Yangon, Myanmar Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar 05/16/19

Background:

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

No, I have lived in in several cities across North America and 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?

United States. Travel to Myanmar takes aroiunbd 24 hours from the United States.

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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.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have two adults and two children in our household, and we live in the Shangri-La serviced apartments. Maid service is provided 6 days a week and is included in the price of the lease. The Shangri-La also brings cakes and flowers on anniversaries and birthdays. The apartment grounds are immaculate and the pool is the best in Yangon. Both the main and children's pools are saltwater. Our actual apartment is 4 bedrooms plus a room without A/C designated for live-in staff to occupy (we use the space for storage). Overall the apartment has plenty of storage for an apartment. It takes 20-30 minutes to get to the Embassy in in the mornings and afternoons. Mid-day and late evening it takes 2-3 times as long.

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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 easy to get, Marketplace has locations all over the city, but do not buy meat there! For beef, chicken, and pork go to Pro-Mart. For sausage and deli meats we shop at Prime Cuts.
As a family of four we spend around $70 US dollars per week on groceries. We shop at Marketplace on Dahmazeddi which caters to western expats. There are also fresh local veggies available from Fresco Myanmar, a CSA type service that delivers a weekly box of seasonal fresh vegetables.

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

Cereal and snacks. Our kids don't enjoy the local snacks; fried fish skins and fried crickets anyone?

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

Yangon Door-to-door serves the entire city and most restaurants use the service. The restaurants that don't use the service will send you your food in a taxi or offer their own deliver service.

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

Our apartment has ants and geckos. Our friends in houses complain of rats, snakes, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and geckos.

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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 the US Postal Service through the Embassy. There are DHL kiosks in the city.

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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 is inexpensive. Most expats have a driver, a nanny for kids, and a maid. I have also seen some families hire a cook to come to their house a few nights a week.

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

We are fortunate that our apartment has a nice gym facility. Other gyms in city cost between USD 1000-2000 per year.

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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?

When we arrived two years ago credit card payments were being introduced to the city and most employees did not know how to use them. Most larger businesses accept Visa and Mastercard; you will be hard pressed to find anyone who accepts Amex. The ATMs at major hotels and banks are safe.

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

Most people you encounter will speak some English. You have a 50/50 shot at getting a taxi driver who speaks English.

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

Yes. Sidewalks are often broken and cracked, with open sewage spilling out from under them. There are no ramps for those with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Safe is relative and questionable here, comfort is non-existent.

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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?

Your vehicle will get dings and scratches. Rainy season means knee deep water in many places. The roads are rough and potholes are left to fester. You would be well served to bring something with a high clearance and a comfortable suspension.

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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 speeds are on par or slightly slower than the average speeds you find in the states. Wireless speeds are comparable to the United States with LTE service available in most of the country.

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

The local providers are fast cheap and affordable. Just don't expect to use your Myanmar sim card outside of Myanmar.

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Pets:

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

There are very good veterinarians and service is inexpensive. There are pet store that sell food and pet accessories. A word of caution, veterinarians will not euthanize your pet if they are sick, injured, in pain, or dying. Their Buddhist traditions prevent them from harming an animal, even if the animal is in agony.

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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?

NGOs and non-profits hire about half of the expat spouses I know. The other half are teachers, or work remotely.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are lots of volunteer opportunities here. Orphanages, senior centers, animal shelters, NGOs, and many other organizations are always looking for assistance.

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

The Myanmar people wear traditional longyis and dresses. Everyone else just tries not to sweat.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime is minimal, tourist scams are also rare. Myanmar people are usually warm, friendly, and inviting.

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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?

Serious injuries can be a death sentence if you seek care in Myanmar. Expats use the SOS clinic for medical needs and Evergreen dental for minor and emergent dental issues. For anything serious everyone travels to Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lampur.

Serious infections are something to be concerned about. Open sewers that flow freely into local waterways create a lot of issues.

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

Air quality is good during rainy season. During hot season the air quality is abysmal. Most families and schools keep kids indoors.

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

Bring lots of allergy medicine.

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

Not that I have seen.

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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?

It's hot and humid all year long. The heat becomes bearable October through December.

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Schools & Children:

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

ISY, Network, and the British school are all excellent schools.

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

ISY will accomodate special needs on a case by case basis.

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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?

Most families hire a nanny to take care of younger kids at home.

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

Soccer, gymnastics, swimming, horseback riding, and many other activities are available for kids and adults.

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Expat Life:

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

There is large and vibrant expat community with expats from all over the world. Morale is usually high.

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

The Yangon Newcomers group and Yangon Expat groups are great places to meet other expats.

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

There things to do for singles, couples, and families.

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

Myanmar does not seem to be an inviting place for LGBT expats.

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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?

The Myanmar people are very friendly, unless you are Muslim. Myanmar seems very prejudiced against Muslim people.

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

Random road trips across the country have been an adventure. there are a lot of exciting places that have not been discovered. If you are able to hire a car and escape the main tourist areas you can still find places where the locals have never seen a foreigner before.

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

There are several hidden waterfalls near Golden Rock.

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

Jade, saphires, and rubies are all cheap here.

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

Cost of living is fairly cheap, travel to other countries is inexpensive.

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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 hot it truly is. I grew up in a hot climate, i'm still miserable in this heat.

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

Yes.

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

Coats and sweaters.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, sense of adventure, and patience.

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

No.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Yangon has a certain smell to it. Curry, offal, and raw sewage provide the backdrop for a cornucopia of smells depending on where in the city you are.

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Yangon, Myanmar 03/08/19

Background:

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

No, I've had many overseas tours.

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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?

U.S. east coast. It's about 24 hours, regardless of whether you fly west or east (yikes!). Most common connections are Toyko, Seoul, Dubai and Doha (all 5-7 hours), Bangkok (1 hour) or Singapore (2.5 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

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?

We lived in a serviced apartment and really like it; great pool, lots of people to hang out with, and awesome support from staff. Many include daily housekeeping. The downside is that there is no storage and the building will not remove anything (couches, forks, nothing!) of theirs, so you need to bring as little as possible. Also, most serviced apartments do not allow pets. Houses tend to be large and exactly what you dream about for Southeast Asia, but they are maintenance nightmares: mold. bugs, water damage, snakes (this stuff is real here). Prepare to spend a lot of time getting things fixed. Overall, everyone seems fairly happy with housing. Commute times vary but are generally under 30 minutes, but do your research on this, because some intersections can add 15 minutes to your commute every day. Walking commutes are rare due to lack of sidewalks and challenging weather. Bicycles are technically illegal in Yangon but expats get away with using them, although it's pretty dangerous due to the insanity of the roads here.

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

This was a pleasant surprise, as a huge variety is available here. Marketplace, the fancy grocery stores, imports from Australia, Malaysia, Korea and Japan and has things like US apples and salmon and wine for not insane prices. Dairy costs about what it does in the west (it's all imported), but everything local is extremely cheap. We spent about $100/week for a family of four, and that includes organic veggies and lots of dairy and imported meat products. If we shopped only at the wet markets it would be less than half that. Local produce is highly varied and very good (but of course seasonal); there is also lots of local poultry and fish. Myanmar people are not huge beef and pork eaters so these can be a little harder to find. Halal meet is available. There are various subscription services that will deliver; the Embassy commissary is pretty mediocre but increasingly less important.

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

We shipped the usual baking supplies, wine and beer, kids' snacks, laundry detergent, olive oil and vinegar, toiletries. We could have found substitutes here (or carried them back from runs to Bangkok and KL) but I'm glad we did because this was much cheaper and easier. People definitely ship pet food if they have pets.

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

Another pleasant surprise: there is a pretty good (well, okay) and growing food scene here. Myanmar cuisine is very diverse, ranging from grilled sea food from Rakhine, to Shan noodles, to hot pot, to BBQ, to localized Indian food, to lots of fermented salads, and is available every 50 feet or so. Many Myanmar people eat almost all of their meals at tea shops or street food vendors. There is also a plethora of good Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Chinese options, a pretty good pizza place with a kids' play area, and a fair number of acceptable or better western places. Prices range from miniscule for Myanmar food to New York-level for some of the nice western places. Hotel brunches are really popular and great. YangonDoor2Door is like Seamless and delivers from almost everyone. Oh, and there is a Burger King at the airport and we all occasionally get really excited about eating there.

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

In apartments, you'll fight an endless war with ants and see an occasional (HUGE) cockroach, but that's it. If you consider geckos pests, you'll be upset, but if you like them because they eat all of the other bugs, you're in luck. In houses, mosquitoes, snakes, mold, cockroaches...it's the tropics. Most people in houses employ a gardener to deal with some of this stuff. A note on mosquitoes: dengue is real in Yangon and expats get it. Wearing bug spray all the time is essential, no matter where you live.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. We've used DHL and it worked, but it was $100 for an envelope. There is a courier service here for sending and receiving packages from abroad, as well.

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

Pretty much everyone has some sort of help: driver, gardener, nanny, cook, cleaner, depending on your living situation. We have a part-time cook/ironer. Salaries top out at about US$400/month full time (which is technically six days), and generally are significantly lower. Almost all housing is set up for a live-in, if that's what you want. There are a lot of people who want to work for expats, but turnover is pretty high and it can take a few tries to find the right person, especially if you need someone with good English.

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

Serviced apartments all have pretty nice gyms, and there are also a bunch of places around town. Prices are less than in the west. Personal trainers are popular; you can also learn lei thwei (kickboxing), tennis, swimming, golf, etc. During the cool season, sports are a major focus of the expat community; there are leagues for softball and volleyball, tennis tournaments, road races, and more.

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

Credit cards are increasingly accepted at restaurants, hotels, and stores within malls; ATMs can be found but occasionally run out of money. No real reports of scams. Myanmar is rapidly moving ahead on this front. Some banks still think there are sanctions, which can be a nasty surprise when you go to an ATM, so clarify ahead of time with your bank.

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

Due to the country's long history of religious diversity, there options for Catholics, Christians, LDS, Muslims and Hindus (although somewhat limited in English). There is a synagogue but no rabbi so it's ad-hoc. If you're interested in Buddhism, this is the place for you, as the majority of the country is Buddhist and generally VERY devout. A lot of expats get into meditation.

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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's nice, but Myanmar people have low expectations of expats in this regard, and a lot of people speak a little English and try to help you out. There are tutors available. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of languages spoken in this country, so many from Myanmar don't even speak it as their first language.

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

It would be rough and very limited (and poorly maintained) sidewalks, no ramps, huge puddles. On the other hand, you could have a full-time driver to help out and people would likely do all they can to be of assistance.

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Transportation:

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

There is a fairly new local bus system that is very affordable but a bit hard to navigate. Taxis are thick like flies and lots of expats just rely on them and never get a car. You can find a driver you like and communicate by SMS. Grab (the Asian Uber) is big here. There are long-distance trains that are laughably slow and uncomfortable, but they get the job done. There is also a new water taxi service in Yangon that could be useful depending on where you live.

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

A lot of expats have SUVs but I think they are overkill unless you are actually going hiking all the time (and come on, are you?) Parking spaces are SUPER SMALL, so a compact car really helps. Japanese and Korean brands will be the easiest to get serviced. The roads are terrible and dings are frequent, so leave the BMW at home for this tour. Everyone is rocking a Toyota anyway.

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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?

It varies widely; the serviced apartments have it and just put everyone on wifi, while houses can be hit or miss. This is also rapidly changing so will probably not be as issue in a year or so.

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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 brought an unlocked phone and have a local SIM card and it is crazy cheap; I put maybe $7 a month on it and get lots of 4G data and calls. It's really simple. Facebook messenger, Viber and WhatsApp are all very, very popular here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

People are generally teaching, working in EFM jobs, teleworking, working for local NGOs (for little to no pay) or running their own serviced-based businesses. Local salary scales are very low. There is no bilateral work agreement with the US, but getting a "business visa" is actually very easy if you are not the spouse of a diplomat. People who want jobs seem to get something, but it might not be exactly what they pictured.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of opportunities to help local groups, although you have to look for them. Be wary of volunteering with "orphanages". The UN warns against this, as it's creating a cottage industry of "orphans" to attract international visitors/donors and can be very exploitative.

