Vilnius, Lithuania Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania 10/03/19

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 several other cities.

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

Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

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 good. Families 4 and under will get apartments. Larger families live in town homes. Very large families will live in stand alone homes a bit further from the Embassy. The housing is all very nice.

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

You can get anything you want here. Overall, groceries are cheaper than the US. Use Barbora...it's a lifesaver, they deliver all groceries to your house for 1 Euro.

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

Hot sauce.

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

You can get most cuisines in Vilnius. Mexican food is lacking, but you can go out for great meals and great prices. Wolt is also awesome, they deliver for 1-3 Euros.

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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?

DPO, fast.

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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 surprisingly expensive when compared to local wages. Think 10 Euros an hour and up.

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

Impuls Gym is very good. Cost is about 60 Euros a month. Gym has everything you'd like and multiple locations.

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

Yes, we use them for everything.

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

Can't say.

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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?

Downtown, no English is needed. At the grocery store, outside of Vilnius, medical appointments require some Lithuanian, Polish, or Russian.

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

Yes. There are plenty of uneven roads and sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Uber and Bolt are great and super cheap.

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

Smaller cars are good, but large SUVs and minivans are ok too. VW, BMW, and Audi are very popular. No issues with burglary. Lot's of potholes and uneven streets.

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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, super fast, $35/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?

Local phone plans are about $35/month with unlimited data. Be careful when leaving the EU or calling outside the EU, the cost is expensive.

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Pets:

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

Yes, they are very good and cheaper than the US.

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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 EFM jobs at the Embassy. I do not know any EFM that works on the local market.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Orphanages, Women's Groups, churches, etc.

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

Business.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a very safe city if you use common sense. Do not leave valuables or drinks unattended.

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

There are some trees here that we do not have in the US which causes some allergy issues for Americans. Quality of local medical care can be good if you're willing to front the money before insurance pays some back.

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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?

Amazing.

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

Tree allergens. Nicer restaurants are good about listing ingredients on their menus.

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

SAD does happen here. Long, cold, and dark winters (5 months). Lithuania has a high suicide rate and I think this has a lot to do with the climate.

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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?

Winters = long and cold
Springs = gorgeous
Summers = mild and nice
Fall = chilly and beautiful

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Schools & Children:

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

AISV is a good school, especially PK-8. I would think twice about coming here with a high school aged child as options for IEDs and advanced courses are limited compared to the US or larger cities. They do have an IB program.

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

Limited, but possible.

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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?

This is surprisingly expensive for kids under 3 (about $1200-$1500/month) for a nanny at home. After 3, local nurseries are reasonable ($300/mo).

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

Yes, basketball, soccer, martial arts.

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Expat Life:

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

Small, but very happy.

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

Dinner, movies, constant events in town. Lots to see and do.

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

This place is great for anyone, except people of color can experience racism.

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

So/so. People are tolerant, but could progress. No PDAs for the LGBTA community.

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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?

With expats yes, with locals it takes time. People of color have experienced issues here.

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

See above.

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

Natural beauty, Old Town, hikes, food, drinks, Zalgiris, Palanga and the other beaches, festivals.

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

Try all the restaurants, haven't had a bad meal in two years.

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

Not really.

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

Safe, charming, and beautiful.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing really.

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

YES!!!

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

Sunscreen.

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4. But don't forget your:

Winter coats, boots, and sleds.

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

Armageddon Averted, Forest of the Gods, Hour of the Wold.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 03/20/17

Background:

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

This is our smallest post and smallest city. Previously Seoul, Moscow, and Vienna.

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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?

Most trips are through Frankfurt, so direct from there to large US cities like DC, NY, Chicago.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Eastern European/post-Soviet, with a diverse selection of housing. Some private houses, some apartments. Commute times are reasonable because it's a small city, so some expats live in the country by choice.

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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 seem reasonable, most standard European brands available. I think our groceries cost less than in Moscow, but we've had a couple of kids leave home too so maybe not...

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

Canned pumpkin and masa harina are about the only things I haven't found here. Brown sugar is available. There is ethnic food available, especially Middle Eastern, but also Asian and even Mexican.

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

We don't eat out much, but there are a million pizza places and coffee shops, sandwiches, subway, restaurants from low to high-end. The only cuisine I haven't found a satisfactory outlet for yet is Chinese, but I have only tried a few.

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

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. I haven't used the local postal service but it should be fine.

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

Some people have nannies. I would say it's not like countries where household help is cheap, but it's more common than in West European capitals to have at least a cleaner weekly.

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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?

Yes, widely used. I have not heard of any ATM issues, but we prefer banks rather than free-standing ATMs after years in Russia where free-standing ATMs were not always trustworthy.

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

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

It is easy to get by without Lithuanian. Russian can be useful, but most Lithuanians under 30 speak English, often well.

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

Yes, not a lot of accommodation for wheelchairs, narrow and/ or bumpy sidewalks, cobblestone, hilly, stairs. I haven't seen many people out in wheelchairs--it would be a challenge in many buildings.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, to both. I had heard buses were crowded and unpleasant, but I have found them inexpensive and efficient and so I use them. Taxis also are inexpensive and convenient--several taxi apps make it easy to order one. Strangely (to me) it is cheaper to call/order one than to hail one on the street, so even if there is a taxi sitting right there, people call or order on an app. You can choose the luxury level of your taxi too if you order online.

