Tunis, Tunisia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Tunis, Tunisia

Tunis, Tunisia 11/03/20

Background:

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

No, multiple European cities, as well as Asian and African.

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

USA. Connections through Paris and Frankfurt.

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3. What years did you live here?

2019 - 2020.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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5. 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?

Most of it is basic concrete houses with variations of views. Most everything is a little bit up, but you can find some charm in it.

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

French Supermarkets stock the main items. Dairy is not great here. It's very inexpensive but often the quality is low.

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

Good dairy products.

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

Chinese, Japanese, Italian about the only thing I don't have is a good Indian place.

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

Cockroaches are around. Nothing major.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

You get what you pay for. Our neighbors hire local help for very little money and have all sorts of issues (perfume being used, not showing up, long breaks) . We hired a nonlocal, pay a little more, and love the help we get.

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

Yes, available and mid-priced. There is also one at the embassy.

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

About 50/50. Large places and restaurants allow card use. There is an ATM at the embassy.

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

Christian.

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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 need some French to venture out.

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

Not really.

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Transportation:

1. 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?

It's like driving in a swarm of bees. Bring something you don't mind denting.

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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, their is. The embassy provides support for this and this helps iron out the inevitable issues.

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

Lots of providers availible.

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Pets:

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

Yes, there are good vets. No quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

It's a tough place for spouses as local pay is so low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, there are lots, orphanages, pets etc. etc.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, there are terrorist attacks here and you should be aware at all times.

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

You can find OK care. COVID is certainly taking a toll on providers.

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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?

Great air, right off the ocean.

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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)?

Not really.

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

It's a great temperature.

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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 three schools of note. The American, British and French. The American has the best facilities, the French is the strictest and the British somewhere in between,

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

Yes, there is a Montessori school here and other options.

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

Absolutely, tennis and soccer are huge here.

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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 and quite good.

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

Restaurants, beach trips. There is plenty for everyone.

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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 decent for both, though COVID had put a dent in the single and couple scene.

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

Yes, Tunisians are wonderfully kind.

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

Yes, there is a large community here.

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

Not for me or my family.

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

Beaches and Roman ruins.

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

There are hundreds of archaeological sites and just as many different beaches.

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

Yes, the Madina is a great place to pick up Tunisian items. Furniture, rugs, pottery, and silly red hats.

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

Great access to Europe, beach life, cheap and easy recreation.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing really.

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

Absolutely. What a great place to spend a few years.

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

Germanic driving theories, concerns about the random pet walking down the street.

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4. But don't forget your:

Defensive driving book.

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Summer_in_La_Goulette

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6. Do you have any other comments?

My family and I really love it here.

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Tunis, Tunisia 05/18/20

Background:

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

No, 6th. Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar, Sarajevo, etc.

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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?

Northern Michigan. About 20 hours. Michigan to Chicago to Frankfurt to Tunis.

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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?

Housing is adequate size but run down. Some have pools. Attempts to improve the housing pool are being made. Typical locations include La Marsa, Carthage, Lac, and Sidi Bou. Commute time is about 15-20 minutes.

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

Groceries are inexpensive but quality often lacks. Some US brands but not much.

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

Dishwasher detergent, peanut butter, coffee, crisco, cake mix, pudding mix, chocolate syrup, vanilla, chocolate chips, cream of tartar, popcorn, salsa, oatmeal, cereal, and pine nuts.

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

Food isn't anywhere near European or US standards. You can find a few "adequate" restaurants like Zink, the Kitchen, Doodle Burger, and four seasons. Pizza Hut is available and is ok.

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

Ants are awful. Mice. Mosquitos are the worst.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO or pouch.

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

About 20USD a day for good house help. Same for gardener. A good gardener is tricky to find.

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

Many gyms 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?

Credit cards are accepted widely, ATMS are everywhere and safe.

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

It is very helpful to speak French. Local tutors are available and are very reasonable.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are generally safe. Trams are fairly safe. I would not take a bus.

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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?

Leave your BMW home. Bring a sturdy, used vehicle.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. Internet is very cheap in Tunis.

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

Local provider-it's 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?