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

It's really hot here, so a little more relaxed than other places. Women generally should have shoulders and knees covered, which can be a bit of a challenge. No shorts for women unless you're by the pool. Note that women from Myanmar are covered to wrists and ankles 100 percent of the time. There are relatively few formal events.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is the best thing about this post: it is crazy safe. You can leave your stuff lying around, let your kids wander into a different room of the restaurant, leave your car unlocked, and nothing is going to happen (it's a combination of cultural values and justified terror of the legal system). Stories abound of taxi drivers finding phones and tracking down the owner to give it back. There is virtually no street harassment of women; the only "harassment" I see is of our kids, who people are always touching, picking up, and giving them candy. Also, people will totally want to take selfies with foreigners. It's really, really a nice environment.

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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?

This is the worst thing about this post: there are a few good doctors locally, but anything specialized requires an immediate departure for Bangkok or Singapore, and trauma care is really poor. Dengue, typhoid, TB, and rabies are concerns. There is a good dentist, but not much in the way of pediatrics or any treatment for a long-term condition. I feel like at any given time I know someone who is medically evacuated.

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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 a growing problem in Yangon. Trash burning is out of control (there was a giant landfill fire too last year), and as a result it has extremely poor air quality. There is very little public discussion, but more and more people have their own monitors. You'll want to get purifiers and limit outdoor activity on bad days; those with respiratory problems should do their research before coming here. With no government acknowledgement of the problem, it's only going to get worse as the city grows.

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

There are all sorts of plants (you're in the jungle, literally) and mold. Nut and shellfish allergies would be challenging, since these are in everything, but you could definitely be gluten and dairy-free here!

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

Not really, although the rainy season is loooonnng...

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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?

Lovely tropical paradise November-March, humid inferno April and May, and tropical rain June-October. It doesn't rain all day, every day in rainy season, but it rains for at least some time every day, which makes planning things tricky. Expats flee the country for the summer, so there are very few kids' activities when school is out.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have had a great experience with ISY, which has strong leadership and values. People also like the British School and the French School, so there are several good options. Take location into account, as traffic is awful and some combinations mean kids spend a lot of time on the bus.

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

Not sure, but ISY seems to make an effort. None of the schools are huge, so the range of what they can offer is inherently limited.

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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, there are many and the market is growing. People seem satisfied with all the options, and annual cost ranges from about $4,000 on up (way up, if that's what you want). People also generally have nannies and no school takes kids below 18 months. There are after-school activities but no before- or after-care at the schools.

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

Yes, through the schools, plus we have done soccer, swimming, piano, ballet, gymnastics and music on the local market. Other people we know do Scouts, circus arts, t-ball, Japanese, Spanish. You have to hunt but things are available. There are a lot of math/science enrichment classes targeted at Myanmar 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?

Definitely in the thousands; big enough to support some expat-oriented businesses, but small enough that you know someone at every party. Morale is pretty good; a lot of people are addicted to the easy lifestyle, the travel, and plentiful domestic help.

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

The usual house parties, restaurant scene, etc. The Goethe Institute and French Institute are both big here.

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

It seems okay for singles and couples. As a family we have enjoyed it; there are a lot of other families here, and we swim every day, so it can't be that bad! There is not a ton of cultural life here, nor are there a lot of easy road trips, so singles and couples tend to go to Bangkok quite a lot.

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

Not sure but it's generally a pretty tolerant culture.

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

It's been more challenging than other places I have served, mainly because there is a vast gulf of wealth between expats and 99 percent of the locals (and the 1 percent of the locals are vastly more wealthy than the expats). The Rohingya situation makes most expats uncomfortable and people from Myanmar don't like to talk about it. You simply have to accept that people are incredibly nice to you and your children AND they think what's being done to the Rohingya is okay.

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

This is an incredibly diverse country, but the Bamar (and Buddhist) majority is definitely first among equals. Generally it's an impressive daily display of tolerance and pluralism. The most popular person in the country is a woman, and women hold many positions of respect, but there are still a lot of "male tasks." I drive, for example, and I could count on my fingers the number of other female drivers I see in a month (or maybe a year).

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

Living somewhere that is globalized enough to have good coffee and wifi, but removed enough to where you can wander down roads that are full of monks collecting alms, and chickens, and outdoor barber shops, and strolling knife sharpeners, and all the other charming vestiges of a life that has been erased almost everywhere else in the world. Wandering the alleys of downtown Yangon. Inle Lake, Kalaw, Bagan and Ngapali Beach are all pretty much deserted and simply amazing. Domestic travel can be expensive but is worth it. It's a truly special place, flaws and all.

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

There are not a lot of road trips because the roads are so bad, but Ngwe Saung beach and Bago are both worth doing once. Take the ferry to Dala and wander around, visit the insanely weird "National Races Village" park, feed the crocodiles at the farm in Thaketa, ride the swan boats in People's Park, visit the tomb of the last Mughal emperor, try unsuccessfully to stifle your bewildered laughter in the counter-narcotics museum, play with animals at the dog and cat cafe, watch the cultural show on Karaweik barge, go to the Saturday farmer's markets in Karaweik Park, go to Yangon Zay, have brunch at the Melia, have Friday drinks at the Sailing Club, visit the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp; the list goes on!

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

Ugggh, yes. People go crazy on jewelry (it's so nice!), teak furniture, laquer, rattan, and cloth; it's really deadly. Bogyoke market is incredible. Note that there is a ban on exporting new teak, but reclaimed teak furniture abounds.

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

For Southeast Asia, it has a lot of trees and relatively little traffic (that is to say, quite a lot by any other standards). Unique way of life is still preserved, at least for a few more years. Good and cheap food, domestic help, great spas, amazingly friendly people, lots of interesting issues as it rapidly confronts a world it was closed off to for 50 years.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It was a shock how different it was from any place I've ever lived, but there's not much you can do to prepare for that. Give yourself six full months to feel like you actually live here. There are so few westerners that you always stick out.

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

Yes, warts and all; it's been very special.

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

Desire to do anything quickly, desire to drive faster than 20 mph ever, all of your non-summer clothes because there is no space for them, anything that is not absolutely essential, because it will probably get covered with mold in your house or apartment.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bug spray, sunscreen, patience, willing to try things a different way, patience, curiosity, and also patience.

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

The Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown about Myanmar is an awesome introduction and will get you excited about moving here. Also, Burma Chronicles is a wonderful and quick graphic novel about being an expat here (potentially good for kids, too). There are a LOT of great books about Burma, such as The Glass Palace, Ms. Burma, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (helps understand the WWII experience, which as an American I wasn't really aware of), and the writings of Thant Myint U and Aung San Su Kyi. You could spend your whole tour just reading books about this country.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The Rakhine situation has really changed things here; the tourism boom that people planned for isn't happening, and it's hard to say what the next few years will bring here. It's still worth living here and seeing the place for yourself.

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Yangon, Myanmar 09/17/18

Background:

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

This is our fourth overseas experience. Prior service in London, Jerusalem, and Mexico.

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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?

Travel from DC is long. The typical route is Dulles to either Seoul or Tokyo and then into Yangon. It takes about a day to get here.

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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 assignment.

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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 an even mixture of serviced apartments and stand-alone residences. Most families of four or more are in the stand-alone style, but there is a high demand for the serviced apartments. Commutes can vary, but most seem to range between 15-30 minutes. Traffic is somewhat unpredictable and can be quite heavy at times.

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

Groceries for standard items are comparable with higher prices paid for U.S. brand items. The Embassy Association runs a small commissary that offers more U.S. brands, but the prices are still higher than what you'd pay in the U.S. Just about everything you need is available, but it's not uncommon for things to simply disappear without notice. We went through a tonic drought last fall that lasted several months. #foreignserviceproblems.

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

This is a consumables post and the allowance is generous. We just re-upped on consumables during R&R. We went heavy on paper towels, marinara sauce, black bean dip, and Trader Joe's taco seasoning. We shipped mayo the first go-round and it all went bad.

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

Yangon is increasingly opening up to the rest of the world and it seems like new restaurants are constantly opening. They have a great local service called Yangon Door2Door that will deliver from most restaurants right to your do for a reasonable fee. If you want to go out there are a lot of restaurants to choose from for a variety of cuisines.

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

It's the tropics, so we have it all: ants, roaches, mosquitoes (dengue and malaria), rats, snakes, you name it! We found it all manageable with regular spraying and liberal use of Off.

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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 DPO and pouch here. Mail service typically adds 10-14 days delivery time for DPO items.

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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 is quite affordable here. It seems like most families employ a housekeeper or nanny. Many of the stand-alone residents also employ a gardener. It's quite common for people to employ a driver, in part because parking is awful everywhere, and in part because we are currently only permitted to import one vehicle. Having a driver makes it easier to get everyone where they need to go.

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

There's a decent gym at the embassy. There are also several new gyms around town. Many of these gyms cater to rich locals so membership fees are more expensive than in the U.S. Families with kids at ISY are permitted to use their gym and pool for free.

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

Credit cards are only slowly being accepted around town. We use them at the grocery store, which is handy, but many restaurants still only take cash. ATMs are plentiful around town and fairly safe to use.

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

I know there are local Catholic, Baptist, and LDS churches in the city. There's also a synagogue downtown.

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

You don't need much at all in Yangon. A few basic phrases is more than enough to get around.

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

Someone with physical disabilities would be very challenged here. The roads and sidewalks are in horrible condition and I rarely see accommodations for those with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are cheap, mostly safe, and easy to hail. I don't think I've ever paid more than $7 to go anywhere in Yangon. We have gotten reports of taxi drivers driving drunk or high on Yaba (a meth-derivative), but it's not common. You should negotiate the price before you get in the cab, and it provides a good opportunity to evaluate if the driver is under the influence. I haven't had any issues with taxis in the year I have been here.

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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 not well maintained and Yangon tends to flood during monsoon season. A medium-sized SUV with decent ground clearance seems ideal. We have a lot of Toyota RAV owners at Post. I have something larger, which can be a challenge to park, but it's been fine. With taxis and shuttle services from the serviced apartments, you could easily do without a vehicle altogether. Parts for Toyotas, Nissans and the like are locally available. American manufactured cars will need parts shipped in. Carjacking is not an issue here.

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Phone & Internet:

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

High-speed internet is available at home and we've found the service to be quite reliable. It's more common to lose power than to lose internet, although it does happen from time to time. The time to install is normally fairly quick, within a week or two of 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?

Bring an unlocked phone and buy a local SIM card. Most people just buy data top ups for their phones, which is quite cheap here. I spend about $25 a month on data on average, and I use my phone pretty regularly.

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Pets:

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

There is no quarantine, but the shipping process is difficult, in part because it's hot all year round. There's a vet that a number of people use who makes house calls. We haven't used her, but I haven't heard any complaints. I don't know of any reliable kennel services. We just have an informal dog sitting arrangement. Some serviced apartments won't take pets. Street dogs are common everywhere in Yangon. If your dog requires regular walks, they can be hard to avoid. Most are not aggressive, but this is not always the case.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

The embassy has a number of EFM positions, some teach at the international school, and there are a number of NGOs here that seem to always need staff. The job market here is better than a lot of other posts, but a lot of what's available depends on timing.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. Myanmar consistently ranks number one in the world in terms of volunteer work. There are a number of volunteer opportunities as local orphanages and animal shelters.

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

Suits are standard attire at the embassy. Formal dress is required on rare occasion.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yangon is a low crime post. As long as you show the same situational awareness you would in your average U.S. city, you should be fine.

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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?

Yangon is a hardship post for a reason. Medical care is quite limited here. The embassy has a great medical unit and there are a couple of hospitals and clinics in the city that we work with, but anything non-routine will require a medevac to Bangkok or Singapore.

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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 normally good year round, although it can get dusty towards the end of the hot season just before the monsoon rains come. Last year, the city dump caught fire and burned for several weeks. That definitely had an impact on air quality.

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

The air is normally fine. Food allergy sufferers must be careful when ordering food locally as it's not always clear if there's been cross contamination of ingredients. Our son has a tree nut allergy and has had reactions to food where tree nuts were not listed in the ingredients.

