skiing, nothing more than a sweater is needed.

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Schools & Children:

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

The Lebanese go from their international schools to the Ivies, Georgetown and Stanford. But American diplomats aren't allowed to have children at post.

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

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

Again, I've heard preschool quality is great, with either English, French or Arabic as the language of instruction, but Beirut is still unaccompanied for American diplomats.

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

The full range. I think one might have trouble finding American football, but there's even a small little league and a rowing club.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge, including most of the Lebanese population in Beirut who hold a second passport.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor at the US Embassy because of security rules restricting people to the compound but among others people seem to have a great time in Lebanon.

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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?

Everything is available. Lebanese like to show off and take Westerners to high end restaurants and clubs with bottle service.

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

Other diplomats with families reported that there is lots to do and the Lebanese are family-friendly. As for American diplomats, singles and couples, the city is an oyster, but it's closed to diplomatic Americans because of our self-imposed security rules.

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

Beirut is very gay-friendly. Educated Lebanese have very liberal attitudes, and family-based pressures about sexual orientation do not apply to expats, obviously. The party scene is dominated by lesbian DJs, and several of the clubs are "gay".

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

The Lebanese have some class-based racial prejudice. Almost all the blacks in the country are there as imported domestic help, same with South Asians and Filipinos. There is a general dislike of Palestinians due to their involvement in the civil war, and people have limited friendships across the religious divisions that still separate Lebanese society. There is a confluence of Jews and Israelis.

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

The people. Beirut is like a little New York. There's something going on every night, from underground theater to music (Western, Arab and Club), to sports and politics (not always so easy to tell apart).

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

Culture (theater, music, movies), restaurants, skiing, hiking, beach, boating, shopping, ancient ruins, museums, you name it, Beirut probably has it.

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

Nothing is really made in Lebanon anymore.

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

Beirut is still the jewel of the Middle East. A world-class city, it has beaches, mountains, ruins, and skiing. The Lebanese are open and welcoming people, and it is by far the most culturally vibrant city in the Arab world.

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11. Can you save money?

If you try.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

For a year yes, for longer, compound-living wears on you.

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

Heavy winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Skis.

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

Pity the Nation. The Hedonist Guide to Beirut.

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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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Beirut, Lebanon 07/11/10

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Phnom Penh, Jerusalem, Santo Domingo, Mumbai, and Tunis.

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

My home base is the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and it takes about 13 hours, including a mandatory stop in Europe. The U.S. does not allow direct flights from Lebanon, so you have to transfer en route. It's a four-hour flight to Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I arrived in July 2009 and will depart in the summer of 2011.

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

I work at the U.S. embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Those not affiliated with the embassy live in urban apartments, the quality of which varies drastically based on price and location. You can go as high as you want. For those on the embassy compound, housing consists of either an apartment or a modular house. Quality is acceptable but not fancy, and you are not allowed to bring personal furniture due to lack of storage space. Most people on the compound have excellent views of the sea. Commute time, of course, is zero.

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

You can get nearly everything here, but it will cost a bit more than in the U.S.Also, things will show up on the shelves and then vanish for long periods. Obviously, imported European items cost more because of the Euro, but the Lebanese pound is tied to the U.S. dollar, so most stores try to import more U.S. goods than you would expect. Produce is excellent, particularly when in season, and cheaper than in the U.S.Fruits are especially amazing. The local wine is pretty good, too.

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

Nothing, really. Everything is available here, and you can always resort to the diplomatic pouch for what you forget.

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

Every conceivable U.S. fast food chain, including some you have never heard of before, is in Lebanon. Prices are similar to the U.S.A far better option is eating the varied and very tasty Lebanese cuisine while smoking a shisha.

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

Nothing notable. Some people on the embassy compound have reported seeing large spiders or small snakes around. There are a few mosquitos at times.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch for embassy employees. I have no idea about everyone else.

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

Most Lebanese contract workers from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, or Madagascar and then underpay them and keep their passport hostage. Lebanese are loathe to work as domestic workers. On the embassy compound, people contract one of several Philipinas to work on an hourly basis for about $10/hour.

