Belgrade, Serbia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia 09/09/19

Background:

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

Yes, but prior assignments on military bases in Germany.

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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?

Charleston, SC, which is about 12 hours with layovers. I feel traveling was easy as long as you aren't going to/from Kosovo.

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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.)?

Regional training.

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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 in three main areas but could be scattered over the city. Families with children are typically all housed in one area. Housing was large, modern, and not lacking in any way. Commuting time was under 30 minutes even in heavy traffic.

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

Extremely affordable.

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

None. Commissary was always well-stocked. We do love peanut butter so we brought a bunch. Wide variety of gluten-free options in stores if needed.

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

Donesi was the online delivery service for takeaway. Quick, site is in English, wide variety of restaurants to chose from.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

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?

Extremely reasonable. A wide variety of housekeepers, nannies, and a preferred local babysitting agency.

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

Embassy gym is small but not lacking in equipment and was never really busy, there are local gyms available for a standard cost.

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

Yes. I never has a problem. ATMs are common too. I used them if out in a pinch, but had a preference to use the Embassy cashier so I could get exact bills.

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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 menus have an English option, and English is widely spoken. A little knowledge of Serbian amd key phrases do help though. The embassy offered language tutoring for a cost.

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

Yes. Sidewalks are lacking in some areas as are elevators.

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Transportation:

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

Yes.

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

Anything brand new you might want to leave at home. I recommend something that you can get serviced locally.

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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. Ours was installed on arrival.

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

I had a local number on a SIM with an old phone, and also kept my Google Fi service on my US 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?

Vets are fantastic and affordable. No quarantine to my knowledge. A lot of stray animals though.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I worked my e-commerce job from the US there with mission permission, there are plenty of employment opportunities at the Embassy. I'm not sure about local pay scales.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty. Ask the Community Liaison Office (CLO) for current listing.

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

Typical professional dress code at the embassy, in public anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

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

None to my knowledge.

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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?

Winters can be rough with the air quality. Medical care was standard. You are sent outside Serbia for serious conditions and delivery if pregnant.

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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 can be poor in the Winter. Winter is difficult for anyone sensitive to smoke or air pollution.

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

Be prepared for your personal circumstances.

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

Not to my knowledge.

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

Typical four seasons.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several schools available.

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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?

Plenty of recommended preschools.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium. Morale was good.

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

Several local clubs.

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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 everyone!

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

I felt it was easy, but know your 90s history and be prepared to hear about it.

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

Pirot rugs.

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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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Belgrade, Serbia 01/16/19

Background:

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

No. Dhaka (Bangladesh), Hyderabad (India), Enugu (Nigeria), New York City (USA), and London (UK).

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2. How long have you lived here?

Five years.

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

UN 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?

Row house in Senjak, to be close to the international school(s).

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

Cheap. Veggies, fruits are very cheap. Of course, as everywhere, you will pay more for specific imported products, but overall, life is quite cheap.

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

We missed our salted butter. Other than that, we usually found pretty much everything.

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

All sorts of restaurant, although Asian restaurants tend to not last long. During our time, there was only one Indian restaurant. There was one Thai restaurant, but it closed. They come and go.

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

Not that I know of.

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Daily Life:

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

Post works. Just expect some random issues with customs, including when you are receiving books or textbooks.

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

Most expats have cleaning ladies, but rarely on a full time basis. Nannies are readily available. The hourly fee paid by most expats turns is 5 Euros.

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

Lots and lots of gyms and workout facilities. Serbians love their sports. The only problem if you have children is the time when these activities take place, as the schools work on a rotating double schedule, from 7 am till 1 PM, and from 1 pm till 7 pm. In other words, a lot of activities for kids start after 7 PM.

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

Yes. No issue.

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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?

None. I took classes, but found it difficult to practive as basically everyone speaks English, at least in Belgrade, but even outside of Belgrade. Serbians are very good at languages. Otherwise, lots language schools and tutors at affordable prices.

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

Yes, as sidewalks are used by cars to park, for instance.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, yes, and yes.

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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. No issue.

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

Local provider. Telenor, first, but then I switched to VIP with a pre-paid plan to avoid bad surprises whenever I crossed a border.

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Pets:

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

Yes. I don't know about quarantine, but we adopted two kittens found in the street, and took the second one with us to our new post (the first one was struck by a car in the street, unfortunately.)

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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?

Usual formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

No. Belgrade is a safe city. We had teens there and they were out and about, taking buses, and going out at night, taking taxis late, 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?

We used Belmedic, which is affiliated with a lot of insurance companies. Excellent care.

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

Considering where we came from and where we are now, the quality of the air was excellent. There is a smell of coal in the air at times, during winter.

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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 you tend to get the winter blues, then, yes. I did. Night falls around 3;30 pm in December, January. For me, it was bad the first year (after 13 years without experiencing winter at all.) It got better, the second year. I never liked it, but you get used to it and wait for spring to come, and it does come. Otherwise, it's a great posting.

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

It's a mild climate. While we were there, we had a little bit of snow, not much. There was a lot of it the year before, though, and there seems to be a lot of it this year. GEnerally, it is a pleasant climate. It gets very hot in the summer, though.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several International schools. Our children went to two of them. ISB was very good in the Primary years. Academically, it is a sound school, but we disagreed with the excessive (in our opinion) use of technology. Chartwell International is also excellent for the young years. There is Prima International, also, and the Lycee Francais.

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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?

Yes, and there is a lot to choose from.

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

See my answer above about sports and timing. Otherwise, lots available. Our daughter took up synchronized swimming there. Expect high demand from the teachers. This is a competitive culture.

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Expat Life:

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

Generally good morale.

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

There was a Women's International Club, but you need to be sponsored in order to be admitted. It tends to be a bit closed. I know they went through some issues, so I don't know how it is, now. The francophone have Belgrade Accueil. Sports is a good way to get to know people. We started taking tango classes, and our social circle expanded suddenly.

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

For anyone, but singles are bound to love it. Belgrade is the party place!

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

Not really. Serbian culture is very macho. They have a gay parade, each year, and they get the tanks out so secure it.

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

I would say yes. Serbian people are very warm, and welcoming. If you like their rakja, you're good :)

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

Many highlights. The river Uvac, some fantastic hiking, Subotica is a beautiful city, as is Novi Sad. The bridge of Visegrad. Tara National Park. The Belgrade Dance Festival brings in the best companies in the world, every spring. Opera seats in the first row at 8 Euros. Concerts. Movies in original version (except animated children's movies). We loved Belgrade.

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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 from Pirot. Old Yougoslavia memorabilia.

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

It's just an easy city. No traffic (barely, basically takes 10-20 mns to go from one point to the other. Culture. Sports. Location - from this base, you can visit all the neighboring countries (Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc, etc, all the way to Greece on one side, or to Italy or France on the other.)

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a hearbeat.

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

The Bridge on the Drina by Yov andric.
All the movies by Emir Kusturica (he is a controversial character, but his movies really capture the essence of the country, in my opinion.)

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Belgrade, Serbia 12/02/18

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 London, New York City, Enugu, Nigeria, Hyderabad, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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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?

France. It is a 15 hour drive, or anything from 3 hours to 12 hours flights with connections. I drove most of the time, and used the opportunity to visit all the neighboring countries.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Five years, from2013-2018.

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

The UN.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Row house, a bit away from the center but closer to the schools. We lived in Senjak. Most expatriates live in Senjak or Dedinje, as these areas are closer to the international schools.

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

Life is relatively cheap in Serbia. Vegetables and fruits are really cheap. Unless you need very specific staples, we found it quite easy to find pretty much everything we needed to live.

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

Barely anything, honestly. We love our salted butter, and for a while, we found some, but then, only the President butter spread, but that's ok.

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

The main issue with restaurants is not so much the food offered (we would have liked more Asian options, but the offer expanded during the time we were there, and this will probably continue to improve), but the fact that the concept of a non-smoking area remains totally foreign, in Serbia. During summer, it is not too much of an issue, but in winter, it is very difficult to find non-smoking restaurants, or restaurants that actually have a proper non-smoking section - as opposed to one non-smoking table right in the middle of the restaurant!



There is an online food delivery service that delivers meals from a large variety of restaurants (donesi.com).

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

We never had any.

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Daily Life:

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

Postal services work perfectly.

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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. Expatriates usually pay around 5 Euros an hour, and that's much more than the local ongoing rate. Most expats have a cleaning lady, some have help for their children, or a housekeeper. A lot of them speak English, or German. Serbians are very, very good with foreign languages.

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

Lots and lots of choice. Serbians are very sporty. And no, it's possible to find gyms or classes (yoga, pilates, zumba, etc) for very decent prices. Dance schools are there, too. Large olympic-size swimming pools.

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

Yes, yes, and yes.

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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?

Not much at all - barely anything, in fact, as most Serbians, especially in Belgrade, speak perfect English. It can be a bit frustrating, in fact, when you are trying to learn the language. Finding tutors is also very easy and affordable.

