Islamabad, Pakistan Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Islamabad, Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan 02/05/19

Background:

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

No, I've also had postings in NEA (Near Eastern Affairs).

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

Virginia (Dulles). One needs to take two flights, Islamabad-UAE- IAD, expect it to take about 20 hours to fly; you can make it home same day if flying from Islamabad, but it will require 3 calendar days to travel from Dulles to Islamabad due to flight times.

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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.)?

USG employee working at the 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?

At the time it was majority living within the city off the Embassy compound. This has now shifted with the majority of people living on the compound within the 3 new SDAs (apartment buildings). Housing off compound is old, bad air circulation causes alot of dust/dirt, poor insulation, and frequent issues with electrical and plumbing.

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

Produce is very cheap, bring a juicer if you like fresh juice! Other groceries are standard or higher depending if its considered a speciality item. Huge commissary also located at the Embassy. Can order just about any food product through DPO.

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

Ship items that you use often and prefer certain brands, especially tolietry items.

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

You can order anything to be delivered, however if you live on the Embassy compound only can order food from the few restaurants that are located within the diplomatic enclave.

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

Cant speak on the SDAs, but in the off compound housing you can expect to have lots of geckos in your house. Mosquitos are pretty bad outside everywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Household help is pretty cheap, however if you live in a SDA you will only be able to hire off a pre-approved domestic workker list.

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

New gym at Embassy, massive with new equipment, heated outdoor pool, tennis courts, indoor basketball court, and many classes taught by other employees.

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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?

Can use ATMs at Embassy, but you will need to pay for everything at local businesses by cash.

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

Yes, Vatican Embassy has services as well as another church in English on the diplomatic enclave.

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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?

Can take Urdu classes at the Embassy, but honestly you don't need it to do local shopping, as English is taught in the school system in Islamabad.

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

Yes, it would be impossible due to no sidewalks or ADA compliant businesses.

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Transportation:

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

Not allowed due to security restrictions.

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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?

None, you can buy a car from another diplomat or rent a car. However, you have a very restricted area you are allowed to drive in and half the time security restrictions will be enforced that restrict any driving and only allows movement in fully-armored vehicles.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, it can be set up prior to arrival now that there is an office there at the Embassy.

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

No, you don't need a local mobile phone.

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Pets:

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

No quarantine, but can be difficult sometimes to get vet care when security restrictions are enforced that don't allow personal movements.

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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?

EFMs can only come to post if employed at the Embassy.

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

Business.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a Priority Staffing Post (PSP), don't be surprised when there are many heightened security postures.

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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?

Prepare yourself to be sick a lot at post. Everyone gets multiple gastrointestinal ailments (The PakAttack).

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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?

Seasonal allergies are bad during the Spring due to the mulberry trees. During the winter, pollution is very strong. However it's not as bad as Kabul as far as air pollution.

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

If morale is low at post, it effects everyone.

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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?

Extremely humid during the monsoon season June-September time frame.

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Schools & Children:

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

N/A No kids allowed at Post

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

N/A No kids allowed at Post

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

N/A No kids allowed at Post

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

N/A No kids allowed

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Expat Life:

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

Large expat community.

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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?

Brits, Aussies, Canadians routinely have events to attend.

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

It's a PSP, most folks are geographically single.

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

Not outside the Embassy, but fine within the diplomatic community.

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

Christian Pakistanis seem to be targeted.

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

Not much you can do unless you take advantage of the Community Liaison Office (CLO) sponsored trips.

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

Lot of items to purchase if you want to, ceramics, rugs, pashimas, jewelry, handicrafts, furniture.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Any expectations.

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2. But don't forget your:

Bug spray and positive attitude. And to prepare for the multiple gastrointestinal ailments stock up on quality toilet paper, Pepto Bismol, and wipes.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 01/28/17

Background:

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

I have lived in Asia and Africa for 20 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?

USA. It's a very long trip. I've found it best to fly through Doha and spend a night at the airport hotel to rest a bit on the way.

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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.)?

US 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?

I have a large house with yard. Others live in apartments and a few even live in shared housing or shipping containers.

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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 cheaper, and processed/packaged items are more expensive.

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

Good chocolate. Organic personal care items.

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

There are a lot of restaurants with many types of food.

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

Cockroaches and other creepy-crawlies during rains.

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Daily Life:

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

Through US government.

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

More expensive than other posts, and expensive for both expats and local-hire Pakistanis pay, due to the fact that we can only hire screened staff.

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

On Embassy compound. $10 per month.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Conservative. As a woman, it's been annoying not to be able to wear my normal work wardrobe.

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Health & Safety:

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

Kidnapping, bombing, etc.

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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?

Smoking is allowed all over the US Embassy compound. It's very damaging for anyone with asthma, and exposes all staff to lung cancer-causing chemicals.

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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?

Some have issues with high pollen counts and/or smoke from burning garbage.

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

This is a high-stress post.

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Expat Life:

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

Most locals think that LGBT people should be raped and/or killed. This is not a place to be out.

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

Many. Pakistan has been ranked as the second worst place in the world to be a woman. Many gender issues crop up even in the US Embassy workplace. As a woman, I've found it especially disturbing to live here (and I've lived in many conservative and Muslim counties before).

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Islamabad, Pakistan 09/12/16

Background:

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

No, I have also lived in Brazil, India and the United Kingdom.

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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 back to the east coast of the US can take up to 30 hours, with stopovers in the Gulf or Turkey. Islamabad is not a particularly well-connected capitol and US Embassy employees are not allowed to transit other Pakistani cities to leave, which is too bad as Lahore and Karachi have better flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Posted 1 year.

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

US 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?

If you live in the city it's fantastic. Large houses many of which have decent outdoor space as well. You're also never more than 5 minutes from most of your friends and colleagues and at most a 15-minute commute from the embassy. I was told they were moving toward group housing but most people have their own home. Some people have also opted to live on compound which severely limits your social life. While the commute can't be beat, I don't know why anyone would volunteer to live in a box when there are other options. The embassy is building more on-compound housing and I would think twice about coming here if I did not have the option to live in the city proper.

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

You can get most things here, though you will pay more for imported/specialty items, except pork which can be sporadically found at the commissary. Don't be the bacon hog.

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

Amazon comes so fast that it's better to get here and see what you're actually lacking. You will probably be surprised by what is available.

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

There are mobile food ordering apps (Pakistani version of seamless) that will bring a plethora of restaurants to your doorstep, a couple that started a great Thai delivery service (the wife is Thai and regularly travels home for ingredients). There are a number of restaurants in Islamabad and new ones opening all the time.

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

You might get monsoon bugs which are a nuisance but there's really nothing to be done for it.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch is very fast.

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

Rates vary depending on how often you'd like them to come and what duties you want to include but most pay around 70-100 USD per month. I would really suggest getting household help even if you are by yourself. Having someone to do the grocery shopping for you when you go on lockdown is more than worth it. Many also cook really well.

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

There is a decent gym at the U.S. embassy which was enough for me but there are other pricier options around town. Many non-U.S. diplomats and U.N. employees also take advantage of personal trainers or the gym at the Serena Hotel. Membership at the Serena is more expensive than most U.S. gyms but you can also get a day pass which allow you access to the gym, saunas and pool and is a nice 'mini-break.'

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

It's definitely a cash economy. There are ATM's at the embassy but I also had no problems using ATM's around town. Only two banks ATM's regularly took my American card but they had a lot of machines, so you just have to learn which will accept yours. Al Falah is a good bet.

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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 of the Pakistanis you will be interacting with on a daily basis are native- or near-native English speakers and English is one of the official languages. I had Urdu before coming and it helped to be able to speak with my guards and a few phrases go a long way to show respect but you won't be using it often.

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Transportation:

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

U.S. mission personnel are not allowed to take any kind of public transport but other expats sometimes take taxis and these are usually on-time.

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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?

For U.S. mission personnel, don't bring a car to post unless you are staying two years. You can easily rent a car for $250 a month. The company addresses any issues very quickly and will swap you out with a replacement car if the work is going to take longer.

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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?

Readily available and set-up is relatively quick.

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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 would bring an unlocked smart phone if your mission won't be assigning you one.

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Pets:

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

Good vets are harder to find in Pakistan than other places I've lived. It's a good idea to bring a local with you who can help translate.

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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?

EFM's at the U.S. embassy cannot come unless they have a job at the mission. There are some really interesting and substantive EFM jobs; more than I have seen at many posts. However, it was taking an incredibly long time for DS to process security clearances and if the EFM will be in their position less than 10 months, they aren't allowed to come. Unfortunately this meant that some people had unexpectedly unaccompanied tours. The time limit is less of a concern if you are coming for two years.



Can't really speak to options for expat spouses outside of the US mission.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Limited due to security.

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

Business casual at work. If you are meeting outside contacts, depending on who they are, women may want to have their legs covered. While out and about, you'll want to cover your legs and shoulders (this is for men and women). Women may also want to avoid tight clothing to limit scrutiny/stares.

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Health & Safety:

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

You should be aware of your surroundings as you would anywhere. Islamabad itself is very calm but the armed guards at many houses and the checkpoints throughout the city will remind you that things can and do happen occasionally. That said, I never felt unsafe while in Pakistan.

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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 at the embassy is good, though you will be medically evacuated for anything serious. Dental care is good and very affordable.

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

Winter is colder than I expected and the houses aren't well insulated. U.S. residences come with space heaters, but don't leave all your winter clothes in storage.



Summer can get very hot but honestly, no worse than Washington D.C. in August. You won't be outside that much anyway.

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Expat Life:

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

Great morale among expats! The expat community is large, vibrant, and one of the best things about living in Islamabad. There are a number of international missions and representation from what seems like all of the UN agencies. There are also a number of NGO workers.