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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?

We have a mid-size SUV, and I would trade it for a small SUV if I could, though I suspect a smaller regular car would also be fine. It's a hilly city but winter hasn't been bad, but parking spaces are small and roads in town are narrow/old.

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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, very good internet, and good mobile service/cellular for tablets. I think it can be arranged pretty quickly. Very "connected" country.

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

I use a local SIM and same phone with US SIM when in the states. Local plans are reasonable.

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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?

Excellent veterinary care, though sometimes the vet's English is not great. Our vet here diagnosed our dog's digestive problem after two others had not. No quarantine; standard EU requirements and we now have an EU pet passport for both our cat and dog. Flea and tick routine is important, especially if your dog goes outdoors and to parks.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Mostly embassy I think.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The International Women's Association is very active, and there are probably a range of other volunteer options as well.

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

Formal dress for balls/galas. Lithuanians dress nicely but not flamboyantly. Not a lot of high heels, more sensible shoes, and sensible coats etc for cold/cool weather with precipitation.

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Health & Safety:

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

I have not ever felt unsafe thus far.

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

The European tick issue that is in other countries in the area too--the US embassy medical unit can vaccinate you if you are with the US mission. The embassy medical unit has local doctor who is very good and personable. The RMO and RMO/P visit. MED seems to prefer to evacuate in non-emergency surgical situations. I would say Lithuania is somewhere between its former Soviet roots on the way to EU standard, but sometimes MED doesn't feel that the EU standard is good enough.

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

Air quality is good.

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

Food allergies are not unheard of, and grocery stores have gluten free sections etc. Other than seasonal allergies I don't know of any concerns.

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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)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be an issue here--definitely shorter, darker days in the winter. But it's a nice place to live, which helps counteract that (as does a SAD light).

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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?

Cold/cool, but not that snowy. In general there are clouds and rain, but it's not that the sun never shines. I'd say normal Central European...

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Schools & Children:

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

There are at least two international schools and some bilingual programs at local 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?

Lots of Lithuanian preschools with Lithuanian or Russian language, and often bi- or multi-lingual programs.

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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?

It's not a huge community--you will see familiar faces at events. Morale seems good--it's a nice place to live, and people like their houses and the pace of life.

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

The International Women's Association is active.

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

I think though a small city there is something for everyone here. Close to nature, plenty of parks etc, movies in original language, charming old town, variety of restaurants, big beer-culture with lots of small breweries, and I think a lively nightlife for younger people.

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

I don't know, but some gay friends have never complained about it...

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

Not that I have obviously seen, though there may be some anti-Muslim immigrant sentiment among some locals, but there really haven't been that many immigrants here. The paper has a weekly column interviewing recent immigrants to familiarize Lithuania with the idea that people actually want to move here. It's been a multi-cultural city for hundreds of years, so most people are bi- or tri-lingual.

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

People are very friendly to Americans, and very happy to be part of the EU. Many enjoy traveling to other EU countries or to the US and UK, and overall seem to be engaged world citizens. We had a bakery in a small town allow us to bring our dog inside with us and they insisted on treating us to some local specialties. I had a group of young kids in the park switch easily into English to ask questions about my dog. Dogs are well-liked here!

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

Nature, the Baltic Sea, good travel in region, lots of local beer, a festival practically every weekend in the summer and ever few weekends the rest of the year.

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

It can be! Amber jewelry, linen clothes and fabric, probably antiques and art.

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

Small but with a lot of variety and lots to do. I think it's a great place to live.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

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

Yes, in an instant.

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

Home beer kit, high heels, air cleaner.

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4. But don't forget your:

Boots, hiking shoes, mobile phone.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 03/05/17

Background:

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

Not my first expat experience, but my first in Europe.

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

No direct flights to the U.S., but lots of flight options through major European hubs. Two-hour flight to Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments and a few single-family homes for particularly large families. Commute is 10-45 min by foot and 10-15 min by car. Parking is limited. Most people walk, carpool or take a daily taxi. Apartments are nice but not huge. Not much room for entertaining but space for friends or family to visit. Like most of Europe, smaller kitchens and appliances are standard. ook some adjustment to get used to having a tiny freezer as I've typically cooked and frozen lots of meals periodically. Still, really nothing to complain about.

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

Excellent selection and price. Lithuanians still eat relatively little processed foods, so things like canned soup are very hard to find, but if you like cooking or eating out, you're set.

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

I wasn't satisfied with the locally available basic cleaning products and started shipping from the U.S. Bleach is particularly hard to find, for some strange reason. As previously stated, American processed foods like canned soup are very hard to find.

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

Lots of great restaurants. Without alcohol, you have lots of lunch options for 5 euros and lots of dinner options for 10-15 euros. Lithuanian food is available everywhere. In terms of international cuisine -- good burgers, pizza, some okay Indian and Asian-fusion, a couple fast-food sushi spots. One good Mexican restaurant but it's more expensive than other places so saved for special occasions. Take-out is almost always offered. There is a delivery service for groceries, not sure about prepared foods. No Starbucks, but they have several local chains with coffee-to-go.