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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)?

Monsoon season can get dark and great, but that normally coincides with summer transfer/R&R season, so most people get a break to go home right when the rains get bad.

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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?

It's hot from February to June, rainy from June to October, dry and warm from October to January. It's never not warm in Yangon.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have a middle schooler and a high schooler at ISY and we've been very pleased with the school. The academics are rigorous and it was a challenge shifting from public school in northern Virginia to a pre-IB program, but the ISY staff have been extremely supportive. The counselors are constantly checking in with us and the kids and if a problem comes up, they bring the teachers, parents, and counselors together quickly to work through the issue. I heard similar positive reviews from the elementary school parents.

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

ISY has basketball, volleyball, swimming and soccer as organized activities.

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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 large and growing. I would say morale is good overall. Everyone seems to enjoy it 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?

The American Club has regular events, and the other embassies seem to host social events on a fairly regular basis. There's a local hash that's well attended.

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

It seems to be a good post for everyone. There's plenty to do, the cost of living is cheap, there are a ton of local and regional travel opportunities and the place is quite safe. What's not to like?

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

Myanmar is a large and fascinating country. It is extremely ethnically diverse. You could occupy an entire tour just trying to get out to see everything within the country, much less all of the travel opportunities within the region.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing really, but that I mean no show stoppers. This has been an interesting city and country to learn about.

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

Absolutely, the Burmese people are kind and friendly people eager to share their culture with the world after being closed off for so long. It seems like they're always smiling, everywhere you go. Yangon is not without its challenges. You earn your hardship differential from the lack of infrastructure and frequent power outages, but those challenges seem to also bring the community together. I wish we could stay longer.

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

Winter clothes and your desire to cash the differential check, but still be able to complain about the hardship. If you take the money, you take the pain that comes with it.

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4. But don't forget your:

Flip flops (they're acceptable footwear for any and all events), sunscreen, bug spray, and adventurous spirit.

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Yangon, Myanmar 03/05/17

Background:

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

No; my husband and I were previously posted to the US embassy in Beijing for 3 years.

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

We currently live in the Washington DC area. The most convenient trip from DC to Rangoon requires one stop in either Tokyo or Seoul, with total travel time at about 22 hours at best (about 14 hours to Seoul/Tokyo, then about 6 to Rangoon, plus layover time). Less convenient itineraries might require an additional stop elsewhere (Dallas, Seattle, Bangkok, Hong Kong) and therefore require more time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About 2.5 years.

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

My husband is posted to the US embassy in Rangoon.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in a free-standing single family home with a small yard. Many families here with a dog or multiple kids end up in houses; we have a dog, which is why we ended up in a house. Our house is moderately sized--plenty for two people and a dog, with room to host houseguests as needed. The house is one of the further north properties in the city, putting us farther away from the downtown area, but ultimately not far from the embassy.



Our commute times are not always consistent. More recently, the commute to work has been made inconvenient by the city's decision to erect concrete barriers running up the middle of the road we take to work; we now can't turn left out of our road and instead have to travel almost an additional 1 mile each way to get turned in the right direction, which has added 10-15 minutes to the morning commute. The evening commute can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

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

Grocery availability fluctuates significantly here. A core group of products is consistently available, but many things vary from week to week. A good example is Florida's Natural orange juice (about $8/carton when available). This used to appear at the most popular expat grocery store about once every 6 months; each shipment would last until supplies ran out, which was about 2 weeks. Then, for a brief period of time, it seemed to be regularly stocked for about 4-6 weeks, and we thought maybe they'd found a regular supplier. Then it disappeared again, and hasn't been seen since then.



The cost of items also varies quite a bit, mostly depending on whether or not they were imported. Local or regional produce is very cheap; imported items are more expensive, sometimes by a lot (imported American asparagus for $7 a bunch). The alcohol selection is poor as well; the best imported beer readily available at the store is Corona, and good-quality wine and liquor are irregularly available and more expensive, due to either import tax or having been brought over via duty free.



In terms of household supplies, we brought most of our own items, particularly cleaning supplies, with us, because we'd been warned local quality wasn't as good, or was more expensive if it was imported. One thing I wish we'd brought was a product like Bug Barrier--ants periodically get into the house, and Bug Barrier does a good job keeping them out. The embassy commissary used to sell this regularly, but they don't anymore, and it isn't available locally, nor can it readily be mailed.

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

Aside from the aforementioned Bug Barrier, I think we did a good job prioritizing the right things--some canned goods we particularly like, a lot of cleaning products, a consumables shipment focused on alcohol we can't get here, etc. Most everything else was either available locally or could be ordered and mailed.

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

The delivery service YangonD2D is expanding and improving its services, which is a real boon when traffic is bad and you don't want to battle it all the way downtown. The restaurant scene in Rangoon is expanding, though still limited. Nevertheless, there are some worthy options: a good pizza place, Korean barbecue, casual American, a French restaurant training school, Mexican, sushi, Asian fusion, upscale Burmese, Vietnamese, Indian, and even a German restaurant (there was a surprisingly good Russian restaurant, but it closed). There are also a couple of really good hotel brunches that are very popular.

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

It's common for free-standing houses to experience insect infestations from time to time. For us, this never came in the form of anything worse than sugar ants (mostly in the hot season), and could mostly be managed with seasonal applications of Bug Barrier.

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Daily Life:

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

We get all our mail through the embassy's mail services (APO/DPO and pouch), as local mail services are presumed to be unreliable and slow.

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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, while somewhat more difficult to find than it was in Beijing, is readily available if you're willing to look for it a bit. People here employ a range of staff; most common are housekeepers, from a few days a week at a few hours a visit, to five days a week for full work days. People also employ nannies, guards, gardeners and drivers. We found our housekeeper via YEC (Yangon Expat Connection), a Gmail group; she in turn introduced us to our guard/gardener. When our housekeeper started with us, we payed her a fairly high rate for circa 40-hour work weeks: about $300/month. We paid the gardener half that for slightly fewer hours and fewer overall responsibilities. We've given them both annual raises of about 10% each year they've been with us.

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

I never used any of the local gyms, though my husband did for a while. They're slowly increasing in number, but generally remain expensive (relatively speaking) and crowded. I made the most use of a yoga studio, Yangon Yoga House, which has expanded to two branches and has an ever-increasing offering of classes (several styles of yoga, Pilates, barre-based classes). Class passes can be bought for 5 or 10 classes; a 10-class pass is good for 6 months and currently costs US $100; 5-class passes or single-class drop-ins are a bit more per class. The studio also holds workshops, like 2- or 3-hour sessions on headstands or meditation, and organizes retreats around the region.

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

Credit cards are slowly becoming more accepted, but this is still largely a cash-based economy. Large hotels, stores oriented toward expats and some other places that sell expensive items (gems, art, etc) are more likely to take credit cards. ATMs are also becoming more common, but often malfunction: either they're broken, out of cash or experience some error partway through, and hopefully you get your card back. If you can easily access a money changer, like at the embassy, this is a more reliable option.

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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?

You can get around with next to no Burmese language, as English is many people's second language, but I found it useful to know some phrases, particularly for taxis. Since the number of foreigners speaking more than a few phrases of Burmese is still very low, you may run into a scenario in which you demonstrate some Burmese language capability, and then the locals start speaking it to you like you're fluent, even though you're very much not. Classeas and tutors are available; I took classes through the embassy, but there are other alternatives.

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

Yes, very much so. The sidewalks can be treacherous even for the able-bodied: uneven, missing in places (sometimes with the hole leading down into the open sewer underneath), prone to ending abruptly. At night, most of the city is poorly lit, and you have to be very careful where you step. Street intersections are not accompanied by pedestrian-specific traffic lights; crosswalks may not be at intersections but rather at random places and unaccompanied by any warnings to oncoming traffic; older buildings (ie, most of them) weren't required to have elevators unless they were taller than 8 stories, etc. I imagine a disabled person might readily find themselves receiving assistance from friendly locals, but I wouldn't want to have to rely on that.

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Transportation:

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

The embassy recommends we don't take buses or kyat trucks, due to safety concerns; many buses are old, overcrowded and badly driven, though they are affordable. Taxis are also affordable and about as safe as you'll find in this city. The quality of the vehicles can vary wildly, and drivers are generally aggressive, but they're your best bet for public transit.

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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 recommend a small SUV or something else that's sturdy and has some clearance. Roads can be rough and flash floods are common in parts of the city during rainy season. Since many Burmese cars are second-hand imports from Japan, a Japanese-brand car will be easiest to find replacement parts for (less so with Nissan and Subaru, more so with Toyota and Honda). You don't want a car that's too big, because roads and parking spaces can be narrow, or one that's too small, because of uneven roads and flash floods.

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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?

We currently pay US $125 per month for 2 Mbps, which is the second-fastest option available. Installation time can be unpredictable--when we arrived in late October 2014, the city had decided to stop installing internet access for the rest of the year; since our house didn't already have a hook-up when we arrived, we had to wait until January for a fiber line to be strung out to our house. This also involved drilling a hole in the side of the house, which was a bit unnerving. The internet company has very poor communication skills--they send one bill per month once, and if you miss the deadline, they simply shut off your account with no further remarks. Also, we've had a few instances where our line has been damaged by activity out on our road--which we can't control because it's a public road--and the company tries to charge us for the replacement line. This usually results in us telling them to talk to the embassy, and they fight it out.

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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 brought unlocked iPhones from the US and got local MPT SIM cards. Other options are Ooredoo and Telenor; some work better in other parts of the country than the other companies, but service is roughly comparable. Data is very cheap and can be added as you need it.

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Pets:

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

There are no kennel services available that I'm aware of. Qualified vets are few and far between, though some of them make house calls, which is convenient. As diplomats, we didn't have to quarantine our dog upon arrival. This is a tough place to have a dog at times: a lot of people are still scared of dogs (though that can be a good home security measure), so you have to be sure your household staff are comfortable with them; there are no dog parks in the city; there are lots of aggressive stray dogs; the city sometimes still culls the local stray population by leaving out poisoned meat, so you have to watch for that on walks; vet services are patchy, so you really don't want to find yourself in a situation where you need emergency care. If your dog isn't generally healthy, I wouldn't recommend bringing them here.

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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?

The embassy has a reasonably formal dress code, but full suits are not usually required for guys unless there's a particular reason to dress up, like a visiting delegation; most times, guys wear nice pants and button-up shirts, and keep a blazer and tie handy just in case. Women can get away with a wider variety, but suits are similarly not required. Many American women at the embassy have clothes made out of local fabrics; it's normal to see people wearing things like sheath dresses and pencil skirts made of local fabric.

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Health & Safety:

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

In terms of personal security, this city is quite safe; even as a woman, you can walk alone at night downtown and feel secure. Common sense shouldn't be ignored; there have been a few stories of cabbies trying to take advantage of women traveling alone late at night, and you should watch your belongings in crowded areas. Still, crime is low, and you're much more likely to fall into a hole in the sidewalk than get mugged.

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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?

This is a bad city in which to live if you have any significant health concerns. In addition to poor-quality medical care (ill-equipped ambulances; poorly-supplied hospitals; undertrained doctors), a variety of illnesses are common here, like malaria and dengue. The embassy is happy to help arrange appointments to address just about anything over in Bangkok. Food poisoning is also a fact of life--just about everyone gets it at least twice in their first 6 months, and hopefully less from then on out, but it's still common to have a bout of it a couple times a year, even if you're eating at higher-quality establishments. Visitors should absolutely bring something like Immodium or Pepto-Bismol and be leery of street food.

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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?

We're coming from Beijing, so just about anything feels better. Rangoon's air quality is not great, but it's mostly manageable. During the dry season (November-February), locals burn dry vegetation, so that adds significantly to the haze. Dry season is when the air quality is most likely to have an effect on health.

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

I had only mild seasonal allergies and don't have food allergies, but I think this would be a difficult place to come with a particular food allergy. Waitstaff, even at foreigner-oriented restaurants, may be attentive but lacking in the English skills and familiarization with allergy issues to reliably communicate special requests to the kitchen.