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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 French, British, Canadian and Australian clubs often host regular events If you want to be social there is a nearly non-stop rotation of parties and dinner parties with expats and Pakistanis who have studied and/or lived abroad. If you're at the U.S. Mission, your social life will be vastly improved if you break out of the American bubble.

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

Great for singles. The U.S. mission is unaccompanied so you won't see the children-centric events that many posts have. There are a number of people who are "geographically single" so do with that what you will...

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

There is actually a surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) vibrant gay (male) scene in Islamabad within expat and Pakistani elite circles. However everything is under wraps in public.

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

Myriad, but you will face few of these directly as a foreigner. Westerners are generally assumed to be Christian and if you are a non-believer or unaffiliated, it's generally best to keep that to yourself except among friends.

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

My portfolio was very rewarding. More junior officers have the opportunity to get great experience and responsibility in Islamabad. I also loved the expat community. Non U.S. mission people can also do easy road and weekend trips.

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

Gilgit-Baltistan and the northern areas are probably on the top of every American's wish list for when/if security restrictions ease. Those who are able to should definitely go.

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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. You will likely come back with lots of rugs, handmade furniture and jewelry. Don't go overboard on the Pakistani clothes, you'll get back and never wear most of them again.

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

Great quality of life.


Very low cost of living.


Easy flights to Thailand for a weekend away.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How much I would have enjoyed it so that I would have extended my tour.

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

As long as I didn't have to live on compound and we are still able to self-drive, I'd move here again easily.

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

While Pakistan is a Muslim republic, don't come with expectations that this is the Middle East. South Asia has its own character and history and Pakistan itself is diverse and complicated.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and patience--not Pakistan specific, just always good to have.

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

Magnificent Delusions (especially for Americans)


How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia


In Other Rooms, Other Wonders


A Case of Exploding Mangoes


The Wandering Falcon (especially for people working on KP/FATA)

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Islamabad, Pakistan 09/11/15

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. 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?

Brazil. Flying there from Islamabad took about 20-25 hours, sometimes longer depending on connections. Major regional hubs are Dubai (Emirates), Doha (Qatar Airways), and Istanbul (Turkish) - all excellent airports.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years (2011-2014).

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

Government (Brazilian 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?

Unless you have to live in a compound (which I would not recommend at all!), expect HUGE houses with plenty of room. Pakistani families are often large (4 to 6 children per couple is still the norm, sometimes more), which explains why houses tend to be very spacious. Almost all expats live in a compact area (E-6, F-6, F-7 or F-8 - yes, neighborhoods are named after codes here) with a commute time of 10 minutes or less, usually, as the city is fairly small and has little traffic.

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

Almost all basic items can be found for good prices. For international brands, the stores at Kohsar market are a sure bet. Some people say electronics are expensive in Pakistan, but that's simply not true - there are plenty of vendors who import everything from large TVs to new iPhones straight from Dubai and somehow pay no taxes.

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

Bring everything you need to be entertained at home - movies (there is no Netflix in Pakistan!), books (even though there are decent bookstores in town - Saeed bookbank is the best), video games, whatever.

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

There are about 8 to10 good restaurants in town, including major hotels (Serena and Marriott), with a reasonable variety (Indo-Pak, Italian, Chinese, Lebanese), and very low prices - you'll seldom pay more than US$15 for a delectable dinner in a top restaurant. But alcohol is never sold, except at the Marriott (in both the Chinese restaurant and a hidden bar in the basement) and at the occasional clandestine Chinese joint. So you have to bring your own booze and hope they'll let you have it! You will also find McDonald's and a very spicy.

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

Not much, except for the occasional flies. Islamabad is outside of malaria territory, unlike Karachi.

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Daily Life:

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

Regular mail is available, but it is slow and not always reliable. Use your embassy/NGO/UN mailing service if you can.

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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 available and VERY cheap - you can still live like a Rajah in Pakistan for little money, if that's your fancy. There are countless drivers, cooks, nannies, butlers, gardeners, etc. willing to work for expats for US$ 200-300 a month.

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

Surprisingly, there are plenty. The most refined (featuring a pool (something very rare in Pakistan) is at Serena Hotel (about US$100 a month). But for the best workouts and personal trainers go to Metafitnosis. it is more expensive, maybe US$ 300 a month, but it is worth it.

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

It's a cash economy, so you'll visit ATMs all the time. They're widely available, but about 40% of the time they're out of order. The most reliable ATM in town is outside the main Barclays agency. Only large hotels and a few elite restaurants take credit cards.

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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?

Nothing. All Pakistanis from middle and upper classes speak English fluently, as it's also an official language. Nevertheless, knowing a w phrases of urdu will win you some appreciation.

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

Yes. Elevators are rare, except in the big hotels and some government buildings.

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Transportation:

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

No trains, no subway, no tuk-tuks (unlike the rest of South Asia), and very few taxis and buses. Shared mini-trucks are about the only means of public transport, and although they they are affordable, thy are unsafe. You really need a car in Islamabad. If you need a driver, hiring one is cheap (about US$ 200 to 300 a month).

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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?

Almost everyone in Pakistan opts for Japanese cars - a Toyota if you're well-off, a Suzuki if you're not. Don't bother bringing other brands (particularly expensive German cars) to Pakistan, as they'll suffer from the pot-holed roads, and replacement parts will be very hard to find. An SUV is recommended but not essential. Unless you're planning to drive to isolated areas in the countryside, a basic Corolla will do the job well.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, but beware of frequent electricity cuts ("load-shedding") that can last 4-8 hours a day - you'll really need a generator at home. About US$ 150 a month for the fastest internet packages.

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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?

If you need to make urgent calls, get two lines from different providers. Expect your cell phone to be bugged or tapped by the intelligence agencies (yes, really), so avoid discussing sensitive topics.

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Pets:

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

Pets are not common (some Muslims consider dogs filthy), but good vets are available. Not sure about quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not much, unless you're a free-lance journalist/photographer who could work for a newspaper abroad. NGOs may also hire expats, but you normally must apply before coming to Pakistan.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty at local and international NGOs and even UN Volunteers, but plan everything way in advance, as Pakistani visas can take a long time to arrive.

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

Conservative. No shorts in public, even for men. Women don't need to cover their hair but should avoid tight clothes and always cover their arms and legs. But you'lll find Pakistani tunics (shalwar kameezes) are extremely comfortable, so get yourself a few!

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Health & Safety:

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

Of course there are, but not as much as you would think. Police/military checkpoints and "tesco" barriers will intimidate you at first, but Islamabad is actually far safer than the rest of Pakistan. Terrorist attacks were frequent in 2007-2009, but they're rare these days in the capital. Violent political demonstrations, usually 3-4 times a year, are a more real concern and will sometimes lead to embassy lockdowns. On the other hand, common street crimes are very rare.

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

There are not many health concerns: Islamabad has no malaria (unlike southern Pakistan, i.e., Sindh and Balochistan) and no polio (unlike Peshawar), HIV/AIDS is rare (not that you'd have many opportunities to catch it anyway!) and the air is clean. There are good physicians and dentists as well as some decent hospitals, Shifa being the best. But if you need something really complicated, say a heart surgery, you should fly to Dubai.

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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 very good, as there is little pollution in Islamabad But it could be a bit dusty during dry season.

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

Unless you spend your whole life eating Indo-Pak food, you WILL get food poisoning/diarrhea in your first months in Pakistan - it's a fact of life. But your body will likely adapt. Almost all food is spicy, so if you want something mild, it's safer to eat at home or go to a western restaurant. Other than that, there are not many issues.

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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?

Get ready for extreme weather with FIVE very different seasons, not just four. Chilly winters until February (0-10 degrees Celsius - not that cold, but house heating was usually a problem due to gas load-shedding), then a very pleasant spring on March-April, then an absurdly hot and dry early summer between May and June (temperature often reaches 45 celsius (113 Fahrenheit!), then a slightly less hot (but very humid) monsoon season during July and August (strong rains nearly every day), then a refreshingly mild fall.

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Schools & Children:

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

Had no experience with that, but I know international schools are easily available.

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Expat Life:

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

Very large. Morale varies, but it is usually good. People come to Pakistan for a reason, and they're often ready to face the daily challenges of living here. Still, try to reach out beyond the expat community, and you'll find very friendly, hospitable and caring Pakistanis.

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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?

Simple things only. Hosting dinners or house parties, meeting friends for picnics, hiking in the Margallas, arranging daytrips to nearby valleys, and so on. Remember: zero cinemas, theaters, operas, etc. in town.

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

It really depends. It's a bit harder for bachelors, as Islamabad can be very isolating and there are really few places and occasions to meet other singles. For couples (80-90% of expats here) it's far easier, as the mutual support you'll enjoy will be very helpful. Families with little children (if your embassy has no such restriction) tend to love Islamabad, as the city is generally calm and has many green areas. But if you have a teenage child, he or she will definitely be bored to death here!

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

Obviously it's a huge taboo in public, but it is not impossible for them to have fun. There is a lively (clandestine) LGBT community, with Pakistanis and expats.

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

Religion is a major issue in Pakistan. The worst mistake you could possibly make in this country would be to publicly disrespect/offend Islam, Mohammed or the Quran in any way. Christians are widely respected. Jews are usually tolerated, but avoid raising the issue of Israel/Palestine if you're a staunch zionist). There are lots of other religions, but atheists are definitely NOT welcome in most environments. So if you have no belief, as was my case, it's safer to keep this to yourself. Also, the Sunni majority doesn't always see eye to eye with the Shia minority.

In some conservative areas (but not among Pakistanis who usually interact with expats), women tend to be treated with less respect than men, but in Islamabad the gender prejudice is not that strong. It's perfectly safe for a woman to walk alone in public; but it may be uncomfortable, since 90% of people on the streets are men. Women tend to stay at home. There are no big problems with racism.