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

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Daily Life:

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

Local post is reliable for those without DPO privileges. If you've used diplomatic pouch but not DPO before, keep in mind that Amazon doesn't ship pantry boxes to the DPO addresses, so ordering groceries from Amazon doesn't work well.

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

Household cleaning is about 50 euros for 3-4 hrs. Many people have someone come every other week at that rate. It would be nice if an expat opened a dog walking service. That's hard to find here.

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

The U.S. embassy has a very small gym and a tiny pool. There are some gyms in town but none in my neighborhood so I don't know the details. Most people get exercise by walking and running, both of which are safe and easy here.

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

Yes. Not all small vendors take credit cards so always keep some cash. ATMs are safe. You need a chip. If your company will give you a PIN, great. There are significant fees to opening a local bank account. If you have kids, it will probably be necessary.

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

In the capital, there is one Catholic service in English, one international inter-denominational English congregation (about 30 people each week), and a Baptist English service. There is an active Jewish community but I'm not sure what languages are used. The Muslim community has been trying to build a mosque for years.

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

You can get by with a few greetings. There are also local classes and tutors available affordably. Just about anybody who doesn't speak English speaks Russian so you can make use of that skill if you have it. That said, if you take the FSI course and get to at least a 1-1, that will help make life a little easier.

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

Yes. Lots of uneven surfaces, stairs, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Phone apps to order taxis work really well. Cheaper and more reliable than catching a ride on the street.

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

A small SUV is good. The roads are good but if you want to get out and explore villages and national parks it's handy to have four-wheel drive. Old town roads are narrow. Large personal vehicles (trucks or big SUVs) are very uncommon here.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. Best to request set-up in advance.

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

Bring an unlocked phone. SIM cards and pay-as-you-go plans are cheap.

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Pets:

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

Good vets, including English-speaking. Kennels aren't common, but there are a few that are okay, not great. Better to arrange a puppy-sitter or house-sitter. Import/export as a diplomat is easy. Lithuanians like dogs but many here aren't friendly so they won't approach your dog to pet (which I like!) and it's best not to approach theirs.

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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?

Teaching, work at Embassy, international consulting using this as a base. Internet is good enough for telecommuting but time difference can make that hard. Local salaries are very low. Full-time university professors with a PhD make about $16,000 a year, for context.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Hard if you don't speak Lithuanian. Not much organized. But if you are passionate about it, there are ample opportunities to start something.

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

Formal dress would rarely be required. Euro-nice is standard outside of work. If you wear jeans, they will know you are American. Suits or very nice business casual are standard for work.

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Health & Safety:

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

No. Safe and comfortable place. Usual personal safety advice is valid here, as it is everywhere in the U.S. If you go to bar and get drunk, something bad could happen (shocking, I know).

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

Medical and dental care is good. Medical evacuations are often required but for surgery or to see a specialist: you might have to go to London or the U.S. The embassy's Lithuanian doctor and nurse are very good.

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

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

Be careful eating out. Restaurant staff aren't likely to understand fully what you're trying to avoid or why.

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

Winter is 3-4 months of cold and dark. Most people are fine with this, but possibly others would be more sensitive.

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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?

Summers are lovely -- 70s, long daylight hours, rain shows common but not for days on end. First snow this year was Nov 1. We had about 2 weeks that were below 0F, and about four months that were almost always below 32. Snow is frequent but not deep. Rarely more than 4 inches at a time. If you're from the northern part of the U.S., this is not a big deal, just bring ample winter clothing and layers. YakTracks or something of the sort are an essential. Lithuanians still come out in the winter, lots of people walking and going to outside events. Definitely need a good rain jacket for the other three seasons.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an American school and families seem happy with it.

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

Challenging but doable. Ask CLO to refer you to families that have dealt with this.

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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?

Infant care is very hard to find as most Lithuanians take long maternity leaves and depend on family support. English pre-school and day care options are available.

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

Lots of after-school activities here. If your kid is good but not great at whatever activity, you probably want to go through their school's program. If they are very good at a performing art or sport, there are very high caliber programs available but you need to be serious about the commitment and have the prerequisite talent and training. Language barriers usually aren't a big problem as Lithuanian kids learn English from a young age and are eager to use it.

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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 end of medium at the US Embassy. High morale. Not a lot of other expats in town, but there are some.

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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?

Churches, book clubs, etc.

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

Everyone seems happy.

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

Probably not great, but okay. There is an active gay community. Might be harder for LBGT families than for singles/couples without kids. Not unlike a lot of the U.S. outside major urban areas.

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

Ethnic and religious prejudices are real. Americans with ethnic roots in Africa and the Middle East are likely going to get comments, although likely nothing more than that. The Holocaust legacy is still a major issue for the Jewish community. Muslim community is small and publicly-observant Muslims will likely also get comments. In general, offensive comments seem to be the worst you would encounter. Gender issues not a major problem for expats.