Yes on the vets, no on the kennels. No quarantine for arriving pets. Many, many stray dogs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There is an American School. Several jobs at the Embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are opportunities for fostering dogs and maybe working at dog shelters.

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

Business casual. Formal dress for formal events.

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Health & Safety:

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

Low for crime. Random terror attacks (1-2 each year).

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

Medical care is subpar to US standards but overall ok. Hannibal and La Marsa clinics are 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?

Good. Seasonal allergies are present.

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

Bring your medications!

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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?

The weather is nice. Mild winters, great spring and fall, hot summers.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is a great American School. Some use the French school.

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

The American School has some support systems in place. Parents should work directly with the school.

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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 and they are reasonable. Most are happy with them.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Several hundred. Morale is good.

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

Bonfires on the beach, renting an AirBNB, traveling, and seeing Carthage.

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

Yes, good for all. Plenty of things to do. Clubs for the singles.

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

I think the LGBT community feels that they need to be discreet. But, I haven't heard any other issues.

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

Yes.

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

I think so, but I've not experienced. Not many issues with gender inequality.

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

The travel I've been able to do outside of Tunisia. Cheap flights to Europe.

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

All the Carthage sites are interesting.

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

Carpets and pottery.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That the food wasn't great.

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

Sure.

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

Snow gear (unless you plan to travel to go ski).

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4. But don't forget your:

Bathing suit, water toys, floats.

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

Read up on Tunisia's contribution to WWII

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Tunis, Tunisia 11/29/17

Background:

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

No - I have served at other posts in the region and Europe.

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

Washington, DC. Usually 17-20 hours total with a layover in Paris or Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

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

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?

Housing is split between villas in La Marsa/Sidi Bou Said/Carthage and apartments in the Lac area. The villas are usually pretty large and charming but with weird layouts and in various states of minor disrepair. Commute times are around 20-30 minutes. The apartments are smaller, more modern, and within walking distance to the Embassy.

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

Carrefour, MG Mart and Monoprix are here. Pretty much anything you need you can find here, including peanut butter and taco kits. The brands are French or Tunisian and quality/tastes vary from the US, so we're still bringing in some choice groceries via Amazon. Fruits and vegetables are available fresh and cheap on the local market.



Pork products are available at Carrefour and some specialty shops - in terms of sandwich meat the pork is probably higher quality than the other stuff available by virtue of import.

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

Baking stuff. Vanilla extract, brown sugar, and things like that. Trash bags. What you can buy here inevitably splits and dumps garbage everywhere on the way to the dumpster.

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

Tunis has a number of quality restaurants, most falling into one of the following categories - Tunisian traditional, seafood and steak, and pizza/Italian. There are a number of good sushi places, some trendy burger joints have popped up, and shwarma/kebab shops are pretty common. A few American chains have also opened here - Chilis, Fatburger, Johnny Rockets, Pizza Hut, and Papa Johns come to mind.

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

Ants are ubiquitous and some houses have had issues with cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch.

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

Maids, nannies, gardeners and drivers are available but finding anyone that speaks English will be a major challenge. I pay about $12 a day for household help and $20 a week for a gardener/handyman.

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

The Embassy has a nice gym and very nice swimming pool. There are a number of tennis and soccer clubs available as well.

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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?

This is largely a cash economy but fortunately ATMS are common and seem safe to use. International withdrawal fees are harsh though - try to arrange a deal with your bank ahead of time.

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

Knowledge of French and/or Arabic will be immensely helpful and important for the day-to-day outside of an embassy or international setting. There are tutors and language institutes available.

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

Yes but it is possible. Sidewalks are narrow, uneven and have trees growing in the middle of them or piles of rusty nails on the ground. Many buildings have access ramps but they are not of any sort of standard spec and are often very steep.

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Transportation:

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

Local public transport is not advised. Taxis are OK to use and pretty cheap. Outside of the airport, most drivers are good to use their meters.

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

A small SUV or something with enough clearance to mount curbs every once in a while. The parts of Tunis that expats frequent are fairly well-paved, but venturing outside of those areas or road tripping to sites in the south or west of the country will call for good suspension and 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?

Yes and very cheap, though this seems to vary from house to house. I've had no problems streaming Netflix with the local providers. Some people are forced to rely on expensive 4G web routers instead of the cheaper land-based options because of consistency issues.

