Chisinau, Moldova Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Chisinau, Moldova

Chisinau, Moldova 04/26/19

Background:

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

This is our seventh expat experience over an 18 year period. Other cities include Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Pristina, Kosovo; Yerevan, Armenia; and Bucharest, Romania.

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

Home base is Germany. It's about two and a half hours by plane, or a 22 hour drive (two and a half days in a car). Air travel to Germany is very easy, with direct flights eight times a week.

US expats typically travel to the US by flying to Frankfurt (2.5 hours) and then catching a direct flight to a US destination (eight to nine hours to the US East Coast).

In general Chisinau is very well connected by air. Air Moldova, the national airline, is no-frills but competent, and it has flights to destinations all over Europe. It's not hard to slip away for a weekend to Vienna or Florence. By land Moldova is more isolated, but you can still catch a train to Odessa, Ukraine (4 hours away) or to Bucharest, Romania (overnight train).

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3. How long have you lived here?

One and half years.

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

Running an aid project.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We're living in a large comfortable house in a nice neighborhood. Western-style housing is widely available, with a mix including houses, town houses and apartments. I've heard US diplomat housing is mostly around the downtown and "Telecentru" area. The quality of housing varies, so if you're house-hunting, use a reputable realtor and do your homework. There is no shortage of decent quality housing, much of it in, or near, the downtown area.

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

95% of all groceries and household supplies are available, though the brands and packaging may differ from what you're used to. This includes expat oddities like peanut butter and maple syrup. Costs are reasonable. For bulk shopping runs, check out the Metro mega-store out towards the airport.

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

Poop bags for the dog.

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

Not many Western chains are here yet except McDonalds, but there are a lot of decent local restaurants. There are dozens of pizzerias, several burger places, and a number of high-end restaurants that are nice for dining out. There are a couple of Chinese places, a lot of Italian places, a faux-British pub, a faux-Irish pub... really pretty much everything you'd expect in a small European city. There are even two or three sushi places, of which at least one is okay.

For dining with kids, we can recommend Andy's Pizza, a local chain with about a dozen restaurants around the center of Chisinau (if you're American, this is basically the Moldovan Denny's).If you're lonesome for American cooking, Smokehouse Barbecue is run by a former Peace Corps guy from Virginia and has pretty good smoked meats and barbecue in a pleasant atmosphere.

Coffee shop culture has exploded in the last few years. Cafe Tucano is another Moldovan chain; it's basically the local Starbucks, and is not bad at all.

If you want takeout, go online to straus.md which is a consolidated delivery service for about 50 local restaurants.

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

Nothing serious. Ants can be an issue in the summer. If you have a dog and walk them in the large, forested parks, the dog may pick up the occasional tick.

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Daily Life:

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

Local postal facilities are functional but slow. You can send and receive mail but it's going to take a while.

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

Help is cheap, typically US $3-$5 per hour. Expats often employ maids and nannies. English speakers are less common and are at a premium.

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

Lots, as there's a well developed workout culture here. Both price and quality vary a lot, from little local weightlifting places to large western-style fitness centers with Nautilus machines and treadmills.

There are a couple of large parks just outside the center (Valea Morilor and Valea Rosilor) that are good for running and biking. Bicycle culture is catching on in Chisinau but not all drivers are comfortable with cyclists yet, so wear a helmet and stay alert.

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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?

Be thoughtful about using credit cards outside of large hotels, as it is Eastern Europe, and theft of credit card numbers can be an issue. ATMs are very common and quite safe, though they will charge a fee for accessing a foreign account.

Withdrawal limits at ATMs tend to be low, typically 5000 to 6000 Moldovan lei (about US $300-$350). Pro-tip: the ATM out at the Metro mega-supermarket out towards the airport has a limit of 15,000 lei (about US $850-900).

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

There are Catholic services once a week. I believe there is also a Church of Latter Day Saints.

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

The two local languages are Romanian and Russian, and you should pick up at least a few hundred words in one of them; it will make your life a lot easier. Many people in Chisinau have some English, especially younger people, but outside of the city that drops off fast. Language classes are available though not always cheap. If you want to try a free self-taught online course, check out duolingo.com; it's not bad and, hey, it's free.

