Colombo, Sri Lanka Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka 09/30/20

Background:

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

No. This is our fourth overseas assignment.

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

Washington, DC. It takes about a full day's travel time to get back to the U.S. We usually transit through Dubai or Doha (about 5 hours). Then it's about a 13-hour direct flight to JFK. Then a connecting flight to DC. It's pretty taxing. But think of all the miles!

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in a colonial-era home, as do some others in the community. Many more are now living in modern apartments with good amenities (swimming pools, attached malls, restaurants, etc.). The old homes are charming and usually have big yards. But they also come with common problems like leaky roofs, inadequate power outlets, etc. Most homes and apartments are located near the embassy, but not walking distance. Walking to the embassy is possible but not ideal because of heat and confusing traffic crossings. Traffic is bad here, so commutes can take a long time (20-30 minutes) for a short distance if it's rush hour.

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

Local fruit, vegetables, and seafood/fish is cheap and plentiful. International foods are available but require some know-how to get them, either by going to international markets or joining an expat WhatsApp group for various companies that sell good quality bread and cheeses. There is a commissary at the U.S. Embassy that sells a lot of American staples (flour, sugar, etc.), junk food, and alcohol. Local household cleaning products are fine and inexpensive. But liquid clothing detergent and dishwasher detergent can be very expensive locally.

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

Sausage, cheese, olives, wine, pre-made tortillas for quesadillas, some household products, specialty beauty products, and sunscreen. You can get wine here (locally and at the commissary), but there isn't a lot of variety. Beauty products for fairer skin and lighter hair. Sunscreen is available here locally and at commissary, but the spray-on kind is hard to find.

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

UberEats and PickMe are the main food service apps, but there are others. You can get most anything delivered, including Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Burger King. Restaurant options include Sri Lankan (of course), Indian, Sushi (pretty good here), Chinese (also pretty good).

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

There are always lots of outside pests in our older home, from ants and roaches to chipmunks to lizards and snakes. I haven't had a snake in the house, but I know others who have. Geckos are very common. The newer housing doesn't seem to have those problems.

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Daily Life:

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

Everything through the U.S. Embassy DPO/Pouch. It's slow, but it's better than nothing.

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

Household help is inexpensive. Most people have housekeepers who cook. Some also have drivers and gardeners. Having help seems like such a luxury when coming from the U.S. But it is almost essential here in order to get things done. For example, for letting the garbage men in to pick up the garbage to doing the grocery shopping to maintaining yards that are constantly in grow mode because of all the sun and rain.

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

There are several gyms, including a CrossFit gym. There is a gym at the Embassy. Locals gyms can be expensive, more like western prices.

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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?

Everyone still prefers cash here. Some places will charge you less if you pay cash instead of with a credit card. But you can use credit cards at most places. There are a lot of ATMs and they've never given me a problem.

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

Most churches in Colombo have at least one English service or mass per week. But we haven't been to one since the Easter Sunday attacks.

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

You can get by in English for most everything

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

It is not easy living in this city with an able body. I can imagine having a physical disability here would be very challenging.

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Transportation:

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

Local buses are all private, which means that they are all competing for riders. Buses are old, drivers go too fast, and we are advised against using them. In-country trains are considered nice, but we've never taken one. "Regular" taxis are hailed through Uber, PickMe, Kangaroo Cab, and others. You can use an app to call a tuk tuk or hail one yourself. Tuk tuks usually overcharge foreigners. But that usually means paying about $1.50 for a ride instead of $.50.

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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?

Sri Lanka only allows cars with steering wheels on the right (they drive on the left). So most people get their cars at post from departing expats.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. Internet was already installed at our home when we arrived. But we had to call to upgrade the service. It has worked pretty well, but there are occasional glitches.

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

I brought my unlocked phone from my last post and bought a pre-paid SIM card at the airport when I arrived in Sri Lanka. Local plans are cheap and you can pay by the minute or the month for data.

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Pets:

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

Veterinarians seem few and far between here. Kennels, too. We have a dog, but we adopted her when we arrived. Sri Lanka is overrun with street dogs. I am unsure about whether animals must quarantine upon arrival.

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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?

Most expat spouses work at the Embassy. Otherwise, they telecommute to other jobs in the U.S. or volunteer.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

You can volunteer with the street dog charity Embark. There are always opportunities to volunteer to work on school or embassy events.

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

Dress casual most always. Formal dress if you plan to attend the Marine Ball or similar event. But in general, bring more flip flops and fewer heels.

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Health & Safety:

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

Sri Lanka feels very safe and there is little to no crime. Like most places, there is occasional street harassment from men (if you're a woman). The Easter Sunday terrorist attack happened while we were at post (and we were evacuated for a time afterwards). So that continues to put me on edge, even if the rest of the country seems to have gotten on with things.

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

Dengue Fever is still common here. Local medical care is considered good, but I have not used it often because I can take advantage of the healthcare providers at the embassy. Dentistry is cheap and good.

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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 moderate thanks to sea winds, but sometimes it's not great.

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

Everything is constantly in bloom, so there's always some pollen. Old houses can be dusty and moldy, no matter what you do. Monsoon time can be difficult for those who get allergies from mold and mildew.

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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)?

No winter blues here! A particularly lengthy monsoon can dampen the mood, though.

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

It's always about 85F, whether it is sunny or raining. It's usually rainy from May-July and August-December. The rest of the time it's hot and sunny.

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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 families send their kids to the Overseas School of Colombo (OSC). It's on par with other international schools. The commute can be far if you live downtown (30 min to an hour each way). But the kids seem to like it ok. Sports and music programs are inadequate in my experience.

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

There are school counselors and assistance for special-needs kids. Our kid has benefitted from these services and the school has accommodated our 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 several preschools, including ones that are closer in town to where people live. I don't know whether they are expensive. Our school (OSC) does not really provide before- or after-school care. But there are after-school activities (from sports to crafting to community service) that can fill this gap if you need. A lot of working parents employ housekeepers or nannies to help with childcare.

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

There are some, like soccer and ballet. But I have been disappointed by the options.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community here is pretty small. If you don't know someone from work then you probably know them from school. Morale is so-so - probably best when the weather is nice and you can head to the beach for the weekend.

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

There are quiz nights, exercise groups, book clubs. There is less mingling between expats and locals here than I've experienced at other posts.

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

This post is probably better for families than for singles.

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

There doesn't seem to be much here for the LGBT community.

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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?

Sri Lankans are welcoming and friendly. But they don't go out of their way to befriend expats in my experience.

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

This is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society and most people tend to get along with one another. But old tensions from the Civil War (which ended in 2009) still have potential to flare up.

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

Some of the most beautiful beaches you have ever seen in your life. The mountains around Nuwara Elia are stunning.

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

Haven't explored enough to know about "hidden gems". The obvious ones are quite nice. In Colombo, a sunset drink at the Galle Face hotel is a must.

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

Lotions, spices, teas, textiles, and gemstones are the main things people buy here.

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

Inexpensive cost of living for expats. Nice weather most of the time.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No

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

Winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, and surfboard.

