Skopje, Macedonia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia 08/27/19

Background:

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

I had previously been posted in Bogota and as a private citizen lived in Mexico, Guatemala, and Argentina.

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

Coming from DC the flights are all overnight and takes two full days. I much preferred the return trips to the US which took place all day- most flights are through Austrian Air which is decent and pay the 30 euros to get into the lounge in Vienna- worth it!

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3. How long have you lived here?

I was in Skopje for 2 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?

My housing was amazing but I think I was one of the lucky ones- I lived in a nice gated complex with a pool, gorgeous lake, and in a large two-bedroom apartment (the third bedroom had been converted to a laundry room/storage). I couldn't walk anywhere from my place but I did jog to the river path a lot and was literally 10 minutes from downtown. Most of the housing seemed a mixed bag- not the best I've seen but definitely not the worst and plenty of nicer places. Not a lot of closet space.

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

Groceries were cheap and easy to get- even unique health food items! Pre-made convenience food isn't really a thing though, nor was most frozen food. Produce is AMAZING here literally the best I've ever had, plentiful and cheap except in the winter when there are mostly just rotten onions and cabbage. There were more and more specialty grocery stores popping up as I was leaving. Expect limited supplies of certain things (eg no blueberries, kale, or sweet potatoes) but basic fruit and vegetables are available.

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

Honestly I wish I had shipped LESS stuff- I found most items were easy and cheap to find locally.

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

SO many good and very cheap restaurants! Delivery wasn't really a thing when I was there, but I had a great local taxi driver who was also my fixer and would pick up pizza for me if I was feeling lazy. We would frequently go out to dinner and have a bottle of wine, dessert, etc., and the bill would be under $20! Macedonian food is the BEST!

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

HAHAHA!!!!! I had baby frogs jump out of my shower drain while I was showering three times!!! On completely different days. :)

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Daily Life:

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

There was DPO and pouch- it came pretty 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?

I had an incredible maid I think I paid her around $20 per day to come all day and do cleaning, laundry, sometimes basic meal prep. She was so great I still keep in touch with her and miss her!

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

There were lots of gyms! Not so many classes available especially not in English but I joined a very modern gym that had great equipment and a sauna/steam room I could use. Also the Marriot had just opened when I left but honestly I wasn't impressed with their gym and the price was very expensive. The Embassy gym was small but decent and rarely crowded.

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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 I used my credit card all the time. This is the SAFEST country ever!

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

Yes I know there was an English-language church that several Embassy staff and their families attended.

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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?

Almost everyone speaks English even taxi drivers and shopkeepers. I took survival Macedonian at the Embassy and had enough to order beer, give taxi directions, etc. Most signs are in Cyrillic so having a basic knowledge of the alphabet helps.

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

Yes!

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Transportation:

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

Definitely; taxis are safe and affordable- local transport not so much.

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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?

Parking is really tight in most places downtown but I was very happy with my Jeep Patriot!

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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 internet was great and cheap, I think around $50-$60 a month.

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

I used a local SIM for unlocked Iphone and it was very inexpensive- the Embassy set everything up for me.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Spouses mostly worked at the Embassy and even that was a struggle because there weren't enough EFM jobs. I know some ran home businesses like teaching yoga or zumba and one was a teacher at the local school, but my husband couldn't get an EFM job and just chilled by the pool most days. :)

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a very safe country!

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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?

Local healthcare is limited and not so great. We drove to Thessaloniki every month for my husband's treatment and the hospital there was incredible! It's only a 3-hour drive.

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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?

This is the one huge negative- the pollution is HORRIBLE in the winter. They cancel flights frequently because the visibility is so bad, you need purifiers in your house, you literally can't see very far in front of you..... but that's only in the winter months so plan your R&R accordingly and go to Greece a lot and you'll make it.

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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?

4 seasons with mild winters and hot summers- not too much snow in the winters but it does come occasionally.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is small but generally gets along well. There are a few foreign missions and also an army base nearby in Kosovo so enough foreigners to keep life interesting.

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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?

I struggled to make local friends but was very happy to have a few friends who were international diplomats and others who were contractors at the Kosovo Army base so I wasn't constantly in the "Embassy bubble" but the Embassy community had great wine and cheese events and a fun book club.

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

Not so great for singles, I think wonderful for adventurous couples or families.

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

I think Skopje is okay for LGBT folks- not the best but certainly not the worst. There is discrimination against LGBTs in Macedonia (and the region in general) but that is slowly changing. There was a gay couple at the Embassy when I was there and they did not experience any direct discrimination.

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

Frequent trips to the beaches in Greece! Exploring the Balkans by car! The amazing food and hospitality.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known how bad the pollution was in the winter.

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

Currently I would not go back there because I have a one-year old daughter and wouldn't want to expose her to the pollution. But my husband and I do miss the great food, cheap household help, outdoor adventures, and frequent trips to Greece.

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Skopje, Macedonia 01/08/19

Background:

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

This was our first post.

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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?

Houston, TX. Relatively easy flight, but nothing direct. Most flights come through Istanbul. Total flight time is around 17 hours.

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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.)?

Teaching.

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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 inexpensive and spacious. Much more space than we expected when we decided to move to Europe. We lived very close to work, so it's hard to comment on commute times. We did not own a car.

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

Produce is limited (especially in the winter) but very good. Overall our grocery bill was much lower than we are accustomed to in the States. Non-perishables are also limited; certainly what one needs to get by, but it was often surprising what we could not find. I'm not gluten-free or vegan, but I had friends who were. They were able to find food, but not a wide variety.

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

Boxed macaroni and cheese, some cereals, and cream of mushroom soup. Mostly trash food.

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

Food is good and cheap. Grilled meat places are plentiful, and most restaurants, frankly, are very good. However, food tends to be about the same from place to place. Americans wanting food from home have the option of Domino's, Burger King, and KFC. That's pretty much it, but local food is excellent. Sushi delivery is popular but pricey.

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

Our apartment is very susceptible to ants.

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Daily Life:

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

Sending is not a problem, but receiving takes a very long time. A friend sent us a care package in November that we received in January.

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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 had a nanny five days a week during the work day who did some cooking and cleaning, for approximately 400 Euro per month. Most people have a cleaner come by regularly.

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

Gyms are available, but I don't know much about them. There is a wide variety of prices, as I understand it.

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

Credit card machines are everywhere except taxis and green markets, and very safe to use. ATMs are everywhere.

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

A local Evangelical church, and some orthodox churches have English services.

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

It is not expensive to find a tutor, but one can get along pretty well with only English (spoken). It IS helpful to learn to read some Macedonian, as there is not a huge percentage of written English out in the world.

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

It would definitely pose a challenge. Many buildings (including apartments) are not accessible, and the elevators are not consistent. However, sidewalks are pretty wheelchair friendly.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are incredibly cheap. We never use the local bus because walking and taxis meet all of our needs.

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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 did not bother with a car, but I see all kinds on the road.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet was installed around a week after we requested it, and it was fairly easy to have arranged. No complaints about speed or reliability.

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

We used a local provider, and we were happy with it. Roaming between countries was not really an option, though, and apparently many people have had VERY bad experiences with accidentally keeping their data on and owing an absurd amount of money.

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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?

Vets are available for foreigners; many of them speak good English and they know their stuff regarding foreign families.

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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?

Businesses are all about who you know; often, they will find/make a job for the spouse of a person they want to hire.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I'm sure churches have options, but I did not look into them.