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

The city has no shortage of fancy gyms. The embassy compound has a very extensive gym, but running space on the compound is limited. The embassy has an excellent pool overlooking the sea.

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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?

You can use them everywhere. I've never had a problem. You can also use U.S. dollars interchangeably with Lebanese pounds. Most stores will ask you if you want your card to be charged in pounds or dollars.

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

Some people from the embassy go to local churches. There is a complete range, although most churches are from the prominent local Christian denominations, most of which are affiliated with the Catholic Church.

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

The primary English paper is the Daily Star. I don't know what it costs, but its quality relies on the quality of the interns that it is currently relying on for its writing staff. A better option is the online NowLebanon, which covers local and international news on a breaking basis, in addition to printing editorials. Time Out also has a monthly Beirut edition. Cable and satellite channels are similar to the packages available in the rest of the Arab world (i.e. the major English news channels, several channels of English-language entertainment, and a billion Arabic channels),and AFN is provided to all embassy residences free.

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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?

Most people in Beirut speak English and French in addition to Arabic. However, there is a lively press and entertainment scene in Arabic, so it is helpful to speak it. You can definitely get by with English, though.

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

You shouldn't come. Infrastructure is bad in Beirut, and no one thought of the disabled.

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Transportation:

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

There is no train. Buses are used primarily by poor Lebanese and foreign workers and are generally privately owned. Taxis are prevalent in town, but you have to watch out so you don't get car-jacked in the red-plated ones. Embassy employees can't take any of these, so I don't know the cost.

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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?

Traffic is bad in Lebanon, so I would recommend a small vehicle. Lebanese favor the biggest, flashiest car they can find. Embassy employees can't bring cars and are instead ferried around in armored vehicles.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is slow and very expensive in Lebanon due to state control of the primary provider and poor infrastructure. We pay $75 for a slow connection that is heavily subsidized by the embassy employee association. I just tested the connection, and it was .47 mps download and .12 mps upload. We normally download iTunes programs overnight, if that gives you any idea.

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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?

All Lebanese have one, if not more, cell phones. The networks are GSM.Because of political disputes, the phone companies continue to be state owned and charge very high rates compared to other countries in the region. Service is ok for voice communication, but data coverage can be spotty. The embassy provides a cell phone to each employee, and some sections also provide Blackberries.

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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)?

There is an excellent English-speaking vet in Antelias. I don't know about kennels because most people at the embassy dog-sit for each other.

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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?

Many white collar jobs are restricted to Lebanese. Also, Lebanon suffers from significant unemployment, and it is a net exporter of labor to the Arab world, Europe, and the U.S.Most expats work in education or the NGO field. Embassy spouses cannot work off-compound due to security restrictions.

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

Lebanese, in general, are quite stylish. They tend toward suits for business activities, although they may forgo the tie. The embassy follows this convention. For social events, it's difficult to be too stylishly or too sexily dressed. The Lebanese will always outclass or shock you with their excess. Some parts of the country still hold to traditional values, but your contact with them is likely to be rare.

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Health & Safety:

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

One enormous caveat applies only to U.S. government employees: because of the history of violence directed at the Embassy and the chance that the security situation could degrade rapidly due to regional events, all Embassy employees must live on a guarded compound outside the city and travel only in armored vehicles with bodyguards. While the restrictions have been relaxed recently, you have to book a car 24-36 hours in advance, which reduces your ability to be spontaneous. In addition, due to resource constraints, each person is allowed only two "personal" outings per week, for up to six hours each, but you can accompany co-workers on their outings. All of this being said, we've had an amazing time in Beirut thus far and have been able to do nearly everything we wanted to do. For people not associated with the Embassy, I get the impression that you have the basic concerns associated with living in a major city. One must remember, though, that Lebanon remains in a state of war with Israel and sectarian tensions occasionally flare up. If a war with Israel or a major sectarian clash were to take place, all bets would be off.