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

Fantastic place to live and work. Small enough to be safe and comfortable. Big enough to offer lots of variety. Lots of local cultural activities that are free or very inexpensive -- basketball games, soccer games, concerts, operas, ballets, Christmas market, etc. Lithuanians actively celebrate lots of traditional holidays so there are many activities around that. Also easy to get out from here to other areas of the Nordic/Baltic region or long weekend trips to other parts of Europe. Many expats don't explore Lithuania beyond the capital -- it's worth getting out locally!

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

Nida, Palanga, Lietuvos Rytas basketball games, concerts and other performing arts events every night of the week.

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

Lots of local folk arts -- amber and linen are popular souvenirs.

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

All the comforts and safety of Europe, inexpensive to eat out and go to cultural events, easy travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

As good as advertised!

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

Absolutely.

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

Expectations that locals will invite you to their homes. kepticism about NATO and EU -- both are very popular here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure, interest in history, openness to different perspectives.

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

Movies "The Other Dream Team," "Forest Brothers," and "Ashes in the Snowing" (last one is due out in 2017). Ruta Sepetys' novels about the Baltics are easy reads on tough topics. Not a lot of other books in English, unfortunately.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 08/30/15

Background:

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

Many throughout Europe as a student - first USG employee experience.

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

Spokane, WA - 12 hours or so, connections in Frankfurt, DC, Denver, then home.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About 1.5 years.

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

USG Employment.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse in the heart of Old Town with just a 15-minute walk to work. Some singles and couples without kids live closer to work, but father from Old Town (like a 5-minute walk to work), larger houses seem to be within a 10-15 minute drive. People seem happy with housing - nothing in Vilnius is very far from anything.

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

Pretty comparable, especially if you're willing to use local stuff.

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

You can get everything you need here or through the pouch.

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

There is a wonderful array of restaurants at very affordable prices. They are a bit lacking in authentic cuisines of the Asian persuasion, though, and I haven't found great burritos anywhere yet.

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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?

DPO.

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

We have a lady who cleans our house for four hours once weekly - not cheap but not cost prohibitive.

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

Plenty of gyms (from cheap to really spendy), great city for running (not so much in the winter), a little difficult to find places for serious lap swimming.

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

Easy, safe and readily available. Get a pin-and-chip card if you want to fit in.

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

Not sure, but people seem to find services or churches they like.

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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?

In Vilnius almost everyone speaks English. If you travel to more remote areas, you'll need some basic Lithuanian or Russian (when dealing with the 30+ age crowd) to get by.

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

It would be difficult - lots of cobblestones, uneven streets, steps, and there are not many ramps.

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Transportation:

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

There are not not many train connections, but there is great bus service to Riga, Tallinn, etc. Taxis are good and generally safe, but call in advance or use etaksi. lt beats hailing a cab on the street at double the price.

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

We have a Honda Civic and have been fine. Lots of people brought 4WD vehicles, but it's not necessary. We like having a small car - we get good gas mileage, and it is easy to squeeze through tiny streets and into mini parking spaces. You don't really even need a car in Vilnius - everything is within walking distance.

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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, at rates comparable to US prices.

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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?

Easy to get a phone with a monthly data plan here.

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Pets:

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

No quarantine, vet care is not bad, and there are many good places for pets to stay while owners play.

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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. Telework or embassy employment is the way to go.

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

Business formal to casual - don't wear jeans and t-shirts in public if you want to fit in.

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Health & Safety:

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

Vilnius is a very safe city.

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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?

Routine medical care is fine. It is easy to get meds/necessities. But for serious issues, one must use 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?

Good - no complaints.

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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?

Perfect if you don't like to be hot - winter gets cold (sometimes very very very cold) and dark, but if you have the right gear, it's not big deal. Summers are delightful: lots of sunshine, long days, never too 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?

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

Go out for dinner/drinks, Marine House HH, BBQ in courtyards.

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

Yes, yes, and yes. Everyone seems to find a niche here. There are plenty of places to go out to and plenty of stuff to do for other groups, too.

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

Pretty intolerant.

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

There is not much diversity of any type in Lithuania, so being different from the "norm" might result in unwanted curiosity and attention - but probably not hostility.

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

Traveling to a different country every month (and staying on budget!), gorgeous long summer days and nights, inexpensive but delicious dining options, cafe culture, living in the heart of Old Town, commute to work is a 15-minute walk, interesting history, running in parks and by the river, and so on.

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

Road trips, traveling around Eastern Europe, perusing craft fairs, and participating in races.

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

Amber, carvings, linen.

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

Easy living, beautiful small city, no throngs of tourists, great inexpensive travel throughout Europe.

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9. Can you save money?

Sure, Vilnius is not an expensive city. It's also very easy to spend money on travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wouldn't have stressed so much about learning Lithuanian.

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

Of course!

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

ideas that Lithuania is some backwoods Soviet destination.

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4. But don't forget your:

warm winter coat.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 06/21/13

Background:

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

Yes.

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

Washington D.C.
It's about a 9-hour flight to Frankfurt, and another 2+ hours from Frankfurt to Vilnius.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 Year.

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

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?

Awesome apartments right in Old Town and great single-family homes outside the city. Commute time varies from a 10-minute walk to a 45-minute drive. Traffic can be a bear until you learn the short cuts, but if you get caught in it...oh, well.