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

Visiting the Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) via the Karakoram Highway all the way to the Chinese border, near the Himalayas - this is a definite must-do when in Pakistan. Lahore was also interesting.

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

Sadly, there are few cultural activities available in Islamabad except for the occasional music concert; look for the Kuch Khaas center and its Lime Tree cafe, as well as occasional PNCA or embassy events. There are no cinemas, theaters, or operas in the city proper. But if you go to Rawalpindi or Bahria Town, you'll find modern cinema complexes.

Popular weekend activities include climbing/hiking in the Margalla hills, exploring inside the city itself, or taking day trips to the Murree resort, the Taxila ruins/museum, and the Khanpur lake. The wonderfully beautiful Kaghan valley is about 5-6 hours north, and Lahore can also be visited on weekends (5 hours driving or a 1-hour flight).

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

Carpets and traditional wooden furniture (look for a store named PakTurk). It's all dirt-cheap and beautiful.

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

Political/diplomatic relevance, rich culture, unique experience, saving money.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, a lot. It's one of the cheapest countries on earth, even if Islamabad is more expensive than other Pakistani cities.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, definitely. There was some hardship at times, but I loved living there.

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

Prejudices! And don't bring your car unless it's a Toyota, Honda or Suzuki; spare parts won't be available.

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3. But don't forget your:

Good humor, patience and sense of adventure, as well as plenty of books and films to keep you entertained, particularly if you're single. Also, remember to plan your alcohol needs in advance - Peter Justesen and other duty free stores will be needed.

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

The best introduction to the country is "Pakistan: a Hard Country" (Anatol Lieven).

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Islamabad, Pakistan 08/28/15

Background:

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

Nope. Several other cities - all over.

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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?

Pacific Northwest. Travel takes 30 hours, with connections in LA and Seattle. Etihad and Emirates have Dubai/Abu Dhabi to LAX direct flights. 16.5 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

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

Money, money, money. Also, when else would you ever get to live here?

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Fair warning: they are moving people into group homes, so have fun living "The Real World" Islamabad. Fortunately I arrived before that trend, so I live in a gorgeous 4-bedroom house at the end of a quiet street with only my spouse and our two cats. I do live pretty far out, so it takes 20-30 minutes to get to/from work, 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?

We purchase all of our groceries for the week for $50 (including fresh veggies and dry goods) for two people. We make breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home.

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

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

Most fast food is $2-$6 per plate. Pretty much all restaurants deliver.

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

Minimal: some mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and Pouch

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

Don't use any. This is another thing driven by peer pressure. We hold multiple events at our home, both official and unofficial, and do not use domestic help.

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

The US Embassy's gym is sufficient. Snobs can pay to go to Serena, so they can sit by the pool and feel important or classy.

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

I have used ATMs all over the city with no issues.

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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?

Minimal.

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

Yup again. There are no services for individuals with disabilities. Most places don't even have ramps.

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Transportation:

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

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

You can rent a car for $250 a week.

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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?

I dont know. It is paid for by our section.

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

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Pets:

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

No.

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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?

Nope. Spouses are required to work at the embassy in order to live in Pakistan. Only menial jobs are available, and while your talent is being wasted you will be told over and over again that you should be grateful to even have a job. Interesting duties are unionized by FSOs. Supervisors are not interested in professional development of EFMs.

The couple of decent jobs at the embassy are held for people whose spouse will threaten to curtail if they are not given their choice. So good jobs are given to people who have no more to offer than empty threats. The competant spouses refuse to take another job with an embassy after this post. They further disenfranchise EFMs by having HR collect their time and attendance instead of including them in the section where they work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Modest. Business.

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Health & Safety:

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

It's a pretty dangerous place. We have had several lockdowns. Right now is a period of freedom. but several locations are off limits.

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

I stopped going to the health unit after being repeatedly asked for stool samples instead of being treated for my problem. I have not been to the health unit in over a year.

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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?

Fine.

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

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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 most of the year, but it gets pretty cool in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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?

You will find the biggest bunch of whiners you have ever met.

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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?

House parties, happy hours, and dinners out.

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

Singles struggle because this post is very isolating. If your only desire is to occupy your desk for 14 hours a day, then this is the place for you! Extra long work hours are largely a result of peer pressure. Couples at post together do better than couples apart --- there is rampant cheating.

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

Yes, as long as you remain under the radar. Pakistani men are very touchy with each other, so being normally affectionate with a partner in public (short of kissing) would probably not be noticed.

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

Yup.

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

Paying off my student loans. Decent food. Lots of travel.

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

Rugs, furniture, and jewelry

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

Money.

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9. Can you save money?

Tons, if you are not an idiot about it.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How terrible the EFM positions are.

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

Probably.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 08/02/15

Background:

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

no--Mexico 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?

Texas

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months

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

government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The Embassy is moving to group housing-- be advised. Commute is short. It's moldy in the housing--I currently have mold growing on my bathroom ceiling. That said, I do like my house, its pretty spacious. I have a large 4 BR duplex, no yard. A friend's basement flooded twice, and he had major electrical problems. Not a place for the sensitive. Lots of people have really nice yards and houses, some houses aren't so good. Couples and senior people get beautiful homes. The Embassy is pretty responsive on maintenance. Full time guards and concertina wire at your home, of course. You will spend most of your time at the Embassy or at home.

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

It's worth it to hire a housekeeper who can cook and shop for you. There is a limited commissary at the Embassy, but items are often expired by the time they hit the shelves. On the local economy, lots of nice fruits and vegetables. No decent bread. Cheese is 100 % imported and very expensive, but you can get fresh Australian milk.

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

A battery backup/UPS. You cannot get one shipped and they are pricey on the local economy. Thank God for Amazon. I have gotten boxes within 6 days sometimes.

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

A few decent restaurants and coffee shops.

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

mosquitoes

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch.

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

Excellent. I have a housekeeper couple almost full time who also cook and shop -- US$400/month, part time gardener US$60/month, dog walker twice per weekday US$190/ month. I had to hire all Christians because of my dogs. Other locals were not able to deal with the (very well behaved) dogs.

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

Embassy has a decent gym, tennis courts and inexpensive lessons, some exercise classes

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

I have bought carpets a few times with credit card. MasterCards work less, bring a Visa card.

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

Christian services-- Catholic, Mormon, Anglican.

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

None really.

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

yes

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Transportation:

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

No

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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?

Rent a car here for less than US$300 per month or pay for motorpool. I recommend a car.

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Phone & Internet:

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

yes-- US$75 per month for the fastest they have including an HD converter box which I highly recommend.

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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 android.

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Pets:

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

No quarantine. 2 mediocre vets. I buy human meds at the local pharmacy and treat my pets. All food and litter from Amazon.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

very limited

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

pretty casual. Women wear local clothing on Fridays some. Most women don't wear dresses and high heels.

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Health & Safety:

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

yes

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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?

decent---all the doctors are trained in the U.S...... everyone suffers from the usual respiratory, cold viruses, stomach bugs.

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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

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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?

mostly warm to 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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Expat Life:

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

Large--morale is ok.

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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?

eat out in a few areas, parties at one another's homes.

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

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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?

yes--lots. Incessant leering even if you dress modestly. Religious violence.

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

shopping

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

Carpets. Lots of people have furniture made. Jewelry and clothes.

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

saving money; buying carpets; interesting work

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Lots of overtime.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Its pretty much what I expected.

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

Yes, it's fine here right now. It worked reasonably well for me. I learned a lot at my job.

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

Plans whatever they are. The key to a successful tour is good co-workers and a flexible attitude.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good attitude and emotional equilibrium. Ability to self-entertain.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

This is a huge post and we are rebuilding the entire Embassy compound so there will be jobs and opportunities here for a long time.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 04/01/14

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 expat experience, our first in a "dangerous" place.

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

Washington, DC. It was a 25 hour journey with a layover in Doha.

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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.)?

My wife works for the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Our commute is 10 minutes even with the security stops. Some people drive up to 30 minutes.

But we are supposedly moving onto the compound in about a year so this is probably moot.

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

Cheap. Cheaper still if you have your housekeeper do the shopping.

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

I know there is a Hardee's but I haven't been.

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

I've heard of people having problems with ants and mosquitoes but I haven't had that problem. There are these really cute yellow wasps that cause intense pain if they sting you.

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Daily Life:

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

Depending on how often you want them, you can get someone for between US$100 and $250 a week. There is plenty of help available.

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

There is a gym on compound and I know there are some gyms in the city. Also, there is a group of men who beat tires as a workout. I don't know why they hate tires so much.

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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?

It's a cash-based society. We get cash on the Enclave and use it when we go into town.

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

Little is necessary beyond your common phrases.

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

We get out so rarely that I don't think it matters. The compound is pretty good for anyone, though a bit hilly.

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Transportation:

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

U.S. employees aren't allowed to take them.

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

You're going to be dinged by locals driving. I'd just buy or rent a cheap car while you're here. It's not leaving here in good shape.

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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 internet is fast enough although skype isn't always great here.

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Pets:

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

No. There are a couple of vets - and one isn't bad.

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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?

As a spouse of a U.S. Embassy employee, I am only allowed to work on the Embassy. And the spouses here call themselves "the sub-humans" because of the way we are treated by management. The attitude seems to be "We let you come here with your spouse. What else do you want?"

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a couple of opportunities to work with local kids and, of course, you can create your own opportunities.

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

On the Embassy, you'll see western business dress. Outside, it's mostly salwar kameezes.

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Health & Safety:

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

We have probably 15 armed guards within 50 yards of our house including a machine gun nest. We've been on lockdown about 2 weeks total over the last year.

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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?

Everyone gets stomach issues here. Everyone. Just try to be careful where you eat and get to the med unit when you need it.