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

Probably not the easiest city to move about if you are disabled or in a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. There is the occasional pick-pocketing in buses, but overall, we never had any issues. Nor with taxis. Belgrade is a very safe city.

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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 were told to get a 4x4 but honestly, it was not necessary. We bought a Kia. Most brands are represented.

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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, and no issue for the installation.

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

We used Telenor at first, but after a couple of really bad surprises (massive fees when I crossed the border, even though I had deactivated roaming), I decided to get a pre-paid sim card with VIP. It was OK. Most expats used Telenor, though.

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Pets:

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

Yes . We adopted two cats while living there. The first was was run over by a car, but the second one is now with us in Africa. We were happy with our veterinary. I don't know about bringing a pet to Serbia, but I know families who did.

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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?

Difficult for spouses to get jobs. There is high unemployment in Serbia, and wages are low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots.

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

Suit and tie for men. Normal work attire for women.

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Health & Safety:

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

Most expats we knew used Belmedic, where most doctors speak English. It is expensive, but they give good care, are readily available. We were happy, overall, with all their services, during our five years there.

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

It is dark at 3:30 pm in December. So, yes, long nights. Winter is not overly harsh. There are beautiful days often until the end of November. We didn't see a lot of snow, during our five years. Some, but not a lot. Spring can be beautiful. Summer gets really hot in Belgrade. I did get really depressed with the winter blues, the first year, after 13 years of no winter at all, but it got better. Now, we are in Africa and I see pictures of winter in Serbia and I almost miss it (almost).

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Schools & Children:

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

See the school report, but schools there include:
International School of Belgrade (IB)

Chartwell and Prima (British curriculum)

Le Lycée Français (French curriculum).

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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?

Yes. Our children were older so I don't much about those, but they're there.

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

This can be a bit tricky. The Serbian school system works on two schedules that change each week. 7 am to 2 pm, and 2 pm to 7 pm. This means that most sport classes and activities for local kids only start after 7 pm and can last until 9 pm or later. Also, the Serbian approach to sports or dance or music is very "Russian" and strict. It can work for some international children, or not. Both our daughters did a lot of ballet in Belgrade. It is possible to find a few schools which have a softer approach to teaching, but careful with their ethics (and expect sky-high prices). It is also possible to get private lessons, music, tennis coaches, etc. Investigate. You should find something.

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Expat Life:

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

I think the morale is good. Belgrade is great city. Lots to do. And Serbia is a beautiful country. Men can be a bit macho. Their driving is terrible. They don't believe in rules, nor care for them. Otherwise, they are a warm people who love to sing and drink rakja, and eat.

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

There is a fantastic Facebook page ran by two expat ladies who've lived in Serbia for some years: Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club. They organize a lot of activities, hikes, bicycle trips, pub crawls, etc. Joining a dance school, or sports club, is a great way to get to know local people. Joining a tango school totally changed our life there.

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

Good for everyone. Single people who like to party will have an absolute blast. It's good for families because there is much to do and see. And it's safe. Easy.

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

This is trickier. As I said above, Serbian culture is very macho, and they really have a problem with LGBT. Gay parades were finally authorized but on that day, the whole military force is in the streets, with tanks etc. There is a gay community, though. Just be careful.

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

Not really. There is a lot of prejudice against the Roman, though. This is an old communist country. Strong women. They are also as agressive as men, behind the wheel.

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

The viewpoint over the Uvac meandre. Hikes in the Tara National Park. Novi Sad and Subotica are lovely cities. The Belgrade Dance Festival brings companies from all over the world. Orchestra or first balcony opera seats at less than 10 Euros. Concerts. Traveling to the many beautiful neighboring countries (Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Albania, etc.) The tango school, Tango Natural, and their yearly international tango Festival, Belgrade Tango Encuentro.

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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 from Pirot. Furniture from the Yougoslav years.

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

Many, many advantages. The city scene. The culture scene. It is safe and affordable. The nature. Warm people.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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

Ivo Andric' the Brdige Over the Drina, and All the Emir Kusturica movies.

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Belgrade, Serbia 09/01/15

Background:

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

This was my fourth posting with the State Department, and I've lived in seven overseas locations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

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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?

There are currently no direct flights to Serbia (though Air Serbia has signed an Open Skies deal and plans on starting flights late 2015/early 2016). Common connections are through Frankfurt, Munich, and Istanbul. The trip is about ten hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for three years from 2012 to 2015.

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

American 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?

There are three main areas in which people live: in the city, in apartments near the US Embassy, and in houses in a diplomatic enclave. You can walk to work from the apartments and houses near the embassy. For those in the city and the diplomatic enclave, the commute time is about 20 minutes. Downtown housing is large, and all apartments have balconies (although some are better than others). The vast majority have parking in the building. Apartments have European-style appliances, and the houses have American-style. The downtown housing is all in great areas spread throughout the city. The closest embassy neighbor was a five-minute walk.

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

For expats, groceries are cheap. I shopped almost exclusively at the fresh green markets. Produce is amazingly good and cheap, although it goes with the seasons. In winter there are potatoes and cabbage and carrots, and not much else. In summer the stalls overflow with beautiful berries and all kinds of fruits. There's a good selection of fish as well, which is surprising for a landlocked country. I ate salmon weekly (500g cost about $10). A liter of milk is about a dollar. More and more international foods were available by the time I left. You can buy many Asian ingredients, spices, and sauces in the grocery stores. Surprisingly, every few blocks there's a health food store with a large offering of tofu, spices, grains, etc.

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

Honestly, there is nothing I can think of. Like I said, more groceries than I expected were available. Everything else you can get through the DPO.

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

The first McDonald's in the former Yugoslavia was opened in Belgrade, and it is still open. There's also KFC. Costa Coffee from the UK is plentiful. There's also a ton of Serbian/Balkan fast-food joints with grilled meats that are cheap and excellent. Bakeries are amazing and can be found on nearly every street. As mentioned above, there are tons of amazing restaurants in Belgrade, with new ones constantly opening. I never got bored of the food scene.

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

In the suburbs there are mosquitoes in the spring/summer. I never saw any in the city.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. But I did use the local Serbian post and had good experiences with it.

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

Nearly all those who work for American families charge 5 euro/hour. Most people hire either Serbs or Filipinas.

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

Gyms are relatively inexpensive. I used a private trainer who had his own gym. 12 sessions cost 200 euro.

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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?

Their use is pervasive. Even if you get a dollar espresso, they will ask if you want to pay by credit card. Credit card payments are made table-side, so no worries about stealing or cloning. ATMs are everywhere and safe.

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

Serbs speak English very well. You can get by without knowing Serbian, though it is nice to know at least a bit. I communicated nearly solely in Serbian, and being able to do so greatly enhanced my experience. However, I don't think I ever went to a single sit-down restaurant that didn't have an English menu.

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

Public transportation is frequent, and most buses (if not all) accommodate wheelchairs. Sidewalks are wide in the main walking areas of town, but in smaller neighborhoods cars park on them.

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Transportation:

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

All public transportation is safe, affordable, and easy. Many android apps exist showing routes, times, etc. You can call ahead for a taxi (there's a large selection), and they usually arrive within three minutes. If you hail one on the road, though, you have a good shot at being ripped off. The taxi companies speak English, and some accept requests via text. Taxi rides are cheap: to/from the airport costs $15 - $20. Train travel is slow and not worth 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?

Smaller cars are best for city driving. Winter (or all-weather) tires are mandatory. Many people at the embassy drove Subarus.

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Phone & Internet:

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

It costs around $35/month. It wasn't so great, but it was generally pretty reliable. Connections were good enough for Netflix, Facetime, Skype, etc.

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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?

Post-paid plans through the embassy are super cheap. Bring your own phone, though. Good data connections.

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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?

That depends on your skills, experience, etc. but it isn't easy. Some embassy jobs are available.

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

People dress very casually outside of work. Men steer towards sweatpants much of the time. Women tend to be dressier. At the embassy it's business/business casual depending on your section. I wore jeans, shorts, tees, tanks and sweaters on weekends.

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Health & Safety:

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

Special? No. This is honestly the place I've felt safest. I walked around at all times of day and night by myself and never had any problems or felt unsafe. It was wonderful. There were a couple of break-ins in the suburbs, but no one got injured. Random violence is very infrequent.

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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 fairly good. Dentists are very good and cheap.

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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?

I thought it was just fine. Other people complained a bit, but I really had no problems.

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

There are four seasons, so people with allergies will suffer. But every pharmacy will sell you medicine.

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

It's the Balkans. Summer can be really, hot and winter can be really cold. There were three mild winters when I was there, and it only snowed a handful of times.

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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?

Yes. Many people sent kids to a preschool in their neighborhood in the suburbs and were satisfied.

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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?

There is a very large international community. The morale in the embassy was pretty great - everyone loved living in Belgrade.

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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?

Everything! Going out to dinner or a bar or club, philharmonic, opera, ballet, theatre, movies, mall, etc. Travel, travel, travel.

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

I think it's a great city for everyone. As a single woman I loved it. My friends with kids also loved it. It's more of a family post than I expected, considering the fact that Belgrade touts itself as a great nightlife destination in Europe. Everyone can find something to do in Belgrade.