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

Abundant and easy to find. There are several large chains and stores everywhere. You can get just about everything or its U.S. equivalent. It won't be the exact brand you are used to, and it takes a while to figure out what is what if you don't know the language. Unlike the U.S., which has some signs in Spanish, here they just have their signs in Lithuanian and you have to figure it out.
Overall, groceries are about 20% cheaper than in the U.S. once you learn where to shop. Also, embassy employees get VAT back, so that's another 20% reduction.

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

More US-quality clothing and anything that you have a particular penchant for. Cereal seems expensive here.

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

McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut...a smidgen more expensive than in the US.

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

You will get some ants if you don't keep your kitchen clean, and there are always house spiders that like to nibble on your feet when you are asleep, but generally there is nothing to worry about. If you live outside the city, you will be overrun with large snails in the summer. But if you know how to make escargots, it's sort of like a buffet.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO, usually 2-3 weeks. You can also use the local mail system. Outbound seems to work ok, but receiving from the USA tends to involve disappointment and missing mail.

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

Not easy to find, and usually snapped up as soon as a reliable one becomes available. Pay varies from 10Lt - 25 Lt per hour. I have heard that you can find a nanny or a housekeeper, but finding one person who will do both is nearly impossible...unless you can get our Yuki. She's always booked out, though. The CLO office has not compiled a list of nannies, and demand outweighs supply, so please do your homework and begin your search long before you arrive.

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

There is a small embassy gym and pool, and there are several gyms around the city that are fairly well equipped and quite inexpensive by US standards.

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

No problems...same as U.S.
Make sure you have at least one card with a Smart Chip. If you don't know what that is, ask your bank.

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

Yes. I believe there is at least a Catholic mass in oldtown at 0900 on Sunday mornings.

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

AFN is available but sleection is limited. English-language newspapers: not really. Local cable has a mostly english-language package, I believe, that is quite affordable. See www.teo.lt

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

You can get by with just English, but having rudimentary Lithuanian or Russian will make your life much much easier. You're in their country and they expect you to know their language.

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

Well, let's see - it's a medieval city with cobblestone streets, that was built on several hills and was under soviet control until the early 1990s. Obviously it's not Washington DC. But even if you have no handicap you have to keep your wits about you once the winter snow and ice start. Able-bodied people fall every day...be careful.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, yes, and yes...there is a very good bus system, and it is easy to get around.

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

Anything is suitable. However, DO NOT imagine that you can get by with "all season" tires for the winter. You will get stuck or lose control. Do what the locals do and buy "snow tires" for the winter season. You'll save a few bucks by not buying them, but you'll regret it...do not look at this as a way to save a few bucks. Auto repairs are quite a bit cheaper than in the USA, with the exception of oil changes... those are at least $100.

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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...it's quite good and affordable.
www.TEO.lt

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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?

Use a government BlackBerry or get a local cell-phone without a plan...credit seems cheap enough. For long distance, use VOIP, Skype, or Magic Jack.

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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)?

They are there, but I wouldn't leave Fido for an extended stay. it's usually in someone's basement. It costs about 20Lt/day, depending on the size of the dog.

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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?

Limited and with very low pay. EFMs can usually find an embassy job if they want one.

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

Women really dress up when going out in public, and God bless them. Sometimes I worry that they might get cold, but they seem to manage. Business casual at work. Men seem much more casual about dress than women. However, local men seem to be comfortable wearing pedal-pusher pants in the summer and carrying their handbags. It's a little different.

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Health & Safety:

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

Nothing that wouldn't be a concern anywhere else.

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

There is wide disagreement on this. If anything remotely serious happens, you will be medivac'd..very surprising for a relatively modern european capital city. Local doctor visits are relatively cheap and easy to get. We have been happy. Only Baltic American Clinic takes Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Dental work is excellent but VERY inexpensive.

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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?

Excellent, no problems whatsoever. Very healthy.

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

It's like a New England Summer followed by a Minnesota winter. The winter is overcast for weeks on end, and it doesn't get bright until after 0830 in the morning. And then it gets dark before 5 pm. Conversely, there is 18+ hours of daylight in the summer, and you can really get a lot done.
It does rain, of course, but not nearly as much as we had been led to believe. Again, think New England.

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Schools & Children:

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

Everyone at the embassy seems to use AISV, although there is another school (VIS) available. Lithuanians who use AISV are very well-to-do and drive very expensive cars. The ladies-who-lunch (yummy-mummy) group there is very cliquish.
That said, the kids seem happy and are learning. They receive good reports and are tested regularly to U.S. standards. The school is conveniently located regardless of where you live. It's pretty small, though, and they are looking to buy additional property and expand. It seems better suited to younger kids (K-8) but you can complete HS there.

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

I'm not sure, but AISV (www.aisv.lt) should have all of that information.

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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?

Hard to find and relatively expensive. Nannies are also hard to find but are a better way to go if you can get one. Ask at the CLO office, but also ask around.

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

Not really.

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Expat Life:

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

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very very good.