Most English speakers find Romanian easier than Russian, especially if you have some Spanish or French, but YMMV.

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

Yes. It's not very disability-friendly. Lots of bumpy sidewalks and high curbs. They are very slowly installing disability access e.g., ramps on buildings, beepers on traffic lights, but it's going to take many years. A lot of the building stock is still 20th century and that's a thing.

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Transportation:

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

Buses and trams are safe and affordable. Buses and trams are safe and go all over the city for less than US $0.25, though they do get crowded at rush hour.

Taxis are cheap, but make sure you get a taxi with a meter and that it is used; taxi drivers tend to view foreigners as a windfall, especially if the foreigner doesn't speak the language. The iTaxi app can be downloaded on your phone and will only call taxis with meters, so there's that.

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

No special requirements unless you're doing a lot of traveling outside Chisinau, in which case you might want something with high clearance and good suspension, as there are a lot of bad roads.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is everywhere, quality is okay. Moldova claims the best internet in Europe. This is definitely not true, but it's okay. Almost all housing these days comes with internet pre-installed.

If you are responsible for paying your own utility bills, make sure you pay them on time, because the phone / internet company will disconnect you very fast if you don't. You can pay bills online if you have a local bank account; otherwise, go to any bank or post office.

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

Local provider is generally better. Local phones and plans are cheap and work just fine. Reception is generally good. If you want to open a post-pay account, be prepared to jump through some bureaucratic hoops.

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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?

Lots of expats with dogs and cats. No quarantine requirements but get your shots and have your documentation ready. Bringing dogs in to Moldova by air can be tricky: one airline just doesn't do it, another only with cabin-sized dogs. Check with airlines re: pet travel in advance. There are lots of vets but the quality varies wildly, so ask around.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not a great country for trailing spouses in terms of employment. Local salary scales are very low compared to the US or Europe.

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

Standard American / European dress code: office casual, suits for meetings and more formal occasions. Formal dress is almost never required unless you're attending high-end diplomatic or ceremonial functions.

Adult males don't usually wear shorts unless playing sports. It's no big deal, but people will notice you as a foreigner.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moldova is quite safe. Violent crime is very rare. Chisinau is a city, so exercise reasonable caution about walking alone at night, situational awareness, etc., but it's safer than a comparable sized US city.

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

No special health concerns. You can drink the water. There are two or three expat-quality clinics that can handle typical health issues. For serious stuff you'll want to go home.

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

Air quality is okay to good. Summers can be long, hot and dry, so a bit dusty.

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

The pollen count can get quite high, especially in spring, so if you have pollen allergies that can be a thing. Otherwise, no particular issues here that I know of.

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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)?

Moldova has a climate like Iowa, but Chisinau is actually further north, on the same latitude as northern Minnesota, so winter nights do get a bit long. It's nothing compared to Moscow or Stockholm, though, and if the winter is getting you down there are cheap direct flights to places like Istanbul, Athens, and Rome.

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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?

Continental climate; winters are cold and snowy, summers are long and tend to be hot and a bit dry. It's similar to the US Midwest or Great Plains.

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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 international schools, Heritage and QSI. Heritage is the new one, opened 2017. Our kids go there. It's definitely still undergoing problems. Ask around for more details, because Heritage is getting a new director (summer 2019) while QSI is planning some upgrades to respond to the challenge from Heritage. Both of these should be considered troubled but with potential for improvement. Talk to other parents, ask around.

If your child speaks Russian or Romanian (or is young enough to learn) then there are some local "magnet" schools that are very good academically. Discipline and tradition in school may be different from what you're used to, so do your homework in advance.

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

Heritage has a new building with access ramps and elevators. Otherwise, I don't know of any.

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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?

Day care is very common. Day care in English is less common but I believe there are at least two or three. I know that Heritage has an expat-oriented day care/kindergarten associated with it:"CHIPS", located in the Telecentru area.