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

Not a particular book about the country. But "The English Patient" is an incredible read and was written by Sri Lankan-born Michael Ondaatje.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Sri Lanka is a lovely country and some people absolutely love it. However, it's remoteness can be lonely, especially during these Covid times when we can't leave the island.

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 04/03/20

Background:

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

This is our sixth overseas assignment. We also lived in West Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.

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

Our home base is on the East Coast. It takes about 24 hours to get home from Colombo. There is no direct flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About a year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

People can often choose between a house or an apartment. The houses tend to be roomy and have some green space, but they are often older and require a lots of maintenance. The apartments are new and modern, with excellent amenities (pool, gym, etc.). Commute time between the apartments and the US Embassy is about five minutes by tuk-tuk. It's longer from most of the houses in the housing pool, but still probably fewer than 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?

There are modern grocery store chains (e.g., Keells, Cargills, Arpico), specialty markets, and wet markets. You can find most things if you look hard enough, but probably not all in the same place. Food is not particularly expensive, with the exception of imported items.

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

There's not much I can't find a replacement for or live without. I am glad I shipped sensitive-skin laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent.

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

Uber Eats is a popular delivery service. There are lots of fast food options (e.g., KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Subway). Local food is very inexpensive. High end international restaurants tend to be in the better hotels (e.g., Cinnamon, Shangri-La, Galle Face Hotel, Kingsbury, etc.) and the prices are comparable to the USA.

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

I can't speak to the houses, but my high-rise apartment is mostly bug free.

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Daily Life:

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

We are fortunate to have diplomatic mail privileges, so we can use the Embassy mailroom (pouch and DPO) to send and receive mail.

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

Full-time help (housekeepers, cooks, drivers, nannies, gardeners) are usually paid between $175 and $250 per month. Most expats employ at least one person, full- or part-time. Some expats have several people on staff.

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

There's a gym at the Embassy and at the apartment complex where many expats live. There are also private gyms. Popular options include Cross-Fit and Prana Lounge (yoga).

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

Credit cards are widely accepted. I tend to get cash from the Embassy cashier or the on-site ATM, but there are ATMs at the big banks. As far as I know, they are safe to use.

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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's not necessary to speak Sinhala, especially in Colombo. About a quarter of the population speaks English fluently.

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

I suspect it would be challenging but not impossible.

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Transportation:

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

Buses can be dangerous and we are discouraged from riding them. Tuk-tuks are everywhere and affordable. Taxis generally take the form of Ubers and Pick-Me (an Uber competitor); rates are low. Trains are popular with Sri Lankan commuters and international tourists. They are cheap, but can be slow and 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?

We bought a right-hand drive car at post. It's nice to have an SUV for trips around the country, but the roads can be narrow. Gas is expensive. Driving is a hair-raising experience, so expect occasional scrapes and bumps. Fortunately, the speeds are usually slow enough to avoid serious injury.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. The Embassy often sets it up before 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 have a US phone number through Google FI and a local SIM card (Dialog) on the same phone. It might not be the most elegant or economical approach, but it works well to ensure that I can make/receive local calls and also receive two-factor authentication passcodes that are sent to my US phone number.

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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?

Unknown. Pets are not allowed in the apartments.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are quite a few EFM jobs at the Embassy; this is the first post I've been to where supply matches or exceeds demand. Some spouses retain their US-based jobs and telecommute. Local salaries are very low, so the only expats I know who work on the local economy own their own businesses or have expat packages with private sector companies.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Sri Lanka is a middle-income country. I'm sure there are volunteer opportunities, but I don't know of many. I have a teenager who wanted to do some volunteering, and we had trouble finding the right organization.

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

Smart casual in public places and business/business casual at work is usually appropriate. Sri Lanka is a fairly conservative country, so I don't wear shorts, except at home. Formal dress is only required for the Marine Ball, at least in my world.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not that I'm aware of. I feel safe.

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

Dengue fever is a concern. In my limited experience, medical care isn't great in Sri Lanka. I tend to get routine medical care (dentist, annual physical, routine follow-ups) in the USA or elsewhere (e.g., Singapore, Bangkok), whenever possible.

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

The air quality is moderate.

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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)?

Sometimes the island feels claustrophobic. Airfares can be high, making regional travel an investment.

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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 always warm, ranging from comfortably warm to uncomfortably hot. The seasons differ on the west and east coast. In Colombo, it rains frequently from May to October. The other half of year can be quite dry.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are quite a few international schools. Most of the Embassy kids go to The Overseas School of Colombo (OSC) in Battaramulla, in the outskirts of the city (it can take up to an hour to get to school on the school bus.) A few young kids go to the new Singapore School, which is more centrally located.

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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?

Preschools are available. Day care tends to take the form of a nanny. OSC provides after-school care in the form of free after-school activities on most days, except Wednesdays (early dismissal day).

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

Most sports teams and activities are affiliated with the schools. The sports teams are not particularly competitive. There's at least one private soccer club (TAFA), but there aren't (m)any other leagues/teams to compete against. There are private cricket clubs. Kids can take private swimming and tennis lessons. Music lessons, particularly piano, seem hard to come by.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community isn't particularly big. Morale is high.

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

People tend to social informally. It's a friendly community, both in the Embassy community and the larger expat community.

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

It's not a bad city for anyone, but it can be quite dull. You have to make your own fun.

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

Unknown, but if I had to guess, I'd say no.

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

It's not particularly difficult to make friends with locals, but expats tend to stick together. Some locals who were educated abroad (e.g., USA, Australia, the UK) straddle both worlds and are integrated into the expat community. The divide between expats and locals tends to be primarily socio-economic.

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

The Sri Lanka war is over and the country seems committed to healing old wounds, but I get the sense there is some lingering tension between ethnic groups, which was exacerbated by the 2019 Easter bombings and the recent elections.

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

Sri Lanka is a great place to be a tourist, from beaches to tea plantations to cultural sites, there's something for everyone. It's a great place to learn to surf, see animals, and hike, but be prepared to spend all day in the car to get most places, except the southern beaches.

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

Compared to many other places I've lived, Sri Lanka is not a shopping post. You'll spend lots of money on travel, but probably not on local products.

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

It's relatively easy living.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Sure, but only for two or three years.

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

Preconceived ideas. Sri Lanka will surprise you. It's a combination of modern and ancient, friendly and guarded. It's changing rapidly.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience -- on the road, at restaurants, at work. They don't call is "island time" for nothing.

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

There are many. Elephant Complex is a good place to start.

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 09/28/17

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?

Birmingham, AL - The trip from the Atlanta Airport is about 18-20 total hours flight time. Close to 30 hours travel time. Connections in Amsterdam and Dubai or Mumbai

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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.)?

Diplomat.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in a home that is surrounded by a wall and bars on all windows. That being said, I have never felt unsafe in the city. We live about 3 km from the embassy so we walk often. Traffic in the city makes travel times very long sometimes. Our house is large and comfortable. Many expats also live in apartments that are a nice size but often lack storage.