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

Bars, restaurants, clubs, parties, barbeques, street festivals, decent CLO activities...young singles will enjoy this post, especially the guys.

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

It's fantastic for families. Plenty of shopping and recreational activities. It's easy to get around and not really expensive.

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

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

There seems to be friction between Lithuanians and ethnic Poles, and there is also a little tension between Lithuanians and ethnic Russians, but nothing that ever really comes out in the workplace. Asian and African-American friends have said that people occasionally stare, but I think that's just mainly out of curiosity. Heck, they stare at me and I look just like they do but I wear a more western-style of clothes. But they just know I'm not Lithuanian.

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

Great U.S. Embassy housing; parks around the city; the ease with which you can travel around Europe; just walking around the cobblestone streets downtown and enjoying a coffee, beer, or meal at one of the thousands of little cafes and restaurants. Also: kayaking very inexpensively, seeing the castle at Trakai, and enjoying the numerous street fairs.

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

Trakai, Belmontas, the Botanical Gardens, Vichy Water Park, Old-Town, the Castle, the KGB museum, shopping, coffee, walking, adventure park zip-lining, horseback riding...and on and on and on.

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

Chocolate.

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

It's a first-world posting that is rapidly taking advantage of EU membership and funding. It is very safe and secure, quite beautiful, and overall a great spot. Groceries and other items are about 70% of the cost in the USA, although gasoline is quite a bit more expensive. Ryanair now flies in and out of Vilnius, meaning that you can get anywhere in Europe for cheap if you plan properly. Most people speak Lithuanian, and the older (40+ years) speak Russian. English is common but not as widespread as you may have thought.
The summer weather is beautiful, although the winter is long...think Minnesota. It's three hours from the Baltic coast, but there are numerous river beaches that are well maintained all along the main river through town. The kids love these and they are free to get to and use.

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a hearbeat.

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

expectation of ever hearing the words "please, thank-you, excuse-me, you-go-first". The people are very rude and will run/walk/drive over you or through you. Good customer service, proper manners, and showing a smile in public are apparently offenses here, and you might be locked up if you are caught doing any of these.

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3. But don't forget your:

transformers to 110v, thick skin, driving savvy, patience, sun lamps, dictionary, and Paxil.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

Take some time to get used to the local mindset and the manners thing...it's very off-putting at the start, but as soon as you join the club, everything gets easier. This is a GREAT post and I would definitely come back. Don't overlook it.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 02/15/11

Background:

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

Other European cities.

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

Connections from the U.S. are via Frankfurt, Copenhagen, or Amsterdam. There are no direct flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

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 housing pool is excellent with a mix of apartments within a five to 10 minute walk to the embassy and houses a 15 minute drive.

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

For singles, it can be cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries. I have found salsa, flour tortillas, tortilla chips, Thai chilies, coconut, mini marshmallows, maple syrup, brown sugar, Corn Flakes, Honey Nut Cheerios and many other "exotic" foods here. Availability continues to increase as other products come from the EU, but ask about your favorite things before you arrive.

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

Mac and cheese, prepared foods, soup, some spices, shoe cleats for the snow [Yaktrax Walker Traction Cleats for Snow and Ice], clothes if you are not a typically Lithuanian height or weight or prefer looser clothing.

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

KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut are here as well as the local "Cili" chain and take-out kebab places. There is a Mexican restaurant run by Mexicans and an Indian restaurant run by Indians. You can also find sushi, French, Belgian, Russian, Ukrainian and Chinese food. None of it will wow foodies, but all are okay for when you've had enough traditional Lithuanian fare.

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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?

Supermarkets here have a small "eco" section for organic foods. I haven't seen any gluten-free products. There is hummus and tofu available but no veggie burgers or other meat substitutes. Vegetarians should be careful ordering food in restaurants -- bacon is often included in "vegetarian" dishes or sauces.

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6. 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?

DPO or pouch.

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

English-speaking domestic help is available in the US$6/hour range.

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

Yes. There are facilities close to the embassy, and the embassy itself has a small gym. Other, more luxurious, gyms are also available.

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

Safe, for the most part.

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

English services are available for LDS, Catholics and Protestants.

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

Lithuanian TV has several channels in English including CNN, BBC and Discovery/National Geographic. Russian-speaking programming is also included.

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

None, although some Lithuanian makes life easier. The older generation speaks Russian while the 30-and under set all speak at least a little English.

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

Sidewalks are unshoveled and often cobblestone or brick and dark. Roads are unplowed. Most buildings are not handicapped accessible. I have yet to notice any accommodations for the blind and have encountered only one deaf person in my time here.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, although there are some TB concerns with buses. The trains here are not linked to the rest of the European network and while people do use them for tourism in-country, it is usually most convenient to drive.

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

Bring a vehicle that you feel comfortable driving in the ice and snow, but remember that roads can be small (especially in the old town) and parking tight. Popular brands include BMW, VW, and Volvo.

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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, roughly 100 LTL/ month for high-speed service.

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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 provides phones. Spouses usually purchase one in-country and use a local pre-pay service.

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Pets:

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

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

Quality vet care and kennels are both available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No. Most job openings require Lithuanian.