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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?

Most Lebanese doctors and dentists have studied in Europe or the U.S.You might get a stomach bug from eating out, but it's not a major concern.

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

The air quality varies widely based on how recently it has rained and which direction the wind is blowing. Lebanon has poor public transportation and too many cars. In addition, most people rely on generators to provide electricity for a portion of the day due to rolling blackouts. Furthermore, dust will often blow in from the Syrian desert. The result can be a fairly thick cloud of smog over the city or trapped against the mountain chain that frames the coast. A good breeze or rain normally clears the deck at least once a week, though.

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

The weather is mild year round. While hot and humid in the summer, you're on the coast so you normally have a nice breeze. Winters are mild and rainy, but I never needed to wear anything more than a raincoat or a light jacket. Spring and fall are heavenly. In the winter, you can ski in some of the higher mountains, but global climate change has been cutting the ski season shorter and shorter. Last year it was around two weeks long.

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Schools & Children:

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

People seem to be very happy with the American Community School and the International College. Embassy employees are not allowed to have children at post.

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

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

I have no idea since no children are allowed at the embassy. If a woman becomes pregnant while at the embassy, she is currently required to give birth in the U.S. and remain there afterward.

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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?

There is a significant expat population working in NGOs or affiliated with U.S. educational institutions. There are also plenty of Lebanese who have come back after extended expat experiences in other regions.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent, with occasional frustrations with the difficulty of daily logistics in Beirut. Morale among embassy staff is pretty good, but most people are ready to leave after two years because of the movement restrictions and the relatively heavy workload. Life at the embassy is really what you make of it, and we've been having a great time.

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

The Lebanese are extremely social and love to host event either in restaurants or their homes. Unfortunately, because of the difficulty of entering the compound and the relative modesty of embassy residences, it's difficult to reciprocate. Most embassy employees make friend groups either inside or outside the embassy. That being said, it is much more difficult for embassy employees to establish strong friendships with Lebanese not because the Lebanese are not friendly, but just because of the lifestyle restrictions on us.

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

Everyone I know in Beirut is having a great time. As for embassy employees, I would say it is best for couples without children or for single men. There's a complete couple-oriented social scene, and men seem to have excellent luck finding Lebanese women to date, although living on a compound puts in kink in the dating process. American women seem to have a tougher time competing against their Lebanese competition, who have normally had plastic surgery and spend significant resources on looking good.

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

The New York Times recently printed an article about how Beirut is a gay mecca in the Arab world. I think they were exaggerating a bit since it seems that gay people normally live a dual married/gay life, but there are several gay bars. Obviously, once again, being on the compound complicates dating for embassy employees.

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

Sectarian divisions can be stark, but expats live outside of that equation. Racism against Asians or Africans -- who are viewed as domestic workers -- is deep. People treat domestic help like indentured servants.

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

Amazing restaurants, great hiking, yacht outings in the summer, meeting really friendly and hospitable Lebanese, visiting vineyards.

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

It's only three hours door-to-door to Damascus, so you can also explore Syria. With a little creativity, you can also visit Israel via Cyprus or Jordan, but you'll need to use a second passport. Istanbul is an excellent weekend destination at a mere 1.5 hours away.

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

Don't bother buying anything here. It's a modern consumer culture, and few local handicrafts are still in production. Save your money and visit Damascus, instead.

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

Beirut is an amazing amalgam of a city that has something for nearly everyone. The restaurants, clubs, and bars are excellent and varied, and there are a wide range of outdoor activities, as well, including hiking, snow skiing, sailing, and going to the beach. In addition, Lebanon has a large number of archeological sites, many of them not yet restored.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, because of the high danger and hardship pay. At the same time, things are not cheap here and people spend lots of money going out to eat and drink as a way to get off the compound. Beirut is a place where life can be as nice as you like it, as long as you're willing to pay for it.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. However, for embassy staff, it's not for everyone because of the lifestyle restrictions. If you would chafe managing these conditions, you shouldn't come and torture everyone else.