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

It's hot all the time. Dry season (October/November-February) is the best, with highs around 85-90 and lows around 70-75 at night, and low humidity. Hot season (March-May) is the worst, in my opinion, with highs hitting 105-110, high humidity, and often blazing sunshine. Rainy season (June-September) sees highs around 85-90 with heavy daily rainstorms, particularly around July and August.

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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 Western expat community is still small; it's growing, but slowly. There are more Australians than Americans. For other expats, there are of course a good number of regional neighbors represented--China and India have significant expat communities, for example. Due to the fairly small number of both expats and places that cater to them, you often end up seeing each other repeatedly, even if you don't intend to. Overall morale seems good--as a friend once said, "Since it's still so hard to get a work visa here, you can't end up here by accident, so everyone you meet is doing something cool and interesting." Also, it takes a certain personality type to end up here, so most people are generally happy with life, and, if you have an "Oh, Burma!" day or moment, everyone else can sympathize.

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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?

As previously mentioned, it's easy to run into other expats at a variety of events, since there aren't very many of either (expats or events). Some recent events have included concerts, an innovative art exhibit (German artist at the historic Secretariat building), events hosted by particular communities/entities (shops and food stalls at the Institut Francais; a meet-the-artist event at the store Hla Day), visiting chefs at a couple of restaurants, etc. Events like art exhibits at some of the city's galleries might be one of the better places to meet both locals and expats--the city's art scene is surprisingly good, and attracts a wide swath of people calling Rangoon home.

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

This isn't a good city for singles, according to a few single friends. The expat community, as previously mentioned, is small, and there are still some cultural gaps that might make it trickier to date locals. Also, since there aren't a lot of options for things to do, it would probably get lonely some weekends. It's better to be here as a couple or as a family, so you can entertain each other.

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

This country is majority Theravada Buddhists, and many of them are prejudiced against Muslims, so that could be problematic. Gender equality is also an issue, though more among the local populace than in its treatment of Western women. Burmese women are still largely viewed as the weaker sex, and are expected to be compliant, agreeable and deferential to men, and this can be difficult to watch. However, many Burmese men are deferential/accommodating toward Westerners, both male and female, so it's a less obvious dynamic as an expat.

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

In Rangoon, we've enjoyed befriending and periodically checking in on the owner of Nawaday Tharlar Gallery on Yawmingyi Street. He's friendly as can be, always happy to see people, and has an ever-growing, ever-changing stash of paintings of all styles in the upstairs portion of the gallery. In-country trips have all been great and memorable: Bagan (hot air balloon ride on Christmas morning over the temples), Inle Lake (motoring downriver to abandoned temple ruins), Pyin Oo Lwin (strolling through botanical gardens designed by the Brits). Most recent and most memorable was a 6-day ride on a catamaran around the Mergui archipelago in far southern Burma, with Burma Boating. This isn't a cheap trip, but it was glorious--6 days of cliche-perfect isolated islands with white sand beaches and turquoise water.



This is a cool time to be here: infrastructure may be lacking in places, but this country is just becoming recognized as a worthwhile place to travel, and it's fun to say you were here before the crowds found it.

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

Art exhibits and swinging by the galleries that host them is always fun; this country is photogenic and lends itself to fun artwork. For tourist attractions a bit off the beaten path, I like the Sitting and Reclining Buddhas, which are in temples across the road from each other. Karaweik Palace at sunset is beautiful. A couple of bars in the city are rooftop, with views of Shwedagon Pagoda; those are worth seeking out for the view. Also, not a hidden gem, but massages are cheap and enjoyable. Hair washes, which can be had at salons, are 20-40-minute shampoos with scalp and neck massages, and should not be missed.

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

Yes, there's a lot to buy here! Teak furniture can be had for much less than in the US, and it can be custom-made from recycled/second-hand teak. Art, particularly paintings, are colorful and unique, making it hard to buy just one. Semiprecious and precious gems are readily available for reasonable prices. Textiles are abundant--fabrics to be turned into clothes or pillowcases; table runners; woven blankets; scarves, etc. Stores like Hla Day offer lots of handicrafts sold from small groups that might not otherwise have a chance--disabled people, ethnic minorities, etc--and are priced to sell. Bagan specializes in lacquerware, which can either be used as intended or simply as decoration. It's very easy to end up with a lot of cool local stuff!

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

There's a certain atmosphere here that is really interesting--the feeling of being in a city that's still opening up to the outside world, that's becoming accustomed to the democratic process, that's in a time of real change. It's this feeling that is the most interesting or advantageous part of living here, and makes up for the poor infrastructure, bad traffic or hot temperatures. It's also a good place to save some money; it's hard to spend a lot here, so your savings account may grow faster here than in other places.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I would.

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

Cold-weather clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Linen clothes, sturdy shoes, good-quality sunscreen, sunglasses.

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

Anthony Bourdain's show, "Parts Unknown," did an episode here in 2011, right when the country was opening up. Some of the city has changed, but not a lot; it's probably still a good starting point. The British version of "Top Gear" also did a Christmas special here in 2012 or 2013, which involved them driving overland from Rangoon to Naypyitaw into Shan State and across the border into Thailand; this is worth watching, too, for a look at the country. "Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know," by David Steinberg, is a good overview of the country's history.

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Yangon, Myanmar 02/22/17

Background:

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

No, have lived in two different 2nd-tier Chinese cities.

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

Florida, U.S. 25+ hours at a minimum, typically through LA or DC to Tokyo, Seoul or Bangkok and then on to Yangon. You can also go through Doha now.

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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.)?

U.S. Department of State.

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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 serviced apartments are the best kept secret!They are like living at a hotel with pool, gym, concierge services, daily maid service and super attentive maintenance (can call a taxi, arrange deliveries, etc.) Apartments are 2-3 bedrooms with a small balcony. Best views of Shwedagon pagoda and the sunrise and sunset. Plus wonderful community and great commute time (one is located closer to downtown which makes for a longer commute to the Embassy but closer to lovely downtown and Kandawgyi park).


Most single family homes are in Golden Valley area with a commute time of 10-30 minutes to Embassy and they are a mixed bag. Some have serious pest or mold problems. Most have quirky layouts and construction that makes you scratch your head. Yard space is rare- most have walled in courtyards that are good to park your car in and little else. Several are within walking distance to International School of Yangon. The American club compound also has 5 residences. They are beautiful and spacious with lots of green space though dated and with serious maintenance issues. Commute time can vary from 20 minutes- an hour at rush hour.

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

Lots available at Marketplace city marts around town, although we are still a consumables post. Consistency of inventory can be a problem- one week you'll see your favorite brand of something and then you won't find it for several months, if ever again. For consumables, focus on liquids: wine, liquor, and convenience goods like canned goods of brands you like. Cost of imported goods is a little higher than U.S. but still affordable. Prices in commissary keep going up.

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

Tampons are unavailable on the local market but you can order over amazon (if you have diplomatic pouch privileges) or find at the commissary. It all depends on how brand-picky you are. Again, you can find almost everything or order on Amazon but if there's stuff you know you like, bring it. Serviced apartments provide TP so no need to ship unless you are really picky. Single family homes do not!

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

Yangon Door 2 door is amazing- bike delivery services that will bring almost any cuisine to your door. We have several good Indian restaurants. Parami Pizza is wonderful. Decent sushi and ramen available along with soup dumplings and la mian. Manana is legit Mexican food started in 2015 by a Mexican expat. The dining scene is always changing and there's lots of fun restaurants to go out to including the local restaurants. Pansuriya, Rangoon Tea House, Shan Yoe Yar and Taing Yin Thar are good Burmese options. There's also L'Planteur and Shwe sa bwe for a really upscale French dining experience.

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

Almost all of the single family homes have ant problems. Some close to the lake have snakes during rainy season.

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Daily Life:

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

APO although under pouch rules.

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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 is available but the level of their English and experience with expats varies greatly and impacts prices. Currently a decent, full-time English speaking nanny with experience with expats makes 300-400/month. Burmese people will love your children but they are very indulgent so keep that in mind. Some cooks can read and write in English and follow recipes go for 300/month full time. Super helpful to have them shop, cook, prep, etc.

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

Serviced apartments have gyms which are adequate but not fancy. Powerhouse gym and Balance fitness are two gyms the Embassy staff use due to location. They run $100-150/month and include a wide range of classes. There's also Yangon Yoga house which has yoga, barre and many other classes available at two locations for about $10/class.

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

No! It's getting better but most local establishments do not take credit card. Myanmar is still very much a cash-based economy. One officer recently paid for car repairs all in cash and needed a shopping bag to carry it all. ATMs are getting more common but some have trouble reading our debit cards. You can however use a credit card at one of the grocery store chains and a few of the hotels around town. If bringing USD to Myanmar be sure to ONLY bring absolutely brand new, crisp, no wrinkles, no tears, no ink stains PERFECT bills to exchange. (Best exchange rate is for $100 bills). Otherwise they will not accept your USD for exchange.

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

Catholic, non-denominational Protestant, Church of Latter Day Saints, Quaker meetings

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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?

Embassy has a post language program available for staff and family members. Many people in Yangon speak English and some in the tourism industry will surprise you with how well they speak. Still it's helpful to have a few phrases for taxis and the market.

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

It would be difficult to get around in Yangon with physical disabilities. It's a very unwalkable city in the first place, let along with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and anywhere from $1 a ride to $7 to get you to the airport at rush hour. Otherwise there is no public transportation available.

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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?

People like to bring SUVs here because the road conditions can be iffy but sedans do just fine as well. It can be nice to have some ground clearance to go through deep puddles during monsoon season but 4WD is not necessary in the city.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Serviced apartments come with internet access and the speeds are decent although can slow quite a bit during busy hours. Single family homes seem to have frequent/random outages for longer stretches and the speeds can be pretty slow. I hear that some use 3G hot spots instead of paying for internet since it is frequently out and not fast enough.

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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 a must as most overseas plans do not work in Myanmar. SIM cards are cheap- $1/each, but I would bring an unlocked phone. iPhones are not sold in country.

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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?

Vet care is not great so if your pet is aging or with health issues do not bring them. No quarantine. It can be complicated to get pets to Yangon. A stop over from the U.S. is required so you need to check with the airline first. If taking them on the plane with you, only Korean Air will allow it. If going as excess cargo, you need to fly through Bangkok as other stop over points will not take them out of their crate at the layover.

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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 is currently no bilateral work agreement for diplomats nor a de facto agreement but ministry of foreign affairs allows spouses to work on the local economy. Several spouses do development work with NGOs, one works for the UN, another is a teacher at an international school. Another works for a bank.There are currently some interesting options although compensation is of course less than in the US.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There's such a need in Myanmar for so many things but volunteer opportunities are not well-organized. Instead the potential volunteer needs to find the organizations and offer what they can to them.

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

Myanmar is fairly casual. Locals wear longyis and flip flops a lot. Within the embassy it varies by section with Pol/Econ wearing suits and ties (most of the time) but other agencies or sections are more casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Just general big city concerns to stay aware of your surroundings. Relatively safe.

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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?

Available medical care is very limited and medical evacuations are frequent occurrences. People seem to fall a lot due to the sidewalks. People are also sick with stomach bugs a lot. Not as much as India but still on a semi-regular basis.

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

Moderate- in the dry season people burn trash and there are a lot of cars so usually a morning haze that burns off by mid-morning. No serious problems although some people notice the smoke more than others.

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

There can be mold issues in the single-family homes so think about that for housing.

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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?

Monsoon season is June-October it's warm, humid and just rains all day for weeks.


"Dry/cool" season comes after that although October/November are still fairly humid and hot it doesn't rain much then. It can really be nice from December- February.


March- May is HOT season with temperatures over 100 daily for weeks on end.

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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 3-4 American curriculum international schools in town some with better reputations than others. Lots of British school options. Many are heavily academically focused and can be difficult for average American students to transition into.

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

Very limited resources for special-needs kids in Yangon.

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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's a range of preschools and day care programs. Some are much more expensive than others. Not always the best is the most expensive.

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

Shakespeare school, swimming lessons, dance classes, choir, T-ball/baseball from November-March at the AERA club, Girl/Cub Scouts.