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

On paper, Serbia is extremely homophobic. The vast majority believe homosexuality is wrong, according to polls. That said, there is a gay scene, and it is not underground. While it is small, there are several gay bars and clubs - all easily googleable. As a queer woman, I never encountered any problems. All my local friends were gay, and there are frequent parties for men and women. A Pride Celebration was successfully held in 2014, after four years without one. As Serbia moves closer to the EU, governmental attitudes are changing a bit. It isn't Barcelona or Berlin, but considering that it is a deeply religious country in the Balkans, I was pleased with the community and my experiences there.

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

Again, on paper, Serbia is anti-semitic. But I never encountered any problems as a Jewish woman. Serbs are definitely curious about people of color, but I didn't hear of any racially-motivated incidents, harassment, or racism towards Westerners (the same cannot be said of the Roma population, however).

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

Just enjoying the city. It's a beautiful place and is fantastic to live in. There aren't many tourist spots to check out in Belgrade, but daily life is just wonderful. As aforementioned, the food really is great. Both street food (grilled meat can be gotten for less than $2) and high-end international restaurants (dinners with appetizers, mains, desserts and alcohol can cost around $30) are fabulous. Cafe culture is huge in Belgrade, and the second the sun comes out the sidewalks are filled with people enjoying a coffee all day long. Every block has a salon, pharmacy, and market. Life in Belgrade is just easy and comfortable.

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

Find a local favorite bar and coffee shop and make friends with the staff there. Cycling has really increased in the last few years, and biking along the riverbanks is great fun. There's a beach at a man-made lake within the city limits that's great to hang out at in the summer. Wander the neighborhoods. Belgrade is a fantastic city for wandering. Tour the wineries around the country and visit the eco-hotels.

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

Liquor. There really isn't much in the way of Serbian souvenirs.

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

For those living on foreign salaries, Belgrade is a very inexpensive city. The food is fantastic. The city is large enough to have a lot to offer, yet small enough to easily maneuver - I walked or biked everywhere. Traveling within Serbia and elsewhere is cheap and easy. When Air Serbia partnered with Emirates they greatly extended their network. They have sales several times a week, and you can fly to many European cities for around 100 euros with these sales. You can drive to many places in four hours, including Zagreb and Budapest.

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10. Can you save money?

Not if you travel all the time. Otherwise, yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat. I loved Belgrade, and I miss it all the time.

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

preconceptions about Serbs and Serbia. Some stereotypes are true, but many are not. Go in with an open mind, make local friends, and have a great time.

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Belgrade, Serbia 08/14/15

Background:

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

This was our 4th expat experience. Lived in Mexico, El Salvador, Romania.

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

There is no short way to California. Fly through Frankfurt or Munich to the East Coast, then another flight to the West Coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years from 2012 to 2015

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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?

Our house was lovely. Best house in our expat experience. Right by the forest. With that said, you can chose to be in an apartment downtown, or in a house in the suburbs, or an apartment within walking distance from the US Embassy. Each comes with pluses and minuses. Typical commute time is 20-30 minutes.

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

Definitely cheaper than in the U.S. You can find almost everything in Belgrade - just not high end products that you could find in the U.S. With DPO, Amazon orders get delivered in one week. Plus there is a Commissary.

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

Coffee and cake frosting.

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

Many fast food joints - but why fast food when the local restaurants are so good?!?

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

Some mosquitoes in the summer and ticks. However, the city fumigates 2-3 times during the summer and it actually works. I would say this was nothing compared to the mosquito situation at our current post. Another nuisance are bees in the summer. We all got stung and found out the hard way that we are not allergic to bee stings!

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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?

Plenty. But it does cost 5 euros per hour.

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

Yes, including a gym at the Embassy with brand new equipment. Cost at a local gym varies from 100-300 EUROs.

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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 used my credit card everywhere I went. ATM's are fine as well.

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

There are services available for all.

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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?

Knowing the language is very helpful, but you do not need to know Serbian to communicate in Belgrade.

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

Yes, they would. Busy city, potholes, side walks are narrow.

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Transportation:

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

Never took trains but I was told they are not great at all. I took the bus, tram and taxi and felt perfectly safe.

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

Most drive a small size SUV. Winters can get snowy so you need something that will handle icy roads 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. 60 euros per month.

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

Easy to get and several choices.

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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. Yes, you can find good vets. Kennels are a challenge. Difficult to find - expensive when you do. People hire a dog walker and usually use the same person for pet sitting.

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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 on the local economy. There are opportunities for spouses at the Embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

ISB; International Women's Club; Bread of Life; orphnages; asylums; special needs - no shortage of them.

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

Semi casual in public. Business attire at the Embassy.

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Health & Safety:

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

None other than the usual stuff that comes with big cities. If there are any anti-American feelings left, they are mostly hidden among the old generations. We are advised to avoid gatherings and football matches.

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

No major health concerns. Quality medical care is available. Many private clinics offer very good care. Good dentists as well.

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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?

In the winter it can get grey because of coal burning. Othern than that, it is really not bad at all.

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

Seasonal allergies in the spring.

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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?

4 very distinct seasons. Springs and falls are wonderful.

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Schools & Children:

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

Very good International School for Elementary and Middle School (ISB). Not so great for High school becasue of the social aspect and quite frankly the academics at that level is not that great. Most send their high schoolers to boarding schools.

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

Do not expect anything special. I have known kids with special needs who were moved from both ISB and Chartwell and sent to boarding school in the US.

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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?

Very good preschool at the Chartwell International School. Cost is slightly cheaper than in the States. A 25% discount was negotiated with Chartwell, which makes it competitive with ISB. It comes out to about 450 EUROs per month. Nannies run at 5-6 EUROs/hour.

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

You have to manage expectations - soccer is huge, so yes, there are soccer programs and swim programs. Private lessons can be arranged for everything else.

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Expat Life:

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

High and staying that way. The Embassy runs very well. Life is good there.

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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?

Eating out, movies, malls, night clubs, indoor playgrounds, travel, private lessons.

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

Yes, yes and yes. This city is awesome for all because it has so much to offer to everyone. It is a hidden gem - not esthetically speaking - but as far as quality of life.

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

Yes, it is.

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

No. Maybe a little racial prejudice.

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

All four of us were very happy during the three years in Belgrade. There was something to do for everyone. Our kids, in elementary school, loved the place, the school, the friends, life in general. We loved the house, the neigborhood, the travel, the food, the possibilitites for entertainment.

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

I don't know where to start really. There is so much to do. Just take off and explore!

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

Rachia (local brandy); some carpets; some artwork. We commissioned a painting with a local artist and we love it.

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

Countless special advantages. Cost of living is relatively cheap and availability of groceries is a lot better than one would imagine. Traveling opportunities are simply wonderful. Culture is plentiful. Life is really good in Serbia. One can fully appreciate it after they leave it behind.

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10. Can you save money?

You can - but no one does. The travel is awesome so you spend every penny on it!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known what a great tour we would have. We could have extended for a 4th year before that option went away.

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

I would go in a heart beat.

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

I can't think of anything really. People say there are crazy drivers in Serbia and you need to leave behind your patience. Try living in India!

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, mosquito repellent, bikes and roller blades. Your sense of humor!

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Some parts of November Man were shot in Belgrade.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bid and you will not regret it!

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Belgrade, Serbia 08/03/15

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 Conakry, Istanbul, and Casablanca for government assignments and Brussels as a student.

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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 -- 12 hours, connecting through European cities, usually Frankfurt for USG travel. Air Serbia is supposed to start a direct flight to the U.S. probably New York or Chicago, in late 2015 or early 2016. Other common connections for people not tied to USG travel restrictions include Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, and Istanbul.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years, 2012-2015

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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?

USG housing includes:

Banovo Brdo -- 3-4 bedroom single-family houses and townhomes in a residential neighborhood with a large concentration of USG families. All have yards, but the yards are often dirt-pits that won't grow grass and are hilly or oddly-shaped. 15-20 minutes driving from the Embassy and school. There is public transportation but it requires changing buses and takes a while.

Senjak/Dedinje - single-family homes, townhomes, and some apartments. Further from other embassy families but mostly within walking distance to the embassy and pool. 5 minutes driving to the embassy and school.

Downtown - 2-3 bedroom apartments, some large, some smaller, scattered throughout downtown. Most have balconies. All have parking but the spaces can be tight and are not always in the building. 15-20 minutes driving to the embassy and school. More public transportation options. Generally the choice of singles and families without children, but some families with children also opt for downtown apartments.

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

There are good supermarkets and lots of farmer's markets. You can get everything here if you buy it when you see it - for instance, I was surprised that they have several kinds of tortilla and tofu. Things like cottage cheese, Asian ingredients, and Mexican ingredients can be harder to find. American baking products like chocolate chips and brown sugar are generally not available, and peanut butter and maple syrup are expensive.