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

Yes, lots. Of course a lot of them do not have English-speaking instructors, but you if you're willing to pay a bit, you can find English-speaking instructors for everything from tennis to horseback riding. Expats sometimes organize for things like Saturday soccer/football for kids.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is small but mixed: Americans, Germans, Brits, a lot of Russians (who don't mingle that much with the others usually).

Morale is fine. I heard the State Department used to call this a hardship post. I don't know if they still do, but this is not a hardship post by my standards. It is a bit quiet and something of a backwater, but with just a little effort you can build a very pleasant life here.

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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?

We know there are a lot of activities, even though we only participate in a few. There's an International Women's Club of Moldova which meets every Wednesday: iwcm.md and male trailing spouses are welcome. There is an English-language Pub Quiz every Tuesday at Smokehouse Barbecue. There's a flag football team that is mixed US / Moldovan. There's a lively local music scene with a lot of local bands.

There used to be a Hash House Harriers, but it stopped when a couple of key people left. If you're interested, ask around.

For Americans, there's a local chapter of Democrats Abroad.

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

It's great for families and for couples. Single people, harder to say. Single men may find a lot of Moldovan women buying into the stereotype of rich Western man, for good and for bad. For single women, Moldova is still a pretty traditional / patriarchal culture in a lot of ways, but there's no shortage of places to go and things to do.

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

Moldova's in a transition place right now. Ten or even five years ago the answer would have been a firm "No!" as Moldova was a religiously Orthodox, very traditional country with all the standard negative post-Soviet prejudices against LGBT people. Now it's a bit more complex. Younger people, especially in Chisinau, have picked up a lot of European attitudes. It's probably okay now for expats. If there's a scene it's underground/discreet.

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

Yes, very easy to meet / talk to / make friends with locals.

No particular prejudices except against Roma, although you may occasionally hear some startling remarks about other nations and ethnic groups.

Moldovans are not very used to people who are visibly foreign, so nonwhites may get some stares, especially outside Chisinau.

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

There aren't a lot of Roma around, but I've not heard good things being said about them.

There seems to be tension between the local ethnic groups, especially a subtle division between Romanian Moldovans and Russians / Russophone Moldovans, and also a bit towards the Gagauz (Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians, live in the southern part of the country). This is mostly limited to politics and the occasional snide remark.

Gender equality is a work in progress. It's still a pretty traditional society with regard to gender issues, especially once you get outside Chisinau. That said, there are no problems with women working, driving, wearing pants, or anything like that.

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

Taking the dog for a long walk along the Dnistr river at Vadu Lui Voda, about an hour east of Chisinau. A muddy, half-wild riverbank and a Labrador retriever on a gorgeous autumn day, and the Eurasian steppe stretching out for five thousand miles on the other side of the river: what's not to like?

Great meal and wine at the underground wine storage (make sure there's a designated driver).

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

Go to Orheiul Vecchi (hilltop monastery, very cool) but go on a weekday because everyone goes on the weekends.

Take the early morning train to Odessa for a shopping day or a weekend.

There are movies in English at the cinema in MallDova.

Drive to Transylvania, in Romania. Check out the mud volcanoes (really) in the Carpathians, about half a day's drive from Chisinau.

I'm told there's a rapidly growing hiking / trekking community in Romania.

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

Eh, not really. Some local crafts. I'm told you can find interesting antiques if you know people and are willing to buy them privately. Tourist stuff, such as Soviet coins, and the like, is available downtown diagonally across from the central Post Office. There's a vernissage / flea market behind the main train station; it's mostly secondhand stuff but a determined hunter might find a hidden gem.

The wines are good to excellent: there are a LOT of inexpensive, very good table wines.

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

Honestly, if you're an expat, it's pretty much a developed world existence. Moldova has a lot of poverty and problems but if you're drawing an expat salary those won't affect you much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Amazon doesn't deliver here yet. If you have kids, both QSI and Heritage are works in progress; investigate in advance.

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

Yup.

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

Russophobia (lots of Russians here).

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor. Crampons / microspikes.

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

There aren't really any. A book from 15 years ago, "Beating the Moldovans at Tennis", is badly dated now.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a pleasant, small Eastern European country; a bit of a backwater, but there's really nothing to dislike.