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

After some time you will be able to find most of what you need in Colombo. If you tend to eat more like the locals i.e.: curry everything. You will find groceries inexpensive. If you tend to eat like a westerner, they are a little more pricey. Fresh produce is available and inexpensive. Items like toilet paper and paper towels are available, but we have them shipped over from Amazon. We use local cleaning supplies for some things, and I use a lot of white vinegar that I brought with me. It's here but it's pricey. Beef is not a good quality here, although you can find some from Australia but it is pricey. Chicken is our main staple and there is seafood, of course. Overall, we spend slightly more on groceries here than we did back home but that is because I have a tendency to cook more American-style foods.

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

I didn't ship enough shampoo, conditioner or peanut butter. Sri Lankan's hair is different, they use heavy conditioners and for my oily hair, I haven't found a local shampoo that I like. Also, tampons are nonexistent in this country. So if you are a woman and those are important, bring or ship them.

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

Everything delivers here. The grocery store, the bakery, Indian, Thai, Chinese, pizza, McDonalds, Domino's, you name it and they deliver.

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

We have ants... all the time. Everywhere. Geckos are all around but they eat mosquitos so we let them live ;)

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch. There are postal facilities, but my friends who aren't with the embassy say it's difficult to work with them.

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

Household help is available and very inexpensive. We employ a housekeeper full-time and a gardener part-time. Many of our friends that have cars also employ a driver.

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

Gyms are everywhere and are also inexpensive. Approximately $400.00 for the year.

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

We use our credit card most places. We don't use ATMs but many of our friends do - they tend to use the ones at banks or inside hotels. I don't use my credit card if it's being taken off somewhere other than at hotel restaurants. I use it when it's being charged in front of me.

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

The country is mainly Buddhist with some Hindu. We are Christians and have found several churches that have an English speaking church service.

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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?

Most people speak some English. I get by fine and really only know a few words in Sinhalese.

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

They would have trouble. There are some sidewalks but they aren't always maintained, and traffic is tough to cross sometimes. Many spaces aren't ADA accessible.

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Transportation:

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

We are here without a car. I don't recommend using the local bus - they're dangerous. Trains are really cheap but are very very basic - like standing room and no AC unless you reserve ahead of time for first class - but those are more for longer trips not everyday use. Uber is here and is affordable, there is also another Uber-like taxi service called Pick me and then there are Tuk Tuks. They're cheap and readily available.

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

I would not advise you bring a large car or a new car. Things are small in Sri Lanka ;-) and traffic rules are virtually nonexistent, so expect to get dings and scrapes on your car.

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Phone & Internet:

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

High-speed internet is available but it is not unlimited. Everything works on "island time," so internet set up is not bad, but to get a repair or make changes or even get an accurate bill is really an inconvenience.

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

We brought unlocked iPhones, and purchased a SIM card as soon as we arrived. It was quick and easy - just have your passport handy to get the SIM card. Cellular Data is VERY cheap 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?

We didn't bring an animal, so I am not sure of the restrictions or vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Most spouses are either employed by the embassy or they telecommute. However there is a 10 1/2 hour time difference (give or take an hour depending your home time zone) so that needs to be considered when keeping your job in the states. Local pay is low and I don't know anyone working in the local market.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Volunteer opportunities abound. Sri Lanka is a developing nation and rely heavily on the charity of others especially when there is a natural disaster. The stray dog population is huge, there are many orphanages or daycare agencies that rely on volunteers for help. Whatever your passion, there is a place for it.

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

Saris are still very popular dress for locals and sarongs for men. So, you can be a bit more casual, however, in the embassy many tend to dress in suits and women dress in business attire as well. In public it is still taboo to show shoulders and knees in much of Sri Lanka, however, in Colombo and the coastal tourist areas, it is fine. Just err on the side of being conservative.

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Health & Safety:

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

Some people report being harassed by tuk-tuk drivers or passers by. Sri Lankans stare. They don't mean anything by it most of the time. They are generally very warm and welcoming. They love babies and love to touch them.

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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?

Air quality is not so great, and neither is health care. Any person with medical conditions outside of the usual basic needs should be medically evacuated. That being said, one of my friends had a cesarean section here and said it was a great experience.



Dengue fever is rampant. It's carried by mosquitos, and really needs to be take seriously.

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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?

See above - air quality is relatively poor inside of Colombo. Most people deal with sinus issues at some point.

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

We don't drink the water, and I don't eat salad outside the home. We wash all our fruits and veggies in vinegar. Health standards aren't as stringent here.

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

No winter, so no problem here. However, many people do experience a mild depression at one point. I truly don't know why, but I have experienced it myself. Things are a little harder here and sometimes all those little things just add up. Sri Lanka is beautiful, and its fun, but also hard.

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

It's hot, year round. Two rainy seasons one in the "fall" ending late October and one in the early summer - beginning in May. Even in the rainy seasons, though, there are periods of sun, it's just when the rain comes, it comes hard and fast.

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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 Overseas School of Colombo is where most embassy families go. It is a great school, preK-12 are offered with many after school activities. The commute to and from school by bus is the only negative in that it can take over an hour in the afternoons for the kids to get home because of so much traffic. However, the school itself has been one of the best experiences of our time in Colombo.

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

There is learning support for children with milder learning disabilities. The school is not equipped for handicapped children, as there are many many stairs and no elevators.

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

The Overseas School has a preschool, and there is an American preschool that many embassy families use.

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

There are local sports available. Many through the school but some kids are in swimming, soccer, and tennis. There is also dance, gymnastics (although very limited) and even some karate.

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Expat Life:

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

There is a large expat community. The IEA (international expat association) is large and very active and an excellent resource.

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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?

See above - IEA. Many hotels also offer events.


The Community Liaison Office (CLO) at the embassy is wonderful at coordinating things for the American community.

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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 good for all. Something for everyone.

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

Can't say. Sri Lanka is generally very conservative, though.

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

We are Christians, we haven't experienced much prejudice, none by Buddhists - which is the main religion. Men rule. Women still care for children, prepare meals, etc... even if they work.

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

The beaches are endless, picturesque. Seeing the monkeys and elephants abound have been wonderful experiences.

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

Too many to list, Sigaryia Rock, Horton's Plains, Mirissa for the whale watching, Kandy, tea plantations, you name it... you won't run out of things to do.

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

Beautiful handicrafts. Teak is everywhere, pottery, masks, art...

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

It's cheap to live in Colombo, and there is a movement of organic goods. There are several markets that are like hidden gems. EVERYTHING delivers!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Everything is just a little bit harder in Sri Lanka. Everything takes a little bit longer, and everything is a little bit dirtier...

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

I have enjoyed living here but I don't see myself coming back after our tour has ended.

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

American expectations for getting things done efficiently. Things are very inefficient in Colombo. It's hard to see how things could be made so much easier and really see that they just don't care. Also, do not expect the "customer is always right" mentality. They care about the financial bottom line. If you have poor service or a bad experience you will readily receive an apology... but that is all.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure, bug spray and sunscreen, AND WATER BOTTLE - take it everywhere!

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 03/20/17

Background:

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

Colombo was our 5th post following Gimbie (Ethiopia), Tegucigalpa, Port-au-Prince and Oslo.

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

We are nomads, however our R&R and home leave take us to Southern California and Northern Virginia - every time! Usually the flight to Colombo involves a nonstop from Washington to Doha, Dubai or Abu Dhabi (13 hours) and then following a brief (or intended) layover, another 4.5 hours to Colombo. It is a long haul, but not terrible and with Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, all are great airlines!