Seafood can be expensive. Fresh food and meats are cheaper than in the United States, but imported products more expensive. All fruit and vegetables are seasonal, so in the winter the fruit options are often down to apples and bananas, and the vegetables to cabbage and root vegetables. It gets tiresome.

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

Not much - maybe outdoor/pool toys. Books in English to give as gifts at kid's birthday parties. Halloween costumes. With DPO, there's not much we can't get.

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

The only U.S. chains are McDonald's and KFC. There's also a good burrito place (like Chipotle), gyros and falafel, and lots of Serbian grill places that are very affordable. Almost everything delivers.

Tons of excellent restaurants, and more open every month. Good international food, high-end Serbian, Italian, sushi, etc. There's not much in the way of Mexican, only one Indian place, one Turkish place, and one Thai place.

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

Mosquitoes in the summer, especially if it's been rainy. Bees are bad in the summer.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO at 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?

Widely available. People working in the U.S. Embassy community get 4-7 Euros/hour, people working for local families a little less. Domestic help that speaks English or European languages is widely available and good.

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

Yes, and personal trainers are very affordable.

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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 haven't had any problems other than my bank cutting off my card from time to time.

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

It helps to know some -- I appreciate that I have it when taking taxis, calling taxis, ordering food, and shopping. But people are helpful and everyone in the service industry speaks English, so you can get along without Serbian. Reading some Cyrillic is also helpful.

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

Yes - where sidewalks exist, they are broken up and cars park on them. Many buildings don't have working elevators. Public transportation is not accessible. You could do it, but it would be tough.

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Transportation:

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

Trains are slow and generally not the best way to travel. Inter-city buses and public city buses and trams are fine. There's a good online website to help you map your trip in Belgrade. However, buses get crowded and don't have air conditioning, so can be pretty uncomfortable in the summer. Taxis are safe and affordable - about US$20 to the airport (30 minutes), under US$10 almost everywhere in town. They use a meter, and while I've been ripped off once or twice, 99% of the time I've gotten courteous and fair drivers.

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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?

Pretty much any car is OK. Small cars are good for tight parking spaces, especially if you have to park in a garage, but high clearance is good for parking on sidewalks and curbs. We've appreciated having all wheel drive. All-weather or winter tires are required in the winter. Mechanics are good - we use the Toyota dealership which is more expensive than local mechanics. Oil changes can also be expensive because of the cost of the oil and filter.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, about US$40/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?

Many people bring an unlocked iPhone or smart phone and get a local subscription. Smart phones are more expensive here, but the subscription and data plan is cheap.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not really. There is high unemployment in Serbia, and many more well-educated Serbians that speak English than expats who speak Serbian well enough to work here. There are a handful of jobs at the international schools, and some call-center jobs for people with other languages, but they don't pay well.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

You'd have to have some initiative to find volunteer opportunities, but the expat group (Belgrade International Visitors Club) organizes some events - a flood clean-up last year, refugee assistance this year, clothing drives. The International Women's Club does some volunteering and organizes an annual charity bazaar. Volunteering in local organizations would require some Serbian, but with the increasing migrant/refugee crisis, there will probably be more opportunities especially for anyone that speaks Arabic.

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

Very casual for men. Women tend to dress up more. Business suits at the U.S. Embassy. Anyone can wear shorts and sneakers without standing out.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. Pretty low crime, very little violent crime and what there is is often targeted and related to organized crime. The biggest threat is soccer hooligans and being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time after a contentious game. Driving can be a little aggressive.

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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?

Doctors are well-educated but the facilities and equipment is not up to U.S. standards, and I have heard a number of stories of people being mis-diagnosed. Embassy personnel tend to med-evac for all surgeries, although some people have had appendectomies here. Dental care is good and affordable.

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

Excellent in the the summer. Moderate to poor in the winter. There's no industry to speak of, but the city still burns cheap soft coal for the heating plants, so air quality is pretty bad in the winter. It clears up as soon as the heating goes off in the spring, and even in the winter is OK if it's been raining, just bad if it hasn't rained in a while.

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

Seasonal allergies can be very bad, especially in the spring. The pollen is visible and there are tons of flowering trees and bushes. Serbians generally do not understand food allergies, and may not take them seriously, but if you ask a restaurant what is in their food, they can tell you every ingredient because they use less pre-packaged and processed foods in good restaurants. Most supermarkets have some gluten-free products.

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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, dry summers and long cold winters. It regularly gets to 90F degrees in the summer. The last few winters have been mild but it can be cold and snowy.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several options including International School of Belgrade (ISB, the choice of most Embassy families), British School, German school, French school, Chartwell, Prima. Our daughter was only in kindergarten at ISB but we loved it. Her class was 12 students with a teacher and full-time aide. The school was excellent, her teacher communicated well, and the tuition included two after-school activities a week with late bus provided. Communication from the school was spotty, and the lunches aren'y great, but those were our only real complaints at the kindergarten level.

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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?

Yes, we used Cili Vili, a private preschool located in the Banovo Brdo neighborhood and very convenient for people living in that area. It is a Serbian school, so while all of the teachers and the director speak some English, the day-to-day instruction was in Serbian. Both of our kids are leaving post fluent in Serbian thanks to Cili Vili, but they started at two years old, and kids who start at 4-5 often struggle a little before settling in. The communication isn't quite what you get from a U.S. daycare in terms of daily reports, but the teachers were happy to answer any questions if asked and they hang up a daily activity list and menu in English for parents who don't speak Serbian. They provide breakfast, lunch, and snacks, are open 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM including Serbian and U.S. holidays (closed one week between New Year and Serbian Christmas), and cost about 340 Euros/month.

There are lots of good private Serbian preschools, but international, English options include International Nursery School of Belgrade, Chartwell, and Play, Grown, Learn.

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

Yes - lots, but often in Serbian. Ballet, tennis, soccer, swim lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

The U.S. embassy community is medium-sized - small enough to know pretty much everyone after a few months here. Other embassies are pretty small - the Canadians run a club, and there's a large expat group that organizes events and quiz nights. A lot of Serbians were educated abroad and have come back and there are a lot of mixed marriages. Morale is generally very good.

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

Lots - restaurants, nightclubs, bars, music festivals, concerts, theater, sports and outdoor activities.

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

This is a great city for all of the above, but the U.S. embassy community has skewed towards families with young kids the last few years, and only a few singles or couples without kids at post. That said, for people that like to go out Belgrade has fantastic nightlife and clubs, good restaurants, and also plenty for kids to do especially in the summer when you can be outside. In winter, even kids' places can get smoky inside.

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

Yes, and no. Serbia is a very homophobic society and the 2010 Gay pride parade resulted in widespread violence. The parade was held in 2014 but with a heavy police presence that basically closed the city down. Anti-LGBT graffiti is everywhere, and if you can read the Serbian, there are some pretty offensive things. But there are LGBT activists, some gay-friendly bars and restaurants, and the LGBT people I know here have generally not had problems although they also can't be openly out they way they can in the U.S.

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

Serbia is generally a white, Orthodox country. It's not particularly diverse, and people of color attract attention and stares.

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

See the above. There are great restaurants, great travel and since we an afford to have babysitters we can go out almost every weekend.

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

Belgrade has a ton of "escape rooms" that are fun and really affordable. Ada Ciganlija, the manmade lake/island/park complex in the middle of Belgrade is a great escape year-round. In Serbia, great road trips include the mountains of Western Serbia, the Danube River and Iron Gates gorge along the Romania border, monastery-visiting, wineries, and Lake Palic and Subotica near the border with Hungary. Lots of other travel in the region.

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

Not much - some pottery/ceramics, some art and wooden furniture, icons.

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

Belgrade is a fantastic city. It's the right size - big enough to have opera, and a philharmonic, museums and music festivals. Small enough that the traffic isn't bad and you can pretty much always park downtown without too much hassle.

The food - Serbian food isn't the best or most diverse in the world, but what it does well, it does well. Grilled meat, fresh bread, meat stuffed inside bread, meat stuffed inside meat. This is not a town for vegetarians.

The prices - Serbia is very affordable on an expat salary, especially with the strong dollar right now. A nice dinner for two, with wine, at one of the best restaurants in town, costs US$50-$70. Opera US$8, Philharmonic US$5, movies US$5. Household help is good and affordable, as is daycare.

The travel. Four hours to Budapest. Six to the Istrian coast of Croatia. Six to the Julian Alps of Slovenia. Six to Vienna, eight to Prague. And that's driving. By air, all of Europe is accessible for a long weekend.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, but you'll be tempted to spend most of it on travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, definitely.

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

Wine. Serbia has excellent local wines.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, snowpants, good winter boots.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Underground ,

Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, and

The November Man (filmed in Belgrade, although it's a terrible movie).

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

The Tiger's Wife: A Novel,

The Bridge Over the Drina (Bosnia & the Ottoman Empire, not necessarily Belgrade),

The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II, and

Snippets of Serbia.

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Belgrade, Serbia 08/19/14

Background:

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

No. Before Belgrade we lived in Skopje, Macedonia.

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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?