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Chisinau, Moldova 02/19/14

Background:

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

No, this is our 5th post in the former Soviet Union!

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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 area. Transiting through Munich (2-hour flight from Chisinau), it takes about 12-13 hours from Chisinau home.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years in Chisinau.

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

U.S. Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mostly houses, a few apartments for single people but many singles live in big houses too. There are two areas for housing, one is close to the embassy (7 minutes by car) and the other one is further away but still not far (about 15 minutes max). The houses are usually pretty big and nice. Neighborhoods are quiet as is the whole city anyway.

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

It is comparable to the States in both prices and availability. Many European, especially German products. Shopping is easy with lots of grocery stores scattered around town.

There is wholesale store called Metro that we have access to through the Embassy. We can also order goods (American goods and others) through the Embassy association twice a year.

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

A wide choice of restaurants around town. Prices are reasonable.

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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?

About US$3/hour.

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

Yes, there is Eco Sport next to the Embassy and a very nice but also very expensive gym on the outskirt of the city.

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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?

You can use the ATM at the Embassy to be on the safe side but there are ATMs all over town that you can use too. You can use a credit card in stores for higher amounts.

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

Romanian and Russian are definitely useful. Young (educated) people speak a fairly decent amount of English.

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Transportation:

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

A taxi ride in the city will cost you US$3.

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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?

SUV is preferable because the roads are relatively bad but you can do without - as most locals do!

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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 is very good, reliable, fast, and... very cheap too (about US$25/month!).

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty through the International Women's Club.

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Health & Safety:

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

Medical care is post-Soviet...

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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?

Very good air quality.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is a QSI school which everybody complains about, at every level. It is very small. Even though now it is supposedly accredited at the high school level, it is not recommended to put older kids in that school. One (local) kid graduated from 12th grade last year. The other option is a local public Russian school (Pushkin) for kids who are already fluent in Russian. It can be a great opportunity for smaller kids (early primary) to learn Russian. Last year, a family put their kids in a Romanian school in late primary school because they were not happy with QSI and they loved it. Local kids in both Russian and Moldovan schools are very welcoming towards foreign students.

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

Lots of places are available in the local language. As far as I know, there is only one (good) preschool (aside from expensive QSI) that offers a program in English but it fills up fast. Their location is at the Mall.

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

Limited due to lack of knowledge of the local language, but there are always ways to find or organize something in English through networking. Many kids play tennis and there is an expats' soccer club that meets every Saturday (kids who go there are between 4 and 12 years old). If your kids speak Romanian or Russian, the list of activities is endless. There is a place called Artico that offers a wide ranges of activities for kids, and it is very cheap too.

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Expat Life:

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

Very good. People like this place. The only complaint is about the school and the health care.

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

No, Moldovans are pretty progressive in the way they think. They think on a global scale as they are Europeans and proud of it.

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

Visit wine cellars and surrounding countries (Odessa, Kiev and Romania).

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

Chisinau is a nice small capital city with a provincial feel. Everything is close-by (work, school...). Relative proximity to other European countries (more touristy ones like Greece) is a plus. People are very friendly and Chisinau is a very safe place to live in. Chisinau is the second greenest city of the former Soviet Union after Kiev: it has lots of large parks with one right next to the Embassy. Some people can easily walk to work (under 30 minutes) partly through the park. Traffic is light. The weather is nice (so far, the seasons have not been extremely cold or hot). We like the slow pace of life.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely!

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Chisinau, Moldova 08/13/11

Background:

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

Fourth expat experience.

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

Washington, DC. About 15 hours including connecting flight in Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most of the embassy community live in the "Beverly Hills" of the city, while others can be spread out as far as a 15 minute drive. Traffic is much worse in the spring and summer since most Moldovans tend to store their cars for the winter. Public transportation is cheap, affordable, plentiful, and usually reliable.

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

Between the Metro stores (similar to Costo/Sams Club) and the new Hyper Number 1, you can find virtually anything you want, at a price.

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

I'd bring some seeds to plant jalapeno peppers, basil, sage, cilantro, etc. (Moldovan basil and sage are strangely flavorless.) During the growing season, anyone can grow anything!