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

Relatively casual at work, much like the States in public. I'm sure certain people need formal dress, but I never do.

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Health & Safety:

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

No. I mean, I wouldn't walk away from my bag in the Old Bazaar or anything, but it is a safe place.

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

The air quality in the winter.

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

The pollution in the winter is AWFUL. I did not give this enough credence when I was researching. The air is toxic. My baby was hospitalized twice. We often cannot see the mountain right in front of us. YOU CANNOT BE OUTSIDE. It's frequently worse than Shanghai.

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

Food allergies are usually taken pretty seriously in the more expat-friendly restaurants, but be careful. Apparently the seasonal allergies are substantial, but I don't suffer from them, so I have no experience there.

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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)?

Nothing that I notice.

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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?

Four clear seasons, very livable.

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Schools & Children:

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

They are not good. NOVA puts on a good show but cannot actually deliver on their promises. Most of their teachers are local and many do not have a teaching credential. They do not take bullying seriously (and the teachers are often bullies themselves) and in general should not be running schools. QSI is much more international, but does not have a strong upper grade program. I would not put my kids in the schools in Skopje above grade 5, and certainly not high school.

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

Almost none, and they charge extra for any real accommodations made.

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

We got a nanny specifically because we did not find good options in day cares.

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

It's not easy to find them in English-speaking form.

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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 relatively small outside of the embassy community. However, morale is pretty good.

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

I found most of my friends through my job. There is a pretty strong Internations community, though.

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

It's an easy place to be a family or a couple. I don't know about being single; though it is, at least, inexpensive to go out. Being a parent of small children, I don't know much about night life, bars, etc.

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

It's ok. It's safe to be LGBT here, but gay marriage is not legal and there might be some dirty looks and even comments. It seems among younger people, it's no big deal.

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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?

Locals do not make friends easily with foreigners, at least in my experience. It's a little bit clannish.

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

I've seen ethnic prejudice toward Roma people. I have seen troubling bullying in school based on ethnicity, but nothing out in the world beyond.

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

It is SO inexpensive; it's a great opportunity to try things we couldn't afford back home. Skiing is incredibly cheap, so it's a great place to learn to ski (outside of the city where the pollution is not bad). Also $20 flights to Budapest.

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

Matka. It's not exactly hidden, but it is so lovely, and there are a variety of things to do. And it's a ten-minute drive, so it's RIGHT there. Also, easy travel to Greece.

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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. Some good finds in the Bazaar, but there is not a particular artistic style as there is in some places.

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

Value for the money. Movies cost practically nothing, and they're all in English.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Aside from THE POLLUTION (seriously, it's really, really bad), it is harder to travel out of the country than we expected. Unlike similar countries in the EU, there is not easy train access to other countries, and some of the flights are more expensive to get in than they might be elsewhere.

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

It's hard to say. I really like it three out of four seasons, but winter is SO bad for my kid with sensitive lungs. Other than that issue, I would still do it for sure. Skopje is a nice place to leave.

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

Car, I think (though locals don't agree with me).

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4. But don't forget your:

Bike, important electronics.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

I cannot emphasize enough that I would not come here if education for kids above elementary level was a factor.

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Skopje, Macedonia 09/15/16

Background:

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

No. Buenos Aires, London, Baghdad.

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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?

Virginia, USA. Travel time is around 14-16 hours with a connection through Vienna or Istanbul.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is generally nice, and it rarely takes more than 15 minutes to commute anywhere in the city.

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

Generally good, with a few exceptions. The availability of fresh produce is very seasonal and gets quite thin in the winter. Certain products are not regularly supplied and you can go months without seeing them, such as Greek yogurt or cheddar cheese. The cost is generally cheaper for food products. However, durable goods such as electronics and children's toys are much more expensive.

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

Chocolate chips, any kind of baking mixes (cake, brownie, waffle), peanut butter, black beans, condensed milk, non-sugary cereals, spices.

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

One Burger King in City Mall and a few Dominos franchises. There are no McDonalds or Starbucks here.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

Via the USPS at the U.S. Embassy. I do not use the local post office.

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

Household help (nannies, housekeepers, gardeners) are widely available. Prices range from $3-6 an hour.

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

There are gyms available, but I do not know the prices. There is a small gym at the US Embassy.

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

Yes and yes.

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

There is the International Church of Skopje, which is an evangelical Christian Church. There is also a Catholic church in English and a Mormon church.

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

It helps but is not necessary. You can find private tutors relatively cheaply.

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

Definitely. The city is not very well designed for able bodied pedestrians, and even worse for anyone with mobility issues.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are widely available and relatively cheap. Buses tend to be very crowded. There is no tram system and the train system is very limited and not widely used for passenger transport.

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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?

Small SUVs are the way to go. There are a lot of major car dealerships here (Toyota, Honda, Ford, BMW), but it's best to bring things like replacement windshield wipers, oil filters, etc if you ship your own cat as those parts cab be difficult to find specific to your model of car.

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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 - a few days.

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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?

T-Mobile is relatively inexpensive and reliable.

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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 in the international schools or telecommuting are the two most popular jobs for spouses.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not very many outside of the religiously based organizations.

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

Business and business casual. Formal wear seems to be reserved for the Marine Corps ball.

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Health & Safety:

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

Some petty crime, especially in areas around the center with Roma populations.

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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 one good private hospital here, Sistana, that is generally good if they have the specialists you need. The local government-run hospitals are in bad shape, though, and I would recommend avoiding them based on various bad experiences that both colleagues and Macedonian friends have had there. Any serious medical procedures would require leaving the country.

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

The air pollution in Skopje is TERRIBLE. It is regularly on par with Beijing and Delhi. From at least late October to late March, you don't want to spend any more time outside than absolutely necessary. Skopje is situated in a topographical bowl, and there is no natural gas for heating. Almost everyone relies on burning wood (amd plastic and other miscellaneous items) for heat during the cold months. The PM 2.5 levels during these months are regularly above 200 and on occasion can get over 500. The air is literally toxic and you cannot see from one side of the city to the other. Even in the summer, the PM 2.5 measurements rarely get into the "healthy" range (below 50).

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

The air pollution is going to make you more susceptible to respiratory infections and other problems.

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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)?

Yes, due to the incredibly high levels of air pollution in the winter, it is difficult to spend time outside for 4-5 months out of the year.

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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?

Very seasonal, similar to Washington, DC but a bit warmer and drier.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several international schools here that teach in English, including QSI and NOVA, as well as a French school.

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

QSI will provide aides for some special needs students. The main pre-school, the International Playschool of Skopje has a child with Downs Syndrome mainstreamed in the classroom.

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

There are a few pre-school options. The International Playschool of Skopje is fantastic and QSI also takes preschoolers. They are inexpensive compared to Costa for preschools and daycare in the Washington, DC area.

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

Very limited ones, including local Macedonian soccer teams, tennis lessons, karate classes, and a kids rock climbing club. Private swim lessons are also available.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a small community of mostly friendly people.

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

It's probably best for couples without children because they can take full advantage of traveling around the region, which can prove challenging on bad roads with limited rest stop options. Families might have a harder time with adjusting to the lack of play areas and green space in the city for children, as well as the air pollution issues that will force kids to be indoors most of the time in the fall and winter.

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

The LGBT community is still very discriminated against here.

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

Greece is a short drive away and has a wide variety of offerings, from beautiful beaches to historic sites, to shopping.