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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?

Fine in the winter/spring, less than good in the summer.

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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 actually gets fairly cool in December-February. But it gets ridiculously hot starting in May and lasting through October.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large and not bad.

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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?

House parties. Game nights.

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

Great for couples but no kids allowed. And your spouse can only come if s/he can get a job.

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

I know two guys who are dating men on the local scene. But I think it's pretty hush-hush.

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

Of course there are.

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

We've made some good friends here - with such limited movement, you really have to depend on each other for entertainment.

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

When we're allowed, it's great to hike the Margalla Hills. It's rarely allowed.

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

The food is greasy but good. You should save a good bit of money. The weather is great from November until April. The people are generally very nice.

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9. 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?

How poor the job opportunities are for EFMs. I would have spent a year away from my wife had I known. It would have been easier.

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

If I were able to find a real job, yes. If not, no. My wife feels the same way - it's not worth the daily pain.

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3. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Office Space.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

As with anywhere else, a lot seems to depend on where you land. Certain sections seem quite happy while others, unfortunately, are not.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 02/28/14

Background:

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

This is my 6th expat experience.

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

For the first two years, we flew via Qatar to the U.S. on Qatar Airways. That was close to a 24-hour trip in total. In our last year, we flew via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. Travel time was about the same. We also flew to the U.S. via Dubai (Emirates) and Abu Dhabi (Etihad).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is good- U.S. Embassy staff mostly live in town - in houses scattered throughout the city. We had a beautiful home, very centrally located. Others (eg, Canadians and Brits) live on compounds located within the Diplomatic Enclave where all of the major embassies and high commissions are located. As long as the majority of U.S. Embassy housing is located in the city (and the security situation does not deteriorate any further), the U.S. embassy staff housing will remain desirable. The U.S. Embassy is building housing (mostly apartments) in the New Embassy Compound (NEC), and if the majority of U.S. staff end up in housing on the NEC, living in Islamabad will become far less desirable.

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

We had access to the U.S. Commissary so we were not wanting for goods as we could buy pork and alcohol there. Anything and everything else could be purchased locally at Kohsar Market and local grocery stores. There was generally wide availability and good selection of products available. For anything Western we paid a premium for but the costs were still relatively reasonable- not outrageous as in some African and Central Asian countries.

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

Nothing.

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

There are lots of great restaurants in Islamabad. Everything ranging from street food up to fast food (McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardeez, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, and Dominos Pizza) to nice bistros such as Street 1 Cafe and Tuscan Courtyard, to places in Saidpur Village such as Polo Lounge and Des Pardes, Monal in the Margalla Hills, Dynasty at the Marriott Hotel, and the restaurants at the Serena. Costs are very reasonable, with meals not exceeding the US$50 range at the nicest places.

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

There are dengue fever carrying mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the DPO.

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

Cost is cheap but skill level and motivation of our household staff was shockingly poor. Lots of problems getting them to do the basic cleaning we required, while they maintained a strong sense of entitlement to continuous salary increases and bonuses.

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

U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions have gym facilities and these are free for staff accredited to these embassies or missions. I know there are private gyms in Islamabad but I am not familiar with the services offered or membership rates.

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

We used our credit cards on occasion in the city and never had any problems. I also used the Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank ATM's throughout my tour and had no issues or problems.

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

Not sure, I know that the Holy See had Catholic services, and that there may have been services in people's homes and at the U.S. Embassy.

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

None, but knowing Urdu would be helpful.

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

Yes, but it is possible with support from the U.S. Embassy.

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Transportation:

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

We were not allowed to use local transport so I have no experience with it.

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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 had a Toyota Rav IV and found that although not crucial, an SUV was nice to have particularly for drives outside of Islamabad.

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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, available, fast and cheap. We used VOIP phones, wireless internet, and apple TV throughout our tour with no issues.

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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 plentiful- check out ufone and mobilink. Just be sure to turn off data roaming when going to other countries. Roaming is horrifically expensive.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I don't think so but don't know much about that specific job market.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are opportunities through Rotary and other organizations.

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

Business attire for work, more casual otherwise. Women need to be mindful of the local culture and dress modestly when going out to restaurants and other public venues in the city.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes considerable. Life in the U.S. Embassy is largely dictated by security rules.

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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?

Dengue fever and stomach bugs are the top concerns.

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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?

Generally quite poor- very dusty, unless it is the rainy season.

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

Hot and humid in the summer summer, pleasant during autumn, mild winter, warm spring, and blistering hot during late spring to early summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an American International School in Islamabad, but no U.S. staff are allowed to bring families, so the school caters mostly to elite Pakistanis and other expats. Interestingly enough, American International School teaching staff have yellow U.S. Embassy badges and are allowed to use the U.S. Commissary to purchase groceries (not alcohol). This option is not available to other American expats in Pakistan and I'm not certain why the teachers at the AIS retain this privilege.

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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?

Relatively large. While morale was generally pretty good,particularly for long-term expats, tensions would rise when security issues and threats were an issue.

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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?

Shopping, entertaining at home, working out, eating out at restaurants, visiting Murree & Nathiagali.

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

Yes great for all. The U.S. Embassy does not allow families, but some diplomatic missions do. As a result, many families were living in Islamabad and seemed to be thriving and enjoying themselves.

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

Yes.

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

Yes, within the Pakistani community, there are lots of these issues, particularly amongst different levels of Pakistani elites, local men's attitudes towards women, Shia vs. Sunni Muslim tensions, regional rivalries and divisions, etc.

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

Compared to other postings, particularly for development professionals, Islamabad is a relatively good city to live in. There are opportunities for shopping, socializing, and decent, inexpensive restaurants.

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

Shopping for carpets, jewelry, furniture, and clothes. Going to restaurants in the city. Visiting Nathiagali and Murree. Going to Taxila.

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

Carpets, jewelry, restaurants, local travel, furniture, plants and landscaping, and clothes.

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

Saving money, buying carpets, furniture, and jewelry.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, with the current allowances in place, lots, particularly if you do more than the 1 year tour.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Ease of getting around Islamabad.

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

Yes definitely!!!!

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

Persian carpets.

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4. But don't forget your:

Pork products.

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


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6. Do you have any other comments?

We enjoyed our tour to Pakistan. Working for the U.S. Government has its advantages and challenges. Many of the local staff at the U.S. Embassy are massively overpaid for the work they do and responsibilities held. Constant security issues are a concern- while Islamabad has been stable for the last couple of years, anything could happen at any time. If you are given the choice between African postings and Pakistan, jump at the opportunity to go to Pakistan instead. Allowances and work are very good.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 12/19/13

Background:

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

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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?

Tucson, Arizona; about 30 hours with connections in Doha, Dubai, or Kuwait, and then again in Washington, New York, or Houston. AZ to Pakistan takes three calendar days!

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

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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 U.S. Embassy provides some houses and duplexes in the good sectors (E, F & G). Some people live in apartments on the compound, depending on their job. Off-compound commutes range from 15 to 30 minutes depending on which sector you live in. G6 is the closest followed by F6 and the bigger the number the further you are (cf. Google Map for a very detailed map). Some people share houses, not by choice but because GSO housing has decided it and there is a divider (so it is not like a roommate, you have privacy). The only problem could be the size of your kitchen if you are in the upper part (and it was built after); or if you are in the lower part and it looks like a basement with little light.

Electricity can be sketchy: our phone line was hooked with bare wire on the street (anybody could have easily cut the supply), when we asked for repair, it was "protected" by a rolled-up plastic bag. The new Embassy features apartments for all on compound for 2017?

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

Most everything is available at a few select stores catering to expats. Cf. Metro (I10) like Costco, Koshar Market (F6/3) where you can find decent meat, Rana Market (F7/2) where you can get sushi-grade fish. Imported goods are 5-20% more than in the U.S. Local goods are 20-80% cheaper than in the U.S., with somewhat comparable quality. One dollar is almost 100 rupees so you just remove 2 zeros and the prices are easy to understand.

They would not label their food organic but most of it probably is.

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

? Exotic cooking supplies (mainly for Mexican and Thai food) if you must. We felt we found everything we needed..

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

A variety of fast food restaurants: McDonald's, KFC, Hardees (Carl's Junior), Pizza Hut and local street food. The Western places are at U.S. prices or more, while the local food is cheap. Many good real restaurants are about half the price as in the U.S. for the same quality. On the Margalla hill try Montana (instead of Monal), in Saidpur, try Andaaz (best Pakistani food in the country - same restaurant in Lahore) on top of Polo Lounge (Western food), in the city House of Bombay for good Indian food, safe sushi at the Marriott, etc. Many good restaurants to choose from.

In some restaurants you may bring your wine bottle and they either ignore it (example at the Polo Lounge we placed it on the floor but they provided us with wine glasses) or they pour it in a tea pot. So you can bring your bottle and ask politely what is allowed (except at Monal where they confiscate it!).

At the Embassy while some people only go to Club or Cafeteria, we tried every option available and liked it: the LES cafeteria (Pakistani food only), the TDY rotisserie (delicious grilles chicken or pizza), Club 21 (the French restaurant in front of the U.S. Embassy, 3-course meal under US$10), Cordon Rouge (another French restaurant, a bit further but only 10-minute walk by the Consular door). There is also a woman catering good sandwiches and salads.

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

Mosquitoes in the fall when you don't need A/C anymore. Ants are tiny and will leave if you are scrupulous about cleaning.

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Daily Life:

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

We used the APO from the Embassy.

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

I had read that you needed a bearer and a cook and a maid, etc. The good news is that it is not necessary: one person can do everything. They won't be perfect at everything but much more reliable because then you can employ them "full time" - If full time is 6 hours, they'll probably do another full time somewhere else. We liked having someone every day for our dog and to have a warm meal for dinner. We paid US$200/month all the time, even when absent and a month bonus upon departure.