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

Bring an unlocked smartphone - most providers offer pay-as-you-go for reasonable rates.

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Pets:

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

There are a number of vets in the La Marsa area and I have heard mixed reviews. No quarantine for pets as far as I know. Many people adopt street cats and dogs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

The hiring freeze has been detrimental to spouse hiring. Some spouses have jobs with international organizations, and there are a few international schools here.

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

Tunisians are well-dressed and the Embassy environment is quite formal - suits and ties most days.

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Health & Safety:

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

Tunisia remains a critical threat post for terrorism - remain aware at all times. Know that trips outside of Tunis require preparation and approvals. There is also a steady stream of petty crime - purse or phone snatchings are common.

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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 inconsistent. I have heard about several people getting very sick, including hospital stays, in recent months.

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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 good minus the occasional trash fire or outdated emissions setup on buses etc.

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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?

Very temperate - pleasant, dry, warm most of the year. Summers get fairly hot, and winters are chilly but not freezing.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an American cooperative school here that I have heard is OK but small.

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

Yes - several daycares and preschools available, working in Tunisian Arabic, French and English.

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

Soccer, horseback riding, tennis, windsurfing...

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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 expatriate community has grown significantly since I've been here and continues to do so. It seems like all the embassies and international organizations here are expanding.

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

Seems good for both singles and an increasing number of families.

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

I have heard there is an LGBT community and some low-key venues/bars/restaurants that are LGBT friendly, but I don't have personal experience.

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

Unaccompanied women will get some unsolicited attention in places like downtown, the Medina. Overall though it is a much better environment for women than other places in the region.

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

Trips out to the Roman and Islamic sites - El Djem, Dougga, Kairouan. Enjoying beach weekends in Sousse or Hammamet.

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

Carpets are a good buy here, as are custom mosaics.

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Tunis, Tunisia 11/03/15

Background:

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

No, dozens in Latin America, East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

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

The Caribbean, 20 hours via NY and Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

TDY for two months.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I wasn't impressed with the housing -- mostly single-family homes with little green space. Most are old and in neighborhoods with walls facing directly onto the street. Commute times vary from 10 to 40 minutes. Traffic is heavy at times, with few "rules-of-the road" followed by drivers.

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

Carrefour is the place to shop. Most items that are available in the US can be found in Tunis. And there is always Net Grocer.

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

There is very little US fast food -- just Fat Burger. But there are dozens of decent, mostly French-themed restaurants. They can be quite expensive in the hotels, but downtown places are reasonable.

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

Some flying insects, ants, and small bugs.

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Daily Life:

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

Via embassy DPO.

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

Reasonable and available. Many people share a housekeeper, e.g., 2-3 days a week.

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

If you work in the US Embassy, they have the best pool I have ever seen in any embassy! There is also a nice gym on the grounds. Hotels have small gym facilities and also nice big pools. And, of course, there is the Med, with its calm waters and shallow beach areas.

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

No problems. Just check the exchange fees with your bank.

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

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

French, French, French! And Arabic helps, too. Everyone speaks French. Very few people speak English.

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

Yes, acceptable accomodations for those with disabilities are not found in many places.

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Transportation:

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

Most taxis are safe and very affordable. Trains and buses are not recommended.

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

You might want to bring a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

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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, not too expensive, but also not too reliable.

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

Get a local phone -- low cost.

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Pets:

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

No on quarantines, yes on pet care.

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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?

Yes, for spouses at the US Embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are some with schools and animal rescue groups.

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

Smart casual, except for meetings with foreigners.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, two recent terrorist attacks on European tourists have changed the security environment. Hotels have armed guards, and roundabouts have police with weapons stopping vehicles. Tunisians took a big hit to their tourism industry in 2015, probably losing 1 million tourists when compared with the previous year.

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

There is a good Medical Unit in the embassy. Some hospitals have high Western standards, others do not.

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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 air quality.

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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 from June - August (100s), cools quickly in September, and then even cooler October - 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?

Good American School next to the U.S. Embassy.

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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?

The American School has an active swim program.

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Expat Life:

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

A few thousand expats (mostly French) with multinationals and embassies.

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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?

Home parties, Marine House events, and trips to beach resorts and historical sites.