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

Matka Canyon is pretty, as is Mavrovo National Park, but as with everything else in Macedonia they suffer from poor infrastructure and a huge litter problem. Lake Ohrid is really beautiful and worth the trip from Skopje.

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

Not really. There is delicious wine and some silver filigree art.

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

The cost of living is cheap and the commute to anywhere in the city is usually easy.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known how terrible the air pollution was. I never would have come here if I had known about it.

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

No.

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

Nice car, expectation of any kind of efficiency in the public arena

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4. But don't forget your:

Air purifiers, air filtering face masks, indoor exercise equipment, children's playground equipment for your backyard.

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Skopje, Macedonia 05/18/16

Background:

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

6th tour overseas

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

DC. Flight went from Dulles to Vienna but these only come in a few days a week.

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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.)?

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?

Varied. There are some apartments for those without kids, and houses for those with. They are spread out over town so you may not have embassy neighbors. Probably 15-minute commute form the farthest area.

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

Things are pretty cheap but very seasonal. Winter is a sad time in the produce department. Also there is some sort of supply chain issue here - one week all the stores will have FAGE yogurt and then you won't see it again for months. If you see something, buy a bunch. Cheese is also sad here, unless you like very salty local cheese.

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

Patio furniture it is very expensive

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

Burger King and Dominoes. Cheap. And two spooky deserted McDonald's restaurants....

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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 or pouch but there is one woman using local mail for a business and she says it is cheap and 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?

Around US$3 an hour

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

The Embassy has a small gym. A lot of people have started going to Synergy Fitness; it is cheap and new.

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

You can use your credit card around town. There is a cashier and ATM at the Embassy and an ATM at the gate of QSI.

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

There is one LDS family at the Embassy and you run into their missionaries all over town, so there must be something. There is an English speaking church run by a couple who have been here forever. Lots of missionary 'NGO' types in Skopje.

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

none really

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

It would be terribly hard.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are cheap. About US$3 to go anywhere. Lotus usually has good drivers who speak English and their dispatchers are very helpful.

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

You can bring anything. Roads can be in poor repair and with lots of hills and mountains outside of town. Many have SUV's.

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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?

Good and not too $$

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

Get one. Embassy can set you up or T-Mobil at any mall.

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Pets:

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

No quarantine. There are a few vets and a few different pet care options for when you travel. This is hard to figure out though, no one wants to share such information.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There do not appear to be any.

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

Standard business dress at work, in public anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

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

Normally no, but currently there is a political crisis brewing over elections. Security staff sends out nightly protest reports and basically you should not go downtown after 6 most nights.

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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 water is safe but full of calcium. There was a movement to take away the house distillers at one point.
Medical care is so so. The two local nurses at the Embassy are lovely, be nice to them always.

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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?

Skopje is VERY polluted. Not just a little polluted but in winter there are plenty of days it is on par with Beijing. You can taste it, you will get sick from it, it seeps in your house. Skopje is located in a bowl and many of your neighbors will burn wood or other things to stay warm in winter. The schools are located in the bottom of the bowl and there are many days the kids do not go outside to play in the winter time.

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

They sell Zyrtec but you might want to bring what you need - spring is beautiful and there are flowering things everywhere. Food allergies are not common here so I think eating out may be a challenge.

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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?

Like DC, all four season.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two. QSI and NOVA. The oldest embassy kid at post is 12, the rest go to boarding school. Both schools have issues. Bullying can be a problem. Poor teachers, yelling by teachers. If your kid is 4th grade and under, it is probably fine. QSI is not run well, NOVA has almost no foreign teachers and the student body is primarily local.

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

QSI has a few aides for various kids and a few specialists who come in e.g., speech therapist.

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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?

QSI has a preschool and there are some other options as well.

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

QSI offers no sports teams. You would like have to arrange private lessons on your own. There is no soccer league for kids like you might find in NOVA.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty small and the embassy community is very cliquish.

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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 vineyards, Lake Ohrid, traveling, hiking Matka Canyon.

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

Probably not a great town for a single woman as the dating pool would be small. Couples probably enjoy it most.

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

Doubtful

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

If you look like you could be Roma, you may have issues.

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

Meeting some really lovely Macedonians. I have met a few who are real gems and have made our lives better.

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

Matka Canyon is pretty, traveling

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

Wine?

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

Being about to travel has been great. From Skopje we have gone to several countries via Wizz Air and driven to eight.

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10. Can you save money?

It depends on how much you travel. There is nothing to buy in Macedonia so it's all 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?

The pollution and the state of the schools. We would not have come.

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

No, absolutely not.

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

Being detailed oriented or planning anything ahead. Ever.

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

'Your Woman in Skopje' and '90 Days in Macedonia'

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Skopje, Macedonia 05/19/14

Background:

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

No, third tour.

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

WDC through Vienna, then to Skopje. With the USG, there is a city pair fair and that is pretty much the only reimbursable route.

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

USG housing is mainly houses with a few apartments.

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

The same or slightly cheaper.

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

None -- McDonald's is CLOSED.

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

No insect problems that I know of.

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Daily Life:

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

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?

US$800 per month for full-time.

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

Yes - but not totally sure how much they cost. They are usually small but acceptable.

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

ATMs are safe from what I hear.

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

Skopje International Church. Methodist service twice per month.

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

Basics.

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

Yes - There are not many accommodations for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Yep.

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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?

The roads are fine to bring pretty much any type of car. This place is safe but I still would not bring a convertible or an expensive car.

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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 - Slightly more expensive than in the U.S.

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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 bring your unlocked iPhone and use a local sim for calls and data.

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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 - quarantined. You need a TITAR test for your pet. Care is generally OK.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Like anywhere in the States, maybe a little dressier at the mall.

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Health & Safety:

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

No - It is pretty darn safe here.

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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?

No -- Medical care is OK. They have decent technology, not sure about skill. You can go into the hospital and get an X-ray and a consultation for about 40 bucks.

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

Unhealthy -- Skopje is in a bowl, surrounded by mountains, with no wind. The air is gray. On a clear day you can see how beautiful it really is and it is sad that the views are blocked by the pollution.

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Schools & Children:

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

QSI and NOVA -- Do your homework and decide what's best for your kid and the information provided. NOVA tends to be lower in quality for academics but better with sports programs. You might not like the Macedonian approach to private schooling. If you choose QSI, be prepared for a seemingly pieced together education with boutique options, teachers who may or may not be familiar with QSI's mastery learning approach, and a nice and close community.

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

hmmmmmm none - although NOVA does pretty decent testing.

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

Yes - People love the international preschool.

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

Yes, there is a sports center where kids can do tennis, basketball, and soccer, but it is in Macedonian. As I mentioned NOVA does sports after school.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium - morale is generally good.

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

Live music, eating out, clubs (but they get hopping' late at night, like 1am).

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

Yes.

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

Maybe - not sure.

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

Not sure.

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

The wine tasting, Lake Ohrid, trips to Thessaloniki, Greece.

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

Wine tasting, eating out, swimming and gyms are available, movies in English, concerts and ballet.

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

Wine.

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

Skopje is safe and not intimidating. The locals are generally welcoming to expats and tolerant of those who do not speak the language. The weather is not much different from USA four season states. Not too humid, snow in the winter, sometimes heavy fog in the winter, rainy spring and fall, hot mid-summer. Touring is mainly for off-the-beaten-path tourists. The wine is good and cheap. You can save money, but traveling is convenient and it is all up to you, whether or not you spend it on trips or stay in country.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

There is a cheap airline called Wiz Air - I would have liked to know all the cities connecting Skopje for under 100 bucks round trip.