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

Expats mainly use their embassy facilities; the French Club 21 (in front of the U.S. Embassy) has a small club with pool; and there are several quality private gym clubs. Why pay for a private club when iT's free at the Embassy? In case of the French club, to avoid seeing the same people and increase chances to meet other people, in the case of the private club: because it is close to home and you can walk there from home at different hours than around the working hours. People work out a lot in the U.S. Embassy.

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

Credit cards are only useful for some shops for large purchases like rugs or jewelry. ATMs abound in the city but for safety, we usually use the Embassy ATMs.

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

Christian, Latter Saints Day, on the diplomatic enclave.

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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?

Everybody around you speaks English but it's always good to have some Urdu, especially if you shop outside the commissary and visit outside Islamabad.

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

During my tour there was handicapped people at post, not easy but feasible. Most of the time you have to take a car from place to place anyway even if you can walk.

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Transportation:

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

U.S.G. personnel is not allowed to take any public transport, including taxis. In Islamabad you can rent cars.

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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?

Local people are terrible drivers. For one year, we didn't bring our car at all (it may take up to 6 months to get it). Embassy shuttles are free and safe. They also take you shopping with little planning. For tourism outside the city, we just rented a car the day or weekend we needed a car. Some people rented a car long term. Many people bought their car from a Japanese website that sells cars for very cheap.

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Phone & Internet:

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

We requested the PTCL broadband ADSL connection in June 2012. We opted for the 8 Mb connection. When tested against the PTCL server with speedtest.net, we achieved 8 Mb. However, when tested against the Wi-tribe server in Islamabad, or any other server anywhere in the world, it doesn't even reach 1 Mb! So we changed to Nayatel but it's far from perfect.

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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?

Nothing special.

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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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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Many international organizations.

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

At the chancery, like in DC for most people, at USAID, local wear is welcome, in the street covered enough. Islamabad is not too strict (you can show elbows and knees) but more coverage is needed in the other cities.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is an armed guard 24/7 in your yard and barbed wire everywhere. There is excitement almost every Friday after prayer, many demonstrations which can turn violent / deadly (more in Karachi than in Islamabad). Ashura (9th & 10th Moharrum – usually around November) is deadly for shias. I left in June 2013, we had lots of freedom then but I've heard that security has tightened and embassy personnel have now many more restrictions.

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

Nothing specific. Everybody gets the "turista"at some point or another. Good dentist work cost almost as much as in the U.S. (the recommended dentists are husband and wife, educated in Britain).

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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?

Generally good.

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

Great temperatures in spring and fall. The summer temperatures reach 40-45 degrees Celsius (well over 100F) for 2 months. The winters are actually chilly, with a second rainy season around 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?

U.S.G. personnel is not allowed to bring children.

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

U.S.G. personnel is not allowed to bring children.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge: massive U.S. Embassy and many other expats from other embassies, international organizations and private companies.

We had good morale because we were together (FSO + EFM). It is tough for those with families in a different country, especially when the time difference is large. Lots of cliques. People that are there for their 2nd or 3rd year don't make any effort to integrate new people (not even say hello in the corridors). Recurring question: how long are you here for - as in, why make the effort if it is only for one year?

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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?

House or embassies parties and restaurants.

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

It is a great city for all. Other expats have their children at post and house help is so inexpensive that it would be practical to have a young family. As a couple there are many things to do. Because spouses are not allowed in country without a job at the Embassy, many people are "made" single - not to worry: there are parties all the time and everywhere (well maybe someone will worry now!). Unfortunately for the older crowd, most parties in the Enclave (by Brits, Canadian, Australian and French in general) are advertised at 8pm to really start vaguely at 11pm and really at midnight.

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

Not a problem at the Embassy.

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

Conservative Sunnis want to exterminate Shias (20% of the population) but they are a minority; yet the Parliament decided that Ahmadis were not Muslims (which they claim to be) and erased the word "muslim" from the tomb of their only Nobel Prize because he was Ahmadi. On the Gender front, Pakistan rated 3rd to last on the gender index in 2012. Women are still killed in the name of honor (even if they are innocent, just to settle a dispute between men over land for example) and are burned by acid thrown at their face (sometimes by their own family).

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

Great hiking and shopping, custom-made everything, 5 hours direct flight to Bangkok.

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

Shopping, hiking, sports, cultural sites (at least 5 are OK by security standards: Taxila, Rohtas, Khewra, etc.), trekking, parties. Take long weekends in Thailand (5h-plane) or Dubai (3h-plane but bland to my taste). Yet, most Americans work frantically here, I've never seen this in any other Embassy (iT's my 4th).

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

Custom-made everything: furniture made from old carved doors and windows, shirts, cashmere coats, Western copies or local clothing, shoes, boots, jewelry. You can also buy brass and copper, gemstones, carpets, pottery, shawls and scarves, paintings, etc.

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

Islamabad is one of the nicest cities in South Asia: very green and relatively clean with almost no traffic. It is built into the Margalla Hills which are at the foothill of the Himalayas. The hiking is amazing in the city, you can climb to the top in 1h30 and there are good restaurants at the top. There are two golf courses; amateurs told me they like the one in Rawalpindi better than the one in Islamabad. There is a nice horseback riding club on the road to Murree, in Islamabad. The Embassy has a large swimming pool, usually heated up in winter, a great gym club with some yoga or abs classes depending on who is at post. There are several tennis courts with teachers under US$10/hour; basketball, volley ball, etc. Household help is cheap.

You can purchase antique / wood furniture, gemstones, custom-made clothes & shoes, Islamabad is ideal for shopping and if you like the style between shopping and travelling, you won't save any money!

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10. Can you save money?

It depends! If you like Pakistani furniture and carpets and like to travel far for R&R, it can add up easily.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Under the same conditions we had until June 2013 yes - but with the new restrictions (cannot hike anymore), I am not so sure.

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

Unplanned moves: you need to plan everything you do, whether you need an embassy car or an RSO authorization or a GOP authorization. It affects your private life but also your work life since some trips have to be planned 2 to 3 months in advance. Very tiring.

Desire to find bacon or alcohol outside the Commissary.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

Without lowering your sense of awareness, in general situations people are friendly and not threatening. Once you know some locals and they invite you for a meal, you really feel at home.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 03/01/12

Background:

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

Bruxelles, Lotan (Israel), Harare, Santo Domingo, Mosul (Iraq), Tunis, Beirut.

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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?

Tucson, about 30 hours with connections in Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, and then again in Washington, New York, or Houston.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Summer 2010 to Summer 2011.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

U.S. Embassy either has houses and duplexes in the nice sectors, or lives in confining apartments on the compound. Off-compound, commutes range from 15-30 minutes depending on if your agency puts you in the boonies. Some civilian personnel are choosing to share these immense houses. The military does get a choice, with 3-6 people of similar rank together.

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

Most everything is available at a few select stores catering to expats. Imported goods are 5-20% more than in the US. Local or regional groceries and household supplies are 20-85% cheaper than the U.S. with somewhat comparable quality.

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

Certain exotic cooking supplies (mainly for Mexican and Thai food).

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

A variety of Western (McDs, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut) and local. The Western places are at or just under U.S. prices, while the amazing local food is cheap.

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

Tons of restaurants and I never had a problem getting veggie food. Take note, the main way Pakistanis differentiate themselves gastronomically from Indian is the amount of beef, goat, and lamb they put in traditional South Asian dishes. But this is a service economy, and you can often get what you want, even off-menu.

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

Typical sub-tropical problems. Ants and mosquitoes mainly. I was able to deal with the ants simply by keeping a clean house (putting my cat's food in a bowl on a saucer with water). The mosquitoes are annoying and can carry dengue.

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Daily Life:

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

I used the APO. I won't trust PakPost.

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

My bearer cost $120/mon (and I gave him a $250 bonus when I left). He did everything, cleaned, mended, took my car for repairs, and cooked amazing Kashmiri food.

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

Expats mainly use embassy gyms, but there's several private gyms, and even a rock climbing wall.

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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 useful for select shops for large purchases (rugs, plane tickets, safaris, etc). ATMs abound and I never had a problem using USAA and Bank of America to get cash.

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

Yes, Christian, and only on the diplomatic enclave.

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

Both, $5/mon for cable.

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

I would have strongly preferred to have Urdu or Pashtoo, but only can float along with the elites speaking only English. They're losing they're English though.

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

One of the best cities in South Asia, but that's not saying much.

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Transportation:

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

Radio taxis are reasonable and reliable. Trains are an experience, but USG personnel are not allowed to take any public transport (including taxis).

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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?

I bought locally and was glad I did. My 1993 Nissan Pulsar blended in with local traffic, was super cheap to fix, and got me around. I strongly suggest Japanese if you're shipping a car. The only thing a car really needs is A/C for the humid and punishing summer heat.

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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?

US$55/month for an optical connection that averaged 1 mb during my usage time.

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

Get one, they're cheap, even to call the U.S.

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Pets:

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

Nope.

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

Excellent and reasonable prices.

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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?

Yep, all sorts of international organizations are running around trying to "help" Pakistan.

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

Suit and tie, otherwise conservative Western casual. Women and men need to cover below the knees.

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Health & Safety:

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

Fear, I guess. There's a real siege mentality that the Pakistani government, especially the military, like to encourage. It keeps Westerners from getting out and exploring the country. The violence is generally political, and terrorists did have some terrible successes, but you're more likely to get mugged or killed in Rio or Johannesburg.

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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?

Some dengue and stomach bugs.

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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?

There's some haze that occasionally drifts in from Rawalpindi, but it's generally the best in the region.

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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?

Lovely springs and falls. The summer heat can be brutal, and I'm from southern Arizona. The winters are actually chilly, made worse by the poor and ostentatious architecture which makes houses drafty and hard to heat.