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

Preconceptions about the Arab world. Lebanon is a hybrid composed of everyone from conservative Muslims to the most Francophile Christians, and everything in between. As a result, it's culturally integrated into both the Arab and Western worlds. There's a reason every Gulf Arab wants to buy a summer house here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Ability to entertain yourself. Beirut has a lot to offer, but if you work for the embassy and don't make an effort to get out, you'll never see any of it. If you want, you can sit on the compound all day and watch tv, or you can make friends and go have adventures together.

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

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman. Still his best book. Anything by Elias Khoury. Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk. A House of Many Mansions by Kamal Salibi.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Caramel. Ras Beirut. The Lebanon War documentary series by Al Jazeera.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Beirut, Lebanon 06/16/09

Background:

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

I have lived in Australia, Europe and the Middle East as an expat.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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

14 hours through Paris or Frankfurt.

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

Government employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy personnel live in compound housing consisting of trailers and apartments located in the Embassy compound.

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

On par with U.S. and Europe

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

Video games, DVDs -- anything you can do alone at home.

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

There is much fast food-- from Diners to McDonald's to hot wings.

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

None, some mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

I do not use mail services.

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

Available and cheap compared to Europe or U.S.

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

There is a gym at the 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?

ATMs typically charge a fee-- I found I was being charged $7 to withdraw $200

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

Yes, Catholic (others are available as well I believe) I have been able to go to church through special embassy moves.

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

Yes. embassy personnel have access to the Armed Forces Network.

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

Not needed -- in areas where embassy personnel are allowed to travel everyone speaks English.

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

The embassy is on a hill with many stairs -- which could be difficult.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are not allowed to take public transportation.

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

Embassy personnel may not bring automobiles.

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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. $125 per month.

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

Most Lebanese have cell phones. They tend to be slightly more expensive than in the U.S. or Europe but very handy -- as a lot of SMS messages are sent.

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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)?

Good vet 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?

Local jobs are not an option for those (including family members) at post.

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

At work, professional -- men should wear a tie and women should look professional. Otherwise you are mostly at home and can wear what you like.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

American Embassy personnel live under severe restrictions that, in essence, prevent them from truly living in Lebanon. This is due to security concerns.

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

The quality of medical care is good. There is a nurse on compound and she/he can be dispatched to your trailer or apartment if blood tests or urine samples are needed.

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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?

Mediterranean Climate.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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. Morale among expats:

Generally high. Among embassy personnel: middling to low.

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

There is a bar on the embassy compound.

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

Embassy living is good for couples who like to stay in and singles who do not like social interaction. Embassy personnel have curfiews they must adhere to. Visitors must fill in forms and go through elaborate security screenings before they can enter the compound.

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

No. It is hard for embassy personnel to practice any alternative lifestyles with discretion.

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

Some. Those of Asian and African origin are generally viewed as household help.

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

The embassy has a basketball court and a swimming pool.

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

Rugs, furniture.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes -- provided you do not order from the motorpool everyday.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No, not with the restrictions imposed upon embassy personnel.

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

maps -- if you are with the embassy you will always have a driver.

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3. But don't forget your:

books and DVDs.

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

Bliss Street

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

Bliss Street

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

West Beirut, Beirut Open City.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Beirut, Lebanon 06/18/08

Background:

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

Second expat experience. First was 2 years in Kyiv, Ukraine.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

17 hours to Dulles through Frankfurt. Routes through Milan, London and Paris are also available.

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

I am an USG employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For USG employees, all housing is on the USG Embassy compound. No commute.

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

Groceries and household supplies are going up in cost daily due to the devaluation of the dollar and the increased value of the euro. Prices of American good have gone up substantially as well. Unless you shop in the local farmers markets, you're going to pay a lot for groceries.

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

Nothing really comes to mind. I wouldn't buy clothes here because they're expensive and of low quality -- I just refresh my wardrobe when I'm in the States for vacations.