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

McDonald's is the biggest Western chain here for fast food, and I think there might be a Sbarro at the mall. Other than that, there are many low cost Moldovan restaurants. La Placinte is kind of like a Moldovan Boston Market: lots of fresh, tasty, and low cost "homestyle" dishes at a low cost. Fancy restaurants also exist, you can almost fool yourself in thinking you are in a major European capital at some of them: Loft, Grill House, etc. What is missing is any type of decent pizza (surprising, considering the huge number of Moldovans who've spent time in Italy, combined with the availability of Italian flour and really good made-in-Moldova mozzarella), and Mexican food that even remotely resembles the real thing. Moldovans love garlic, but that's about as spicy as it gets.

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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?

The best place to shop for these types of things is Green Hills, although the Number 1 stores also have a fair selection.

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

Blissfully few. However, sugar ants are a problem and will invade if you aren't super careful about what you leave out.

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Daily Life:

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

The embassy uses DPO and pouch services.

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

Cheap, good, reliable domestic help is readily available.

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

Yes. The embassy now has a small gym, and there are other gyms around the city, varying widely in price, but most quite 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?

Used widely and no problems to date. ATMS can be found for dollars and even Euros at some locations. The embassy ATM dispenses both dollars and Moldovan Lei.

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

Yes, both Catholic and non-denominational.

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

AFN, and some cable companies offer packages with US channels. Frustratingly, though, many of these are dubbed over in Russian, with the English still faintly heard in the background. I don't bother watching TV.

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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?

Depends. If you want to live a fairly insulated expat life, you can get by with none. But why bother living overseas if you don't stretch your boundaries a little? Even just knowing a few basic phrases in Romanian or Russian will greatly improve your interactions with the locals and lead to a more rewarding experience.

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

You name it. Between the ice in the winter, the uneven sidewalks year-round, and the apparent fondness for steep, non-uniform stairs and thresholds, this city is a disabled person's nightmare.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Maybe not the most pleasant experience in the summer, but certainly safe and affordable.

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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?

Between the unsafe winter streets, snow, and crazy Moldovan drivers, most people here drive SUVs.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes! Cheap, exceedingly fast service. Multiple times faster than anything I ever had in the US. (I have fiber optic service from Star Net.)

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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 a very cheap one here, or bring an unlocked smart phone from the US. Electronics are expensive here, but you need to be sure you're buying a phone that will work on this system.

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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. But you do need to have a recent rabies certificate, and be sure to notify the airport that you are arriving with a pet so that they can have the local vet on hand. The incoming fee is $5.

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

Yes! (Better for pets than people, it seems.) Great vet clinic on Vasile Lupu.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No, not really.

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

Moldovan women seem to find their inspiration from 14th St, Moldovan men dress either like Russian gangsters or in a "grunge" style. When going out, you'll see very well made-up Moldovan women dressed in tight, provocative clothing wearing 6 inch spike heels, talking either to a gangster type or a guy that looks like he crawled out of garbage dump. No woman would dare leaving her house here without makeup on, or in a sweatsuit, even if on the way to work out or clean someone's house.(Track suits for guys seem to be Ok though.) For expats, you'd do best dressing in conservative Western European style, limiting shorts, etc.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is probably the safest city I have ever lived in or visited.

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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?

Thankfully I have not had to experience it firsthand, but Moldovan medical care is notoriously horrid. People get evacuated for anything other than a cold or minor injury.

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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?

Spring can bring some amazing pollen storms from the poplar trees: it looks like it's snowing with giant white cotton puffs in the air. There is also the more traditional yellowish pollen, which lightly coats every possible surface for at least a solid month. Most people I know experience allergies in the spring...I've even had a light touch of them, and I never have before. But the bigger problem is the large percentage of Moldovans who smoke like chimneys, despite the large bold warning lables on every pack of cigarettes ("Smoking kills," etc.). Bring your supply of Febreeze, because even in the spring when you are eating at an outdoor restaurant, you'll go home smelling like other people's cigarettes. In the winter, it's a real treat to find restaurants where you're not walking into excessively smoky quarters.