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived there from 2012-2015.

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

US embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Typical houses in Colombo are great. You usually have a choice of living in a high-rise apartment building within 10 minutes walking distance to the Embassy or USAID (located on Galle Road), or a stand alone large home, that often doesn't have a lot of outdoor space, although most have some. The majority of apartments are located in Colombo 3 (near shopping, tourist hotels and the ocean), whereas stand alone homes are in Colombo 7 and 5 - both great neighborhoods, with 7 being a little more posh, but also located in the vicinity of lots of local schools so traffic at pick-up time becomes hectic.

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

You can find almost anything in Colombo. The US embassy has a commissary which supplies some great additions to what is available on the market. I would definitely say go local! The fish, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruit are out of this world, so take advantage. There are grocery stores all over and on a side note, you can pay your mobile bill, Internet and cable at any big chain grocery store - don't wait in line at the designated mobile phone shop!



Local cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc are available although more expensive then the US. This was a consumables post for US government employees, though I am not sure if that is still the case. If so, bring your favorite brands of shampoo, soap, cleaning supplies and snacks. What is available here is coming out of the UAE and Thailand and not what you are used to - if you need that!



Sri Lanka is not a big dairy consumer, however they do make great ice cream (Il Gelato near Odel) and mini cups of ice cream located near the mosque and Galle Road. Cheese imported or average, milk is UHT but one can find fresh, local milk suppliers if you want.



There is a great fruit/veg local market called Kolpetty. It is more expensive than others (like the one on Kirimandala going to Nawala), but it is close and fresh and you will find surprising things there! Upstairs from the fruit/veg part is fish and above that are 2 grocery stores that have a lot of specialty items! Beema's and Brana's??

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

Happy we had consumables, as I think we saved a lot on cleaning supplies. We go through a lot of peanut butter and pancake syrup; like most places in the world, you can usually find what you need or adapt!

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

There have been lots of restaurants coming up, post 2009 - Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, etc. Plus there are some great coffee shops and cafes too. There is a great site for review on everything in Sri Lanka, yamu.lk.

Take out is available almost anywhere and make sure you keep your eye on new openings of events, venues and restaurants!

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

Expect your ants, cockroaches and flying bugs to visit you frequently while living in Colombo, but all of these can be managed with your personal cleanliness in the kitchen and bathrooms. Mosquitoes can be a problem so make sure your doors and windows (or get screes) are closed during dawn and dusk. There is no malaria but there is dengue fever - our whole family had it at one time or another!

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Daily Life:

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

The postal service in Sri Lanka is not terrible, but it does take a long time. The US embassy has a pouch option, but anything over 2 pounds gets charged heavily, as many posts do!

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

Household help is fabulous! Of course you need to interview well and find someone that fits your needs, but cleaning and cooking can be combined into one or if you want really exclusive cooking, you may take a person for each of these jobs. Additionally, a child minder can be found that meets all your needs, living in or out and can babysit and work weekends - if you pay them right ($200-300/month).



We had a part-time gardener who we paid approximately $50/week (working 2 days a week), and a cook/cleaner who we paid $200 for full time work. Both were men and they were fantastic! Additionally, I hired an English speaking tuk-tuk driver who was awesome and super with the kids, to do the school pick up (our kids were in the French school), and took them to all their activities - back and forth) I paid him and kept him on retainer $225 per month. This way our vehicle was available for either my husband or I to use throughout the day.

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

The US Embassy has a small gym which is pretty good. There are gyms all over town, however we did not have a membership (except for the kids to take swimming lessons on top of the gym at the Racecourse). I believe it would cost you around $100 per month for a membership.

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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. You can use cards most anywhere, however we preferred to get cash (ATM at Embassy or a well-lit, large bank ATM in town) and use cash instead!

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

There are several along Galle Road, the signs indicate when English services are provided, however I am not familiar with the specifics.

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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?

If you learn some Sinhala, you will be greatly appreciated! Even some Tamil as there are many in the businesses and resorts that speak Tamil. However if you only know English you will do okay! Most tuk-tuk drivers know a little and can get around and most shops you will frequent will speak some English.

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

Yes, probably. Sidewalks are improving as are wheelchair ramps, etc, but overall it would not be easy to have any physical disabilities here.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are great and reliable, especially for longer distances in town, like the airport or out to the overseas school. However, tuk-tuks are definitely the way to do for cheap, short distances! They are a little crazy, but if you know the price for various distances, you won't be taken. It can cost .25-50 for short, < 2 km rides or maybe $1 for a few km.



The train should be taken at some point, either to Galle or Kandy, although it is not a speedy, super clean affair.

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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?

If you are just planning staying in town, a simple 4WD is fine - CR-V, Rav4, etc. Most people we knew had Toyotas - Prado, Land Cruiser, etc. They know how to fix these cars and have the parts. Any Nissan, Mitsubishi, etc would be great too.



If you want to get out and have some fun wandering all over the country, then you most certainly want a sturdy, 4WD vehicle with high clearance.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The Internet was pretty good. Sometimes the rain would take out cable tv and internet, but if you got the right number you could usually get service back in a timely way. If I remember it was around $50 for a pretty good connection. We had Dialog for our mobile phones, internet and DsTV connection.

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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?

Dialog, although there are other companies, I think this is what most go with. For the mobile phone, I would recommend buying a pre paid card and just topping up with you get low for both the calls/messages as well as your data. It's much cheaper that way.

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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?

Veterinarians can be improved upon significantly! We never had a problem, but five families during our three years at post lost their dogs for fairly mysterious or unknown reasons. Many say the odd combination of sea air, pollution (although not bad), and humidity can cause detrimental effects on your electronics, anything rubber or plastic, and by virtue of this, maybe the health of the animals. The doctors seem well qualified and we always used PetVet located in Colombo 5.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are some EPAP positions at the embassy and other EFM jobs. I think most people who wanted to work were able to find something. There is the opportunity to do a lot of volunteering with church organizations, orphanages, self-help type projects, etc.



There are some NGOs in Sri Lanka and one might be able to find employment with them, but only with prior connections.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Sri Lankans dress nicely - very professional, however not over the top. Prepare for nice pants and blouses or dresses and for men nice shirts and pants (suits and ties only necessary when meeting with government officials and dignitaries). Spaghetti straps and short-shorts or short skirts are not looked upon favorably. Plenty of tourists go that route because of the heat, however they draw lots of attention because of their lack of respect for the culture.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime, some home burgleries, although most homes have alarms which should be used.

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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 pretty good, with good diagnostics and clinics throughout Colombo. You wouldn't want to get in a really bad car accident too far away from Colombo though, as services dwindle quickly.

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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 really good in the sense that there is often a coastal breeze and the city is not that big. However there is something in the air that does destroy many of the items in your home that are made with rubber and plastic!



Anyone who suffers from allergies will likely face them in Sri Lanka. I took Claritin during the pollen time of year and was fine.

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

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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)?

Nor really! It does get REALLY humid and hot in April and May, but some people live for that!

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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?