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

Pretty much anything you can think of except Taco Bell and Arby's. Food quality here ranges from street food that will put you in the hospital to expensive imported filets with fois gras. Wine is exceptional. I haven't found a good Chinese restaurant yet.

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Daily Life:

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

We use pouch. Others probably use DHL.

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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 here on compound. I pay US$25 for a day's worth of work.

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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?

Safe and readily available.

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

All available except Jewish services.

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

I'm sure you can get English language newspapers pretty easily, but I don't read them. You can see English language TV using Saudi-based Orbit satellite. Cost is less than US$50 for a number of decent channels.

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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. Everyone speaks some English and French.

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

It would be extremely hard to get around. There are many buildings with non-functional elevators. And when they do work, they're too narrow for wheelchairs. There are no wheel-chair accessible ramps from sidewalk to street. There are many steep hills in this country, making it difficult for someone using crutches, as well.

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Transportation:

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

Right side.

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

Unknown. We can't take public transportation. But I hear buses and taxis are pretty readily available. I don't know how safe they are, though.

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

USG employees are not allowed to bring vehicles. I don't know about carjackings, but I hear of people's travel to certain areas being questioned by militia. Give them the right answers and you can move along. If not, you'll be sent back the way you came.

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Phone & Internet:

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

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

You can get Alfa or MTC Touch. Both charge around US$35/month whether you use the phone or not. Per minute charges are reasonable. Compared to cell phone service charges in Syria, this place is a ripoff.

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

Skype and Vonage are supposedly forbidden here in Lebanon but I know people who use them. Quality is not great, so most people make their calls through the Embassy tie lines, then use calling cards from there.

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Pets:

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

Excellent vet care. I've never boarded my pets so I can't say anything about that, but I've been happy with the vet care. But look out when you leave Lebanon. You'll have to pay US$300 per pet to have blood tests sent to Paris so they can get cleared for the EU. Going back to the States may not be as hard.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I believe it's a challenge to get a work permit, especially with so many over-educated Lebanese who are currently unemployed.

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

The Lebanese like to dress up. The men dress pretty conservatively (grey, blue, black suits) for business. The women dress pretty scantily (if Christian) and cover up pretty well (if Muslim).

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

Negativity against Americans seems to be growing. Opposition continues to paint the USG as the perpetrators of the latest unrest. Car bombings targeting high-profile politicians seems to occur at least once a quarter, and fighting between different government factions has been ongoing since May.

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

Quality of health care is superior and less expensive to that in the U.S.

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

Hot and humid in the summer and monsoon-like in the winter. Up in the mountains it snows quite a bit.

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Schools & Children:

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

USG employees are not allowed to bring children under the age of 21 to post. So, no experience with schools.

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty low.

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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?

Night clubs, restaurants, concerts, casinos, Super Nightclubs, evening shopping. Plenty to do.

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

It's a good city for single men. Lots of American men find Lebanese wives here. Couples can find lots to do, as long as it can be done in the budgeted move request time frame.

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

It seems to be.

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

Where to begin? Asians and Africans are discriminated against because they are typically nannies, housekeepers or manual laborers. There are 17 different religious groups here and they all seem to dislike one another for some reason or another. Christians and Muslims fight within their own sects.

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

Dine out, go to the beach, go skiing, go shopping, go to nightclubs (Christian and Muslim), check out the ancient ruins.

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

Carpets.

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9. Can you save money?

Sure, especially if you only get off compound once or twice a week. But look out for those Amazon purchases!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If the security situation were the way it is now, not a chance. If it ever improves, I'd consider it.

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

Car.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunblock and rain suit.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Munich.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Lebanon is a very frustrating place because it has so much potential. It could be the number one tourist destination for the Middle East. Europeans would have a great time here as well. It has everything a tourist could want to do, any season of the year. But some portion of the population wants Lebanon to be a bit more like Iran. And rumor has it that Syria causes trouble in Lebanon so that people will go to Damascus for their vacation instead (did you know that Damascus has nice hotels, restaurants, casinos as well?)