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

Yes!

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3. But don't forget your:

Skiis or snowboard, a good car for regional trips to Thessaloniki, Sofia, Albanian Coast up to Croatia, Belgrade.

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Skopje, Macedonia 10/23/13

Background:

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

This is my third expat experience; all have been 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?

From DC: it takes only 12 hours or so to get here, but to return home, it takes much, much longer (26-28 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

We have been here a little less than a year.

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

My husband works for the 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?

"Traffic" in Skopje means that it might take, at most, 20 minutes to get home. Nothing in town is more than 10-15 minutes away, and everyone I know of seems to love their home.

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

Groceries are very inexpensive here! For less than $20, I recently bought two bottles of decent wine, two kinds of fancy cheese, a dozen eggs, and some crackers. However, shoes, clothes and books cost a small fortune.

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

Soft toilet paper, Halloween candy, vegetable oil, mascara, hair dye, sugar-free jam, cake mixes, and chocolate chips.

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

There is a McDonald's here, but I don't know anyone who eats there. I think there is a Domino's too. The local restaurants are excellent and inexpensive but I've not seen fast service anywhere.

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

Even the bees in Macedonia are mild. There are no real problems to speak of here!

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Daily Life:

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

US$4/hour!

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

In addition to the Embassy gym, there are embassy employees and EFMs who run their own fitness classes (crossfit and a new yoga class come to mind). There are a few other gyms where people go, but I have not been to them so I can't speak to cost or facility.

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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?

People recommended using cash to me, so I've only used credit cards and ATMs sparingly. One time I found that an ATM couldn't read my U.S. card, but the other handful of times I've used ATMs and credit cards, everything has been fine.

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

There is a thriving Christian community. I don't know much about the other religious services for expats although I think the LDS church might be active here.

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

Very little--it seems like everyone speaks English.

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

This isn't really a good walking city for anyone so I don't think it would be that much worse for someone with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

I don't know anything about the trains and buses, but taxis are super affordable with no ride within the city ever costing more than US$5. Safety is another story, as not all taxis have seatbelts even though all taxi passengers should use them.

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

All cars are fine here and it seems like there is a really good resale market.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is excellent here and very inexpensive too.

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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! This is the biggest drawback to Skopje. Many spouses who would like to work cannot find employment.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Habitat for Humanity has a great presence in Macedonia so I think there are lots of opportunities to volunteer with them.

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

The embassy community is pretty formal but Macedonian society is very laid back.

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Health & Safety:

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

While much of Skopje looks like it is run-down and in a bad part of town--mostly due to graffiti (which is everywhere) and broken windows--there is very little crime here. All of the crime seems to be rooted in ethnic tension and none of it is directed towards expats. I have not heard of any gun violence at all here. The real security concern is traffic: people drive like madmen and no one wears seatbelts. Pedestrians are in constant danger.

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

The air quality definitely declines during the winter, but for three seasons out of four, it is perfect.

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

The climate is mild. We experience every season but never anything extreme.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two excellent international schools: Nova and QSI. I've heard that Nova has a great college acceptance rate, and most people with teenagers love the school. Many of my friends with younger children prefer QSI. It seems like Nova is larger and prettier but QSI hangs in there with a devoted group of students and parents too. Anyone who comes to Skopje and has to choose a school will find themselves with two great options.

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

Unfortunately, there aren't any league sports for young kids, but the schools provide lots of opportunity for intramural type activities. I think that Nova may have league sports for junior high and high school students.

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Expat Life:

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

People are very happy here!

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

Everyone seems happy here: families, singles, and couples! I'm here with a family, and we love it. There seems to be a thriving singles scene as well, although I have heard that men here don't approach single women unless they are introduced through a friend. I suppose that dating may be difficult, but I haven't met any unhappy singles yet.

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

I have no real experience with this but I suspect that it would be fine.

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

There is some old school gender stuff going on here, but nothing worse than 1950s America. There is an undercurrent of tension between Albanian Muslims and Macedonian Christians, and that tension sometimes erupts into violence between the two groups. Society here is not very diverse ethnically, so it's possible (likely) that someone who isn't White might experience more difficulties than I have.

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

I have loved traveling both in my car and via Wizz Air (an incredibly discounted airline). I have never had such delicious and fresh produce. I love being able to afford the services of drivers, nannies, and housekeepers (US$4/hour for housekeepers, less for babysitters). I love being somewhere where expats are so welcome.

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

This is not exactly a shopper's paradise, but there is an excellent sauce called Ajvar that makes for a great gift back home.

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

Macedonia is a wonderful place to live. Although it is not your typical European city--no one would ever call it glamorous--it combines the conventions of Europe with the charm of a more developing nation. People here are extremely friendly; almost everyone speaks English; the food is fresh and delicious; the cost of living is low; the access to beautiful yet unconventional travel opportunities abounds; the weather is mild; and the expat community has incredible morale.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes! If you don't spend it all traveling...

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Don't be scared off by the graffiti and litter. At first glance, it seems dirty and distasteful here. There are a lot of stray dogs, trash everywhere, and a shocking lack of street cleaners in public places. If that stuff bothers you, go inside somewhere. Indoor spaces are well maintained and welcoming.

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

Yes! I wish I didn't have to leave!

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

Wine. Macedonian wine is excellent!

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4. But don't forget your:

Amazon prime account--you'll want to ship a lot of things from home.

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


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6. Do you have any other comments?

I hope you'll like it here as much as I have.

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Skopje, Macedonia 09/20/13

Background:

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

Okinawa, Japan and Cape Town, South Africa.

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

New Roads, Louisiana - approximately 24 hour flight time with layovers in Switzerland and Croatia usually.

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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.)?

Military.

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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 is nice, the locations and commute times are very reasonable. Taxis are very cheap.

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

Everything is very reasonably priced. The fruit/vegetable markets are the highlight of living here.

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

Nothing. We were able to find everything that we needed.

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

The restaurants are plentiful and cheap. There are multi-cultural options and the local fare is delicious.

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

Didn't notice any.

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Daily Life:

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

Utilizing the DPO address at the American Embassy in Skopje.

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

Available and affordable. Get a referral.

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

Yes. There are many options to choose from.

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

We had no issues.

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

Yes. Greek Orthadox, Non-Denominational, Jewish, and others.

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

We utilized the AFN satellite, but there are some channels on the local cable network that are run by BBC and the programs are in English.

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

English is not the primary language; however, most Macedonians can speak and understand it. Learning some Macedonian would serve you well, but you could get by without.

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

It would be somewhat difficult. The streets and roadways are under constant construction and there are many steps and cobblestone paths that would be difficult to traverse. I do not recall if public bathrooms were equipped for those with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are available and very 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?

We did not bring or purchase a vehicle while living here because taxis and personal drivers are plentiful and cheap.

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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.

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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?

Cell phone services are plentiful and affordable.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Pet care is excellent.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I don't know.

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

Business casual.

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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?

Medical care is excellent.

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

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?

Cold winters with snow, hot summers but not too humid.

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Schools & Children:

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

Two options available. We chose Nova and have been extremely pleased.

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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?

Yes, mainly through the schools in my experience.

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Expat Life:

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

Quite large actually. There is an International Women's Association that is very active.