Hot and hotter, humid and a little less humid! It is a tropical island, so you get what goes with that and what makes it so green!



It rains from May to September, more or less. However leading up to that, from March to May it is extraordinarily hot! But it is the same in most places in this region.

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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 Overseas School of Colombo (OSC) is where most expat kids attend, who have the money and want the costliest school in the city. Overall I think it is pretty good - I know people who both love and hate it, so hard to say. Our children went to the very small French school. However our kids were young at the time and it worked for them. If your kids are over 13, you might want to consider somewhere else.

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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?

Plenty of preschools, two specifically that most expats send their kids to: the American Preschool & a Montessori school (can't remember the name).

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

There are lots of after-school activities tied to the schools. There are tennis lessons, swimming facilities and soccer clubs that all ages can participate in, depending on the area of town that you live, you will want to find the closest one.

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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 is pretty large - there are many who have fallen in love with Sri Lanka and have moved there permanently or return frequently. Lots of Sri Lankans leave to get a good education in the US, Australia or the UK, and many find themselves returning. So there is a good combination of expats and locals to socialize with.

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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 International Expat Assiciation (IEA) that meets monthly. This is a good place to start. There are book clubs, concerts, parties and any number of activities that if you keep your eye out for, will connect you with many people. Of course many people find themselves at a hotel for the use of their pool or at the embassy recreation center on the weekend to socialize and eat. It is what you make it.

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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. There is plenty to do. There are lots of late night clubs and dances venues for singles or young couples. There are parks and "baby groups" for any young families and for older kids, they make their own fun with friends.

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

You would probably do fine if you weren't overtly flamboyant with your lifestyle. I knew Sri Lankans who were gay, however it is not a widely accepted lifestyle.

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

This is a Buddhist country! That said the Muslims run many of the businesses and the Tamil's and their Hindu are also very present. Within their own society there is lots of prejudice between the classes and religious beliefs, however on the surface one wouldn't really notice, especially as an expat.

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

We were able to travel all over the country while there: The national park lodges, if you can book them, are in spectacular locations and very affordable (Yala, Gal Oya and Wilpattu National Parks), a train trip to Kandy, visiting the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya, Dambulla & SIgirya, a visit out to Mannar, kite surfing and frequent visits to Kalipitiya, north of Trinco and out to Pigeon Island, the history in Jaffna and of course Galle!



Plus you can get fairly cheap flights to India and Bangkok, which enabled us to see Goa, Bangalore, Rajasthan, Delhi, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and Borneo.

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

See above, however there is a yachting club south of the city, you must wander through Pettah market several times, visit the old city hall in Pettah, get ice cream at Il Gelato, witness the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, the Vesak festival on Beira Lake and MUCH more! Renting the real estate agent, Mimi Weerasinghe's, beautiful home in Wadduwa and Sunday brunch at Mt Lavinia hotel or just tea in the middle of the day!

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

Lots of great art, ceramics, woodwork, tea and antiques!

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

It is small enough that you can easily get around and get to know the city well. You can walk safely in most places and use a tuk-tuk right off the street. There is plenty to see and do and it is easy to get out of the city and wander the country and region! Take advantage of the millions of things to see and do in Sri Lanka - it is small, but stuffed full of unbelievable wonders!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

We did a lot of research and knew some Sri Lankans who we questioned endlessly! And once we got to Colombo we never said no to any invitations and took park in any and everything we say - this positioned us to love the people and country quickly.

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

Absolutely! Our 3 years were full to the max with adventures and excitement.

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

Desire for perfection, your impatience and your scratch-free vehicle.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, fleece and boots for your trip to Nuwara Eliya, and your kite!

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

If you are interested in how these cultures still remain as they do and the last days/months of the civil war, read "The Cage", but former UN worker, Gordon Weiss; also find "Island of a Thousand Mirrors", by Nayomi Munaweera; "Anil's Ghost" is interesting and anything by the handsome Ashok Ferrey gives an insight into the daily lives in Sri Lanka.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Fabulous posting, but make the most of it. Day-to-day life, like anywhere, can be frustrating as you learn to love the culture, but the Sri Lankans are lovely people, welcoming and warm and hospitable especially if you extend your activities and interests beyond just the expat groups and integrate yourself!

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 09/28/13

Background:

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

No: Dhaka, Bangladesh; Tokyo, Japan; Libreville, Gabon.

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

Home base: Dallas, TX.

Colomobo to Frankfurt or London (9-11 hours), Europe to Texas (7-9 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Government--U.S Department of State.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Within the embassy, singles and couples generally get assigned apartments within walking distance to the Embassy. Houses are large and usually given to families with more than one child. Commute to Embassy can range from a few minutes to 1/2 hour. All houses/apartments are far from the Overseas School of Colombo.

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

It can be expensive if the item is imported. The Embassy has a small commissary that is open to some of the other overseas missions as well.

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

Stain remover, paper towel/toilet paper, bug repellent, and sun screen.

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

McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino Pizza (cheaper than the U.S).

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

Mosquitoes--dengue is a problem here.

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Daily Life:

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

Have not used the local post but I hear it very reliable in sending things to other countries. Receiving things is hit or miss. The Embassy has pouch.

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

Readily available for approximately Rs. 1000/day.

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

The Embassy has a small one but some apartment buildings include them. Yoga and workout classes are readily available.

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

Bank machines are available but not always reliable. Credit card information can be stolen. We always use cash.

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

Buddhist country, English mass and Protestant services, several mosques, no synagogues that I know of, but there was a rabbi at one point (although I think he left).

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

Yes. We have Dialog Cable TV and Internet service. I am not sure of cost but it's nothing that surprises us.

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

None.

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

Many difficulties. There are only a few streets that are stroller accessible, so getting around with wheelchairs would be an issue.

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Transportation:

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

Trains/taxi's/tuk tuks are safe and affordable. Buses are dangerous and I'm not sure the bus drivers are even qualified to drive. It seems like a deadly race between the drivers most days. Everyone must yield to the buses to stay 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?

An SUV is best, especially if leaving Colombo.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, it's fairly reliable, and reasonably fast. Crews will come out in a day or two if there are issues. It's not particularly expensive but I am not sure of exact cost

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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?

Locally available and 'pay as you go' options are 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 although teachers can find jobs.

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

Light summer clothes. Professional for work, modest for public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. It's much safer since the civil war ended in 2009.

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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 developing, but not horrible. There are a handful of local doctors trained abroad (pediatricians, gynecologists, eye doctors, dentists) that expats use.

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

Good.

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

Hot, humid, rainy 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?

The Overseas School of Colombo offers an IB program--most embassy families are happy with the school. Other schools for expats include the British School and the Colombo International School.

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

First Step preschool will accept some children with disabilities, which is not common in Sri Lanka. OSC does not accept students with severe learning disabilities as there are no adequate resources available.

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

There are three preschools that the expat community uses: First Step (where I send my daughter, the director is from California), The American Preschool, and the International Children's House. All have their benefits and families seem happy with all of them.

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

OSC offers some; swimming lessons are available.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium, great international expat community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends. We're happy here and find it fairly easy but those who have not served real "hardships" tend not to be happy here and find a lot to complain about. It can be difficult for first time expats as well.