Southeastern U.S. - trip takes around 15 hours with at least one stop in western Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I am currently starting the third year of my three-year tour here.

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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?

City Center: Mostly made up of apartments in mid-rise buildings, the city center is a great place to be if you want to be near the restaurant/cafe/nightlife scene.

Dedinje/Senjak: These upscale neighborhoods are good for being close to the Embassy. Housing consists of apartments and houses, and most of them are very quiet. My commute to the Embassy from Dedinje is 20 minutes by foot or less than 5 minutes by car. It takes about 10 minutes by car to get downtown.

Banovo Brdo: This neighborhood is popular with families with kids as it has a suburban American feel and most houses have fenced-in yards. Housing is a mix of standalone houses, duplexes, and triplexes. Commute is about 15 minutes to the Embassy, 15 minutes to downtown.

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

Local meat, produce, dairy, and bread is delicious and inexpensive. The availability of international food has improved tremendously in recent years, and you can find taco shells, jarred Thai and Indian sauces, Cheddar cheese,etc at large grocery stores and specialty shops, but prices do tend to be higher than you would pay in the U.S. for these items.

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

I'm able to get what I need on the local economy or through the mail. Clothing and toys are more expensive here than they are in the U.S. so it's best to stock up ahead of time.

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

The restaurant scene is great - you can get excellent local food as well was really good sushi, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Spanish, etc. Prices are generally less expensive than you would find in the U.S. Nice restaurants have entrees ranging from around US$8 - $20, and local restaurants are less expensive. Alcohol is also cheap. If you need a taste of America, there are several McDonald's and KFC restaurants around town.

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

Nothing unusual. The mosquitos can be pesky at times but the city does spray for them.

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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?

Lots of highly-qualified applicants are available. The going rate for housekeepers and nannies is about 5 Euro/hour in the American community.

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

Yes - prices are about the same or higher than what you would find in the U.S.

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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?

Large grocery stores and restaurants generally accept credit cards. Some smaller establishments don't. There are numerous ATMs all over town.

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

There is one Protestant non-denominational service and two Catholic masses each week in English.

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

In Belgrade, not a lot. I came here with no language skills and was able to find people who spoke English almost everywhere I went. I did end up taking classes so that I could more effectively navigate taxis and the green markets. You won't find as many English speakers outside of Belgrade.

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

Yes. Sidewalks are rough and often covered in cars, so it would be difficult to navigate them with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Buses and taxis are both safe and cheap. Buses are crowded and get very hot in the summer. There have been a few reports of people getting ripped off by taxis, so, like in every place else, make sure that the meter is running. Regional trains are cheap but extremely slow.

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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 smaller car is better for city driving and parking - SUVs, minivans, and larger cars may have a hard time fitting into city parking spots.

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Phone & Internet:

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

High-speed internet is available and reliable. Cost is comparable to U.S. prices.

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

No.

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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?

The process of getting a pet into Serbia is very simple and does not require a quarantine. Vets are good and there are several options for pet care while you are away. There are also big pet stores.

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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?

Finding work on the local economy can be quite difficult as the unemployment rate is very high, the local population is highly education and qualified, and almost all jobs require that you speak Serbian.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Bingo with senior citizens, arts and crafts with adults and children with special needs, helping kids with homework at Roma day centers, etc.

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

Usually business casual, but some events require business formal attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

Overall I feel safe here. We are, however, advised to avoid major sporting events and political rallies. We have also heard of a few residential break-ins and some pickpocketing.

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

The quality of healthcare varies - some providers and facilities are very good, others are not. It also depends on the issue. Major health issues typically result in Medevac.

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

Air quality is typically fine but can get bad in the winter as locals burn coal and wood to heat their homes. Pollution is worse downtown than it is in the suburban neighborhoods.

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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?

Four seasons. Spring, summer, and fall are all pleasant. August is the hottest month, with temperatures reaching 90F degrees often. Winters are cold with frequent snow/ice mixes that make the city streets pretty slushy. It's also dark at 4pm 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?

I don't have school-aged children, but families seem happy with the International School of Belgrade. Other options for K-12 include Chartwell International School, the British International School, the French International School. There are other smaller schools as well.

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

The International School of Belgrade and Chartwell can accommodate children with mild special needs on a case-by-case basis, so it's important to contact the schools ahead of time to discuss individual concerns.

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

Yes, there are numerous preschool/daycare options available, including the International School of Belgrade, Chartwell International School, the International Nursery School of Belgrade, the French International School, and the International Preschool of Belgrade. Many families in Banovo Brdo send their kids to Cili Vili, a Serbian-language daycare/preschool located very close to many houses in the neighborhood.

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

There are several sports programs available through the schools. There are also horseback riding lessons, swimming lessons, dance lessons, etc. available locally.

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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 expat community, many Europeans. Morale is good, and there are several ways to engage with other expats in the city (International Women's Club, Internations, Foreign Visitors' Club, etc).

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

Go out to dinner, theater, concerts, clubs, cafes, parks, etc. It's hard to run out of things to do in Belgrade.

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

Belgrade is good for all demographics. Plenty of things to do for the singles/couples crowd - restaurants, nightlife, cultural events, museums, etc. For families, the local culture is extremely child-friendly, so there are numerous indoor/outdoor playgrounds, arts and crafts, etc.

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

There has traditionally been strong anti-gay sentiment in Serbia although efforts are being made to promote acceptance.

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

The vast, vast majority of Serbs are white Orthodox Christians. Because many people are not often exposed to others of different races and backgrounds, I would imagine that there could be some issues with prejudices. I have never personally experienced this.

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

We have enjoyed the close proximity to many other interesting cities in the region and the good number of flights available from Belgrade to western Europe. We also enjoy the wide variety of restaurant and entertainment options, as well as the delicious fresh produce available at green markets around town.

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

Visit the local green markets, stroll down the main walking street to Kalemegdan fortress, take day trips to Novi Sad and Subotica (try some wine from the Subotica region), visit a farm-restaurant in the countryside, check out Belgrade's eclectic cafe and restaurant scene. There are many interesting/fun things to do!

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

Belgrade is a cosmopolitan city with many good restaurants, great nightlife, friendly locals, and plenty of opportunities for regional travel. It's also relatively easy to navigate, many neighborhoods are quiet and peaceful, and the cost of living is relatively low.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes - the cost of living is low.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely - would love to stay longer.

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Belgrade, Serbia 08/11/13

Background:

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

Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Hungary...

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

East coast, three flights which takes us around 20 hours door to door.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I am currently in the middle of my tour there.

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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?

For the mission, singles and couples without kids opt for apartments in the city or near the Embassy most often. Families frequently opt for houses in a suburb of Belgrade that is around a fifteen minute drive to the city center and to the Embassy or they opt for housing near the embassy. We live in the former, which has more mission families living close to each other and we love it. Housing ranges from duplexes, triplexes, and standalone houses and they are very nice and spacious. They usually have a one car garage, a good amount of storage space, and fenced in yards. We are also just a few minutes walk to an awesome awesome giant park filled with walking paths, a track, basketball court, restaurants etc).

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

Local produce, meat, groceries are very reasonable, quite a bit less than in the U.S. Produce at the green markets is fantastic, so so tastey and they have the best eggs and bacon here!!! They are also well known for their breads, which are delicious, and pork is the meat of choice. It is a bit harder to find a good steak the way Americans like it, but once you find your restaurants that do it right, you're set (na cosku, ebisu etc).

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

I can get anything we need from the local economy, our embassy commissary and amazon. It's very very comfortable living here. Bring a bike if you like to bike, roller blades have made a big comeback here, so you can bring those too, many folks like to bring tires and car parts as these can be expensive.

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

Wonderful restaurant scene, you can find it all here...Sushi, Italian, Mexican, Indian etc. Really nice restaurants main dishes average US$10-$20, and that is for a really nice restaurants. Alcohol is very reasonalble, maybe US$2 for a beer, US$3-5 for a glass of wine or cocktail.

Fast food, McDonald's and KFC. The McDonald's are way nicer than ours in the U.S., haven't seen a KFC. Apparently there was a Pizza Hut but it closed.

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

Nothing out of the norm. We've really had no problems whatsoever in our home with ants, roaches etc. Ticks would be our biggest complaint and we have found them on our dog (who we treat monthly) and our toddler (this has been a bigger concern as there is Lyme disease here).

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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 for the embassy staff.

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

Americans tend to pay 4-5 Euro per hour for nannies and cleaners, its a bit higher than what other expats pay and I think if you hire someone full time you could offer a monthly or weekly salary rather than an hourly salary that would break down to less than this cost per hour.

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

Yes.

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

We use them all the time, but try to leave tips in cash always.

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

Yes, but they aren't great. There are Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Jewish...not much variety if you want something in English.

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

We have AFN through the mission for around US$10 month but many folks get big cable packages too, rates similar to the U.S.

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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?

Many Serbs speak English but its very nice to have some, definitely at the green markets.

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

It would be challenging, sidewalks can be in rough shape in some areas and cars often park on them (meaning it can also be quite hard to get around with a stroller in some areas).