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2. Morale among expats:

Great.

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

There are plenty of options. There are associations, jazz festivals, concerts, bars, night clubs, coffee shops, restaurants, museums, pretty much everything is available.

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

Yes. Skopje is very safe and there are plenty of options available to support an active social life whether single, couple, or family.

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

Not sure. I would imagine that it is a fairly tolerant place, but the two major religions there (Muslim and Greek Orthadox) would probably not support this lifestyle.

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

A bit, but I believe it is getting better. There are some racial/religious issues. Nothing of an extreme nature, but underlying prejudices are picked-up on over time.

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

Weekends in Ohrid, visiting Stobi, walking through old town.

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

There are many historical sites in and around the city. There are also many hiking trails and outdoor activities available for those who enjoy those things. Macedonia is also located within proximately to beautiful beaches in Greece and Croatia. And you must travel to Turkey while there!

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

There are many local crafts and foods that you'll fall in love with.

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

Cost of living is reasonable, and the people are friendly.

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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?

Yes. I hope to revisit some day.

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2. But don't forget your:

They do not have Crisco but most other groceries are available.

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3. Do you have any other comments?

Go to Macedonia! You'll love it. We did.

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Skopje, Macedonia 06/28/13

Background:

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

No. We've previously lived in Taipei, Taiwan; Beijing, China; and Ottawa, Canada.

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

We have family in KY and NY. We usually connect through Vienna and DC. The trip back to the States takes around 18 hours. Unfortunately, connecting through Vienna means a 4 a.m. flight out of Skopje, and a 4 hour layover in Vienna.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nothing is far in Skopje. Commute times are usually 10-15 minutes. For the US Embassy, the housing pool consists mostly of semi-detached or stand-alone houses.

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

Fresh produce tends to be cheap, but availability is still quite seasonal. Meats can be expensive, and good cuts hard to find. Availability of products in general can be spotty -- it's best to snag your favorites in bulk when you find them.

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

Organic and low-sodium shelf-stable products. Confectioner's sugar, if you like to bake. The powdered sugar here is too gritty for my taste. Vanilla extract (all they have here is powdered vanilla).

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

There a lot of moderately good restaurants. The only "gourmet" restaurants seem to be associated with the wineries and are out of town. Also, there is very little variety to the cuisine here --it's mostly Macedonian or Italian. Steaks are expensive-ish, but everything else seems to be inexpensive. Skopje also has Domino's and Burger King. McDonald's recently closed, but there is hope that they will eventually re-open.

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

Lots of bees and wasps.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the embassy.

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

Most full-time housekeepers/nannies seem earn $4.00 - $4.50 hour. Expect to pay more per hour for part-time help.

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

Yes.

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

Widely used throughout Skopje.

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

Yes: Non-denominational Christian, Catholic, LDS and Jewish.

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

No English-language newspapers. We get AFN.

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

Very little if you're in Skopje. People 60 years and above don't seem to speak English, but most of them do speak Russian, French, or German. The younger generations all speak at least some English.

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

There seem to be few, if any, accommodations for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are cheap and safe. Everyone says to avoid the trains.

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

Fender-benders are common, so it's best to bring a car for which new parts can be easily obtained. There are Toyota, Ford, Honda, and BMW dealerships in town, to name a few.

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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. $60 /month for internet and phone together.

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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?

No particular recommendations. Most Macedonians have more than one cell phone, so they are readily available 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?

View All Answers


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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No. Unemployment is high, so it's difficult for even Macedonians to find a job.

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

Suit and tie at work. Casual to business casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Some petty crime, but otherwise a very safe post.

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

The health care is getting better quickly. Sistina hospital is working to bring in state-of-the-art equipment and has some expat doctors. But, the US Embassy still med-evacs everyone to London for all but the most run-of-the-mill problems.

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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 for most of the year. But the surrounding mountains create an inversion in the winter, trapping the pollution from cars, industry, and wood-burning stoves. Last winter, there were days were the pollution reached 300 ppm.

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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?

4 distinct seasons. Moderately cold winters (though with little snow). July and August tend to be quite hot but dry, often with temps near 100 F.

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Schools & Children:

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

Two good options available: NOVA and QSI. I have no personal experience with either, but parents from both schools seem to be happy.

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

Very little. Our daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder, and we've been pretty much on our own. We found a local auditory processing specialist through NOVA. One woman in Skopje has recently opened up an occupational therapy clinic, but it is not associated with the schools.

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

Several good international pre-school options. My daughter goes to IPS, and we've been very pleased with the care she's received.

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

Some: karate, dance, basketball.

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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 cohesive.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very good. Most people seem to like it here.

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

Skopje is a great city for families. Macedonians love children, and there are play spaces in every shopping mall. There is also a nice zoo.

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

There is still a fair bit of prejudice against LGBTs here in Macedonia.

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

There is religious tension here between the Macedonian Orthodox Christians and the Albanian Muslims. As a result, there are frequent protests that sometimes erupt into violence.

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

Visiting Lake Ohrid, going to the wineries, seeing ancient ruins.

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

Macedonia is actually sadly lacking in unique local items. There are some good Macedonian artists, though.

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

Interesting driving trips around the region, easy weekend visits to the beaches of Northern Greece, and prices in Macedonia are relatively inexpensive compared to the nearby EU countries.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. But, we've saved money pretty much everywhere.

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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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Skopje, Macedonia 03/29/12

Background:

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

Multiple international postings. Sarajevo, Jakarta, Bangkok, Split

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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?

Arizona. Connections are not bad, although the schedule is limited into Skopje.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

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?

Nothing is very far away in Skopje. Single homes and apartments.

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

Fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish are all very reasonable. Lots of other things are imported and can be pricey.

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

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

Lots of great restaurants. Tends to be protein heavy, but there are options. From very cheap to slightly expensive. McDonald's it here if you need comfort food.

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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?

Almost everything here is organic by history/tradition/economics. Specialty foods are limited.

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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?

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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 expensive in my view.

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

Yes, but limited. There are a couple of gyms.

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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?

Does not seem to be a significant problem as long as you follow the basic rules. ATMs are numerous.

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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?

None, but it will make you popular.

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

Very limited access. I think this would be a difficult place for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Buses and taxis are available and safe. Seem fairly 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?

You can drive most anything here. Roads are reasonable. If you love the outdoors, bring a 4x4.

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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.

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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?

This is a very wired country, and phones will work anywhere.

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not really. Unemployment is high, and wages are low.

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

Suit and tie for men.

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Health & Safety:

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

A very safe country in the main. Normal precautions only.

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

Medical care seems adequate if overburdened.

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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?

Skopje air is dusty in the summer, a bit smoky in the winter. After Bangkok and Jakarta- not a worry.

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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?

South Central European. Mild winters at Skopje's altitude, deep snow on the mountains. Spring arrives in April, July and August can be 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?

The only international school of size in Skopje is Nova International Schools and it has been great for us. We have three kids there and they are thriving. We came from big schools, and wanted our kids to continue to have lots of options. The school takes education very seriously and seems to stay on the forefront of education best practice. Highly recommended.

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

Nova has a special program in this area, I am unsure if other programs exist.

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

Yes, several options. The "nanny" option can be expensive.

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

Yes and no. Depends on the school.

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Expat Life:

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

Small. Maybe 1000 of all stripes.

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2. Morale among expats:

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?