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

Mostly expat groups or private parties. Clubs/discos are here as are many restaurants.

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

Yes! Although can be considered a boring and quiet post (which we like). There is not much for singles looking for an active social life.

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

There is still some conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese, but expats are generally safe.

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

Beach getaways, regional trips to Maldives.

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

Go to the beach, museums, see temples, bowling, swimming, parks...

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

GEMS (specifically the blue sapphire that Sri Lanka is known for), cane furniture, antique furniture, local paintings, sarees, posh resorts in Sri Lanka, and travel to Maldives.

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

Great beaches, wonderful local people, relatively safe, great international expat community, and easy to function in English.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, but be prepared to be a little shocked at the prices at first. You'll get used to it!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES! And we'd stay longer!

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

First world expectations, warm clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, sandals, and positive attitude.

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 09/23/12

Background:

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

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

UK. 11 hours direct flight

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The writer owns a business in Colombo and has been living there for ten years, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I live in a rented house in Colombo centre, 10 minutes to the office. Avoid school leaving time at 1.30pm Utter chaos!

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

Imported items have a HUGE tax added, as they are "luxury" items. Cheese, washing powder, booze. Most electrical items are the same price as in the West - yet the average salary is just $3,500 a year.

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

Electrical items (for reliability and value), household cleaning goods.

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

Many. Ignore the fast food ones. They are terrible. EVERYTHING has chilli in it. Many good restaurants are listed in the guides. All gay-friendly.

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

Dengue is rampant and VERY dangerous There is no vaccine for it.

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Daily Life:

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

A courier is relatively cheap to Europe and USA. Do NOT send money in an envelope (or what might be construed as money). It will not get there. Don't expect mail to arrive unopened here either.

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

Available and cheap. A live in domestic will be about $200 a month; a driver about $250.

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

Yes, but they are quite expensive, even for expats. Don't expect a "family ticket for you and the b/g/f.

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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 over 1,000 ATMs on the island.

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

Yes. There is an English protestant church in Colombo.

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

Yes, 3 English dailies and 4 on Sundays. Cable TV with US and international programmes. 70 channels for $18 a month.

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

Not a lot in Colombo but it would be very beneficial outside. It's appreciated, too.

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

Many, especially if chairbound.

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Transportation:

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

All are affordable, but safety is an issue. I wouldn't travel on a bus if my life depended on it. Trains are dirty, erratic and crowded. No comfort whatsoever. Negotiate with tri-shaws before getting in - - - although many now are metered. There has been a huge influx of small mini-taxis ---all metered--- in main towns. Good value.

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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?

Japanese cars are your best bet, but expect 300%+ tax on importation.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, but service is patchy. $10 a month for 125kb/sec.

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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?

Buy a local SIM asap! You will have to give your passport number. Check the IDD costs between the 5 suppliers.

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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)?

OK as far as i know.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Only with NGOs. Everyone has to have a Permanent Residence Visa, and that has to be either sponsored by a company you work for or requires an investment that now starts at $250,000.

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

Slacks, shirt and tie. Shorts outside

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Health & Safety:

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

Not since the war ended. All checkpoints are now down.

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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 much improved. Health insurance is available. There are some very good private hospitals and doctors. Dentists are a bit thin on the ground.

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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 to unhealthy due to poor exhaust control.

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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?

Humid! Two monsoons a year.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Quite large but hidden. Nearly 5000 Brits, so the total is probably about 10,000.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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

Limited, but Colombo hotels are very vibrant. Night clubs are mafia-controlled.

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

It is probably better for families, but there arevery limited activities for all anyway.

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

Well, males can get up to 20 years at hard labour if prosecuted. But ... no-one can remember the last time anyone was.

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

Yes! There are heavy racial issues. Also economic racism: whites=foreigners=wealthy.

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

Building a house!

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

Beaches, mountains, gay parties (private and off the radar of many).

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

Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. Also: furniture, pictures, DVD's, and CD's.

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

The weather and the cost of living.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. The exchange rate is volatile but interest rates are currently %13.50 for a 3-month fixed deposit

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

winter kit and DVD/CD collection. ( The latter costsless than $1 here.)

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3. But don't forget your:

personal care stuff, household products, suntan lotion, book collection

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

Lonely Planet

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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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Colombo, Sri Lanka 12/07/11

Background:

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

Second experience. Lived in Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan 2008-2009.

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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 to Sri Lanka via Dubai takes approximately 16 to 18 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

2009-2011

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

U.S. government employees live in large old houses and in two or three newer condomimiums. Most of the condos are within a 10-15 minute walk to the U.S. Embassy. The houses are 20-40 minutes (depending on traffic).

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

There are grocery stores now - Cargill's and Keell's; and Arpico is a "super" market. They were building a new large Arpico when I left Sri Lanka; and the smaller markets were offering more western food choices. Household supplies are difficult to find, it is easier to bring these things with.

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

Baking supplies, toilet paper, cleaning products, cheese if I could figure out how to ship it.

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

There are two McDonald's, one KFC, and two Pizza Huts in Colombo. Fast food in Sri Lanka is curry and rice which is available everywhere. Food quality is a big issue. The larger hotels all have restaurants, cost is reasonable in comparison to U.S. costs, although outrageously expensive in comparison to the local economy.

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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?

Curry and rice is vegetarian. There were a couple of organic food providers that deliver.

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

Lots of insects as in any tropical country. Big problem with mosquitos, particularly those that carry dengue.

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Daily Life:

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

I frequently sent and received letters and packages through the Sri Lankan postal service. They arrived quickly and in good condition; the cost was quite reasonable.

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

Very cheap, very available, but training may be required in hygiene and how to clean properly.

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

Some of the condos have small gyms, the larger hotels have gyms with memberships available to expats.

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

Don't use credit cards and ATMs. Credit card theft is rampant in Sri Lanka, even at the big name-brand hotels.

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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?

The local cable service offered channels from SE Asia like AXN and WB which carry English language (American) programming.

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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?

It really helps to learn the basics in Sinhala - yes, no, thank you, (I) don't want it, it's too expensive, right, left, stop, etc.

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

It would be extremely difficult for someone with physical difficulties due to the lack of sidewalks, broken paving/holes, drivers not stopping for pedestrians, etc. It is very dangerous to walk (or drive) in Sri Lanka.

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Transportation:

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

The buses are very dangerous because of the crazy driving and because of pick-pockets (with knives).The trains are better, but we weren't permitted to ride at night. The local taxi services are safer as they have seat belts, however they are very unreliable. Trishaws (tuk-tuks) are very dangerous, but extremely convenient. A taxi costs less than a tuk-tuk though.

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

To see the country, a vehicle is necessary; however driving is very difficult in Sri Lanka because of the lack of adherence to traffic laws (the only real rule is bigger rules; i.e. buses have right of way).The roads are not in good condition, two-lane, very crowded with buses, trishaws, motorbikes, cows, people, etc. all doing their own thing. Don't bring a nice expensive vehicle, buy one local that can get all dinged and scratched up.

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Phone & Internet:

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

I paid $100.00 a month for sporadic medium speed internet - enough to phone someone using Skype, but not enough for video or for downloading. And it went out frequently.