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

At work, suits for men and women. In public, tighter and more formal than in the U.S. for both sexes. Women frequently wear high heels and short skirts.

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Health & Safety:

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

None.

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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?

Lithuanian hospitals all specialize in different ailments so it's important to know where to go in an emergency. Thankfully, we have an excellent Med Unit that helps to navigate the system, but people are routinely medevac'd to London. The private Baltic American Clinic is popular for routine needs. Lithuania has ongoing problems with both TB and Swine Flu.

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

Air quality is good.

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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?

Summer is mild to hot, with temperatures reaching the 90s. Winter is long, dark and cold with snow lasting from October through March.

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Schools & Children:

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

School-age students attend AISV instead of VIS. AISV has recently introduced the IB program.

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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?

Parents of younger children mostly send their children to programs at AISV although some families have used the Montessori school or "Saules Gojus," an English/Lithuanian program. Children under two have nannies.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Let's put it this way -- I am surprised if I hear someone that I don't already know speaking English.

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2. Morale among expats:

Average. Some employees work very long hours and are expected to be accessible at home as well. It is hard to get out and about in the winter, but the long summer days go a long way toward improving morale.

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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?

Parties, dinners, restaurants, and social clubs are all popular here.

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

Yes. There are many families at post, and singles frequently go out to dinner or clubbing together. Single men do especially well -- Lithuanian women have a reputation for their beauty.

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

Search here Amensty Lithuania for "homophobic" "homosexual" or "Pride" and draw your own conclusions.

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

Lithuanians are not very experienced with people of different races or religions and adhere largely to traditional gender roles. However, Lithuania has a female president and several other high-ranking female government officials.

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

Travel throughout the Baltics, attending festivals, and visiting the water park.

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

Take the ferry from Klaipeda or Riga, see the Lithuanian coast at Nida or Palanga, camp in the forest, pick mushrooms and berries, go to the spa at Druskininkai, see a movie in English with Lithuanian subtitles, play basketball or soccer, shop at the markets.

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

Wood carvings, amber and linen.

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

Lithuania is beautiful in summer, and Vilnius has a very walkable, well-preserved old town.

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11. Can you save money?

Some.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably.

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

Potatoes, pork, beets, Russian-language books.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bathing suit, camping and snow gear.

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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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Vilnius, Lithuania 05/05/09

Background:

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

Fifth expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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

From DC, it takes about 12 hours to fly to Lithuania. There are no direct flights to Vilnius. The best connection is in Frankfurt with Lufthansa, although you can also connect in Copenhagen (Air Baltic), Prague (Air France), and a few other European capitals.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The embassy housing pool is great. Many of the apartments are centrally-located and have fabulous views. The houses are large, and some have interesting amenities such as indoor pools and saunas.

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

Perhaps a little bet less than you would pay in the US. The quality of meats and dairy products is excellent, although they expire much more quickly than in the US. You can generally find anything you need. And the variety of fruits and vegetables is wonderful.

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

Most items are available here. Some people are members of the commissary, but I am not sure why. The few items I cannot get here (brown sugar and some baking products), I purchase from Netgrocer.

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

McDonald's, KFC, tons of pizza places. There are delicious restaurants all over town.

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

The cold kills them all. Yay!

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Daily Life:

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

APO and pouch.

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

You can find domestic help, but it is expensive.

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

Yes, but they are quite expensive. A mid-sized gym that is favored by embassy employees costs about USD 70 per month. Nicer gyms with bigger facilities can cost more than that.

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

No problems using ATMs or credit cards.

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

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

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

You can get by with English for shopping trips. Most of the younger people speak at least some English. But to really immerse yourself in the culture, you really need to speak Lithuanian.

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

Thanks to EU regulations, the city is becoming increasingly accessible for disable individuals. But a person with disabilities would still experience problems. For example, many shopping centers now offer disabled parking. But able-bodied people park in these prime spaces, and store security guards do nothing.

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Transportation:

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

The buses and taxis are affordable and safe.

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

A sedan will do just fine, although some people also have small SUVs.

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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, high-speed internet is available, reliable, and affordable.

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

You can buy a cellphone and a pre-paid card at post, if you are an EFM.

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Pets:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not really. Most jobs require knowledge of Lithuanian, as well as Russian and other European languages. Spouses who cannot find work at the embassy have limited opportunities.

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

Lithuanians dress more formally than Americans do for social events.

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Health & Safety:

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

The air here is fairly clean. The countryside--especially the lakes, rivers, and fields--are also unpolluted.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Standard immunizations we would get in the US.

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

Please. The toughest part of this city is calmer than the safest section of DC. You do hear about muggings occasionally., but most of the crime seems to be directed from gangster-to-gangster. Security can be a concern for minorities, including racial and sexual minorities. Complaints about beatings or harassment are common.

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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?

Medical care is adequate for everyday problems, but this is not the place to come down with something serious. The medical unit staff is good and responsive.

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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?

It can get cold here, although Lithuanians indicate that the severity of winters has waned noticeably. Nevertheless, the precipitation requires good, warm clothing. Summers are mostly delightful, but it can be chilly (45 to 55 degrees) in the mornings and evenings throughout the summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American School is adequate for children in lower grades, but only acceptable for children in junior high. On the plus side, the school's small size offers children personal attention. But, it can also be limiting.