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

Families and couples, I imagine the single scene lacks a whole lot of options.

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

Not a comfortable city for LGBT folks.

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

With regard to expatriates, no. Nationally, this is an issue.

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

Snowy Christmas holidays skiing, trips to lake Ohrid, spring!

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

Touring, wineries, monasteries, outdoor sports both summer and winter.

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

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

Wonderful location for touring both within Macedonia and the region.

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11. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Skopje, Macedonia 08/06/09

Background:

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

Doha, Qatar and Luxembourg.

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2. How long have you lived here?

13 months into a 2-year tour.

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

US Embassy spouse.

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

A one and a half/2 hour flight to Vienna, long layover and then a 9 hour flight to Dulles. The flight from Dulles to Vienna is somewhat shorter, but the layover in Vienna is still unbearable, as it has to be the most uncomfortable airport I have experienced. Some folks drive to Serbia for additional airline options and cheaper flights.

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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 wonderful!Very few complaints. I have been impressed by every home I have visited. There are definitely some power/plumbing issues, particularly in a small village where many expats live, but overall the housing is large, modern and comfortable.

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

There are a few large grocery stores to shop in- Tinex, Vero, and Ramstor are the biggest. You can find European products easily but few American brands. A trip to Bondsteel allows you to stock up on favorites, including cheddar cheese, which is not available locally. Fresh produce is cheap and abundant. Beef is okay, but the cuts are different and it is hard to find a cut I like. Chicken, pork and veal are available and priced reasonably. We used our consummables allowance to stock up on canned soups and kid's favorites. APO is available for online ordering of must haves too.

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

More kid's clothes and shoes....very expensive, very poor quality. More toys and gifts for the same reason. Larger sized clothing for women is virtually nonexistent as most Macedonians are very thin and fit (I was quite depressed about my weight for a long time here!!).

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

Only US chain is McDonald's unless you go to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, they have a Taco Bell and Burger King there. There are plenty of good restaurants to choose from, though most seem to serve Italian food. Aladin has good Middle-Eastern cuisine. I like Gino's and Dal Met Fu for pizza. Molino's and Duomo have terrific salads and risotto. There are also lots of burek stands that offer quick and inexpensive bites. The only Indian restaurant closed this past year. Prices at most places are quite reasonable.

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

We have had absolutly no issues with bugs here! Just a few spiders in our home and some bumblebees to deal with. One of my favorite things about this post!

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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?

Readily available and reasonably priced. We pay our gardener about $30 for 5 hours of work per week and he provides his own tools. We pay our babysitter 250MKD (around 5.50 )an hour, but others pay slightly less or slightly more. Unemployment is rampant and people are eager to find work!

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

Hotel Alexandar has very nice facilities and reasonably priced personal trainers available. The new Embassy compound has a well-equipped gym too. Numerous karate/judo type clubs are scattered around the city too.

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

I never use mine, but they seem to be widely accepted and ATMs are plentiful. We usely cash checks at the embassy and pay with cash to avoid overseas usage fees imposed by the card companies. Most small neighborhood businesses do not accept credit or even large bills!

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

There is a Catholic church, a large Episcopalian presence, and a prayer service weekly at QSI. I don't know specifics, but CLO has the details.

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

One publication in English, weekly I think. AFN decoders available through the embassy.

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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?

Macedonian is certainly appreciated and helpful, but not necessary. Most everyone knows English. There are many opportunities to learn the language locally through reasonably priced instructors.

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

I would not call Skopje a wheelchair-friendly city. Most of the time cars are parked on whatever sidewalks might be available, and elevators are not a guarantee in most buildings.

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Transportation:

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

Buses are safe, but very crowded and rundown. I can't imagine anyone choosing to use them. Taxis are abundant and cheap. No need for a second car unless you live outside town in the smaller villages.

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

There are some American dealerships here..Chevy and Ford for sure. No carjacking issues here, but parking large vehicles can be troublesome at times.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Not sure of speed, but it is fairly reliable for me and the cost is okay.

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

There are a number of options and supposedly the embassy provides them to spouse, but they didn't to me!

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Pets:

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

No.

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

I haven't used the kennels or vets yet, but I hear there are good ones. We have left our dog with our babysitter during vacation/trips. Pet supplies can be very expensive here....ship lots of dog food in your consummable order. As noted by another writer, there is a large stray population and it is sad, but this is a big problem for a lot of other countries too. The government simply cannot afford to take care of these animals, and neither can the general population.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are some teaching opportunities, plenty of NGOs, and USAID contractor positions that come available every once in a while, but I would assume other "local" positions are lacking or wouldn't pay very well. The embassy has lots of positions for spouses, and sometimes actually has trouble filling them.

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

Standard business attire at work. There are a lot of talented tailors available and many people have complete wardrobes created here.

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Health & Safety:

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

Most say unhealthy, and it is very bad in the winter, but my child has mild asthsma and has had no problems. You definitely notice the air is dirty by the need to wash your car frequently.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Hep A is recommended for this post, along with the standard vaccinations.

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

If you take normal precautions i.e. locking doors, securing valuables, watching for pickpockets, etc. you will have no problems. There is very little crime threat here, other than opportunity thefts. There have been burglaries in the past, but none affecting the expat community recently that I am aware of. We try to avoid Roma youth, particularly in groups, as they can be very aggressive and invasive.

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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 not up to US standards, but there are some well-trained docs out there with good, modern equipment. The Embassy Health Unit is fantastic and serves most needs. There are regular visits from the PA in Kosovo too. Remedika is the private hospital of choice for expats. All local doctors seem to believe blood tests are necessary for all ailments, including sinus infections and earaches!Locals complain of corruption in the medical facilities, but that doesn't really impact our family. Medevac would be necessary for major problems/testing. Dental care is spectacular and outrageously cheap compared to US prices!I wish I had known that before spending thousands on the kid's dental care prior to our arrival.

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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?

Though there are four seasons, it is not exactly like in the DC area. It is considerably hotter in the summer, with temps in the high 90s not unusual and even reaching the 100s. There is some snow in the winter, but it is not too bad, although roads are not cleared as needed. Spring is lovely.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two schools used by the Embassy community. QSI (http://qsiweb.org/mcn/)is a small, yet well established school providing a welcoming environment for the kids, which has small class sizes and a terrific music program. Through weekly community time events and montly "Open Stage" nights, they foster a close knit community for all. I have been very pleased with this little school! Not everyone finds it as challenging as they would like, but I find it more than adequate, and I like that the small environment allows for more individualized attention to each students needs/abilities. The other option isNOVA International School (http://www.nova.edu.mk/index.aspx) and though it is larger, it is not necessarily better. Most people choose to send their high school aged kids here due to the size of the school and it's proven record of graduates moving on to good universities. Many students/families have had terrific experiences there, but I have not been as impressed. Though there are some fantastic, caring teachers, the administration has left me disenchanted. I have had numerous problems with the record keeping and communication with directors. The campus atmosphere is laid-back and there seems to be little structure, which is not condusive to my child's needs. That being said, others thrive there. Basically, it depends on the kid!I am not very happy, specifically with the admin aspect and I am switching my child next year to QSI.He is somewhat disappointed as he did enjoy the school, but I found it to be incredibly frustrating!

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

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

There are a few reputable ones to choose from, with programs beginning at age 2.The International Playschool of Skopjeand the British Children's Academy ( http://www.tbcacademy.com/) seem to attract good reviews and many of my friends have their kids enrolled there. For care of younger toddlers/infants, most hire babysitters to come to their homes. There is a large pool of caring sitters available and the CLO can provide references. There are also a few playgroups operating within the expat community for those interested.