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

The winters are loooong (6 months)and cold, although embassy houses are well-made and you will be comfortable if you live in one. The other three seasons are kind of smushed into the remaining six months. Spring and summer, though quite short after a long winter, are very pleasant. I keep hearing that it can get quite hot here, but I've actually had the small heater on in my office on and off for both seasons. Not sure yet about fall. One word of caution: bring your Yaktrax
or ice cleats...the sidewalks and streets here in Chisinau tend to get as smooth and slick as an ice rink...even with my ice cleats on, I've managed to come close to falling. I know many people who've fallen and broken bones, and this is NOT the place you want to break a bone. (The medical care here is indeed post-Soviet in nature.)

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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:

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?

Small/fishbowl community, but options abound. Nightclubs and restaurants are plentiful, cookouts, picnics, a Hash Harriers group, home bible studies, lots of events at the Marine House, a monthly English language movie night at a local movie theatre (otherwise movies are dubbed over in Russian), bowling alleys, a Western-style mall called Malldova, various swimming pools in the summer, etc.

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

I've seen other posters write that "this is a great city for single men." What they are trying to tell you is that the women here, many of them quite attractive, are aggressively available. I doubt that it's a coincidence that in Europe's poorest country, any man who comes here single leaves married. I've become friends with quite a few Moldovan women, and I can tell you that they have no qualms about going for a better life, no matter who that life is attached to.

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

I haven't met any openly gay Moldovans, although there are a few openly gay expats who don't seem to have trouble in the community.

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

In addition to other posters' comments about the Roma, I would add that those of African descent do tend to stand out here, and they do get stared at (although not openly harassed, to my knowledge). There was also recently quite vociferous opposition to the building of a mosque.

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

Eating in the ubiquitous outdoor cafes in the spring and summer, the endless wine tastings, outdoor concerts, affordable opera, theatre, and symphony tickets, touring the giant underground wine cellars, experiencing the bounty of fresh fruits and veggies at the outdoor markets.

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

Touring the underground wine cellars, day trips, and camping by the Nistru river, day trips to the painted monasteries and Orhei Veche, easy trips to Romania and Odessa.

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

Wine.

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

Moldova is a charming country, one which will likely take you by surprise if you are expecting the harsh, "Eastern European" or "Former Soviet Union" experience. Honestly, in many ways, Moldova reminds me more of certain more rural parts of Spain and Italy 20-30 years ago.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat!

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

If you're a male: worry that you'll be lonely.

If you're a female: sense of trust in other women.

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3. But don't forget your:

Ice Cleats or Yaktrax
.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I'll say it again, Moldova will surprise you. Given the availability of most Western items, the low cost of domestic help and services, the beautiful spring and summer, the warmth of the people, the relative safety of the city, and just the generally pleasant "vibe," Chisinau is probably the easiest "hardship" tour you'll ever have. Those who cry upon arriving will also cry upon leaving.

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Chisinau, Moldova 05/19/10

Background:

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

Arusha, Tanzania; Windhoek, Namibia; Kampala, Uganda

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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?

Our home base is basically the DC area. You typically fly through either Vienna or Frankfurt to get home. Connections in both cities are fairly quick, so we can easily get home in a day.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For U.S. employees, staff with families typically get houses in neighborhoods bordering downtown. Single staff and couples are often put into nice apartments. Commute times can be as short as 10 minutes by car. Some staff walk to an from work.

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

Groceries aren't terribly expensive. Wine and cheese are fairly inexpensive. Some household supplies are expensive. Things like cleaning supplies, diapers, clothes, children's toys and plastic bags can be outrageously overpriced.

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

We're not big on shipping things, but appreciate having our art and our carpets.

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

There are several McDonald's in town along with a few local fast food restaurants. I'm not too fond of any, but that probably has more to do with personal taste. The number of decent restaurants has increased while we've been here. Still...there are fewer than you may expect for a capital city this size in Europe. The quality of the food is often disappointing. It isn't bad, but it often lacks inspiration and service is seldom very good. Fortunately, the restaurants also don't tend to cost too much either.