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Schools & Children:

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

This used to be our hook into Pakistani society. Many of the non-military elites went to international schools. From my French and Japanese colleagues (who are allowed to have children), I hear standards have slipped since the US and UK pulled children out.

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

Unknown.

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

Again, excellent, but no kids for the foreseeable future.

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

Yes, but without out Americans kids at post, I don't know what they are. A French friend has his son in karate.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge in the government and hanger-on sector.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on how freaked out the individual was. High for those with local friends and diverse interests. Low if work was the only thing.

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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?

House parties and restaurants.

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

It was the family spot for South Asia hands and it's still a great place to have a family. Due to the security overreaction, it's now a young, single (or situationally single) post with a strong, though repetitive, party scene. My wife lived elsewhere, but I still had a great time. I would have extended if the security office had let her come.

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

There's a strong G/L scene, even among the Western-educated elites. Everyone gets married and has kids, but that doesn't stop people from having affairs. Unfortunately for homosexuals, that seems to be the only scene. Again, there's a large float of single/situationally single expats...

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

You'll hear about the hatred and violence. And it's there. Pakistan is more of an army with a country, than a coherent nation where patriotic identity trumps tribal, feudal, regional, ethnic, or linguistic identity. Women are not treated well here and the darker the skin tone the more the racism comes out. But when one breaks past surface identities, it’s a whole new story.

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

The people and lifetime friends. Seeing Everest from the cockpit of a 737. The amazing house parties. Going to a wedding in Karachi done jingle-bus style.

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

Parties, hiking, sports, cultural sites, trekking. But most Americans seems to work, work, work.

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

Anything you want.

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

Islamabad is truly the garden spot of South Asia. It is built into the Margalla Hills which are one of the foothills of the Himalayas. The hiking is amazing in the city. One can be very active with sports clubs for squash (some of the best instructors in the world on the cheap), tennis, football, and golf. The Pakistani people (vice the government) are amazing -- warm, educated, and, even when religiously conservative, open and hospitable. When we went horseback riding in Nathia Gali, we ran into a Pashtun imam with a dozen of his students on holiday. They invited us (two men and a women plus our police escort and intelligence minder) to break bread with them. The trekking in the north is among the best the world. You can get together with expats, rent a 737 and do a air "safari" of Mount Everest. Plus, it all happens (for most expats) with amazing "danger" bonuses so one can save money hand over fist.

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11. Can you save money?

Triple up.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Totally. It was loads of fun.

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

Prejudices and fears. Skimpy clothing (except for house parties where people dress dooown).

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3. But don't forget your:

Open mind, poker chips, booze.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don't panic. Don't be afraid. Get to know Pakistanis.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 08/05/11

Background:

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

Previously: Ukraine, India, and Belize.

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

Home base is US. The trip is long and tedious and expensive. Connections are through Bangkok (a long detour because then you backtrack across Europe) or through the Gulf (Dubai, Abu Dhabi).

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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.)?

US Govt.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice big houses. Mellow traffic, so short commute times.

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

Not bad, but getting more expensive by the day.

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

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

A Hardee's just opened. We also have a Pizza Hut, a Domino's, and a KFC. Don't know the prices -- I have never been in any of them.

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

I don't think the vendors would know what you're talking about if you asked for "organic" stuff.

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

Huge cockroaches come out of my drains.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy mail.

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

Part-time housecleaner/cook is $140. Plenty of help is available.

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

On the embassy compound. It's a popular hobby here. Kinda like in prison.

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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?

Plenty of ATMs. Some places take credit cards.

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

Yes. I know of two churches -- one catholic and the other... i dunno. Maybe also catholic?

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

Yep. Dunno how much -- embassy covers it. There are only a few channels in English, and they are heavily edited (for sex and language -- but they don't mind the violence).

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

Not much.

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

Depends on the disability. If it's a mobility issue, there are very few sidewalks or ramps. It would be difficult.

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Transportation:

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

No. We are not allowed to take them.

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

Roads are good -- any vehicle is fine. There are lots of speed bumps, and some of them are very high -- so a car with good clearance is best. I have a Toyota Corolla and it gets me around 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?

Yes. Cheap.

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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 plentiful in the market.

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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)?

Not sure about kennels. There are a couple of okay vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

Conservative in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

You are surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards and armored vehicles and security checkpoints and whatnot. Osama bin Laden lived 30km up the road from here.

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

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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. Great compared to Delhi but not great compared to Kiev (my last posts).

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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?

Super hot in the summer and surprisingly cold and clammy in the winter. Very brief windows of nice weather in Spring and Fall.

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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 not many international kids around. We're not allowed to bring families.

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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?

No. No 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?

Relatively large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very low and getting worse.

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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 have to make your own entertainment -- party with your friends at home.

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

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

I have a couple of gay friends who seem to be hooking up left and right. A recent embassy-sponsored Gay Pride event was just described as "cultural terrorism" by the political-religious leadership here, and I have a feeling that that's a common view.

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

YES, YES and YES!

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

My R&R's out of Pakistan were the highlights. Domestically, my trip up to the mountains near Skardu and hiking in Nathia Gali were awesome. There is also some good camaraderie here is Islamabad, as we are all stuck here together.

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

Drink beer with friends (if you can find the beer and a private place to drink it). Play board games. Go to embassy/UN/NGO parties.

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

Jungle art and carpets.

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

Oof... not much. Getting worse by the day. If you work for the USG then you are severely restricted in your ability to travel, for security reasons.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Well... maybe. Considering the options I had at the time, I'd pick it again, but I cannot in good faith recommend it to anyone.

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

...skirts and shorts.

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3. But don't forget your:

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

Koran.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Islamabad, Pakistan 05/06/11

Background:

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

2nd expat experience.

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

Washington, DC. Trip takes about 15 hours. Best flight options are Washington-Doha-Islamabad on Qatar. You can also take Etihad and travel Washington-Abu Dhabi-Islamabad. You can also take Pakistani International Air (PIA) from London to Islamabad. It is terrible. Long haul PIA aircraft have terrible services, bad food, no entertainment and a strange odor. Avoid at all costs.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year, February 2010- January 2011

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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?

Huge, fairly good condition. I had a 3-bedroom house with a den, formal living room, formal dining room, and large kitchen. The house also had 4 bathrooms with marble floors and 15-foot ceilings. Commute time was 15-25 minutes depending on time of day and police check points.

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

Food: This is a Muslim country, so no pork and all. Meat is Halal. Personally, I really dislike halal meat. I think it is dry and a bit nasty. The best local meat is the frozen chicken breasts from a company called K&N. Everything that is local is cheap, and food-wise most major ingredients are available in some form or another. Specific sauces, spices, and things like ketchup are hard to find in American quality. Cleaning products: the local ones are cheap but terrible. The local laundry detergent is the worst. I shipped all mine from the US or got it from the embassy commissary.

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

Nothing. You can order anything you may need when you get there. If you do not have access to DPO or the embassy commissary, I would strongly suggest mailing stuff like detergent, specific spices, sauces, etc.

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

The government just shut down the McDonald's in Islamabad (there is still one in Rawalpindi about 20 mins away).Islamabad has:Subway- which is terribleDunkin Donuts- Donuts are okay only if you get them first thing in the morning. Coffee is okay. KFC- plentiful. Pizza Hut- okay but greasy. Dominos- Not too bad at all when you need a pizza fix.

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

Being vegetarian in Islamabad is very possible. Meat is very expensive for the locals (but very cheap for Westerners). Veg meals are offered at pretty much all places.

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

Minor problems. No worse than New York. Malaria is only a threat in southern Pakistan in the Karachi area. Very few people take malaria meds in Islamabad.

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Daily Life:

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

There is a FedEx in Islamabad. It is super cheap and takes 4 or 5 days. I am told that the Pakistani mail service is actually not to bad (3 weeks from the US). But I never used it. The embassy has DPO, which I used for everything. It takes 7-12 business days.

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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 super available. I know many people who had 3 or 4 people on their staff. Part time help is less than $100 a month.

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

Embassy has a large facility. There are 1 or 2 western style gyms in the city that I am told are not too bad

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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?

Per embassy advice I only used the ATM at the bank in the diplomatic enclave. I did use my credit card to make some large purchases (jewelry and carpets) with no issues. While Pakistan is a cash economy, hotels and any store that is large or sells expensive goods will take credit cards.

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

Yes. English is one of the official languages of pakistan. Almost all government business is conducted in english. There is a Holy See Embassy that has catholic services. There are many mosques, but I am not sure when language they use.

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

TV is all Pakistani and terrible. Picture quality is inconsistant at best. There are 3 solutions: 1. Pay up and get an AFN dish/box. 2. Go to one of the DVD stores and buy super-cheap DVD's of new releases/tv shows. 3. Watch online over a virtual private network (VPN). VPN costs about $5 a month.

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

None. Pretty much everyone speaks english.

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

Tons. This city is not accessible in any way.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are not allowed to use these modes of transportation.

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

A normal sedan is fine in Islamabad. Very few American cars are present. There is a Toyota and Honda dealership for repairs. Also, bodywork is very cheap. Fender-benders are common. When accidents occur, the best policy is to pay some cash (usually 4000 rupies, about $50) and make it go away. As a foreigner it will always be your fault, regardless of the circumstances. If no-one is hurt or if there are only minor injuries, just pay up. You do not want the traffic police to get involved. They may impound your car. The city is laid out as a grid with traffic lights and traffic police. Of all the cities in South Asia, Islamabad has the most calm drivers. They can do some crazy stuff, but it is nowhere near as bad as Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, or Karachi.

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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 there are several options. They have an aircard system from PTCL which is just like Verizon's. All you do is plug in the USB and you are good to go. The city also has DSL and cable. $40-60 a month.