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

There is very limited coverage, no 3G or coverage for iPhones. Cheap unlocked phones are available, sometimes though they may be stolen goods.

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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?

At the time I left the Sri Lankan government outlawed bringing in pet cats.

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

There is a reputable veterinarian in Colombo.

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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?

Most expats I met worked for NGO's or married Sri Lankans and opened restaurants.

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

It's a conservative religious country so women should make sure their legs and arms are covered. Hot and humid weather means lightweight clothing.

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Health & Safety:

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

The civil war just ended in May 2009, there are still armed military checkpoints throughout the city; and very heavy security near Temple Trees on Galle Road.

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

Dengue fever is rampant, there are 4 strains - each worse than the last. The medical care is substandard by American standards.

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

The air quality is not good in Colombo because of all the buses and trishaws.

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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 hot and humid year round. There are two monsoons - in the southwest from approximately April-July/August; in the northeast from November/December-February.

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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 Overseas School is quite far out of Colombo so the commute time for students is long. When it floods in Colombo (and it floods all the time) it closes down roads leading to/from the school.

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

Unknown

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

No experience with this as I am single; however I know most families have a full-time maid/nanny.

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

Cricket and football (soccer).

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Expat Life:

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

Probably about 500-1,000 or so, mostly European (German, Italian)

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2. Morale among expats:

It's a tough place to live because of the difficulties in getting certain basic food and household supplies, language difficulties, and the difficulty in getting out of town.

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

There are a couple of movie theaters in Colombo, although most movies are Bollywood. There is always a weirdly timed intermission in the movies.

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

It seems a better city for couples than for singles or families. There is not a lot for children to do once you've been to the elephant orphanage and the zoo. Although the city is on the ocean, the water quality is very poor and it is necessary to drive an hour to the north or south minimum to find a fairly clean beach. The night life for singles is sketchy at best, there are a handful of nightclubs that single expats frequent.

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

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

Yes, these problems contributed to the civil war. Sinhalese vs. Tamils/Muslims. Buddhists vs. everyone else. Women are highly discouraged from being out alone after dark.

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

Hiking to the top of Sri Pada (Adam's Peak), visiting the cultural triangle of Anuradhnapura, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa. The tea estates upcountry near Kandy are beautiful, and the climate is much cooler.

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

An hour to the north or south there are acceptable beaches. For better beaches the drive is closer to 3-4 hours. There is an elephant orphanage about an hour inland on the road to Kandy. Lots of temples and archaeological ruins to see. Trips upcountry to Kandy.

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

The local masks are amazing, lots of Indian-style brassware, there are great shops for very colorful fabrics - everything from pillows to silk sari material.

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

Sri Lanka's countryside is amazing - mountain ranges, tea plantations, white sand beaches. There are ancient ruins scattered throughout the country, and wild elephants.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes because there's really nothing to do.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's an amazing country, the people are very friendly, the history and archaeology are fantastic, the beaches in the south are beautiful, the countryside is lush and almost pristine. Yes, I would still go.

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

Winter clothes. It's hot and humid year round, and Columbia Sportswear has a factory outlet in Nuwara Eliya where you can pick up a new down jacket at 50-70% off!

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3. But don't forget your:

Mosquito repellent, sun screen, and toilet paper.

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

I found the Lonely Planet guide very helpful for finding my way around the island.

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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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Colombo, Sri Lanka 02/08/10

Background:

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

Jerusalem, West Bank and Washington DC, USA

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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?

Current home base is Washington, DC - 16 hours connecting through London or Frankfurt

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 1/2 years

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

Affiliated with 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?

Large beautiful houses with yards and some with swimming pools. Apartments also available in the city center.

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

Imported goods are expensive as is the case everywhere. Local produce is relatively cheap and of decent quality. Not everything is available all the time so sometimes you have to stuck up on items like canned tomatoes, frozen corn or cream cheese. But if you are not a planner, and can go with whatever is available in the supermarket that day, it is not a big problem.

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

Washing powder, good quality sun screen, mosquito repellent with DEET and shoes for the whole family.

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

McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC and Domino's are the most prominent chains (around 3-4 USD for a burger meal, 4-5 USD for a small pizza). But there are lovely more upscale restaurants available, making the fast food chains only a rare best option. Delivery service available through roomservice.lk Indian, Sri Lankan, Swiss, Steak, and mixed Western are all readily available and of good quality. Mexican food hard to get.

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

Increasing problems with mosquitos carrying Dengue fever.

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Daily Life:

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

Easy, quick and cheap to send letters and packages through local post.

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

Readily available cost is about 200 USD for a nanny/maid and slightly more for a driver.

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

Yes, all the major hotels have gyms of decent quality, but they are quite expensive.

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

We use ATMs mainly at the HSBC and we use our credit card to pay for groceries etc.

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

English-language services available.

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

Several newspapers in English and also TV, though, I don't know much about that as we don't have cable TV.

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

Basically none as everybody speaks English, but the British Council has Sinhala classes and that is great way to meet people when you first arrive.

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

A lot. There are no sidewalks in lots places, lack of elevators and few restrooms with wheelchair access.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are very safe and very affordable. Buses and trains also safe if you don't mind standing and are familiar with the jump-off-while-driving technique.

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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 4-wheel-drive, but it is not strictly necessary. It does make for a nicer ride on the bumpy roads, though. Japanese cars most popular.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Available, cost about 30 USD a month. Speed is fairly OK.

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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 have a Dialogue pay as you go plan and that works for me.

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Pets:

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

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

Vets available. I think there is one kennel close to the airport.

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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, very difficult to get a work permit.

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

Modest. Sleeves for women, no tank tops in public and skirts below the knee.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really, feels very safe. You can live anywhere in the city or the suburbs. Also safe to be out at night.

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

Dengue is a concern and other mosquito born diseases. Lots of hospitals with decent medical care. I gave birth here and had a good experience.

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

moderate

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

Two rainy seasons. Rest of the year sunny and around 30 degrees celsius.

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Schools & Children:

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

My children attend the Overseas School of Colombo and they and we absolutely love it. Small IB (PYP, MYP and IB) school, with great management and warm nurturing environment. Highly recommend. There is also a British school, another International school with expats attending: Colombo International School (CIS) and a very small French school. A number of smaller English medium schools also available.

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

None.

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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 plenty of preschools. Lots of Montessori schools. I have a child at the Pre-OSC and that has been a good experience. This school will close down in the summer of 2010 and the children will move to the main campus outside of town.

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

Swimming, tennis, cricket, football.

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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. Morale among expats:

Mixed, lot of complaining going on. Either you love it or you hate it here and once you have started on one path it is very difficult to change.

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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?

Restaurants, bars, bbqs, private parties, swimming.

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

Great for families. Seems to be also quite alright for singles and couples. Lots of nice restaurants and some nightclubs as well.

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

We know several gay and lesbian couples and they all seem to be pretty happy with Colombo.

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

Religious prejudice not generally a problem. But tension between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority exist.

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

Beautiful architecture, lovely hotels, great beaches and lots of culture.