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Transportation:

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

Yes and yes, but they can get very crowded and hot in the summer.

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

We have a bigger car but smaller is generally going to be better for city living and parking. Roads are pretty good so most anything works. Gas is expensive, as it is in all of Europe so if you don't get VAT free gas then bring something with good fuel economy.

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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?

Similarl to the U.S.

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

No, I think anything goes, you can find them at the grocery stores, small phone stores, in the malls etc.

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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)?

Good vets and pet sitters and boarding options.

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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?

Unemployment is pretty bad here so you'll be hard pressed to find a job as you'd be competing against very talented multilingual Serbs, but if you are attached to the mission there are some EFM jobs. Right now not enough to meet demand though.

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

Formal...similar to the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

We feel very very safe here, however there have been some small smash and grab occurrences and there is always the possibility of unrest. Overall, we feel safer here than in many places in the U.S.

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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?

Fine-good, but if you need to be medevac'd you'll go to London. Well trained doctors, but sometimes public facilities are lacking due to funding.

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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?

It is good most of the year, but winters can be a bit rough in terms of pollution (not to mention it gets dark early, like 4:30pm early).

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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?

Four seasons!

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Schools & Children:

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

We don't have school aged kids but we have heard very positive feedback about the international school of Belgrade. There are quite a few others as well including a French international school, Chartwell international school, a British international school etc.

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

ISB has limited resources for kids with special needs, Chartwell is supposed to have more resources for kids with special needs but I believe still only for children with minimal special needs.

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

There are international daycares as well as local ones. We have had a great experience with a local one, but have visited several and they were all quite nice. Serbians are quite loving towards children so its a win-win. Many families hire nannies as well.

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

I think most kids get involved through their schools, but I have heard of soccer camps, overnight camps in the summer for horseback riding and soccer etc, there is a hippodrome where I think people can take riding lessons, and there are tennis courts and basketball courts that fill up quickly.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a good size and very good morale!

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2. Morale among expats:

Great, its really a wonderful post and great group of expats!

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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?

Great, awesome restaurants, plenty of at home entertaining, parks etc.

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

Great for all! Apparently some of the best nightlife and clubbing in Europe for singles and those that like a good party, fantastic restaurant scene for everyone, excellent parks for families, most people we know here are very happy regardless of family demographics.

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

It is a homogenous society, however movements are being made to generate awareness and acceptance. That said, it may be easier for foreigners than locals.

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

Serbia, again, is pretty homogenous so most Serbs are white and Orthodox Christian. There is a small Roma population that faces some discrimination and I imagine Serbs don't have many opportunities to interact with individuals of different races/sexual orientation/religions, so I imagine there could be some challenges with prejudices here, I just haven't personally experienced any.

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

The wonderful produce, great travel, kind people, eating out, going out in the country for lunches as the salas!

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

Going to the green markets, dining out, visiting the parks, enjoying a day at Ada (a five mile stretch of park on water lined with restaurants and with a path for walkers, runners, rollerbladers, and bikers), walking through kalamegdan fortress (and enjoying a meal at its Terasa restaurant or a trip to its adjoining zoo), day trips to salas for a country lunch, day trips to vineyards, skiing in Kopaonik, visiting pretty little villages and their festivals (there are annual beer, bacon, bean soup, wine, hay festivals throughout Serbia!)

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

Food and drink.

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

This is a great post, the Serbian people are very friendly and love kids and dogs, there are amazing green markets, large grocery stores just like back home, excellent restaurant scene, great parks, the countryside is beautiful and you're also just a short drive, or flight, to many other fabulous destinations like Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania etc. The mission is well run, good morale and leadership, nice housing, interesting work... We love it here.

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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?

Absolutely, we wish we could stay longer.

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Belgrade, Serbia 04/05/12

Background:

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

Second.

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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?

Southeast USA. It takes about 14 hrs with connections

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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.)?

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?

Most expat families folks live either in a nice suburb about twenty minutes by car from the embassy or closer to downtown if they are here without no kids. Very nice housing in general.

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

If you buy local, prices are fair for food and toiletries. Local Green Markets are excellent during season and have some of the most delicious vegetables and fruits that any organic market could offer in USA. Imported electronic products are very expensive, and it is best to bring them from USA.

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

Electronics. If you plan to get a laptop computer or other items with batteries, plan ahead and bring them with you.

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

American Fastfood: McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC. Wide variety of many great pizza places. Local Serbian version of Mexican and Chinese. Wide variety of excellent European Cuisine restaurants at good prices ($10/plate)'

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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?

Excellent if you buy from the local green markets. Some of the best fresh vegetables and fruits I have ever had, including tomatoes, red peppers, peaches, grapes, etc.

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

Nothing unusual in type or amounts.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO/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?

We have a good housekeeper part-time. Cost is about 6 Euros/hour.

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

I have seen some gyms in various locations, but I have not tried any.

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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 the credit cards at many restaurants and shops without any problems.

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

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

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

The younger generation tends to know enough English. Older folks may not. We have used it little so far.

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

Newer facilities such as malls do have some accommodations.

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Transportation:

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

Extensive and safe public transportation with buses, electric trolleys, and trains. Many employees ride the bus to work.

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

Parking is very tight in the city. We have a big car which is difficult to park. That being said, it is not a big deal except when parking in the city. Roads are generally 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?

Our DSL clocks at 2-3 Mps, which is typical for US DSL. Service has so far been fairly reliable. The price is about $40/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?

Good coverage, cheap price. Bring your own cell (expensive here) and get a SIM card.

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Pets:

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

No,

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

We have been happy with the vet for our dog, who also does boarding when needed.

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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, mostly embassy-related or volunteer.

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

Business casual to business formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

This has been a surprise for us, as the daily living is very peaceful. Embassy neighborhood is the suburbs is very calm and families feel very safe. Political outbursts is always a possibility, but so far this has not been the case.

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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?

Overall decent local health care, but you need to know where to go.

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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 air pollution in the air during winter, otherwise fairly typical for many developing countries.

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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?

Four seasons, with snowy, but not too cold, winter and beautiful spring and fall. Summer is warm with few spikes in 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?

Most attend Internation School of Belgrade (ISB). We have been very pleased so far despite being a smaller school. Teachers seem to be very dedicated.

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

Minimal accommodation possible for mild disabilities, but otherwise not capable of taking kids with major disabilities.

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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?

Via school. If child is also very eager, you can do soccer clubs and tennis clubs in the community.

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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, mostly American or European.

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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?

Serbians really enjoy the social life and have many good restaurants and cafes. Multiple parks throughout the city.

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3. Morale among expats:

High.

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

Yes for all. Families with kids love the neighborhood and easy/tranquil life. Singles/couples live in the city which has a more active lifestyle.

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

No. Very strong anti-gay sentiment in this region.

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

Overall, this is a very homogeneous country. There is a small Roma population that lives as a lower economic class in general.

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

Daily life is very enjoyable and peaceful. Beautiful trips within Serbia as well as to Rome, Budapest, Vienna, Slovenia and elsewhere.

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

Skiing in Kopaonik or Slovenia. Shopping/sightseeing in Budapest, Vienna or Rome. What else can I say?

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

Not much in the tourist souvenir stuff here. Spend you money doing some nice traveling.

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

Easy, livable city with low crime. Beautiful countryside. Peaceful neighborhoods. Easy driving to many interesting cities such as Budapest and Vienna.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. Overall life is cheaper than in the States for expats earning in US salaries.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, definitely.

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

Prior media impressions of Serbia: you will be pleasantly surprised,

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience to find a parking spot in the city center,

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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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Belgrade, Serbia 11/15/11

Background:

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

First.

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

Washington DC; about 8-9 hours transiting through Germany.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2008-2010.

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

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?

A variety, including apartments downtown, houses on the outskirts of the city, and houses in the suburbs that are popular with families.

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

Grocery prices are cheap for local produce, which is excellent and can be bought at many local green markets where farmer sell their own produce. Imported goods are very expensive. Ready made foods are almost non-existent. The embassy has a great commissary and you can order special items for reasonable prices.

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

Economy size toiletries. Much cheaper to bring them than to buy them there.

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

There are McDonald's, a Pizza Hut, and a KFC. There are many Serbian fast food stands in the city.

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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?

Green market has supposedly organic-ish food.

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

None, mosquitoes can be bad in the summer.

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Daily Life:

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

APO and Pouch.

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

About US$3 per hour. Very good and cheap.

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

Yes. Small gym at embassy. Many local gyms, but the cost is US$120 and up per month for memberships.

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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?

Never tried. This is primarily a cash economy. Credit cards scams seem to be a problem.

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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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?

Definitely need some if you ever plan to leave Belgrade. Even within Belgrade, most people over probable 45 speak limited amounts of English.

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

As long as you drive everywhere, you should be okay. The sidewalks are terrible and non-existent in many places.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable and safe.

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

Any car will work. Local cars are all small and so are parking spots in the city.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, reasonably priced.

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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, pay as you go.

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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?

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

Business casual to Business.

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Health & Safety:

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

None. A very safe city.