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

Currently, the State Department allows only non-school-age children at post. It seems like a good city for singles and couples. There are a lot of small restaurants, sites to see, and beautiful beaches.

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

This is a "Muslim-lite" country with strong French influences, so I suspect that gay and lesbian expats would have fewer challenges here than in other North African and Middle Eastern nations.

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

Oddly, I saw very few dark-skinned Africans in Tunis and almost no East Asians. It reminds me of pre-war times in Iraq, which was once called "the Germany of the Middle East". In other words, many of the low-paying jobs in Tunis are held by Tunisians, and that is not the case in other Middle Eastern nations. Although official statistics claim that Tunisia is 98 percent Muslim, other religions appear to be acceptable. I doubt that 98 percent figure, too, especially with the ever-present French influence.

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

Nice beaches, hotels, and restaurants. The medina (souk) is the place to shop.

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

Pottery, scarfs, and antiques.

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

Fantastic history dating back thousands of years, French-Arabic mixed culture, nice weather for most of the year.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. There is currently a 25-percent danger pay bonus and a 15-percent hardship differential.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How French it is!

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

Yes. It is a surprisingly wonderful country and capital -- much nicer than expected!

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

Snow shovel.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and French language training.

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Tunis, Tunisia 11/26/14

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?

I took AirFrance back to the midwest. It's about 16 hours including the layover in Paris.

FYI - if you ever take TunisAir to leave Tunisia whether to get home or to visit Europe, you MUST know there's a 90% chance your flight will be delayed.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 Years & 3 months.

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

Trailing diplomatic spouse. I've written one of the more recent posts, however, our tour was extended for another year and so I feel it was necessary to share what I've learned in that time!

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Villas or apartments. A lot of the Villas are old and/or haven't been built well.

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

Groceries are the same or cheaper than the U.S., produce is MUCH cheaper than the U.S.! Things like squash and pumpkin are incredibly cheap.
There is no good junk food here which was nice, the only chips they have are Bugles...not even crackers!

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

There are too many things to even say......
any speciality things for baking (vanilla extract, chocolate chips), ALL BABY items (furniture, clothing, food, etc), clothing/shoes because there are no malls here and what they do have is expensive, dryer sheets if you have a dryer (there are none here), toilet paper if you're shipping a large container, make-up and other cosmetics.

When in doubt bring it because it's probably not here.

If you like Mexican food then you would be happy to know that tortillas, taco kits, and fajitas kits are now being carried in Monoprix Lac 2, and Carrefour.

Hamila (the Duty Free) has a nice selection of Alcohol/Wine and some food items.

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

Cockroaches came out of our drains which was nasty. Mosquitoes are also bad if you're by the water (Gammarth or Lac 2). Even if you aren't by the water I hear the mosquitoes are still bad.

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Daily Life:

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

I think we overpaid slightly compared to what other expats paid but it was well worth it, I miss our housekeeper a lot! We paid her 30 dinars and she did a great job (about 4 hours of cleaning).

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

There is a service in La Goulette (Roman Catholic) on Sundays at 11 in English. The African Bank made up 97% of the church and they're now gone so I hope the church stays open. There's also a Catholic church downtown, and a couple other churches I believe...

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

YOU MUST BE FLUENT IN FRENCH! If you don't speak good French your life will be challenging here, NO ONE speaks English.

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

Yes. There aren't many handicap friendly buildings. Even some doctors offices are on the 2nd or 3rd floors of apartment buildings and would be hard to get to.

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Transportation:

1. 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 advise a smaller car, we had a 4 door sedan and it could be difficult driving sometimes (parking).

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet was good and cheap, I don't know what we paid exactly but it was sufficient for downloading movies from iTunes and skyping everyday.

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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?

Maybe if you speak fluent French?

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Health & Safety:

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

YES. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. We had friends who were mugged walking from the march in La Marsa going back to their house. There were also break ins (no one injured) and a friend was driving and had a couple of guys steal his phone while in traffic (they had a knife).

Having your purse go through a metal detector while going to Carrefour got old really quick.

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

I would say moderate to good depending on where you are at. My allergies did bother me quite a bit year round so bring your Claritin or Allegra!