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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 growing. Lots of NGOs, energy sector, and a few missionary families. Generally good morale.

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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?

Internations, Yangon Newcomers Group, International Friendship Group, happy hours with other diplomatic missions, Hash House Harriers, art gallery shows.

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

Can be challenging for singles as the community is not that large. For couples and families seems to be a great posting.

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

There are a few LGBT things going on around town but it's a pretty sleepy town.

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

There's a lot of conflict between the local Buddhist majority and Muslim minority groups. Decades of conflict between Myanmar minority ethnic groups and Bamar majority.

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

A group of 16 of us just did a cruise to the Mergui archipelago with Mergui Princess. It was AMAZING- pristine white sand beaches with clear blue water and completely isolated. Best snorkeling I've ever done with beautiful coral reefs and great weather. Visiting Bagan and riding the hot air balloons was special. Inle Lake is also other-wordly. A trip to the Green Elephant Valley elephant camp in Shan state was great too. Ngapali beach is a relaxing and beautiful escape but expensive. (most local travel in country is more expensive than you would expect for southeast Asia). Also regional travel in southeast Asia is fabulous- takes a bit to get around because you usually connect through Bangkok or somewhere else but so many opportunities for holidays!

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

The Nagar Glass Factory is such a quirky interesting place. It was destroyed and shut down in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis hit but you can still go and pick through the leftover glass pieces and buy them from the caretakers. Yangon food tour was fun too.

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

Yes! They say Myanmar art is undervalued and there are SO many little art galleries to pop into and check out. There's also lots of people making furniture out of reclaimed teak for great prices (still an investment but cheaper than in the U.S.) Lots of lovely textiles from Chin and other areas.

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

You can live a really comfortable life for not crazy prices and the exotic adventures of Myanmar are still just outside your door when you're ready for them.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How unwalkable a city Yangon is. No decent sidewalks- huge holes into sewers in many of them. You literally have to watch where you're stepping or you will fall. Also some of the residential areas are located in areas where there isn't room for people to walk on the streets and of course during monsoon season that all floods and is difficult to navigate in a car let alone on foot.

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

Absolutely! We figure this is going to be our favorite posting.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bug spray, sunscreen, CROCS- these are essential for monsoon season (don't bother with wellies/rain boots they get too hot).

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

The Lady

River of Lost Footsteps

Burma Chronicles

Letters to Burma

Burmese Days

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Yangon, Myanmar 10/03/16

Background:

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

Five previous expat experiences, mostly in 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?

U.S.A. We usually go from Yangon to Seoul to Detroit. There's a new flight directly to Dubai. Either way, it's a long haul.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About two years.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are houses and serviced apartments. The serviced apartments are very fancy (pools, gyms, restaurants, etc.). The U.S. Embassy is moving toward only using houses near the embassy, as traffic is getting worse in the city due to fast economic growth. Most people have a 15-30 min commute.

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

You can basically get whatever you want now. There are fancy "City Marts" popping up all over town. Luxury items like blueberries are expensive, but available.

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

You can save money by shipping laundry detergent and household goods. Most things are available here.

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

It's not Bangkok, but food scene has really grown. There are many trendy hipster options and new places are opening every weekend.

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

There are ants and mosquitoes in houses. The serviced apartments have fewer problems.

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Daily Life:

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

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?

Household is reliable and ranges from $250-350 per month.

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

New fancy gyms are starting to emerge. The American club and the U.S. Embassy both have gyms for embassy personnel.

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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 use is getting easier in Yangon, but it's mostly a cash economy.

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

It helps to learn basic phrases, but not required. People here are so nice that you can usually get by.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe, cheap, and everywhere. You could survive here without a car.

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

A Toyota Rav4 or similar type vehicle is ideal. You want something that is high enough for water and potholes, but small enough for narrow streets.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The serviced apartments get a connection as part of their rent. People with houses pay between $100-200 per month. A new undersea cable comes online in 2017, which will speed things up considerably.

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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?

Cheap and easy here. We pay about $5 per month for unlimited data.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

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

Formal at the Embassy. Everywhere else is less formal. Flip-flops are always welcome.

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Health & Safety:

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

This place is very safe. Many people don't even lock doors.

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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 not great. Bangkok and Singapore are good options for anything more than stitches. It takes about 45 minutes via airplane to get to Bangkok.

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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?

Fair. The fast economic growth has added a lot of cars. It's much better than most posts in Asia.

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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?

November to February is glorious. Aside from those months, it's either hot or raining.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our kids are very happy at ISY. Sometimes older kids struggle with transferring into ISY because it's very rigorous academically. Most people seem happy.

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

The American club has lots of options. Our kids LOVE the club. They can run around free in big packs of friends.

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Expat Life:

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

Getting bigger fast.

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

The people here are wonderful. They are incredibly kind and honest. The beaches require some travel time, but they are beautiful and not overrun by tourists...yet

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

Inle lake, Bagan, and all the undiscovered local attractions.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES. It's a special time to live here. The country is changing so rapidly and the future seems bright. It's a rare good news story in the world.

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

Socks.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sun screen.

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

"Land of the Green Ghosts" and "River of Lost Footsteps."

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Morale here is high. Most people feel a deep sense of purpose in their jobs.

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Yangon, Myanmar 05/22/16

Background:

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

Accra, Ghana; Pretoria, South Africa; Buenos Aires, 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?

Fairhope, Alabama USA; 18+ hours, connection in Seoul

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3. How long have you lived here?

Arrived 21 August 2015

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

U.S. Department of State

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Serviced apartment, 15-40-minute commute, depending on traffic

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

Good availability and reasonable prices

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

Nothing we didn't foresee

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

Decent restaurants, both reasonably priced and ridiculously expensive

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

Mosquitoes, but not in Yangon

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Daily Life:

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

U.S. 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?

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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?

Don't...

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

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

A few phrases, to be polite

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

Probably

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Transportation:

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

Trains and buses not recommended; taxis cheap, plentiful, and safe

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

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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. Included in our housing rental. Reliable, reasonable speed

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

Bring your own, buy a SIM 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?

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty

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

Business casual and plain casual

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Health & Safety:

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

No

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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?

Digestive problems; local health care is a bit dodgy

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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?

Decent

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

Bring plenty of meds

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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?

Hot and dry, hot and wet, and monsoon. Also hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Good-sized, but dispersed

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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?

Dining, at home and in restaurants. Some movies, some nightlife

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

OK

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

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

Problems with radical Buddhists discriminating against Muslims

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

Cultural tourism and lots of stupas

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

Regional tourism; Many monasteries, temples, and stupas

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

Very nice locally produced arts/crafts

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

Nice people, interesting culture, chance to save money

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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?

We were pretty well-prepared

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

Yes

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

Socks

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4. But don't forget your:

SPF-50, umbrella

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

"The River of Lost Footsteps" by Thant Myint-U

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This is an exciting time to be posted in Yangon.

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Yangon, Myanmar 05/18/16

Background:

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

We lived in Shanghai before Yangon.

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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?

California. We usually fly back via Taipei or Tokyo.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year and eight 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?

Given the wider range of facilities, serviced apartments are more comfortable in general. The commute isn't unacceptable if you manage to live in the same neighborhood where you work.

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

At marketplace you can find many imports from Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and many Japanese and Korean products at Pro-Mart. Sometimes items can be out of stock for a while. Be prepared you might have to go to more than one supermarket to find everything on the shopping list.

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

Sunscreen, bug spray, wine.

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

In general you pay a U.S. price (without tips) for good quality of western food at expat-targeted restaurants such as Parami Pizza, Sharky's, Yangon Bakehouse, Fahrenheit, Alamanda... For Asian options you can pay less for the same qulity of food at expat-running restaruants like Easy Cafe, House of Singapura, First House, Ichibankan, Yoogane...

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

Many households have to flight with ants, though you would kind of give up the fight after a few months. Mosquitoes all year around and they carry dengue. Bring sufficient bug spray as you may need it every time you go outdoors Sprays available locally don't really work well for some reason. There's also a type of flying insect that only shows up during the rainy season.

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Daily Life:

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

APO.

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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 pretty affordable and common among expat families.

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

Most serviced apartments have work-out facilities. There are a few newly open gyms available too. Member fees are not cheap though. Given the climate and poor infrastructure (lack of sidewalk, street nights, etc.), you might not enjoy running outside really.

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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?

Nearly none of the shops or restaurant would accept any foreign currency since it became illegal. Few restaruants have signs for Visa and Master but they actually only take either (or neither). Visa is accepted at more occasions though you should always carry enough cash in case of a bad connection for the card machine. Also, ATMs are not always working with foreign cash cards. Generally, just expect to pay almost everything in cash.

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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?

You can live in Yangon without speaking any local language.

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

There are very limited facilities to assist those with physical challenges.

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Transportation:

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

It's never easy for a foreigner to travel around Yangon by bus. Trains are oaky for tourists but not particularly for commuting between home and work. Taxi fare is negotiable and it's usually cheaper if you know how much you should pay for the distance and/or negotiate in Myanmar language.

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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 or 4X4 vehicle would be easier to drive in Yangon, which is especially true during the rainy seasons. For Toyota's and Nissan's cars owners, standarded maintaining services are reachable from the car companies.

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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?

We pay US$125 per month for fiber Internet service which is fast enough to stream videos. The quality is unstable and can get very slow. Once every two months our Internet is out because our cable is broken for unidentifiable reasons. We have to pay the company to fix it and it takes up to three days for them to check the cable connected between the company and our house.

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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?

MPT is the biggest telecommunication company and seems to have the best reception. But it is also the slowest when using data to get on the Internet. No carrier has whole coverage over the country. You might need multiple SIM cards from different companies when travelling outside of Yangon or major tourist destinations.

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Pets:

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

There's no quarantine to bring pets into the country but there is limited medical care for pets in town. Stray dogs are not friendly to other animails in their territory. Stay cautious when walking your pets.

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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 good opporunities if you are willing to accept local salary and/or speak good local language.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes.

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

Generally very casual. Flip flops are widely accepeted. Shorts should be avoided when visiting a temple.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not until you have to travel to areas where conflicts between the military and armed ethnic groups occur.

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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 medical treatment/services don't really meet international standards. But there are foreign doctors running clinics in town. Most expats go to Bangkok for dental care or other medical care.

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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?

Not one of those most polluted cities in the world, but there's certainly pollution from the heavy traffic in town (especialy from old cars and buses). From time to time there are people in your neighborhood burning trash, and you can tell from the bad smell that it's harmful to your health. This is especially obivious during dry seasons when there's no rain for a few months. The sky just looks dusty.

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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?

Three seasons here: cool, dry, rainy season. The cool season is so pleasant that you would feel like spending all your time outside. Unfortunately it only lasts a couple of months, and then there comes the hot season which is made of countless days and nights easlily over 100F degrees. For the rainy season you might not find it that awful if sitting in the office is your routine. It, however, impacts a lot on your family members who gets soaked in the rain or stuck in floods while running errands.

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Schools & Children:

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

American Club is one of the easiest place for kids to do sports.

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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 fast growing group of expats arriving in Yangon.

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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?

Pool time, restaurants and bars. New arrivals usually enjoy shopping fabric and teak furniture. Galleries are the place to go to kill time and collect a few pieces during the rainy season (They say it's the season for better bargaining).

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

As the expats community grows, there are more restaurants, events, activites to go. But still, there hasn't been much going on in terms of night life. It won't be an issue if you like spending time at home. There are not many places kids could go and play either. Many expat families take turns holding a play date for their little ones.

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

Local people are on the conservative side towards LGBT issues. They somehow have more "opneness" when it comes to foreigners. There are a few gay-friendly restaurants and bars in town, as well as a monthly party.

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

It's rarely a big probelm in the capital and especially not for expats.

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

Must be the hot air balloon ride flying over hundreds of temples in Bagan.

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

Nagar Glass Factory that was destroyed by a cyclone in 2008 is still operating as a "store". Expats or tourists like coming here to dig out unique pieces of hand-made glassware from the glass jungle. There are also several teak furniture vendors around Yangon where expacts like to purchase customized items for a reasonable price (although prices have been increasing with more expats shopping there).