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Beirut, Lebanon 03/19/08

Background:

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

No, I've also lived in La Paz, Bolivia and Pristina, Kosovo.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

There are direct flights to Paris, London, and Frankfurt.

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

My spouse works with an American NGO here.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There is only apartment living in the city. Houses are available outside the city but the commute in would be long.

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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 living here is EXPENSIVE! You can find everything here at the big supermarkets but like I said it is quite expensive. For a family of 4 (2 kids under the age of 4) we spend about US$800 on groceries each month.

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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 is tons of fast food places and restaurants and they all deliver to your door...The tricky part is explaining where you live. Lebanese food is wonderful!

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Daily Life:

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

The mail system isn't bad. My family has sent things to my children (packages, letters) and we have received 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?

If you have residency you can go through an agency to find help. Costs varies and degree of responsibilty for these helpers also vary.

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

ATMS are available everywhere and they dispense American dollars or Lebanese pounds. Everyone takes dollars here. Credit Cards can be used at most larger stores.

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

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

Daily Star (US$1.33) available daily except for Sundays, International Hearld (US$2.00) available day after the print, many stations on TV are English speaking and the cost is US$10/month.

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

It seems that most Lebanese speak Arabic, French and English.

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

I would not advise it as there are hardly any ramps and if there is one, it's usually blocked by a car. Also, the sidewalks are not even and quite difficult to maneuver.

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Transportation:

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

Right.

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

There are buses and taxis. I have no idea of the bus routes though they are very cheap to ride. The taxis during the day are very cheap.

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

We are not allowed to drive here because it is too much of a liability. But any type of car is suitable, the smaller the better for the traffic is terrible here and parking is usually a problem. There are various makes and models of cars so finding parts or a mechanic shouldn't be a problem.

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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?

They say it is high speed, but it's not. About US$50/month.

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

Everyone has them, but they are quite expensive to make calls on.

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

Landlines are available, but expensive...Skype is the cheapest but connection is not the greatest.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No.

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

The Lebanese tend to over-dress, always.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy.

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

We live in Ashrafieh (Christian neighborhood) and it is a bubble from the rest of the city, it seems. I feel quite safe here, although we do hear the bomb blasts and our windows have shook because of them.

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

There are very good medical treatment facilities and many doctors have been trained in the U.S. or Western Europe.

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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?

Mild in the winter with rain occationally...although, this winter was quite cold and it was very hot in the summer (face melting hot).

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Schools & Children:

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

My 3-year old son goes to a great Montessori School in Saifi Village called LeMonts. It's run by a Lebanese woman who was raised in London. It took us a while to find the school (he has only been there for a few months) but it is well worth the money and extra commute time to get him there.

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Not very big.

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2. Morale among expats:

Everyone experiences the same issues here from time to time. But, I believe the moral here is generally positive.

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

A good night life.

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

It's a good city for singles and couples without kids. Although the Lebanese love kids, there is not a lot for them to do here. There are not many green spaces for children to play nor are the sidewalks very good for the Sunday afternoon strolls. We are lucky enough to live near one of the only parks in the city, although, the playground equipment is not the safest, there are a lot of cats and the park is mostly covered with sand.

In the summer when it is too hot to go outside, the only places to play are overcrowded indoor playareas. But on the bright side, the private beaches are wonderful and if you can get out of the city, the mountains and archeological sites are beautiful and quite interesting.

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

We have a friend who is gay here and he thinks it's a wonderful place to live.

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

Yes. As far as racial prejudice I have never felt so sub-human than I do here. I am part Filipino and many of the domestic helpers are from the Phillipines. So many times I am not helped at the grocery store or stared at.

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

Private beaches, good night life, great restaurants, excellent historical sites. I heard the skiing isn't bad.

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

Plane tickets out to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.

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9. Can you save money?

No, no, no.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I don't think so...my biggest hang up has been the places for the kids to play. We are a family who likes to spend time outdoors and because we are not able to drive out of the city regularly it's been a frustrating place to live.

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

Car.

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3. But don't forget your:

Open mind and patience.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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