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

None of particular interest. At different times of the year, we've been amazed by the number of sugar ants in our kitchens and bathrooms. This is not scary (they're tiny), but they are a nuisance.

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Daily Life:

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

We use of combination of the diplomatic pouch and the diplomatic 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?

Domestic help is available and some know English. The work ethic is fairly good and the staff generally consider themselves professionals. This means that they keep normal work hours and expect to be compensated for work beyond these normal times. Babysitters, nannies, and house staff appear generally happy to receive about 30MDL/hour. At current exchange rates this turns out to be approximately $400 per month for a full time house staff member.

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

There are facilities, but they tend to not be very good and are extremely expensive, particularly given what you get.

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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?

ATM machines are easily found. There was a recent scam where a machine was rigged to steal cardholder data. For U.S. government employees, there is an ATM machine at the Embassy that provides both Moldovan Lei and Dollars on request.

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

Yes, there is a non-denominational service performed by a joint Baptist-Pentecostal mission group.

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

There are no English-language newspapers. There is satellite and cable TV available. The number of English-language channels is very limited. HBO is available in English along with CNN, BBC News, Al Jazeera English, and a few other 24-hour news channels.

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

English is not well-known in Moldova. People can get English speaking staff and there are a few services that people know that can handle English speakers. If you don't know Romanian or Russian, though, you will run into many situations where you cannot communicate with people in stores, in restaurants, and in business situations.

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

The town is fairly walkable, but there are quite a few cracks in sidewalks and there can be missing manhole covers. There are few ramps or wheelchair accessible buildings.

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Transportation:

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

They are both fairly safe and affordable.

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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 in Chisinau are not in great repair. Having a car with some amount of clearance is good. Winter driving makes this even more useful. Toyota parts are fairly easily found. Parts for U.S. manufacturers are not. European brands (including Russian brands) comprise the majority of cars on the roads.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, the speed is quite high (DSL) and the cost is a little over $20 per month.

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

GSM phones work here. If you have one, you can easily buy a pay-as-you-go card.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Great vets (they come to your house), but I'm not sure about 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 particularly. Local salaries are typically low.

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

Business dress for formal situations to business casual (depending upon your position).

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Health & Safety:

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

Chisinau is, honestly, one of the safest cities I've ever lived in.

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

There are no specific health concerns. The quality of the water is suspect, but better than many places. The quality of medical is quite low, but it is improving. You do not want to have surgery here. Dental care, on the other hand, is inexpensive and of high quality.

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

The air quality seems to be very good. I do notice that a number of people (including myself) have allergy issues here.

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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?

Weather is fairly similar to that in the northern United States. There are four distinct seasons. Winter can be long and cold, although temperatures do not often drop below zero Fahrenheit. Similarly, although the summers can be hot...it does not often get above 100 (although it can and it does).

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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, as a group, is a strange institution. Frankly, I don't trust them. During our time here the school has been in crisis mode several times. This is often caused by the leaders and teachers sent by QSI (QSI operates international schools in 25 countries).The organization has horrible difficulties with interacting with parents and operating in a transparent fashion. They are effectively a monopoly, they know it, and they act upon it. If you push them...they'll tell you to your face that you can take what they offer or "go your own way."A few years ago, the group left a questionably mentally healthy director in place despite vociferous protests by parents. More recently, the current director forced a move to a very questionably ready and questionably safe location outside of town over the protest of more than half of the school's parents. The positive side is that the school is small and that kids can get a lot of attention. Given the impending move to a questionable location and a complete turnover in U.S. teaching staff (for the second time in as many years), I cannot, in good faith, recommend this school or post to families with school-aged children...probably for several years and until the situation with the new school becomes substantially clearer.

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

Given the size of the school, there are limited resources available to accommodate special needs children. On the positive side, class sizes tend to be small and there is often an teaching aid in the classes.

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

We sent our child to one of the local daycare facilities and we were not particularly happy with it. Part of this has to do with our own education philosophy. For example, the teachers hold your child's hand when they are coloring...partially so that you preschool-aged child can go home with perfectly-colored examples of their work. During one of our visits, we were disappointed to see that our child along with the other American children appeared to be largely ignored by the local staff, most of whom had only limited English speaking ability.