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

As I mentioned earlier, I suffered a lot with seasonal allergies, I recommend bringing your medicine with you. They have Deslor 5mg here but it makes you drowsy.

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

It is pretty much living hell from June-August, reaching 106 Degrees Fahrenheit. Ramadan fell during the summer months when we were here which was difficult because the majority of businesses are closed in the day and you sweat in places you didn't even know you could sweat from!

People will wear boots and winter coats when it's about 60F, I would wear sandals.

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Schools & Children:

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

I hear different things about the American school, I hear it's 30K a year and the classroom size is VERY small since the African bank left.

If you have children I highly recommend Dr. Sofia Helioui as a Pediatrician, she studied in Boston and speaks perfect English! I'm pretty sure she's on the website for the American Embassy. Her #: 983-146-61. I Think she's in Menzah 7

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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?

A good creche (daycare) is about 350-500 dinars a month. Our experience at a creche was good, they had a menu for the week posted for parents to see which our daycare in America did not do.

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Expat Life:

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

Whenever I saw other diplomats it always seemed like people were talking about who is leaving next and when everyone is leaving. There's not many people who love living here.

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

Not much! Eating out is about it...

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

I would not advise families to go here because there is nothing for kids to do. The parks are awful (one play area collapsed when my 23 pound child was playing on it and no one apologized or did anything). There is no theater. There is a new water park but I've heard it literally smells bad and the employees are lazy.

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

I wouldn't believe so.

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

Yes, if you don't look Tunisian be prepared to get stared at.

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

The couscous is delicious, I prefer it over Moroccan couscous. Visiting Roman ruins in Oudna and Dougga was a real treat. I've seen the Colosseum and I think that Dougga was MUCH better!

Making a few friends that I hope we keep in touch with.

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

If you have children 6 and under, I highly recommend eating at "La Galette" because they have some toys for kids to play with and they also sell clothing articles. It's baby friendly and the food is a little pricey but delicious. If you google it you will find the information.

Oudna and Dougga are the Roman ruins we visited that I highly recommend.

Go get a spa service at Movenpick and they will let you use the pool (indoor and outdoor) this was our escape while in Tunisia. The view is breath taking and the beach is private.

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

Pottery.

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

Having someone come to our apartment and clean for 30 Dinars was also a nice luxury that we didn't have in the U.S.

Saving money is easy to do here, the cost of living is generally cheap. There is NOTHING to do here so it's easy to save money, especially if you don't have kids.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes most definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I would have known that no one speaks English. I also wish I would've known how gross and nasty the public beaches are. I thought we were going to come here and be next to beautiful beaches but that wasn't the case. In the summer the beaches are like a candy bar with ants crawling all over them. Movenpick saved us here.

I wish I would've known how people stare here, this was a big culture shock for me. The way people always stared really took a toll.

I wish I would have done more research or even paid a visit before committing to come here. here is NOTHING to do here so you and your spouse if you have one will be spending LOTS of time together!!

Many expat women don't drive here because it's crazy, there are worse places in the world, but if you're not experienced then it's very difficult. There are some women who drive here but most don't.

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

Absolutely not, it was the hardest 2 years of my life. It was a learning experience and it made me a more grateful person, but I am beyond glad that it's over with. I would not advise coming here for more than 2 years to anyone. If you have kids I wouldn't even consider it, especially if they've lived in first world countries prior to living here...they will be miserable. If your child is under 2 you might be okay.

If you don't know French, learn it before you come!

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

Short shorts, low cut tops, stiletto heels.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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

Make sure whatever book you buy is recent, my husband bought one published several years ago and it said there's no alcohol available to buy here which is not true!

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Do your research before coming here!

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Tunis, Tunisia 07/29/13

Background:

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

Third expat experience.

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

D.C. Usually connecting through Paris or Frankfurt, about 12 hours total.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2010-2013.

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

Government, U.S. Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is generally large and quite nice. Houses are spacious, and floors are almost always tile or marble. Lots to clean! Many houses have swimming pools (though not in the embassy housing), large terraces and beautiful gardens (again...lots of maintenance for this).

Housing locations are usually anywhere in the Banlieu Nord, which is north of downtown and the airport. La Marsa, Carthage, Gammarth are all lovely areas.