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

The school's small size means that it is difficult for children with special needs to receive adequate support.

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

A few families have sent their children to local daycare centers. Also, some families have hired nannies, but doing that can be quite expensive.

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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?

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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 tons of things to do around town.

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3. Morale among expats:

Embassy management is a drag on morale. While most people enjoy living in Vilnius and enjoy their coworkers, they do not look forward to going to work.

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

It is a good city for families, singles, and couples. (Although singles seem to really enjoy themselves here.) There is something for everyone to do in Vilnius.

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

No. Most Lithuanians are homophobic. There is a gay club, but other than that gay people here are invisible.

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

Yes. Besides being homophobic, most Lithuanians also distrust or dislike most racial, ethnic, and religious groups and minorities. Several minority Americans have been assaulted because of the color of their skin.

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

There is a lot to do here. Most Western-style distractions (movies, malls, etc...) are available. For culture vultures, there is also a wide array of plastic and performing arts offerings. Some activities do not require Lithuanian, but I really wish I spoke some Lithuanian so that I could take advantage of more activities and classes.

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

There are some knick-knacks you can buy: amber jewelry, wood carvings, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

If you are a family and the EFM finds a job, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

warm-weather clothing.

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3. But don't forget your:

parka and snow boots.

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

The Corrections

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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 Corrections

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Vilnius is a lovely place to live. It is small, safe, and not-too-expensive compared to other European capitals.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 11/23/08

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Since August of 2007.

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

Government.

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

About 15 hours depending on point of origin and layover times, via Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments are a 5-minute walk from the Embassy. Houses are 10-15 minutes away without traffic, easily 30-45 minutes during rush hour because of poor road conditions and traffic engineering issues.

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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 4 large chains of supermarkets in Vilnius, but groceries are very expensive compared to the states. Dogfood is ridiculously exensive, about $30 for 10 kilos of the cheap stuff. The "expensive" kind is $90 for 10 kilos. Most everything is available, just at a higher cost.

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

Peanut butter and maple syrup, spices and baking powder, whole-wheat flour and beef jerky.

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

There are 5 McDonald's in Vilnius, but you need to drive 60 miles to a Pizza Hut or KFC in Kaunas (the 2nd city).

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Daily Life:

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

APO mail comes from the Helsinki APO, but it is soon to be a DPO. Unsure at this time if Vilnius will get their own DPO. Pouch is also available.

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

Available, but not cheap.

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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 and safe, just use common sense. You can use a credit card at the supermarkets without any problems, but it is mostly a cash society.

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

Yes. Most major religions are represented here.

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

AFN (free). Local tv is available, but most shows are in Lithuanian or Russian. Cost is about US$40 per month, depending on what you get.

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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?

The basics help at the grocery store. If you know Russian, most people will speak to you.

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

Lithuania is a relatively flat country, but Vilnius is a fairly hilly city.

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Transportation:

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

The right.

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

The buses are VERY crowded during the workdays. Taxis are usually safe, but Lithuania has the worst drivers in the EU, and also the highest pedestrian deaths in the EU.

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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?

Front or all-wheel drive because of the ice in the winter. Anything larger than a minivan will have trouble navigating the narrow streets in and around old-town. The residential streets are also narrow, and people usually park on both sides, making it wide enough for only one car to pass through. This can create traffic jams at all hours of the day.

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Phone & Internet:

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

DSL is around US$40 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?

Pay-as-you-go plans are available and cheap for calling within Lithuania.

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

Skype or Vonage.

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Pets:

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

Vet care is available and good. Kennels are hard to find, and very expensive. It's better to ask a friend to care for your pet while you are gone.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not unless you speak Lithuanian or Russian.

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

From business casual to suit & tie.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good, but expect seasonal allergies.

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

Not really. Just as safe (or unsafe) as any typical big city.

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

The Baltic-American clinic is good, but do NOT go to a state-run hospital, even if you're dying. Better to get medevac'ed... Dental care is better than medical care.

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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 summers, rainy autumns, brutally COLD winters.

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Schools & Children:

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

AISV. Terrible cost/benefit ratio. It's a shame the government pays so much for so little with this school.

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

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

Several families have hired domestic help. It is available but not cheap.

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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 but close.

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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?

Plenty of things to do here. Jazz and music concerts and festivals are common year-round. Nightclubs are popular among the younger crowd.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good for expats, but the Embassy morale is low.

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

Great for all. Lots of things to do and places to go year-round.

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

Not if the skinheads see you.

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

Yes. Several skinhead demonstrations have taken place with few arrests.

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

Oh yes. Sledding in the winter. Concerts and culture year-round. Mushroom picking in the fall. Bowling and ice skating at the mall. Electric go-carts at the other mall. Movies are shown in English with Lithuanian subtitles.

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

Amber jewelry and wooden crafts.

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9. Can you save money?

Not very easily, no.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Tea, coffee, and ketchup.

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3. But don't forget your:

Cold weather gear, sleds, mountain bike, electronics, and patience when driving anywhere.

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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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