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

Fair medial care. I wouldn't get surgery.

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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?

Very unhealthy during the winter. You are lucky to even see the sun during the winter. Moderate during 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?

Similar to Washington DC. Hot in the summer and cold and snowy 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?

I hear the international school is good for high school. I don't have children.

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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.

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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?

Clubs, restaurants, get togethers, CLO events, etc.

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3. Morale among expats:

Medium to High.

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

Great for everyone. The suburbs are loved by families. The neighborhood is safe and kids can run around on their own. Tons of clubs and restaurants for singles and couples.

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

There are some underground clubs/venues in the city, but being openly gay may get one beat up by locals.

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

It seems okay. There is no diversity in the city. Everyone is white Serbian orthodox. You will get many people staring at you if you don't fit this description.

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

The city is a good livable city. Not great for tourists, but you can hang out at cafes or on the river island in the city. The club scene is well known and attended if you like techno. You won't find a variety of music here.

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

City life is easy. Budapest is about a 4-hour drive away and great place to shop. There are interesting things to do in the country, but difficult to find literature on how to get there, when things are open. You will have to do your own research and wing many trips.

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

I wish they had some.

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

The city has lots of Serbian restaurants, a Brazilian restaurant, a few Chinese restaurants, and not much else. There are many cheap culture events here including ballet, opera, good music concerts with Western singers, symphony, and art.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't eat our every weekend and don't travel all the time.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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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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Belgrade, Serbia 07/06/11

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?

At least one connection to the U.S., most likely on United through FRA or MUC then to IAD.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

US Government: State Department: Spouse

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are 3 areas that people live in: Downtown, Senjak area and Banovo Brdo (BBLand).Downtown is mostly singles/couples in nice apartments. Senjak is the area between Downtown and BBLand. It is a spread-out area with mixed types/quality of homes. A few Couples/Families live here. BBland is a neighborhood that most families and some couples live in. There are stand alone houses, duplexes, triplexes and really large triplexes. They are all big and are built of brick and cement, so that you don't have to worry about hearing your neighbor's conversations. Most have medium to large yards. I lived in BB Land. It was 4 miles from Downtown (Embassy) and was a great situation for my children. It was nice for them to have friends to play with in the neighborhood. It was easy for me (spouse) to make friends and easily get together with others. I would say that it was 65% American. You can walk to the stores: grocery, bakery, McDonald's, Movie Theater, and public transportation. There are running trails though the forested area. The neighborhood is set up on the hill, so the pollution isn't as bad as in other areas. Also down the hill is the largest recreation area: Ada Lake.

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

I'd say it's like always paying full retail in the United States.

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

You can find most things here, maybe just not the variety or quality that you would like. The Embassy Commissary allows you to make 3 special orders a year from the master list.

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

American chains: McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut. The prices are similar/maybe a little higher then what you'd pay in the US.There many other good food/restaurant options.

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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?

Not many. The produce is good in the summer. The winter selection is pitiful. Stores would sell rotten potatoes and shriveled onions, and very little variety. The Maxi at Delta City Mall had the overall best produce.

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

Ants and spiders, I used the can spray and it kept the insects under control.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO:Mail takes about between 5 days and 2 weeks.

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

It costs about 5 euros/hour. You can find English speaking help.

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

Yes

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

Same caution you would use anywhere.

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

Yes, there are some.

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

AFN (Armed Forces Network) was available in BB Land for $10 per month through the Embassy. It has about 10 channels (plus some other random English channels from Dubai) but you need a Multi-system T.V. (Your American TV will not work!).Buy a multi-system before you get here, they are REALLY expensive on the local market ($2000) If you live in the other areas, you have to get set up individually. I didn't see any English language newspapers.

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

Very little, you will find a lot of people in the city who speak some English.

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

Sidewalks are for parking, not walking. Buildings are old and the elevators can be really small.

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Transportation:

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

Safe, Yes. Buses are always extremely crowded.

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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 will find all different kinds of automobiles on the road. Overall, the smaller cars were easier to maneuver through the narrow streets and tight parking spots, but anything would work here. There are many familiar Dealerships.

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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, I paid about $50 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?

Texting is mandatory here.

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Pets:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I didn't know anyone who was working or actively looking for work on the local economy. There are a lot of local people who are unemployed/underemployed.

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

You can wear what you would wear in the U.S. Purchasing clothing here is expensive.

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Health & Safety:

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

It was a safe city. We were advised to avoid soccer matches and other political rallies.

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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?

General medical care seems ok, although the hospitals are not up to standard. I think there are some options for specialists, but they weren't well known or advertised. There are Pharmacy's on every corner, you can get most medicines without a prescription.

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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 in the summer is fine. In the colder months it is Unhealthy/AWFUL. My family got a lot of respiratory illnesses that we had never experienced before. The polluted air is thick, gray and really ugly.

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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?

Spring is nice (Mar-Jun) anywhere from the 50-70 degrees; Summer is beautiful (Jun-Sept) from 75-85 degrees; Fall can be pretty until the first snowfall (one year it was the 2nd week of Oct)Winter is ugly b/c of the pollution, and the constant drizzle of either rain or snow. There were about 5 big snowfalls. The snow would melt within a week or two. It is dark at 4pm.

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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 the most popular: ISB (International School of Belgrade) http://www.isb.rs/isb/.It has preschool to high school, on three campuses, although they plan to combine the middle and high school to one campus. I would describe the school as being a good public school. They have a nice after school activity program. Overall it was an okay experience, but it always will depend on the teacher/teachers you happen to get. The bus service is crazy in that they will pick up randomly and then have to make stops at all three of the schools to drop off and pick up. It added a lot of unnecessary time on the bus for the kids. Also used by some are the: The British International School (http://www.british-int-school.org.uk/index.html)and Chartwell International School (http://www.chartwellinternational.org/) These schools are smaller then ISB.

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

Seems like they can make some accommodations. You would want to check beforehand.

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

There is ISB (really expensive) or INSB: International Nursery School of Belgrade (http://www.insb.edu.rs/) or local neighborhood preschools (but these tend to be more like daycare).

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

Yes, but there aren't easy to discover. It's easiest to use whatever the your school offers. There isn't any outside sport programs that I came across that caters to the International community.

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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 enough

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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?

Anything is possible here.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good

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

There is something good here for everyone.

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

Probably not that good(not culturally accepted).

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

I wasn't aware of anything extreme.

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

I was surprised at how respectful the Serbian people are. They were always courteous (except when driving), and very kind and interested in my children.

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

I liked the lake, and there are two nice shopping malls. After a day of touring the city, you've seen the sights.

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

There is very little that is unique and local.

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

You are in Europe, there are lots of places to visit. The day to day life here is fairly good, easy and safe.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It was good for the kids, they loved it. Life was easy, except in the winter because of the dark snow drizzle and the sicknesses that came with the bad air quality. I would go there, but I wouldn't go back, one time was enough.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Dark water-proof snow boots for the long drizzly winter.

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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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Belgrade, Serbia 11/21/10

Background:

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

Yes

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

Boston, MA, U.S.A. is about 8+ hours with one stop in Germany.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 Years (August 2009 - December 2010)

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

Educator

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Cheap housing blocks exist in New Belgrade across the river from downtown. Senjak has most of the upscale neighborhood apartments and homes as well as the nicer schools. Banovo Brdo is the embassy community housing with very nice houses.

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

Groceries are easy to come by. Americans can use the U.S. Embassy commissary for refried beans, salsa, junk food, ice cream, hot sauce, etc. Every supermarket has the same thing. There are not a lot of non-Serbian items available (as in you can't find Asian or Mexican foodstuffs).

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

Mexican and Asian spices (although there is a secret Asian market in the Chinese shopping complex down past Bouviac and Delta City). Clothing is super pricy and will not fit and American physique, so shop a bunch before you come.

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

Fast Food: McDonald's ($1.50 for cheeseburger, $5 for Big Mac), KFC, Foodies, etc. Decent Restaurants: Nearly all restaurants are Serbian/Italian and make for boring cuisine (Mixed Grilled Meat $10-14, Pizza $6-10, Pasta $6-8).

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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?

Nothing is labelled organic per se, but the green markets in various neighborhoods pass for organic. This is a society that does not accommodate vegetarians. There are a chain of nondescript-looking health food stores selling all sorts of helpful products like Tofu, Cashew/Almond/Sunflower/Pumpkin butter, Bee Pollen, Carrot Juice, etc.

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

None

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Daily Life:

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

Through my place of work, but I've heard it can be complicated.

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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've heard it's allright, around $10/hr.

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

Yes

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

No problems. Banks and ATMs are everywhere. If you buy a car here, you have to pay in cash. This means withdrawing cash in batches from your ATM if you have a withdrawal limit. Then you need to exchange your money for Euros to buy a car. Most ATMs charge between $2 and $5 per transaction. VISA charges $5 and 2% for all credit and debit transactions.

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

Maybe. Not sure, but it's a huge Christian Orthodox country.

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

Blic, MTV, etc.