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

Not bad if you are smart. Eat seasonally and buy your produce and meat at the markets rather than at Carrefour. Don't bother with the import stores unless you need something specific.

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

Nothing that I couldn't get through Amazon while I was there.

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

Shawarma is the favorite fast food in Tunis, and is cheap at about US$1.50 each. Delicious, too!

Lots of new restaurants opened while we were there, including a couple of sushi spots. One even delivers! You can get pizza delivered too, but the better places only do pick up. Some good restaurants at hotels, and a few swankier places elsewhere, but it will cost you more.

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

I have known several people who had severe ant problems in their homes, and cockroaches are common, though not a problem (I would find maybe one a month in a bathroom or in the kitchen). Mosquitos are a problem during certain times of year.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch.

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

Domestic help is everywhere, and affordable if you know what you should pay going into it, otherwise you may get taken advantage of.

A live in nanny/housekeeper can be had for 200-500 TND a month depending on experience, live out slightly more. Be aware that Tunisian domestic helpers consider a full time work day to begin at 8 am and end at 2 pm.

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

Yes. A few different local gyms out in town or at hotels.

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

Many people have had their cards eaten in ATM machines, though I never had a problem. It depends, though I can't say what it depends on exactly. It seems rather unpredictable. No issues using a CC in Carrefour, but I wouldn't use one in smaller places.

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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?

Some French or Arabic is advisable. There are some English speakers, but you can't count on it.

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

Every difficulty. Tunis is not handicap accessible. There are few proper sidewalks, and where there are people have almost surely parked their cars on them. There may be ramps at some buildings, but I can't say that I remember any.

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Transportation:

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

Trains and buses should be avoided. Taxis are generally safe and are best if you can find one reliable driver that you call.

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

Smaller car is better for city driving/maneouvering and parking, larger SUV might be better if you plan to go out to the desert.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. About US$200 a year, very affordable! Reliability of service varies.

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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?

All of the providers are decent and affordable.

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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 many.

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

Business casual at work, somewhat conservative in public, especially for women.

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Health & Safety:

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

Currently a lot of political and security issues to keep an eye on.

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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 good, though not quite up to western standards. For example while I was hospitalized once overnight and was having my blood drawn repeatedly, not once did the nurse wear gloves or clean my IV site before injecting into it.

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

Climate is great! Mild and sometimes rainy through the winter, gorgeous spring and fall, summer is HOT! Not a typical rainy season climate as you find in other African countries, but there is a decent amount of rain in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

Preschool is available, is cheap, but varies. The popular expat preschools fill up early and have wait lists several years long. You will be told that you cannot get a spot, but if you keep trying, calling at random times, sometimes a spot will have opened and you can jump the line. This is how things work there, don't feel bad about it as someone else would have done it to you, unfortunately.

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

A few gymastic type classes for younger kids, and perhaps some sports programs for kids at the American school, but otherwise no.

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Expat Life:

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

Relatively large, especially in the northern suburbs. Lots of French expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. Most people who are there seem to be by choice and are pleased with the life.

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

Lots of dinners and parties among expats, dinners out at local restaurants.

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

Good for families and couples, probably good for singles as well though I can't personally comment on that.

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

Africans (those not from northern Africa) are treated poorly and looked down on, often called monkeys and women are harassed in the streets. Women are treated as less important than men, which is not a major issue, mostly just an annoying if you are waiting in line for something and men keep stepping in front of you if you are unwilling to say something.

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

Lots of beaches to go to, ruins to see. Carthage is full of incredible history! Many more sights to see if you travel outside of the capital, including the set where Star Wars was filmed.

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

Beautiful traditional rugs and pottery. There is an annual artisan fair at Le Kram convention center that you should save your money for!

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

You can save money if you shop carefully on the economy and do not travel much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wouldn't go back now with the current political and security situation, but I do not regret having lived there.

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

Winter clothes and driving manners!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, rain coat, and patience (inshallah!).

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Tunis, Tunisia 06/21/13

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?

About 12 hours to the East Coast with a layover in Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year-now.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments/villas. They aren't built very well, though, so make sure you find a plumber once you get settled in.
People drive crazy here!