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

Teak furnitures.

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

Local people are friendly to foreigners. We feel safe all the time in the country.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you cook more often and don't travel as much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How slow the Internet is.

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

Yes, if we could skip a few months of the rainy season.

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

Only few pieces of winter wear in case your are travelling when it's winter outside of Myanmar.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Lady.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Domestic travel is not cheap in Myanmar. Hotel prices, in particular, differ a lot between high and low seasons. Still, it's much more pleasant to travel around Myanmar in the cool season. It's also great having a summer vacation aways from the rain. If money isn't your biggest concern, plan on domestic travel for cool seasons and overseas trips during the rainy season.

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Yangon, Myanmar 05/17/16

Background:

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

No, we've also been posted to Beijing/ China, Tbilisi /Georgia, and Budapest/Hungary.

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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?

California and Pennsylvania. The fastest flight is to LA via Taipei on China Airlines: 20 hours.
To the East Coast via China, Korea, or Japan takes upwards of 30 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We arrived in fall 2013 and will depart in July 2016.

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

Husband working at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is expensive, though with increasing competition, costs are coming down.

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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 is plentiful, inexpensive, and best bought at local wet markets.
Things like milk, juices, cheese, beer, and household products can be bought at supermarkets such as City Mart. More and more we are finding Western products and it seems that almost everything is now available, though sometimes they run out.Imported products are more expensive than in the U.S. by approximately 10% to 50%.

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

It's a consumable post if you work for the Embassy. We were glad we shipped wine and also Trader Joe's products such as; Dijon mustard, special sauces, peanut butter and other specialty items. Your favorite shampoos and soaps might also be good to ship. Paper towels and dish soap are not good quality here. Full service apartments supply tissues and toilet paper.

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

Pizza Hut is now here, and also Swensens, Pizza Company, and KFC. We never go there.

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

There are mosquitoes - malaria and dengue fever are a problem.

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Daily Life:

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

Sent through the Embassy. I have received packages on occasion, but these must be picked up at the old GPO down town and are inspected before being released to you.

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

Cheap. Full service apartments include cleaning, though they don't clean dishes or the kitchen.

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

Yes, but our "full service" apartment complex has a gym so I don' know about costs.

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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?

They are becoming more widespread and accepted.

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

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

It is good to know some basic words and phrases, though almost everyone speaks a little English in Yangon. Once you leave the city it's a different story. Burmese is not always useful in some parts of the country where the local language is different.

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

Yes, there are very few handicapped accessible public places.

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Transportation:

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

Local trains are slow and not well maintained, but super interesting to travel on.
City buses are cheap, but dangerous as they are privately owned and drivers race each other to pick up more fares. There is talk of a government-run city bus line, but as of yet I haven't seen the buses. Long distance buses are quite good to some destinations, such as Bagan and Mandalay, with comfortable seats and air-con. Taxis are still unmetered, so you have to know the approximate prices for distances and agree on the fare before getting in. Some don't have air-con so you need to be selective if it's hot.

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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?

Four wheel drive is best. I don't know about parts or duties as we get our car shipped as part of our posting and it's relatively new. I have not heard of any carjackings or car theft at all. Motorcycles are not allowed in the city and bikes are technically not allowed either though you will see them on occasion. It's dangerous riding though as drivers are inexperienced and traffic is erratic.

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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 expensive and still poor quality.

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

Bring an unlocked one and get a sim card and plan on arrival.

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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


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, but teachers will find plenty of work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty!

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

Modest dress. Shoulders and legs above the knee are usually covered. You cannot visit a Pagoda unless these parts are covered either.

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Health & Safety:

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

It is relatively 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?

Medical care is not good, though there is an SOS clinic. For emergencies you'll need to go to Bangkok or Singapore. Biggest health concern is Dengue fever. We personally know several people who got it. Take precautions- use bug juice at night and cover up. Stomach bugs are also a frequent issue.

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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?

Usually air quality is good, but in the evenings and during the dry season there is a lot of burning of garbage, which can be very unpleasant.

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

Sorry, I don't know about seasonal allergies, but peanut oil is used in a lot of dishes.

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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?

Weather is always warm, though hot season can be oppressive during mid-day and rainy season creates flooding and slippery sidewalks. Best time of year is November to January when it actually gets cool.

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Schools & Children:

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

We don't have kids, but there seem to be many choices.

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large and very 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?

Go out to dinner, get together with friends, go to a gallery, bar, or club.

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

Good for all.

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

There is not a huge gay community, but they can be seen around town and people don't seem to be homophobic at all.

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

Not blatantly obvious, but underlying, yes.

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

Getting to know Myanmar people as well as expats from around the world. Visiting some remote areas that haven't seen many tourists and experiencing culture that has been trapped in a kind of time capsule.

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

Visiting galleries, trying new restaurants, going to Chinatown, riding the "Circle Train", visiting local parks, shopping centers and wet markets.

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

Handicrafts are beautiful.

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

This country has a colorful and interesting culture, which until recently has remained isolated from the outside world. People are lovely; very humble, honest, and kind. Yangon is still a very safe city. It is within close proximity to other interesting destinations in South East Asia and there are some great destinations within the country. There are plenty of restaurants in all price ranges, lots of art galleries, and beautiful crafts.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, and you'll save even more if you eat and live local.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Where the good neighborhoods are. You want to be closer to downtown, NOT out by the airport. Traffic is increasingly worse and travel into town is unpleasant. We were lucky and were in a great location near Shwedagon Pagoda, but others were not so fortunate and had horrific commute times.

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

Definitely!

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

Winter clothes!

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4. But don't forget your:

Camera! This is an unbelievably photogenic place and people don't mind being photographed!

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Any recent documentaries.

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

Any recent guide books.

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Yangon, Myanmar 04/07/14

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 N'Djamena, Brussels, Conakry, Harare, Quito, and Guatemala City.

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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?

Hawaii. Connections mostly via Taipei, Seoul, & Bangkok.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

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?

Golden Hill is close to the International School of Yangon & French school (Joseph Kessel) and only a 8-minute drive to the U.S. Embassy. The landlords seems to raise the rent drastically every year. There is a lake behind the U.S. Embassy. Most expats seem to live somewhere close to the lake if not in Golden Hill. U.S. Embassy Housing will be in a well-maintained house or an apartment with swimming pool. U.S. Embassy houses do not have pools. But the American club is a max of 20-minute commute for most and has a nice pool.

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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 quite high for western products. 8oz cheddar will cost about US$7, 8oz cream cheese cost US$5, box of UHT milk cost US$2. Send one of your housekeepers/helpers out for the produce, it will be cheaper.

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

Chocolate, sunscreen, ant bait, gifts for kids, brown sugar, pecans, pasta, brown rice, basket-ball net, gelatin (Jello), rubbing alcohol.

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

Pizza company has pizza (US$15 large), salad bar (US$5), & lasagna(US$6)...it's all good. The ice cream shop is believed to be owned by them as well an it is very good (US$2for a Sunday), pick your flavor. There are not really any fast food places in Yangon yet though.

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

Mosquitoes year round. No need for Malaria prophylaxis in Yangon though. There are people who will fumigate your property for US$25. This option worked out well for an evening outdoor party in the dry season. But the mosquitoes returned by morning time. Ants are everywhere!!! They call them "crazy ants." Bring ziplock bags to store pantry items in. They even got into my Velveeta cheese (processed American cheese) in the pantry.

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Daily Life:

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

APO.

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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$200 a month for a maid (6 person family).

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

The gym at the Embassy is basic, but very good with lockers and showers. You never see more than 2 others in the gym...so it's a good option if you are with the Embassy. We checked out a rather small gym, new with fun looking classes in our neighborhood. It cost around US$200 a month. I have heard of much cheaper gyms though, but not in the Golden hill area.

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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?

Cash society.

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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?

That would be very useful, But rare is the expat who knows more than hello & thank you. Myanmar people love it when you say anything in their language. This is because they do not expect you to be able to and it is a pleasant surprise to them. They will pick up on your body language and many do speak at least a little English.

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

Yes, but not impossible. A Myanmar friend at our church has a sports style wheelchair. He does very well but has no other option. The U.S. Embassy provides ramps and handicap parking to make it easier for those using wheelchairs. The main grocery store (city mart) has ramps and there would be NO problem going to the cafes and small shops in there. But other restaurants, clubs, cinema or events, may not have the necessities needed.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are cheap...don't bother with the city buses. They are safe but you will most certainly be the entertainment on the bus ride. There is a train that makes one big loop around the whole city. It is exciting for the tour for the first hour then it gets a little boring. It's a neat way to see the city though.

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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?

They know how to fix pretty much anything here. But if you want it done right, bring a few parts with you if you think there might be a problem. 4X4 would be best as the roads are pretty busted with the rain we get here. But many locals drive little low to the ground cars and seem to do fine.

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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?

We pay US$125 a month for the highest speed. The quality is still very slow; internet phone (Vonage) hardly ever works and Skype is good on some days and terrible on others.

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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?

We did not bring a pet to post. Our gardener did give us a cat though and she received her vaccines an spay all for under US$100. They will even come and take care of most procedures at your home. The prices always seem reasonable. There are several vets to chose from. Your domestic help will watch your pet or check in on them for you. I have heard of a kennel/vet. I do not know much about it though.

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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, just volunteering.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Teaching English, donating rice and school supplies, making infant kits for maternity hospitals; there are so many opportunities if you are willing to work for free. It's so rewarding here.

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

Embassy is dress slacks/shirt/tie for men. Women also wear the same standard business attire you would see in the States at this Embassy. In public you will be more comfortable if your knees and shoulders are covered. Dress is very casual. Flip flops (especially during rainy season) will be your best friend if you can handle them. No shoes or socks are allowed at Buddhist monasteries and temples.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, Yangon is very safe. I doubt we will ever live in such a safe place again. We have no worries and allow our older kids to walk to friends' houses alone.

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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?

Japanese Encephalitis was a new vaccine we had to get. The Embassy also wants us to get the Rabies vaccine...but we declined. Apparently they do have rabid dogs in Yangon. They have many diseases here so get all the CDC recommended vaccines. Eat salads at reputable restaurants, don't eat the cold samosas on the street, make sure they are still burning your fingers. International SOS is a great clinic that can handle emergency and the minor things, but medevac to Bangkok if further care is needed. The Embassy has a nurse practitioner for staff and dependents. The hospitals in Yangon are not a comfortable place to even walk through as a visitor.

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

Moderate. There is a lot of vegetation in the city to help clean the air but there are so many cars and old buses and trucks that fume out clouds of smoke. You can't travel with your window down too often.

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

It seems to be months of raining or months of dry. It is warm & humid during the rain (but not hot & steamy), and it is very hot during the dry months.

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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 in Yangon. Our experience is with the International School of Yangon (ISY). IT IS AN IB SCHOOL! This is the school recommended by the Embassy and if you are U.S. personnel, you will not be put on a wait-list. We do not recommend this school to any American teens in high school though. The work-load is that of a university student (or more-so). More than 50% of the high school students have tutoring every day.

A side note: more than 60% of the students are from somewhere in Asia. Asians have a priority to be challenged beyond the average grade level in order to get a superior education to the average student around the world. These teens do get into very good universities too. Last but not least on this subject...THERE IS A HOME SCHOOLING GROUP! Just ask around when you arrive. They do field trips together and activity days to bring the kids together for some socializing. There were not any home-schooled teens in this group currently though.

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

I am almost certain if ISY does not already have provisions for kids using a wheelchair, they would make them for an incoming student. The work-load at this school can be very difficult, but it is a very nice, structured school. It is my understanding that US-MIL dependents who need scholastic assistance are not able to come to this post at this time.

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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 have American friends with young children who are happy with their preschools. Nannies are often used here as well.

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

There is Saturday soccer, Thursday cub scouts that girls also attend (currently just started), play groups for the younger ones, the American club has parties with jumping castles all the time. The American club also has swim lessons twice a week and offers baseball and tennis. There is equestrian, dance and TONS OF MUSIC CLASSES from any instrument to singing. Other sports are mostly offered through the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

We have two of our children at the French school...there are many French here with "Total". There are also many Australians and a nice Australian club. The U.S. Embassy is medium in size. There seems to be a large and growing number of expats in Yangon. Most seem to be happy here. But no one ever seems to be sad to leave either. It is a nice 2-year post.