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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 a ton of English spoken here, only amongst the younger people. Learn some Serbian as you go ("Kako se cashe CHICKEN?" = How do you say CHICKEN?).

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

There are good walking areas which would be accessible by wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

Trains go everywhere in the region and range between $20 and $50 one way to various countries which share a border. Buses and Trams require you buy a $1.50 ticket and punch it while on board yourself. This leads to an honor code for purchasing a ticket, which is not enforced much. Every now and then someone gets on (I've only seen it twice) to check for tickets. If you don't speak Serbian, they won't want to deal with you. Taxis are sometimes good, costing anywhere from $8 to $12 from most places within the city. Calling ahead usually nets you a 20% discount on the fare. Beotaxi and Lux are very good.

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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?

Tiny cars work best. The roads are pretty good, so there is no need for a large car unless you have kids. Fiat Punto is the national car here because of its efficiency and small size for parking in the jungle of parked cars downtown.

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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, $20-50 per month for high speed ranging in data limitations.

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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?

Pre-pay for minutes, using VIP or Telenor. VIP customers talk to each other free.

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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)?

Decent vets. Our Vet is great and he is in Senjak right by the lower school of the International School of Belgrade. He once ended a romantic date early on a Saturday night because my little dog got into a chocolate candy bar and became quite sick and needed to be observed and be put on an IV.

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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?

No tie, plantinum jeans, suit jacket over a wide-collared Euro-trash dress shirt unbuttoned to mid0chest, black leather dress shoes.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are issues concerning the status of Gays in Belgrade, and when there are demonstrations, violence usually ensues.

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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?

Good medical with no health 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?

Gasoline used is lead-based, and there is no restriction on the quality of the car (lots of Yugos) or standard of exhaust system. The air is kind of poor.

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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, dry summers which last between May and October. Fall and Spring can be drizzly with rain and cold winds. Winter is usually snowy and cold, but not bone-chilling since Serbia is still close to the Mediterranean.

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Schools & Children:

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

The International School of Belgrade is clearly the top school in Serbia with little competition from the likes of British International School, Crnjanski, Prima International and the French/German schools. ISB is an IB World School and hosts all major college fairs, SAT testing and other events.

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

None of the schools are equipped to handle any sort of special needs.

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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?

It can be hard to find your way into the various sports clubs without a connection, but the International School of Belgrade has a thorough Sports program available for students.

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Expat Life:

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

Tiny.

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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?

Good if you like to go clubbing.

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3. Morale among expats:

I'm bored, so I would say the morale is low. Plus I would say the treatment of Americans is not unbiased.

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

Everyone will get along ok, but singles may enjoy this city the most.

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

Terrible place for the gay community.

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

This is a very sexist culture.

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

The cafe/bars are pretty nice. Most people do the cafe thing for coffee or beer from 5 PM to 10 PM. People tend to go to a bar or night club from 10 PM to 2 AM. The dance boats open around 2 AM and close around sunrise. 24-hour burger shops are common.

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

Going out for drinks is one of the few things to do besides admire historical relics. Wineries and Bee-keeping can be fun to check out in the surrounding country-side.

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

Liquor, Honey, Wine, Ajvar, etc.

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

Good beef, honey, wine, trout, tomatoes and peppers.

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11. Can you save money?

I think you can if you are a couple, but not if you are single.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not, although it hasn't been a nightmare.

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

You can leave behind your smile, because no one will return it and it makes you look weak. You can leave behind your respect for women, because you'll be the only one willing to listen.

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3. But don't forget your:

Don't forget to bring an extra heart, because you will wear out your original heart after a couple Serbian dinners. Oh, and don't forget an extra liver to handle all the Rakija. Bring some decent coffee as well, because coffee is terrible here.

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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?

This city is culturally stagnant with little or no diversity.

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Belgrade, Serbia 06/22/10

Background:

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

No, Helsinki.

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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 - total flight time can be long, depending on layover in Frankfurt/Munich (United) or Milan (Delta/Alitalia). I recommend United. Alitalia is the worst airline ever

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived here for 5 years (2005-10).

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

Work (NGO sector).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mainly apartments. Some diplos live in the fancy suburb of Dedinje in villas, but you need to be an ambassador or similar to afford that. I had a great apartment in the heart of town.

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

Reasonable. For a poor country it is way too expensive, but the cost and quality are good. You can find plenty of fresh stuff, including all meat. Major stores are here, like Maxi.

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

My car and an American bed.

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

McDonald's and KFC for fast food. We just got KFC and we're happy. More and more great restaurants are opening on almost a daily basis. There is plenty of variety now - a huge difference in 5 years.

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

I never had any problem other than seeing a couple of cockroaches, which my landlord promptly killed with about 50 gallons of insecticide.

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Daily Life:

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

Regular post - though expect to pay duty, even with diplo status if you don't use the 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?

Not bad. I have a maid once a week for major stuff, and it's about 30 Euros.

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

Yes, but they're mostly crappy. There are some newer gyms starting up. Expect weight machines, a treadmill, and not much else.

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

There are ATMs on every corner downtown. And they are 99% are safe to use. Cards are being used all the time now in restaurants. Another big difference in 5 years.

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

Yes, mainly Catholic. I didn't find a Protestant service.

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

CNN, BBC, Discovery & History are watched by me a lot. Not many newspapers, but online at B92 is the best resource.

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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 a lot - you can usually find someone to help you communicate in English, especially if they're under 35 years old or so.

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

This wouldn't be my first choice, but they are working on things like access ramps. But it would still be a little tough, I think.

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Transportation:

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

Buses? Yes. A little crowded, but OK. Taxis? Yes. Better all the time and fairly cheap. Trains? Give it 20 years to upgrade the system. There is no metro here, although it's been a pipe dream for decades -- it's more like a running joke now.

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

Anything is fine - all dealerships are here.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes - pretty cheap (maybe $40/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 - learn how to text!

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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)?

They are available, but choose carefully, based on recommendations. I know some people have had bad experiences.

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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?

Come with a job - you'll have a hard time finding one here.

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

Business casual at work. In public anything goes (and I mean anything).

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Health & Safety:

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

None - this is a really safe place.

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

You have to find a private clinic. DO NOT use the public health system here. For major stuff, everyone flies out to Vienna or Munich.

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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?

Belgrade sucks. In Pancevo, right outside of Belgrade, there are chemical factories that sometimes have leaks. However, outside of Belgrade it's quite nice. If you are really sensitive, this is probably not the best place. Oh, and about 75% of the population smokes, so if that annoys you, it's not a good place.

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

The climate is much like that in Washington, DC. Hot summers, winter not too bad but can get cold. There's skiing in the mountains down south.

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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 international school here, but I don't have kids, so I don't know anything about it. Check it out here: www.isb.rs

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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?

Not sure, but most parents seem happy.

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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?

Not big.

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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?

Rockin'.

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3. Morale among expats:

I'd say pretty damn good. Serbs can be stubborn and frustrating, but overall this place is great.

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

It's good for everyone. The only problem I've ever seen is American wives who resent the care that Serbian women put into their image.

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

Well, not so friendly. Lots of homophobia. It's best not be proud and out loud. Gay friends who've come have told me (about places I've sent them) "that's NOT a gay bar, they just don't want to kill me". So I don't know. But if you're discreet, there are gays and lesbians here, of course.

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

Black people are a curiosity. However, there is no real discrimination that I know of. If you happen to be Albanian, you may have problems. Muslims, while not liked, are tolerated if they're from a foreign land. Most people here will tell you they're Orthodox, but most are atheists.

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

The people, for sure. If you're alone, as I was when I got here, it is difficult to meet people sometimes. However, once you establish a circle of friends, they will never leave you. Lots of good partying, lots of fun. If you expect to get a whole lot done here, though, FORGET IT. The Serbs pride themselves on living well while not having to do anything - leftovers from the Yugo days (which you'll also hear a lot about - how great things USED to be).

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

This is tough - the culture here isn't about events/stuff, but hanging with friends and drinking coffee/beer. However, periodically they have things like the Exit Festival, Beerfest, etc. And some top names have had concerts here in recent years.

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

Knit clothing, the local brandy called "rakija", meat, meat, and more meat.

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

The nightlife is awesome, if you're into it. Serbs know how to drink and party, and the women are incredibly beautiful. However, don't expect Kiev - these girls are not easy, though they are exceptional. You can save some money, depending on how you want to live. If you want to live large, you can. But most Serbs don't make a ton of money, though they manage to live quite comfortably. No one starves here. The weather is nice - 4 seasons. Summer can be hot in Belgrade, but if you get down south and west, the mountains are cool and wonderful.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you want to do so, you can. If not, you can do that, too.

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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:

idea that the Balkans is Europe. It's not.

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3. But don't forget your:

salsa, hot sauces, and chinese food spices. OK, any spices.

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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 Serbs" by Tim Judah.
"Black Lamb, Grey Falcon" by Rebecca West

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Don't believe the Hollywood crap that portrays the Serbs. Just come and live it yourself.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a truly great place. I have had a lot of fun here.

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