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

Everybody has one. I had Mobilink and they seemed to do a good job. I had a cell phone and BlackBerry and never had any trouble.

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Pets:

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

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

Vets are present and provide care up to just about the western standard. Ship any pet meds or specific food or products you want. Generally the Pakistanis are not too fond of dogs. Few locals have pets, but many westerners do.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

At the embassy it is pretty casual. In public it is casual. I wear a button-down or polo shirt and khakis most days.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. While Islamabad gives the appearance of security and police control -- with checkpoints and officers everywhere -- the city is full of negative potential. The biggest threat is complacency. People think the city is safe and start getting into routines, go to questionable areas, or act in a manner that draws attention to themselves. Women do not need to wear a head covering however skirts and tank tops are a very bad idea. You will be stared at and highlight yourself. There was very little street crime against Westerners. I can think of only 1 minor incident during my time there.

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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 questionable at best. While the doctors may be US/UK-trained, the rest of the staff is not. They have to be watched at all times and are not to be trusted. The hospitals are of ok quality, but hey are dirty. The one positive thing I can say is that Islamabad does have a 24-hour imaging center with an MRI and a CAT scan machine. I know the embassy doc sends people there to get films done.

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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 to fair. It seems to get worse in the winter when the burn items for heat. Also almost all people burn their trash.

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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 for a huge chunk of the year. There is a rainy season however it seems like it is hit or miss. 2010 was fairly dry in Islamabad with rain for 2 or 3 weeks.

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Schools & Children:

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

No personal experience. The international school is located far from the diplomatic enclave. My understanding is that the international school has many western teachers and mostly Indian students who are children of diplomats. US and UK do not allow children of diplomats.

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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?

Household help is very cheap. Check references.

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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?

Many Americans at the embassy. Also a sizable UK high commission.

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2. Morale among expats:

It ranges greatly. Some are very happy some are miserable.

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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?

Most entertaining occurs at homes. Most houses are huge with ample space. Alcohol is hard to get outside of the embassy and is not available at restaurants.

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

Singles- Due to the large US presence in the city there are many Americans however they are mostly male. Interaction with the locals on a romantic/dating level is unusual and generally limited to people who speak Urdu and are Pakistani or Indian. Couples: Islamabad would be a good place. There are many restaurants and other activities such as carpet shopping, hiking, and day trips. Families: None at the Embassy

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

I have been told there is quite the gay nightlife/population however I never saw it. The few gay people I knew there seemed to be doing pretty well. Very few if any locals involved.

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

I did not notice any as a white male. In Islamabad I heard very few complaints from anyone on this issue with one major exception: If you are Indian in any way shape or form Islamabad will be a bad city for you. Even if you speak Urdu, the locals do not care and the government will harass you. You will be stopped at checkpoints and you will be followed. I would strongly advise anyone of Indian descent to avoid Pakistan in general.

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

I was able to travel throughout the country and see all the major cities and sites. There are many temples and religious sites to see.

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

Carpet shopping, hiking Margalla Hills, day trips to the Salt Mines, various shrines in the area.

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

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

Islamabad is cheap. House help (cook, clean, shop, etc) can be had for $100 a month for part time and about $200 a month full time/live in. In country travel is possible but very tightly controlled by the Embassy. Multiple safety concerns etc. Out of country travel is very possible. Islamabad has direct flights to Bangkok, Kathmandu, Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and London.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. As long as you control your impulses to purchase rugs and jewelery from Libra you can.

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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:

desire to drink/eat bacon in public

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen/bug spray

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Islamabad, Pakistan 01/16/10

Background:

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

No. Jalalabad, Kabul, Kathmandu, Jerusalem

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

DC is the home base. The trip is about 24 hours. DC to Doha (15 hours), Doha to Islamabad (4 hours) plus a layover.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months so far

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

US 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?

Embassy housing is basically a private mini-mansion. There are no apartments in Islamabad that are safe, so everyone gets their own massive house. Mine is a 5 bedroom, 6 bathroom monstrosity with 3 fountains and a rooftop terrace that has views of Margalla Hills. There are two types of houses:older with massive lawns, or newer super modern structures that are packed in next to another house. But like most things in developing countries, something can look nice on the outside while below the surface it's a nightmare. Everyone has water problems, and with the growing embassy staff the FSNs in Facilities Management just can't keep up. They are trying to hire new people, but it takes forever. This is important because when something in your house falls apart (and it will) you have to leave work to be home to watch the contractor do work on your house, or have domestic help there to watch the contractor. If you can't, the contractor can't go to your house, per the RSO.But if you can get over the annoyances, it's probably the best housing you will ever have in the Foreign Service.

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

Everything is available in Islamabad. Kohsar market caters to expats and has most of the items available at the Embassy commissary for similar (if not cheaper) prices, and the dairy isn't expired. There is also the French Walmart-like store "Metro" on the outskirts of town, and you can get everything really cheap there--from flat-screen TVs to frozen chicken.

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

I shipped an elliptical and a treadmill so I could have a personal gym at my house, and I'm really glad I did. Exercise equipment available at METRO isn't great, and it's expensive. Other items: Black beans, Herbs de provonce, Wheat-Thins. Everything else you can pretty much get in town.

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

There are actually a lot of really good restaurants in Islamabad ranging from Chinese to French. The higher end restaurants are around $12-$20/person. Some allow you to bring in wine to have with lunch or dinner, but only a few sell alcohol. The food can taste really, really good, but I often get some bacterial infection from eating out a lot. Part of living in Pakistan.

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

My house has an ant problem, others have roaches. Mosquitoes are also plentiful.

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Daily Life:

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

APO/Pouch

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

I have a mother-son team clean my massive house 3 times/week and cook for me, and I pay them $100/month.

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

Yes, there are quite a few. The Serena Hotel probably has the nicest in town, but there are others available.

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

ATMs are available throughout town and are fine. Most diplomats use the ATM in the Diplomatic Enclave or at the US Embassy. Most of the stores in F6 and F7 markets accept Visa/MC (rug stores, antiques, DVD stores, clothing, etc.).Some people are hesitant to use their credit cards, but I've had no problem at all (except that AMEX and Visa will shut down my card because it's a Pakistan charge--even though I've told them I live there!).

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

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

Yes, there are multiple English language papers and TV stations available.

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

None. Everyone in government and the shops speak English.

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

Yes because the houses are mostly multi-story and none have elevators. US Embassy staff are not allowed to walk on the streets, but we can shop and the markets are not designed for anyone with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

There are local taxis and public mini-busses, but Embassy staff is not allowed to take them. My NGO friends do and say they are fine, and really cheap. It's about $3 to go anywhere in town in a taxi.

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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?

SUVs are popular, but you don't want anything flashy. There are white Toyota Corollas everywhere, and the Embassy will help you import one for about $5000.If you want to go to the mountains on the weekends, SUVs are better because the roads get snowed in during the winter. A lot of expats just sell their cars when they leave post, so during the summer it's usually easy to pick up a used car.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. Wealthy Pakistan is very tech savvy.

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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?

Mobilink has good coverage. It's super cheap to call the US.About $.02/minute

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not in the local economy per se, but with NGOs there are.

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

Pakistani women wear salwar kameez or at least kurtas that go to mid-thigh. In the summer it's fine to wear sleeveless kurtas. At the Embassy, some women dress really western (and in my opinion, inappropriate).To go to markets, women should be a bit more covered. But you don't need to wear a scarf in Islamabad. For men, long pants and short sleeved shirts are fine. Shorts are not a good idea in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate, especially compared to most developing world capitals

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

Yes and no. There is very little crime in Islamabad, if any at all. You never have to worry about a carjacking, being mugged/robbed, having your car stolen or anything like that. I've never heard of any kind of personal crime there. The only concern is bombings/terrorist attacks. I know it sounds scary, but there aren't a lot in Islamabad itself, and the chances of being near one when it happens are minimal. So, if you can get over the psychological concern of terrorism it's actually a pretty safe place to live. There are checkpoints all over Islamabad, which are annoying but really helpful for security. It's just part of the daily commute. And they are always changing, so it's a fun game to figure out the quickest way to work with the fewest checkpoints each week.

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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?

Healthcare is really good. There is a fantastic dentist that everyone uses and loves. The hospital is not bad for simple problems. Every pill on earth is available over the counter, and the embassy doctors/nurses can tell you which brands are best. Some of my friends are even getting elective procedures like hair removal.

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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?

Beautiful. Really hot in the summer (over 100 degrees F), moderate in the winter (you can wear t-shirts in December during the day).Beautiful in Spring and Fall.

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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 international schools that NGO workers use, but for the US Embassy, families are not allowed.

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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?

Medium sized for the city. There are a lot of Embassies and NGOs, so there is a pretty decent scene. Also, there is a great opportunity to mix with the upper crust of Pakistani society as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

So-so. The increase in attacks since last summer has made the city a bit more tense, but everyone seems to take it in stride and still have a good time. There is a lot of work, though.

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

There are parties pretty much every weekend. Some are at Embassies, while others are at people's houses. There are dinner parties, brunches, etc. There are no clubs, but everyone is always out at dinners or at people's houses. Because most expats don't have kids it's a pretty party-centric environment.

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

This is a good post for singles. A lot of married folks are at the Embassy, and there are even a few jobs for spouses. If you are in the NGO community, it's a great family post. Domestic help is really cheap, and there are a lot of families here that have activities for expat children.

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

Islamabad is not a good place for gay/lesbian folks. The international scene is pretty laid back, and men do dance with each other, but in reality it's not an easy place to find someone if you are gay.

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

Yes. It's Pakistan. My Jewish friends lie about their religion, if asked. While it's not uncommon to see Pakistani women driving in Islamabad, a Western woman is a novelty and will be stared at. I've been harassed at the checkpoints in town. Not too badly, just some rude gestures, but it's annoying nonetheless.