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

Organized soccer, swim lessons, horse back riding,

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Expat Life:

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

There seems to be a large and varied expat community here.

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2. Morale among expats:

In my opinion, it's great!Some first time expats are down on the life here, but I honestly don't think they would be happy anywhere. Life is very comfortable, safe, and inexpensive here. Morale at the embassy seems to be quite good in most departments too.

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

Lots of choices. Restaurants, clubs, parties, BBQs, playgroups, etc. The International Women's Association is very active, with over 160 members, and is a great intro into society. I highly recommend joining! http://www.iwaskopje.org/

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

Wonderful for families! Couples and singles seem to be doing okay as well. There seems to be an active dating scene for singles, and lots of ways for couples to entertain themselves. There are many opportunities for socializing amongst all groups.

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

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

Some tensions between Albanians and Macedonians. The Roma population are definitely frowned upon by others. It is a somewhat macho society, i.e. men expect to be waited on before women in the deli counter line, but not overly annoying.

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

Great hiking opportunities. Lots of beautiful churches and monasteries to visit. Lake Matka offers a scenic respite just outside the city. Vineyards offer tours and overnight stays. The usual sports facilities, but no golf. Bowling in Tetovo. Skiing in Mavrovo or nearby Bulgaria. You can be in Greece and some beautiful beaches in a few hours by car.

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

Beautiful icons, Mother Teresa statues, delicious Macedonian wines.

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9. Can you save money?

We certainly have.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If the high school situation were better, I would not leave! It is a lovely post with great people, easy lifestyle, and a safe atmsophere.

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

Preconcieved imagery of a war-torn region.

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3. But don't forget your:

Dog food/pet supplies, toys/gifts, patience for insane drivers, all large and plus-sized clothing

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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?

Come to Skopje with an open mind and it will capture your heart! Yes, there is obvious poverty and lots of stray dogs, but this is not America or England. A,nd if that is what you are expecting, maybe you shouldn't come here. Give Macedonia a chance and you just might come to love it as I have.

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Skopje, Macedonia 03/24/09

Background:

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

We have also lived in Kampala, Uganda.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years (2006-current).

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

Spouse of Foreign Service Officer.

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

Travel time from the states (West coast)is around 17 hours. Our favorite itinerary is U.S./Zurich/Skopje

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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 homes are lovely, large (3 levels or more), well-maintained and (usually) have great yards. The GSO staff here have earned awards for their professionalism and excellent response time to requests. The commute time to the embassy is no more than 15 minutes from any of the housing neighborhoods.

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

We have found that we can get *nearly* everything we need (or a version thereof)on the local market or in Greece. The things we cannot find are easily ordered via Netgrocer.

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

Things we shipped that we knew we would not find here: Mexican spices & other specifics we liked, blueberries (dried), spray Pam, favorite cereals (the selection here is slim), peanut butter, chocolate chips & other specific baking needs.

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

McDonald's is the main fast food options. There are multiple take-away options as well (pizza, Chinese food, etc.). Skopje has many, many nice restaurants and new ones are always opening.

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

Nothing unusual.

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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 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?

House help here is easy to find & frequently over-qualified for the work they do. On average you can expect to pay: House-keeper: US$150-$200 per week (if full-time); Babysitter: US$4-$5 per hour (full-time staff would charge differently. I do not have experience in this area and cannot comment); Gardening staff: US$4-$5 per hour.

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

The Embassy has a small weight room/cardio room available to staff and spouses. There are other fitness centers throughout the city and more opening all the time. The equipment is good, personal trainers and exercise classes are available as needed.

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

We feel at ease using our ATM at major grocery stores, restaurants, doctor's offices or ATM machines as well as some smaller trusted mall shops.

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

There are a few religious communities that are English speaking. You'll find an English speaking non-denominational Christian church, a small LDS community and an Anglican community.

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

We use AFN. Local cable does have a few English language stations. I am not aware of an English language newspaper.

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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 function with minimal language skills but a little bit is appreciated by your neighbors.

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

Physical disabilities would make it extra challenging to get around. The city is not set up for easy access for all. That being said, I have also noticed that I have a few Macedonian neighbors with disabilities who seem to be getting along just fine.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are affordable enough that they can be used exclusively if needed. I have no direct experience with trains or buses but know friends who do use them on occasion with no problem. The buses may not be completely "safe" per se as most of them are from circa 1965.

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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 purchased our car new here. The dealerships represented here are Toyota, Mazda, Ford, & Honda. There are a number of European brands as well (Citroen, Seat, Renault, etc.). We drive a minivan here with no "terrain" problems. All of the major brands have a dealership garage as well so can order necessary parts as needed. The only inconvenience is waiting for parts to clear customs.

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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. Cost is US$25-$30 per month.

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

Get one! We use ours in lieu of a landline. There are a few different carriers to choose from and several shops where you can buy/service phones.

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are a few local opportunities but excellent local language skills are required.

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

Business dress required during the week.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy. Skopje is a valley surrounded by lovely foothills. In the summer the smog "collects" in the city. During the winter all of the smokers move indoors. If you or your children struggle with asthma issues this post may be a challenge. Also, it is not unusual to hear of people who have never had allergies developing them during the spring here.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Same as the States.

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

There are under-lying tensions between the two distinct people groups living here (Orthodox Macedonians and ethnic Albanians). As an American living here, I have not felt threatened by the tensions but am aware of events that take place. There are always the random pick-pocketing issues to be aware of when in the city as well. For the most part I feel very safe in Skopje.

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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?

Health concerns are usually related to Influenza outbreaks that hit during the Fall and allergies during the Spring. Some people also find that they have increased respiratory problems while here. There are good private clinics available for regular care (ie dentists, opthamologists, etc.). For more serious care go to Greece/London/Vienna or home. Avoid the hospitals if possible.

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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?

Skoje has 4 distinct seasons. Spring and Fall are lovely times of year for a visit!

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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 2 international schools that most of the elementary-high school aged expat kids go to. Both have their attributes that set them apart as excellent schools. These schools are Nova School(http://www.nova.edu.mk/index.aspx) and QSI Skopje (http://www1.qsi.org/mcn/). There is a Montessori school for younger children that some American children attend as well. Our experience is with QSI preschool through 1st grade. We have been very satisfied with the school.

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

The schools do their best to work with special needs kids, but truthfully are not set up to work with kids with challenges.

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

There are 3 good English speaking preschool options. There are also Macedonian speaking gradinkas that some Americans use for preschool.

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

Yes. Children and youth can participate in local or embassy sponsored tennis clubs, baseball teams, karate clubs, & swim centers. Both of the above mentioned elementarty schools are excellent resources for children's athletic options.

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Expat Life:

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

The entire expat community (embassy staff/NGOs/missionaries) numbers in the 600's.

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2. Morale among expats:

High to very high.

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

You can be as socially active as you choose. There are often embassy sponsored social events and even more frequent casual gatherings of friends.

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

Yes, to all of the above. The city definitely comes with its inconveniences and is lacking in some real ways. All things considered though, Skopje is a very enjoyable place to live.

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

Not to my knowledge.

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

Not to my knowledge. Our friends who are Asian American or African American feel as if they are "looked at" more but do not talk about prejudicial treatment.