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

About the same as in the US. The economy is closed, so they don't import many goods.
You won't find: tortilla chips, salsa, tacos, brownie mix, good garbage bags, good toilet paper/Kleenex, dryer sheets, chocolate chips, etc.
And sunscreen is expensive!

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

Any Mexican goods like salsa, and tortillas. Dryer sheets if you have a dryer. Sunscreen and sunglasses.
Clothes! Especially for children! Clothing is very expensive.

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

None! There are local schwarma stands and pizza places (about $6 for a pizza) but you get what you pay for.

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

Cockroaches in the summer (big ones!). Mosquitoes depending in where you live.

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Daily Life:

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

At your own risk! Letters from family never make it here. My family will mail by express and it usually comes.

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

Cheap, you can have a maid for $250-350 a month, depending in what she does (cook and clean, just clean, etc.).

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

Yes, but they are expensive, I think $100 per month -- and they aren't special.

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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 accepted.
US cash is not accepted. Upon arrival I tried to tip someone at a hotel a few US dollars, and he didn't want it

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

Yes, there are a few Roman Catholic Churches.

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

No English 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?

You must learn French. Hardly any English is spoken here.

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

A lot! There are hardly any ramps. But there are many stairs and crooked sidewalks/roads.

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Transportation:

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

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

Small cars are best; lots of narrow streets.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, cheap, maybe around $25 a month.

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

Cheap packages are available.

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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)?

Yes, but I hear it's expensive

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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?

If you speak French, maybe.

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

Business.

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Health & Safety:

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

You need to be aware of your surroundings. People will stare at you if you're not dark haired and look like them, this is one of the biggest challenges for me.

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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?

It costs about $40 to see any doctor/dentist/eye doctor.
Visit the US Embassy website to find good English-speaking doctors

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

Generally good. Sometimes you smell sulfur by the beaches, and it's dusty on occasion. Overall, though, it is not bad.

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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 summers, mild winters. Locals wear coats, boots, and gloves in December. I go out with a long-sleeved shirt and I'm comfortable!

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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 American School is expensive, I believe $20,000. If I had children, I would send them to the British School- more affordable and good. reputation.

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

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

Yes, some moms send their babies as young as 6 months, even though they stay at home.

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

Not many.

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Expat Life:

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

Thousands of French, hardly any Americans after the embassy was attacked.

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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?

No bars. Only men go to the coffee houses. No malls. And there are only about 5 good restaurants, which are about $30-$59 per person.

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

Couples without children, yes. There are not many activities for kids. No cinema with English movies, no mall, the parks are not great, watch out for glass on the grass.

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

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

Women seem to "wear the pants" in the marriages, from what I've seen/heard. You are not allowed to preach religion other than Islam.

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

Trying couscous.

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

Douggs is a great place to see ruins. I think it's more impressive than Carthage.

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

Ceramics, rugs (not of my taste).

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

Beautiful weather, saving money, learning how to be happy without material items.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, for sure. You can't shop here. You can travel to Europe, since its nearby, so you will save money if it's a priority.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Do research to make sure you could live here if you have to come longer than 2 years.

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

cocktail dresses, short shorts, big SUV, and any idea that life will be wonderful here. The beaches are dirty and polluted. Unless you want to pay $90 Dinars to use a hotel pool, don't go to the beach in La Marsa.

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3. But don't forget your:

American coffee! They have instant coffee here. They don't sell coffee creamer here either! Bring powdered if you choose.
Also: baby products, chocolate chips, food coloring, and shortening.

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Tunis, Tunisia 02/03/12

Background:

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

Second expat experience.

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

Washington, DC. About 12 hours with a layover in Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2009 - June 2011.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses range from villas to apartments. The construction isn't first world and has some electrical and plumbing issues. Commute time ranges from 15-30 minutes. Vehicles rarely move at high speeds because of the number of pedestrians crossing the streets. You rarely go over 35 miles an hour in the city areas.

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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 a giant Walmart style chain store called Carrefour. It has everything like Walmart and carries both US and European (mostly French) brands. The US brands are not as common, but there are US brands of beauty products, candy, soda, rice, Asian foods, chips and cereal. US brands are expensive. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat cost less than the US. Fresh bread is most less expensive than the US (baguette costs 30 cents). You should bring your own cleaning supplies from the US.