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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?

English language new release movies at the cinema, tea time, Barbeque for non-members on Sunday's at the Australian club, canoe, swim, & tennis at the American club, biking club, photography group, nice bars, restaurants and parks, shopping at the markets.

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

Great for families - weekend sports & events, holiday events, English movies @ Cinema.
Great for singles - bars, churches, hash meets, party every weekend somewhere.
Great for couples - Markets, day trips, quality restaurants, cinema, pretty parks.

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

I believe it is. There does not seem to be much thought on the matter and we have friends who are gay. Everyone is friendly with everyone. We are unaware of specific clubs though.

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

Within Yangon, it seems rare, but we have indeed heard of problems between Buddhist and Muslims within the city. It is more of a problem outside of the capital though in more remote areas. Although it seems these attacks are sometimes coupled with political reasons.

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

Traveling to the beach, riding elephants, monkeys hiking along with us. Seeing the amazing statues and monuments ancient and new. In Yangon... the markets, little tea shops and seeing the general way of life of the city people.

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

Cinema, "Pizza Company" is a new restaurant with US$15 large pizza (our family thinks it's the best pizza in Yangon), any of the pagoda's are amazing and fun to see, Favorite place? Bogyoke market...pronounced BO-JOE. Bogyoke has everything and you could easily spend all day there. It is fun for the whole family. Find a recommended seamstress, pick out some pictures online and have her make clothes for you for amazing prices.

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

Although we are not big fans of it... lacquer-ware is very popular, woodwork, gems/jewelry, pearls, antiques, carved mother-of-pearl, long skirts...so many things!

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

The people are the friendliest you will ever meet. Things are still done as they have been done for several years. The monks are everywhere and there is beautiful jungle landscape between the buildings.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you are not eating out and/or buying western products at the shops.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The locals don't care much for desserts and candy. The kids much prefer school supplies, a toy or a savory food. I also wish I knew that ISY's students are at a higher level than most American students and that the high school is IB. I would have looked into ways to change our assignment. Our teens who have always been in advanced classes, making only A's, are now stressed and making B's & C's.

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

No, only because my children are not happy with their schools here. It is actually a fun friendly and beautiful place to live.

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

Winter wear, photo books, anything that might get damaged by humidity or a leak.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good mop and broom, ant bait, good quality umbrellas, extra flip flops, favorite drinks, makeup, fabric to give to a good seamstress.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

French school in Yangon: Called "Ecole Joseph Kessel". If your children already speak French, then this would be another option for schools. It is currently a school of about 60 students near ISY (Golden hill neighborhood). It is owned by French company "Total". My children have brought their level of French up from mediocre back to fluent in 5 months. There are other expat kids attending along with the kids of Total employees. A new director (Principal) will come for 2014-1015 school year. A little side information about French schools though is that bullying is a part of growing up. It is tolerated at this school. A new director could change this, but our years of experience with different French schools tells us that it won't change. That said, our kids are very happy with their attentive, kind teachers and do have friends at the school.

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Yangon, Myanmar 02/02/14

Background:

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

First long-term experience overseas. I completed several 2 or 3-months postings 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?

East Coast of the U.S. Trip is about 20-24 hours. Usually it's a long flight to Tokyo or Hong Kong and then another flight to Bangkok. Recently there is a flight from East Coast to Seoul to Yangon on Korean Air.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Nearly two years.

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

Educator.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Golden Valleys is popular and so are parts of downtown. About 20-30 minutes commute-time - downtown is getting more popular because it's cheaper. Expat housing has skyrocketed, into a few thousand dollars a month for a multi-room apartment or house.

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

Very cheap is shopping at local markets. A kilo of tomatoes goes for 50 cents (US). One higher-end grocery store with more imported product, looking closer to Western prices there.

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

Extra clothes. Won't find Western style clothes here that will fit Western-sized people.

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

No Western fast food chains. A few imitation types popping up. Okay, but still can't get a great burger. Coffee circles is decent for coffee. You'll have to accept waiting until you get to Bangkok to satisfy your Western food cravings.

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

Mosquitos, especially in January-April. Some of the bug sprays used here are not very healthy or environmentally friendly.

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Daily Life:

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

It's best to send out of Bangkok but I receive mail fine now.

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

Full time maid US$80-100 a month (8 hour days). Live at home nanny US$200-300 a month.

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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?

Very few machines, haven't tried using them yet. Virtually 100% cash only society.

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

I know for sure there are English Church services. Not sure about other religions.

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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?

Very little though a few words help. Most older Myanmar people and younger know basic English. Many signs are in English.

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

Absolutely. Holes in sidewalks, no ramps, few elevators.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, buses and trains are not comfortable and crowded. Taxis are cheap (30 minutes cross town for US$2-4).

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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?

Lots of pot holes. Lots of Japanese here so those would be easier to fix. Do not worry about carjackings. Unless you're a diplomat, it's difficult to purchase a car (need Myanmar person to sign for it). Most people hire a driver.

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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$40-50 a month. High speed in theory. Connection can vary and be sporadic.

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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, plus you won't want to work for local salary. Best bet is to work for a Western company.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Walk up to any local school, orphanage and you can find something. Many of my friends tutor monks or local staff (custodians etc) in English. Speaking English is a great asset for the local population. Also many NGOs here that can facilitate or give ideas.

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

Quite conservative in public. Women should not bare shoulder or knees. Most locals where traditional longyis (women) and men wear baso (sort of like a wrap skirt).

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Health & Safety:

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

No. Very safe to walk at night. Police do not hassle expats. Probably safer than any place I have ever been.

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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 an SOS clinic and a couple of hospital clinics but anything of a serious nature warrants a trip to Bangkok.

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

Moderate and slowly becoming unhealthy. The number of cars has increased exponentially in the past couple of years and during dry season, field and garbage burning adds to the pollution. However, on hazy mornings, you can still see a beautiful blue sky.

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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?

3 seasons:

May-September: Monsoon with the worst being June-August. At peak, it will rain all day every day. May and September are shoulders.

October- February: Dry and hot. After the rainy season, it keeps getting cooler until winter peaks in January with daily temps around 80F. Clear skies every day.

March-April: Very hot and incredibly humid. Regularly about 105F. It's not fun to be outside. Clear skies.

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Schools & Children:

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

International School Yangon (ISY)- is best. Best facilities. Great library. Good teachers. 50/50 expats/locals.

Yangon International School (YIS)- traditionally seen as #2 but sliding lately. Good teachers, but space is way overcrowded and facilities are poor for the number of students (play space, library etc.) 90/10 locals/expats ratio (expats are all Korean, Thai, no We stern students).

International School Myanmar (ISM)- I have heard decent things about this school. High teacher turnover, it's mainly a money-making operation but still better than many smaller schools.

Also have MISY, Horizon, Network and smattering of other small schools developing. No IB school.

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

Very little. No school to my knowledge has programs for special education. There is one Western trained child psychologist in Yangon. No occupational therapists. One part-time speech pathologist.

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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?

Through schools.

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Expat Life:

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

A couple thousand people in Yangon, with French, British, and Americans being largest. High morale.

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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?

Bars, restaurants, parks, beer stations, outings.

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

Great for everyone. Small expat community but because so few expat hang-out places, it's easy to meet people because everyone goes to same places.

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

Technically homosexuality is illegal. I know of a few and it seems okay, but do not be open about it.

You will see many women holding hands with other women and vice versa for men but that is strictly a cultural thing and nothing to do with homosexuality.

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

Ethnic violence with Muslims. Tensions simmered down but attitudes against Muslims persist. Though if you are a foreigner you are immune. There is a huge double standard for foreigners and you will be treated much better than local Myanmar people.

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

The city is really more of a smash up of many small villages and there is an incredible amount of rural life for an urban area. People are extremely friendly, and there are some great travel options. The lack of development is astounding and refreshing. If you are partial to first-world living, this is not for you.

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

Weekend trips to beach or villages around. Running with hash group in rural areas. Wandering downtown. Few parks.

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

Saving money, culture, cheap of food, great tourism, and lack of winter.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Depends on how much you want to spend but with maids around US$100 a month and groceries so cheap, you can easily get by on US$500 a month. A custom-tailored 3-piece suit goes for US$80! If you're spending more than US$1,000 a month you must be burning it.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. Such a friendly country, so safe, quite untouched by Western world compared to rest of SE Asia but changing quickly.

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2. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country,

The Lady

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3. Do you have any other comments?

I love this place and virtually everyone I know loves it too. You can live like a king/queen. If you need your Western products and food, perhaps it's not the best location, but if you like being confused by weird logic, enjoy a rich culture, and want an adventure, you must absolutely come here.

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Yangon, Myanmar 07/19/10

Background:

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

Previously lived in Eastern and Western 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?

It's about 24 hours from the East Coast with the various connections. Breaking the trip up makes it a lot more manageable, especially with kids.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A year as of 2010.

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

U.S. government employment.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Expat houses are big, but with little closet space. Some have huge yards. One of the apartment complexes is not as nice as the others, but not that bad.

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

The more you buy from the local market, the cheaper your bill will be. The commissary can add up, but there are brands you can't find or special orders that are worth it. There are also Burmese "supermarkets" that are in between the local market and the commissary, and where I get most things.

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

Spray sunscreen is impossible to find. I have bug spray, but depending where you are you might want Deep Woods Off. I would have looked for 220 volt Uninterpretable Power Supplies. You can get them here, but all electronics in Asia seemed pre-owned to me.

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

Zero fast food places. There are some quicker cheaper Burmese restaurants, and expat themed places which are generally safer to eat at but more expensive. A 5-course lunch special at a great Italian place in town is $14, and a nice dinner might be US$20-30 a person. But even being careful, I've had food poisoning once or twice.

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

Mosquitoes mostly, during rainy season especially. We have nets on the beds and spray the house, but normally I have a few bites healing on me. The apartments are too high up to have any problem with them though.

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Daily Life:

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

The local mail is like putting a message in a bottle and hoping nobody steals anything. We use pouch for everything. I think most of the other expats have PO Boxes in Bangkok.

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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 and available. Drivers cost US$80-120 a month and are the high end of the scale. Cooks, nannies, and home guards are common.

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

Post and the American Club have gyms, there are some Burmese gyms, but I don't know anyone who uses them.

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

There are no ATM machines in the entire country. I used a credit card once in the last year at a big hotel, nobody else will take it other than online shopping.

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

I believe all the major ones are represented. I stopped going myself because it wasn't air conditioned and the family was too hot, but I think some of them have A/C.

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

You can get Thai cable through the American Club, which has a good spread of English language stuff. AFN for the houses is good if you can tape it, lots of stuff is on in the wee hours.

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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?

Zero. I felt the language barrier more transiting through Europe on the way over. Most signs are in English and Burmese. That's not to say you won't have hilarious language barrier issues, but you can definitely get by and Burmese is extremely difficult to learn.

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

All kinds. At least the taller buildings have elevators, but it's a bad post for that. There is no handicap access to anything; the roads are bad and winding with potholes. They flood when it rains.

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Transportation:

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

A taxi ride costs the equivalent of US$2-3. Buses are off-limits for security reasons and are dangerously overcrowded anyway. I'm not sure if they have trains, I can't remember seeing one.

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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?

Four-wheel drive is preferable, but you can get by in town without it. Your car will probably get beat up, so expect dings and scratches.

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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?

We have internet at home. It is very slow and only a little cheaper than comparable U.S. service. I almost never use it at home. Skype is unreliable but works sometimes. IVG is the bet way to go with calling card.

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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?

Burma has it's own network; you have to get a local SIM card. Permanent Sim cards cost $1,500 (yes, that's not a typo) but you can get disposables for 1-3 months for $25-$75.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

There is an expat vet and another coming. Local vets are little better than witch doctors. I saw a local vet do a c-section on a dog with no pain medication during/after surgery, but a heavy local sedative that probably killed one of the puppies. Never heard of 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 some EFM jobs at Post, and at least one spouse is working part-time for expats only. There is no real ability to work on local economy, and the pay would be ridiculous. Some people sign on with schools or foreign companies and make enough for a decent life.