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

This part of the Balkans is full of interesting historical and a archaeological sites. Locally there are malls, cafes, art galleries, clubs, billiard halls, sporting events, ballet, concerts and cultural events. Macedonia is within easy driving distance to Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro & Croatia. Other parts of Europe are a short flight away. Athletes will be happy here. Skiing in the winter, riverside roller blading/biking/walking paths, hiking trails, tennis clubs & hash harriers. Obviously, none of the above are along the same standard of what one would find in the States but the availability of such things is a positive thing in and of itself.

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

Pottery, honey (so many varieties available), filigree jewelry, some textiles, paintings.

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9. 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?

Absolutely! We are leaving this summer and will miss our life in Macedonia.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Defensive driving skills, sense of humor, your glass that's half-full. You'll enjoy life here as much as you choose to.

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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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Skopje, Macedonia 03/16/09

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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

U.S. Embassy spouse.

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

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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 big and nice. Some is more modern than others, but it's all good. Way more space than we need.

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

Seems to be the same or a little less than back home. Availability is terrible - something you see one week may be gone the next and never come back.

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

Everything :(

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

Only McDonald's, but it tastes different than back home.

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

None that I've noticed.

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Daily Life:

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

APO/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?

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

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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?

Try just to use them at major chains.

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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?

Some English channels on local TV, or there's AFN for military/diplomats.

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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?

A little helps.

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

A lot. This country is not disabled-friendly.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are great, cheap and safe, but the drivers are insane. A 10-minute taxi ride costs about US$2.

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

All car dealerships are here. We have a Toyota & have had no trouble. People have SUVs and sedans - SUVs are definitely nice given the bad condition of roads and the terrible driving skills of locals.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. About US$35 a month I think. Connection is good/fast.

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

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Pets:

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

Nope.

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

There are vets here, but the quality is terrible. I have yet to find any kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No. None. Do not come here expecting to get a job on the economy. Jobs at the embassy are few and far between. The majority of spouses do not work, although I suspect many would like to.

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

I slub around, but Macedonians dress pretty fashionably/smart. The way the women stare constantly, openly and disdainfully at your shoes gets really annoying after a while.

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Health & Safety:

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

We heard it would be bad, but actually we haven't noticed it that much. We notice the smoke pollution from everyone smoking a lot more, especially when it's winter and everyone is smoking inside the shopping malls.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

There's just an optional flu jab I think.

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

Some random shootings, burglaries. Seems like the shootings are usually in retaliation between the locals. Local police never seem to catch anyone - maybe they don't care.

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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 so-so. Dental is excellent if you go to Eternadent.

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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?

Pretty much like England, but warmer summers.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. People tend to make the best of what they have.

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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?

People mostly congregate in little groups at people's houses

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

Great for families - the locals LOVE kids.

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

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

Not that I've seen.

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

Travel.

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

Nothing really unique, or at least nothing you'd want.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Mainly this is ecause of the pet care issues andthe horrible way Macedonians treat the 20,000+ stray animals in Skopje, but also it's too hard for me to deal without the variety of food I'm used to and the convenience of shops that are open late.

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

Bread, feta cheese, sparkling water.

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3. But don't forget your:

U.S. products - the U.S. brand products they have here aren't made in the US and for some reason they taste different. Definitely bring spicy sauces, baking ingredients, lots of canned items (sauces, fruit, soups, etc). Oh, and bring cheese if you can - feta is the main cheese here and all other cheeses just taste rubbery and bland.

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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?

Do not come here if you are a big animal lover. It will break your heart.

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Skopje, Macedonia 01/02/09

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

5 months.

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

U.S. Embassy spouse.

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

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Scattered throughout the city. Some live in a suburb and have very large houses, but all of the housing is very nice. Some housing is walking distance to the embassy. There are some issues with electricity going out occasionally. Everything here was built poorly. For some reason, all of the plumbing is terribly designed. The bathrooms smell very bad. But the houses are large and nice.

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

Fruits and veggies are only available by season. You can only drink shelf-stable milk. There is little in the way of frozen convenience food or canned food. Cost is about the same as the U.S. (less for seasonal produce).Most people bring a consumables shipment and also shop regularly at the PX in Kosovo.

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

Paper products because the quality is low. Clothes--again low quality here. U.S. style mixes. And lots of baking supplies. There is constantly a function where you need to bring food or a bake sale. Also bring potluck dishware and entertaining stuff.

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

Only McDonald's. We miss American fast food. There is a good food court with Chinese, Mexican(ish), good pizza and sandwiches. Street food, which is mostly bread stuffed with cheese, is cheap. Most restaurants, however, are sit-down, nice restaurants. Although relatively cheap, service is slow. It is difficult to dine out with children because they become impatient.

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Daily Life:

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

We have APO, which is wonderful!

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

Most people pay around US$5/hour.

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

We use them without a problem.

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

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

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

Almost none. They appreciate it when you try!

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

No curb ramps and wheelchairs would have a hard time stepping over the trash that lines the sidewalks in some areas.

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Transportation:

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

Right.

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

Taxis are very cheap and available. Safe also.

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

We were told to bring a small SUV.I would say you need the most narrow car you can find. Streets are incredibly narrow. You are required to have chains for your tires outside of the city in the winter, so bring those.

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Phone & Internet:

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

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

The embassy will help you get set up with service. Buy a local phone for around US$100.

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

We use skype.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Just the school or a few jobs at the Embassy.

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

Business attire at work; almost anything in the city. Most people don't wear shorts in the old town area.

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Health & Safety:

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

Many people feel the air quality is bad in the winter, but it is now January and I don't notice much of a problem.

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

Quite safe. Gypsies beg but are just annoying, not dangerous. People send teenagers in taxis by themselves. I feel as safe as in the U.S.

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

Quality of medical care is low. Try not to get sick or hurt. Dental care seems excellent.

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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?

4 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?

Two main schools: QSI and NOVA.NOVA is larger and has more local Macedonians. Students stay with the same teacher as they progress from grade 1 through 4.My children attend QSI and love it! There are a couple of teachers that could be better, but most are wonderful. The music program is amazing, considering it is such a small school. Several languages are offered and the grounds/playground are nice. They offer after-school activities such as science club, gymnastics, and a few others. The school is very small and tight-knit. Every Friday, the school has Community Time and the children perform. It is wonderful. This is a great place for kids to feel comfortable and reach their potential.

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fairly good I think.

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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?

Tons! Most people entertain casually in their homes very frequently. But this is up to you. The International Womens Associaion is very nice.

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

Good for families because there are so many families here who get together regularly.

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

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

Not that I have noticed.

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

Travel!! Easy drive to Ohrid, a lovely lake city. Two hour direct flight to Prague. Greece....Some cultural activities are offered. Playgrounds are in terrible (dangerous) condition, but there is one indoor playground that is ok. Shopping in old town and at the American style mall. Ice skating, swimming, snow skiing. Mostly, though, people get together at each other's houses.

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

Interesting local crafts such as little leather shoes, hand-made tapestries, wood carvings, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Travel is a big temptation.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. It is sometimes difficult to live in such a trash-filled and poor city. But there is alot of fun to be had and the people are very nice and welcoming. It's a very small city, so it's easy to get around. The school is great; housing is nice. We love it here!

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

Nutella; desire to live in a clean city; 80's CD's (the radio is a blast from the American past!)

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience for aggressive drivers; tolerance for trash and dirt.

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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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