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

Yes, but they are fairly limited.

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Expat Life:

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

The community is fairly small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is fairly 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?

The night life is good. For families, most of the social life is entertaining in people's houses.

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

Given the truly suspect situation with the school (QSI), I would caution families about moving here. I believe it is a fairly nice place for single and couples. Spring, Summer, and Fall are lovely seasons. Chisinau is exceedingly easy to navigate and I've heard that there are a number of good clubs.

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

My understanding is that there is at least one place where gay Moldovans meet. There are also a couple of local NGOs promoting LGBT issues. The past two attempts to hold LGBT rallies in Chisinau have been thwarted by local authorities and were vociferously denounced by religious leaders.

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

Moldova is overwhelmingly white and Eastern Orthodox. People of color mat be confused with Roma, a group against which there can be shocking levels of racism. Men and women do play more obviously different roles in society. In some business settings, a man walking into a room will shake the hands of all of the other men, but walk past women. This is more true in rural areas, but can be seen in Chisinau as well.

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

Chisinau is relaxed. The food and wine are very nice (particularly if you like to cook for yourself).The small community allows you (forces you) to get to know people from all countries and all agencies. As I'll say several times, the weather during spring, summer, and fall are great. I don't personally love winter, but winter can be beautiful as well and kids love it.

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

Moldova is subtly lovely. Day trips to the country during spring, summer, and fall are lovely.

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

Wine.

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

Moldova is a fascinating little corner of the former Soviet Union. Historically, the area is ripe with learning potential. You are very close to places to visit in the former Soviet Union, an hour from Istanbul, and relatively close to Greece and certainly western Europe. The cost of living is fairly low, so saving money is definitely possible. The weather is good, the city is easily navigated, walkable in many cases, and super safe.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Warm clothes.

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

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, Tony Hawk

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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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Chisinau, Moldova 03/02/10

Background:

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

4th expat experience.

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

14 or so hours from DC through Frankfurt or Vienna.

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3. How long have you lived here?

7 months.

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

Working at the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Big, but oddly designed houses and apartments that are nice but in the middle of nowhere. If possible, try to push for a house.

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

Western style foods are available but can become pricey. The meats here at most of the markets are terrible and most people order meat through the military base in Germany, or a specialty store in town. Both can be pretty expensive.

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

A grill and a shovel.

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

McDonald's and it reasonably priced

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

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Daily Life:

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

DPO or pouch.

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

About 150 a month. I have a maid who come every day and it costs me 200 US a month.

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

Yes, a very good gym is 300 meters from the embassy

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

I have never had a problem.

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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?

I personally think it is very important, especially in social settings. English is not widely spoken

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

Very difficult.

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Transportation:

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

They are safe and very cheap. Some people take them, but having some of the language is important.

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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?

An SUV seems to be the most popular.

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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?

30 US a month and it is pretty good.

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

They are inexpensive.

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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)?

No, not really. I rely on friends to watch my dog out in town. However, I found a groomer that is pretty good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

no.

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

Business

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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?

The health care here is terrible. If I had a caviity i would want a medevac.

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

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?

Similar to Maryland.

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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?

Although I do not have children, the school seems adequate for younger children but is lacking a lot for high school aged children.

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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:

among Expat men it's 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?

Very good but small. After 6 months you realize it's the same people you see out and about.

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

The people with families and couple seem to enjoy their time here. The men who are single REALLY enjoy their time here and try to extend at post. Single women don’t appear to have the same level of enjoyment.

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

There may be an underground scene.

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

People of color can have some problems from time to time.

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

Traveling outside of Moldova.

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

Travel outside of the country. After 6 months you have pretty much done everything.

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

nothing really worth it..

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

You will be able to save a great deal of money if you avoid western type goods and entertainment.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but would have demanded language training.

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

Golf Clubs.

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3. But don't forget your:

"A" game.

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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?

The food in Moldova is terrible, as is the food at the embassy. There are very few reasonably priced international restaurants with decent food. I highly suggest people be prepared to learn how to cook prior to coming here

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