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

Burmese men and women wear what looks like a long skirt and sandals. Most people at work where slacks and short-sleeved shirts, either polo or button. There's a few that try long sleeves but,always have them rolled up. It's hot.

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Health & Safety:

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

Other than bombings on buses, which I wouldn't take anyway, very little. The upside to a police state is that it's normally safe for expats. The locals are generally nice and know they will get in more trouble if they are caught committing crimes on expats. That being said, there are some petty theft problems to be expected in a poor country. But nothing violent. Bombings are usually a couple times a year and very small yield with few casualties reported, but there was a grenade attack during the water festival with 10 dead & 170 wounded.

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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 an SOS Hospital and Post MED unit, but this is a bigger issue than I expected. You pretty much have to go to Bangkok for anything big or Singapore for anything urgent. The Burmese standard of care is ridiculous.

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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 overall air quality is good by Asia standards, as motorbikes are outlawed in Rangoon and there isn't a lot of heavy industry. They do burn trash countrywide at dusk and dawn, and lots of cars spew black diesel fumes. I was in someone's car once with the windows down and I think it took years off my life, but otherwise you don't notice it. Beats Beijing or Bangkok by miles.

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

It's Florida plus 10 or 20 degrees and a little humidity. In my mind, there are really three seasons. From October-February is nice, about 80F and dry. From February-May/June is it really hot, we had 100 days of 100 degree heat. June-October is monsoon season and it rains all the time. You get used to it, and I actually looked forward to the rain this year as it cooled the houses down -- the A/C can only do so much.

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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 international pre-schools and at least three international schools. They have their differences, but all of them seem decent.

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

I'm not sure if they do. In general, there are no U.S. style accommodations in the whole country.

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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 is a huge preschool called Network run by a British lady, and small French pre-school. Depends on your taste. There is a Rainbow daily day care place that is also good.

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

I know of softball, basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, general exercise, and darts clubs. There are probably others.

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Expat Life:

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

Much smaller than average, due to limited diplomatic ties with most countries. There are some big foreign companies in town plus various teachers, so it seems big enough to me.

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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?

For somewhere that seems like it has "nothing to do" (in American type attractions), I've never been this busy, it seems every day there is a club, sport, or party event to go to and it can get overwhelming.

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3. Morale among expats:

Ninety percent of people posted here seem to like it. Some people like to complain, and of course diplomats have it a bit cushier than say, teachers. For a 2-3 year tour it's fine, most of the grumpy people seem to have just been here too long.

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

It's always called a "good family post" but singles seem to be dating expats/locals without problem.

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

There are gay clubs in town, they don't seem exactly open to it, and I think there is a law against, but I don't think it's enforced. There is alot of male platonic affection in public that seems odd by U.S. standards.

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

Yes. There are many ethnic groups that have rivalries (with one mainly being in power), but the biggest issue I've seen involves the large Burmese population of Indian descent. The Burmese Indians are usually much darker and I've watched racism between both groups directed at the other. They seem to love expats and may politely stare, especially if you're blonde. I've seen 10-15 women stop shopping for 10 minutes to stare at a blonde child.

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

It's an easy life. A lot like going back in time in many ways, but that has its charms. I'd say 90% of those posted here like it. The non-diplomats have less comforts and sometimes stay too long and get grumpier.

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

In Rangoon I've seen Myanmar Brewery, Monkey Park, Asia Point Bowling. Shwedagon Pagoda is spectacular, but I have still only seen it from afar. There are two beaches in country, that are worth returning to when you get cabin fever. Inle Lake and Bagan are both unique and worth seeing, Mandalay is not that much different than Rangoon and the new capital at Nay Pyi Taw is nothing special.

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

Jewelry and teak wood items.

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

It's very cheap. There is no American stores/restaurants, but plenty of stuff to spend money on. Good restaurants and spas and clubs. Diplomats can buy for personal use, jewelry, teak, etc. You can get pretty much anything you want on the local market, if in less variety. There are gourmet bakers, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

Definitely, the only real threat is regional travel and shopping on-line. Living in town with expat lifestyle is definitely cheaper than normal lifestyle in U.S.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I think for two years it'll be a good tour. I'm not in a hurry to leave, but three years might have been too long -- you are definitely more cut off from American culture than in many other countries.

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

Reliance on technology and always being in touch with the world with internet, Blackberries, Iphones/Pads/Pods, etc. It's like being in the past, but you get used to it pretty quick.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and adventure. The grumpiest people want it to be like the U.S. You have to just roll with the punches sometimes, you're not back home and there's plenty of positive to focus on.

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

Finding George Orwell in Burma
.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country
and Beyond Rangoon. I expect both of those (like the last Rambo movie) are illegal in country.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It's a hardship post, but it might be the easiest one in the world.

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Yangon, Myanmar 04/06/09

Background:

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

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years, 2007-09.

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

Government.

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

One day+, via Bangkok.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Expats tend to live in serviced apartments near Golden Valley. All the options are decent, but some are nicer than others. There are houses with generators and water filtration systems that make living in certain neighborhoods very easy.

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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 grocery stores, you can find what you need, but maybe not always what you want. If the goods are from beyond Burma, you will pay a premium, but if the Burmese can make it or grow it, it's cheap. Wet markets are plentiful and fresh produce is cheap.

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

Olive oil. You can get it, but it's expensive. Nail polish...OPI gets marked up to over US$15 a bottle and it's old and clumpy.

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

There is no fast food really...plenty of good restaurants though, and being adventerous pays off.

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

Mosquitos, dengue fever, malaria carrying mosquitos.

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Daily Life:

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

Hah. If you're not eligible for APO/Pouch, forget it, get yourself a box in Bangkok and plan frequent trips.

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

Whatever you need, you can find, and it's all very affordable.

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

There are gyms at all the serviced apartments and hotels.

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

You can't. Full stop. No credit cards or ATMs. No. None.

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

Yes, notably Catholic.

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

Kind of...not sure of the cost.

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

Some helps, but none is necessary. Get a driver and a cook that speak some English and you're set. Most Burmese read English better than they speak it, so you may have better luck writing things out than repeating yourself over and over and louder and louder...

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

A lot. The roads are bad, there are no sidewalks, there are few buildings with reliable lifts and the electricty goes out a lot.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are as safe as anything else...and very cheap. Buses and trains aren't really safe. But very 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?

Any car will do, but having the extra clearance of an SUV is nice during the rainy season. Also, bring an extra set of tires.

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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?

Again, kind of, set up is pricey, but the monthly fees are comparable to 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?

Don't count on it. SIM cards are overregulated and expensive. The service sucks anyway, smoke signals work better. Really,

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Pets:

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

No.

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

There is a vet.

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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?

Only with the NGOs and the international schools, really

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

Business professional for diplomats, business casual for everyone else.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Not entirely sure. You need the rabies series, typhoid popped up while we were there, Japanese encephalitis is recommended.

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

Not for expats.

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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 minimal, if the chances are good that you might need emergency care, stay out of Burma.

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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?

There are three seasons, dry, hot and rainy. Dry season is warm and dry days, cool and dry nights...pure bliss. Hot season is very, very, very hot and humid. Rainy season is wet. Very wet. Monsoon style rains, almost all day, every day.

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Schools & Children:

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

International School of Yangoon is the only true international school in Rangoon. The teachers are primarily American and it is an international school board that supports the American administrators in the running of the school. The curriculum is American, although there are only a handful of American students. Yangon International School is a proprietary school, not yet accredited, but with the procedures under way. It is not a true international school, with the vast majority of students being Burmese. The international School of Myanmar is also a proprietary school. It has been recently accredited. Again, it is not a true international school with the vast majority of students being Burmese. Horizon is an up and coming international school managed by Turks, with the majority of teachers being Turkish, but teaching in English. Total is also a growing school, primarily focused on preschool and elementary school age students. Network is an amazing nursery, preschool and kindergartern, which also has an elementary school program. It works off a British curriculum with UK trained educators as well as Americans.

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

None of the schools in Rangoon is equipped to accomodate special needs kids, although many will say they are and will try. There are no special education professionals working in Rangoon at this time.

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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?

The most popular preschool in town is Network, but there are others. Network is the school they all compare to, though. Domestic help is available, and very affordable. Most families with young children have one or two Nannies.

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

Not really. Only through the schools and there is one gymnastics school. Tennis, golf and swimming lessons are available by appointment.

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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...claustrophobic at times, comforting at other times.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Get involved with the sports folks and you'll have no choice to either be happy or drunk.

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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 end up at lots of dinner parties...and hosting some as well. It's old school diplomacy and lots of fun if you like people and gin.

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

Good for families with young children, but there's little to do for older and teenage children. It's also a good place for couples, with a fair amount of sporting events for adults, but you have to get out there and become part of the community. If you are happy to make your own entertainment, this is a great place. If you want to go to a different night spot every night, it won't hold your attention for long.

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

Yes, there is little prejudice and a thriving gay community.

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

Not for expats, there are some prejudices based on the ethnic groups within the country.

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

Explore, the world outside of Rangoon is absolute magic.

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

Furniture, textiles, jewelry, lacquer ware...but there are sanctions in effect on teak, jade and rubies.

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9. Can you save money?

Somewhat.

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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:

Snow gear and boots.

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3. But don't forget your:

Flip flops.

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

Burmese Days, Saving Fish from Drowning (not the ending though), the Glass Palace, The Piano Tuner.

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

Burmese Days, Saving Fish from Drowning (not the ending though), the Glass Palace, The Piano Tuner.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Come in without expectations and you will be rewarded. The people of Burma make it an special place to live, the climate and the government make it a challenge, but it's always interesting.

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Yangon, Myanmar 11/13/08

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

State Department.

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

Around 40 hours from the U.S.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large colonial houses for families, serviced apartments for singles.

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

Vegetables are extremely affordable. Meat and cheese can get pricey. Household supplies are very affordable.

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

You can purchase or substitute almost anything on the market.

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

No fast food, but lots of great restaurants.

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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 limited APO.

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

Very affordable: Maid - US$90 a month; Nanny - US$80 a month; Driver - US$90 a month; Gardener - US$80 a month.

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

Not available in Burma. You cash checks at the Embassy.

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

Yes.

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

No reliable news or newspapers in Burma. All media is government owned. Embassy personel have 3 AFN channels and can purchase Thai satelite.

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

Not much at all, most Burmese speak English.

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

Several, this is a third world country. No access ramps, sidewalks have holes, roads have potholes.

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Transportation:

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

Right side of the road.

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

Buses are NOT recommended. The train is more for an evening out instead of commuting. Taxis are in abundance and affordable, but are definitely an adventure!

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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?

SUVs are ideal.

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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?

No.

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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?

Extremely expensive and not reliable. The lack of technology is the hardest part of post.

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

IVG access is only available in the Embassy.

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Pets:

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

Dr. Martin is the best vet. He makes house calls.

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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?

None besides teaching at an International School.

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

Conservative.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good.

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

Petty theft.

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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?

Burma does not have good medical care. There is an International SOS Clinic with an excellent French Doctor. Major health needs will be taken care of in Bangkok or Singapore.

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

Hot and humid.

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Schools & Children:

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

International School of Yangon (ISY) - excellent for elementary school, not recommended for high school.

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

Not available.

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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?

Network Preschool - excellent preschool, most families use this preschool.

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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, you get to know everyone here in a few months.

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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?

Lots to do! It's a small community so people have parties all the time.

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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

No, expats are treated like royalty out here.

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

Lots! This post is what you make of it. There are a lot of outdoor activities and a supportive community. The country lacks technology, but you can go to Bangkok for modernization.

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

Burma has a lot of things to purchase. Antiques, pearls, gems, wood carvings, materials, laquerware, monks, etc.

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9. 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:

Technology.

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3. But don't forget your:

Positive attitude.

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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?

This is a great post. We have a small, supportive community and lots of activities. You have to be proactive to meet people and find out what's going on, but your schedule will be as busy as you want it to be.

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