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

Tour the hotel pools, go to Galle, Dambulla, Yala national park, Bentota beaches, Una Watuna, restaurants, High Tea at Galle Face hotel.

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

Barefoot stuffed animals and hand painted porcelain, wood and stone work.

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

Colombo is a small city, but very pleasant and easy. Nice weather not too hot and lots of places to visit out side of the city on the weekends.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel too much in the region and spend your weekends at 5-star-hotels.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, absolutely.

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

Winter clothes and bicycle.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, sense of adventure and positive attitude.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 09/07/08

Background:

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

Hong Kong, Bangkok.

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2. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

Government.

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

24 hours from Honolulu via Narita and Singapore, probably the same from U.S. West Coast via Singapore or Dubai.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

US Embassy personnel have single family homes, Long term TDY generally stay at Hilton apartments or Crescat Towers.

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

Expect Western food to be just as expensive as at home. Cargill's supermarket is dependable but don't expect to find good beef and seafood is subject to histamines from poor refrigeration. There is a good seafood market on Duplication Road and near the U.S. embassy.

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

Take your golf clubs.

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

Rice and curry. Get used to it. I never ate at McDonalds but rather went to smaller restaurants. The name restaurants at hotels are just as expensive as Europe or the U.S.

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Daily Life:

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

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

I'm told US$100 a month for a cook or maid.

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

Don't use your credit card for anything but cash from a Hong Kong Shanghai Bank ATM. Even then watch for it being compromised.

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

Yes.

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

Many.

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

None.

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

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Transportation:

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

Left hand only but Sri Lankan drivers make their own rules - maintain eye contact with other drivers.

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

Taxis and tuk-tuks safe (unless you're in a tuk-tuk and hit broadside). Trains and public buses are currently off limits to U.S. Embassy mission personnel due to random bombings.

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

Toyota Landcruiser is the vehicle of choice but stick with a mid-size Toyota or Nissan SUV. Vehicles can be purchased in-country or Singapore.

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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?

Expensive but I was in the Hilton Apartments - get it by the month and have it included in the cost of your rent.

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

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

I had a Sri Lankan cell phone and called Hawaii everyday for less than US$60 a month. Minimum charge for a cell phone is US$3/month.

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Pets:

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

Yes but most dogs are free spirits and homeless.

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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 sure.

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

Black pants and white shirt. Shirt with tie to look professional.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

Random bus and train bombings. Sri Lankan military and political targets are hit by claymores and roadside IED's. Westerners are relatively safe if they avoid political and military target.

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

Water is relatively safe but stick with bottled water outside large hotels. Dengue fever and chicangunya (sp?) transmitted by mosquitos. Purchase MedJetAssist insurance for medical evacuation if you're too banged up to get on a commercial flight out. Medications are over the counter and from India. Many drugs are knock-offs that are the genuine generic. I rarely saw an ambulance in Colombo.

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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?

Monsoons in autumn.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

About 600, mostly European. Large Korean community and some Japanese.

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2. Morale among expats:

Surprisingly very upbeat.

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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?

As I said, the N&G Golfing Society occupied most of my time on weekends and the friends I made led to other social events or outings. A N&G golf outing to Kandy is a rowdy bus trip and a fun-filled dinner. Some golf was played but I have trouble remembering it. I would not recommend going to casinos other than to look and leave.

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

There are activities throughout the year for embassy events, AmChamber of Commerce, Rotary clubs etc. On weekends many expats play golf with the N&G Golfing Society at the Royal Colombo Golf Club. The N&G welcomes all golfers who like to drink beer afterward.

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

Wouldn't know but am told that if you mind your own business, the locals leave you alone.

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

The usual.

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

Travel to the hill country and resorts but travel is difficult due to bad roads and bad drivers. Contact Royal Colombo Golf Club and ask to be introduced to the N&G Golfers on the weekends. A great group of expats who form close relationships and provide more than just golf

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

Clothes at Barefoot, not much else.

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9. Can you save money?

Oh yes, if you can stay out of the expensive restaurants.

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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:

Winter clothing and 110 volt appliances. Leave your bicycle at home unless it's a trail bike. I would NOT ride a bicycle or motorcycle in Sri Lanka.

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3. But don't forget your:

Special meds, sunscreen, mosquito repellant.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Bridge over the River Kwai - filmed in Sri Lanka, Elephant Walk - about Sri Lanka.

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

Anything by Carl Muller, especially The Jam Fruit Tree.

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

Anything by Carl Muller, especially The Jam Fruit Tree.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Colombo, Sri Lanka 02/26/08

Background:

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

I have lived 20 years abroad: Philippines in early 80s; Yangon, Myanmar 1990-94; Hanoi, Vietnam 1994-97; Vienna, Austria 97-99; Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1999-2004; Sri Lanka 2004-?

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2. How long have you lived here?

Nearly 4 years.

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

I work for an NGO.

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

There are direct flights from Europe (London or Frankfurt) that take about 11-12 hours or you can fly via the Middle East (Dubai/Doha) a bit longer.

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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 is a good housing standard. Many expat families with children prefer to live outside of the city, close to the International School of Colombo in Battaramulla - commuting to and from the city can be slow (about 30-40 minutes in rush hour).

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

There is high inflation. Imported items are relatively expensive but not exorbitant.

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

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

There are several fast food places including McDonald's.

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Daily Life:

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

Most mail from abroad seem to get through. For important documents you should use courier service (DHL or similar).

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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$120-200 a month dependent on experience etc. Most are ready available but should come with references.

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

Available everywhere.

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

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

There are several English newspapers as well as cable television.

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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?

English is widely spoken.

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

It would be very difficult to move around on your own. However, people are very helpful.

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Transportation:

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

Left, like the U.K.

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

Trains and buses are very cheap but rather basic. Expats are recommended to avoid buses and trains because of security concerns.

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

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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?

About 2500 rupees a a month for ADSL (not very high speed).

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

Phones available locally in abundance (but not all genuine brands). There is generally good coverage and good service.

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

Neither landline or mobile phone charges are expensive at least for calling Europe.

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Pets:

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

Good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

It depend on the work place. There is no strict dress codes; just use your common sense.

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Health & Safety:

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

Exhaust from buses/cars and occassional burning of garbage in the street. Probably unhealthy in the long run.

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

Yes, there is decades old conflict with bombs going off in Colombo and elsewhere. They are not targetted at foreigners though, who should still avoid public transport where most of the blasts have occurred.

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

There are several private hospitals with good doctors. In Colombo be aware of dengue fever.

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

Hot and humid April - November. Pleasant December-March.

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Schools & Children:

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

OSC in Batteramulla is an international IB school from K-12, most expat children go there. Also there is a British school and two locally-based international schools of high academic standard.

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

Not much, I think.

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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 e.g., OSC,and other good Montessori schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Ok.

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

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

There is not so much for kids and teenagers to do. Traffic is heavy and there are the security concerns. Activities tend to be concentrated at schools.

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

It seems so.

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

No.

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

Travel -- to the mountains, national parks, beautiful beaches, luxury 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?

Interior design items.

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9. Can you save money?

Probably, if you try.

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

Warm clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Favorite brands of make up, swim wear.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Its a good place to live. Friendly people and a a comfortable living.

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