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

There are multiple hikes in the Margalla Hills, which you can do before work or on the weekends. There is also rock-climbing there. Murree and Nathiagali are about 90/120 minutes outside of Islamabad and provide some amazing hiking. The expat community has various sports available during the week (soccer, ultimate, etc.).There are museums--not world class, but interesting. There are art galleries. Horsebackriding is available around Rawal Lake. Said Pur Village is a fun little place to visit with art galleries and restaurants.

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

Oh my. Everything. The Rosewood and Walnut are amazing, as is the craftsmanship. Carpets are imported from Iran and Afghanistan, but cheaper than you'd pay in the states. And Gems are amazing. There are some jewelry shops where they will custom make whatever you want for insanely reasonable prices. And if you have suits you like, the tailors can copy anything.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely. With Danger/Hardship pay and a super cheap cost of living, this is a great post.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. I love living in Islamabad.

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

Tank tops & mini-skirts.

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3. But don't forget your:

Gym equipment, spirit of adventure, 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?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Islamabad, Pakistan 10/05/09

Background:

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

No. Samoa 1 year.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Corporate.

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

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Full range of housing including excellent apartments.

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

Excellent in Islamabad - everything can be purchased - from foodstuffs to household supplies - including potted plant materials. Some more obscure groceries have to be purchased in the more international supermarkets, but there is a full range.

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

There are a small list of things (such as textiles and make-up) which you cannot send. Otherwise, anything. I have sent electrical goods as well as foodstuffs.

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

All kinds. It is expensive for some things, but cheaper meals are also available.

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

None really.

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Daily Life:

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

The postal service in Pakistan is very good. Islamabad has excellent post offices which offer courier and standard mail services. Parcels of a high value should be insured, but I have experienced a strong record of delivery, sometimes very quickly.

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

There is plentiful domestic help and it is not expensive. There are cooks with western experience -- although few can follow recipes directly. Most are willing to learn. There are issues of petty thieving by domestic staff.

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

Yes. There is also an indoor 50m swimming pool at the sports complex which has ladies-only swimming sessions.

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

No problems - well secured and cirrus enabled.

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

Yes. Church of England and Roman Catholic services are available.

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

Yes. Newspapers are available daily and are inexpensive. Cable tv is available. Subscription rates vary according to the number of channels taken. Most good quality material is broadcast from India.

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

None, although any attempt is greatly appreciated.

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

Sidewalks do not accommodate wheelchairs, and lifts are not often present.

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Transportation:

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

The Daewoo Express buses are clean, comfortable and secure. The fares are very reasonable, and food and drink items are available on board. Women travelling alone will not be seated next to a male.

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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 right-hand-drive car is okay.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes.

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

A wide range of affordable cell phones and plans are available. Jazz is very common and easy to recharge.

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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 rabies in Pakistan, so did not bring 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?

No.

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

With modesty.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pollution can be moderate depending on weather conditions. Visibility can be very low at times.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Malaria.

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

In Islamabad, you need to be mindful of opportunistic threats. But generally, if you are well-dressed and behaving respectfully, and if you are able to use basic Urdu, there will be no issues.

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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?

Water needs to be bottled / purified, and all fruits and vegetables must be rinsed in purified water prior to consumption. Available medical care is of international standards. The hospital in Islamabad is excellent.

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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?

Monsoonal with cold winters.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

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?

Most expats use the UN, the Canadian Club, etc., but we chose to socialise more with Pakistanis. We found this very rewarding and enriching.

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

Yes, Islamabad is a terrific, well planned capital city reminiscent of Canberra. Its proximity to Rawalpindi means that access to the "real" Pakistan is a short drive away.

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

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

Pakistan is, like Israel, the only country created since World War II to house a particular religion. There are prejudices against Shi'a Islam, particularly during Ashura, and also against Christianity.

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

Walking in the Margalla Hills, trips to the Salt Range, the UNESCO Heritgate site at Taxila, the hill stations of Nathiangali, Thandiani, shopping in 'Pindi. Cultural activities through the Asian Studies Group, great bookshops and restaurants. Rawal Lake.

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

Textiles, jewelry, chinioti wooden furniture.

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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, definitely. Pakistanis are very welcoming and keen to engage.

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

shorts, capri trousers.

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3. But don't forget your:

ipod, stereo system - electronics are expensive in Pakistan.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Islamabad, Pakistan 10/13/08

Background:

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

No - a number of different cities within Southeast Asia as well as Europe.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Three months.

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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:

British Airways recently indefinitely suspended all direct flights from London following the September 20, 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel, given security issues associated with accommodation for flight crew. From London, the easiest routing seems to be London-Dubai-Islamabad.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Depends. Good housing is available; however, companies/embassies may (depending on the country) be providing alternate, considerably less attractive housing depending on their orientation towards staff security. Most people I know/work with are highly dissatisfied with their housing situation at present. Would not recommend that you bring a family or spouse.

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

Similar to North American prices, somewhat less expensive than European prices (depending on the goods).An astonishing range of specialty/import goods is available, particularly British goods. If you want it, you can probably find it - although you may pay through the nose.

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

Fewer.

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

The food is excellent - particularly good concentration of restaurants in the area around Jinnah Supermarket (Sector F7).

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Daily Life:

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

I don"t. The postal system is unreliable. Fedex and DHL services are available.

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

Readily available (particularly among the Christian community who find it difficult to obtain remunerative employment) and of varying quality/with varying aptitudes. Inexpensive.

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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?

Recent changes to Standard Chartered"s banking software has made it impossible for those on the Interac network to access funds using ATMs, although the bank will advance you funds against your credit card. Citibank (in the Blue Area)seems to accept most ATM cards. This is largely a cash society. Please note that if you attend an ATM on a Sunday or Monday, there is a good possibility that it will be empty of cash. Better days to visit the ATM are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (ie. mid week) after machines have been filled. General rule of thumb: Get as much cash as you can if there is still money in the machine. Service charges are high.

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

Yes - Christian Catholic and Protestant.

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

Yes - inexpensive. Dawn News will generally provide a good pulse with regard to current events.

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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?

Basic Urdu would be useful, particularly in terms of seeking directions or dealing with traffic police (who scrupulously enforce traffic regulations and fines and are generally considered uncorrupt).

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

Great difficulty. There are few to no accomodations for the physically disabled.

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Transportation:

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

Drive on the left hand side of the road, with right hand drive vehicles.

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

Are they safe? No. Are they affordable? Yes.

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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?

Given the security situation, it"s unlikely that most visitors to Islamabad will require an all terrain vehicle due to restrictions on where it is possible to travel. Toyota parts are easily available and Toyota would generally be the best choice of vehicle, preferably in a light colour due to the heat. If your goal is to "blend in" and not attract attention, a white Corolla will generally be a good choice and retain excellent resale value.

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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. Inexpensive.

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

Get one. Carry it. Ensure that emergency numbers (eg. 15) are pre-programmed.

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

Get an internet connection (DSL) and use Skype or some other VOIP connection.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No.

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

Conservative. Business casual.

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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.

Numerous. Security concerns have been steadily increasing since at least early 2007.The December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto was followed by the bombing of a popular expat restaurant (Luna Caprese) in a thickly settled residential/shopping sector, the bombing of the Marriott Hotel on September 20, 2008, the attempted kidnapping of the American Consul General in Peshawar, and several other kidnappings of foreigners including Chinese and Polish technical staff, followed by a suicide attack on a large police military installation on the outskirts of the city. In the short period I have been here, the airport has been shut down twice due to bomb threats.

Given security barricades, it is difficult to navigate the roads of this otherwise well laid out city given the increase in the security presence. Activities are severely curtailed at this time. The UN has downgraded the security level to Level 3 and UN spokespeople have been quoted as saying that the only places the UN is on a higher level of alert are Baghdad and one other place I can"t recall at the moment.

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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?

Dengue, malaria, food and water borne illnesses, traffic accidents. Poor ambulance services. In the event of an accident/crisis, all injured parties are taken to PIMS (hospital). Standard of care does not generally meet western standards. Shifa hospital provides a higher quality of care. Some organizations provide access to their own clinics/medical personnel, which should be used to the maximum extent possible for the purposes of primary care. Direct flights to Bangkok available - this is the preferred option for any treatment other than urgent primary care.

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

Weather is variable - can be cool and very pleasant one day but hot and humid the next.

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Schools & Children:

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

No experience with international schools. The UN and the UK have recently repatriated dependents so less of an issue for most.

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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?

Decreasing.

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2. Morale among expats:

Right now, not very good.

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

Mostly private gatherings. Very few public gatherings due to the security situation.

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

Frankly, this is not a good city for any expats at the moment. Movements are severely curtailed due to the security situation.

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

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

Women may experience this post differently from men. While Pakistanis are generally extremely warm and hospitable, women are frequently either stared at or ignored when attempting to obtain services.

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

Nearby Taxila is worth visiting, as is the hill station Murree in the nearby Margalla Hills. Excellent hiking in the Margalla Hills is also available. However, restrictions have recently been placed on the movement of foreigners outside of Islamabad without the permission/protection of the Ministry of Foreign affairs, which introduces additional restrictions in terms of activities that can be carried out.

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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, model "jingle trucks" and jingle truck art/decorations.

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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?

No.

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

Valuables.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humour, credit card (to obtain cash).

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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?

Pakistanis are lovely, warm, hospitable, caring people. The deteriorating security and deteriorating economic situation in this beautiful country are painful to witness given their impact on the average working person who is experiencing very trying personal circumstances as a result of inflation and insurgency. My heart goes out to these people. However, had I been aware of how quickly the situation was deteriorating here, I would have opted to stay home.

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