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

Cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies you would use with fresh-picked produce such as salad spinner and herb keeper, dual voltage electronics (they are much more expensive in Tunisia), spices, pet food, contact solution, canned soups, boxed baking mixes, gift wrap, shipping supplies, US stamps.

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

There are many good restaurants that aren't necessarily known among the ex-pats. It's best to get recommendations from upper class Tunisians. Good restaurants serve filet mignon, fish, pasta, and chicken dishes and range from US$15 to 30 a plate. Moderate range restaurants range from US$8 - 15 a plate. There are also pizza joints, shwarma stands, and sandwich fast food places. There were no US fast food chains. There are a couple new Chinese wok take-out places and two Japanese restaurants.

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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?

There is specifically designated organic fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, but generally, the fruits and veggies are locally grown and natural. Tofu is available.

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

Some ants and mosquitos but nothing serious.

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Daily Life:

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

I used the Embassy DPO or the Diplomatic pouch. If your mail arrives through international mail, you'll have to pay a customs fee.

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

Inexpensive and plentiful.

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

Yes, many hotels have sport clubs and spas and there are also gyms. The US Embassy has a lap pool and gym.

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

ATMs are safe to use. Credit cards should only be used in hotels and major restaurants.

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

Yes. There are Catholic and Anglican services.

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

Yes, there is an English newspaper and English language websites. I don't know about the TV, though most Tunisians get satellite channels so movies and some shows would be in English with Arabic subtitles.

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

Some basic French is best for the taxis, restaurants, and cashiers. In the tourist areas, the staff will speak English.

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

Houses are often split-level or have stairs. Apartment buildings, especially the new ones, have elevators. There is no handicapped parking. Sidewalks are not designed for wheel chairs.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are cheap. Make sure the driver uses the meter. I wouldn't recommend using the buses or trains.

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

A French model car is best. (Peugoet, Citroen, etc). Volvo, Jeep, Mercedes have dealerships. Bring oil filters.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, there is a start up fee then monthly service fees. I paid about US$200 for two years plus US$25 a month.

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

Tunisians all use cell phones. You can also get a 3-G network over your phone.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

There are good vets. You cannot find pet shipping crates there. Bring your own. Bring pet food too. There is cat litter at the Carrefour.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

Business to business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not in the capital or tourist areas. Be careful in the desert and Algerian border areas for transient terrorism.

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

There are medical and dental facilities. Some women had babies in country. I had dental and medical work done there. It is only slightly less expensive than the US.

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

Very good along the coast and some dust on windy days in the city.

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

Weather is great year round. Warm and dry in the summer and cool and a little more humid in the winter. It rains late September to May. The temperatures range from 40 - 100 degrees F.

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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?

Everyone with children had hired help at low cost.

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

Yes.

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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 French community is very large, in the tens of thousands. There is also a regular stream of tourists. There are foreign businesspersons and diplomats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. Some Europeans retire here and lots vacation here. It's a good place to be in the Middle East, even with the revolution.

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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 expat clubs, Hash House Harriers, country clubs, and embassy community clubs. The Embassy itself does wine and cheese parties, bunco, triva nights, bbqs, Marine house parties, holiday parties.

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

This city (especially the beach suburbs) is great for everyone. Foreigners are welcome. There are clubs and recreational activities for singles. Families can enjoy sport clubs, beaches, travel.

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

I am not aware of any problems with gay or lesbian foreigners. Homosexuality is not accepted for Tunisians.

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

Tunisians are racist against Africans, so black foreigners from any country may face prejudices. Women are protected and generally treated well. The only attention they get is young men hitting on them.

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

Fresh local fruits and vegetables (strawberry season is amazing), beautiful mosaics in Dougga, Oudna, and Bulla Regia, delicious donuts in Sidi Bou Said, beautiful views of the Med from Gammarth and Sidi Bou Said hills.

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

Many historical sites to visit in Dougga, El Jem, Oudna, Bulla Regia, Carthage and Tunis. Beaches all along the coast. Hunting in the mountainous areas and desert. Desert activities in the South. Biking, running, horseback riding, tennis, golf, sailing, jet skiing, and beach going.

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

Handmade baskets for the market, ceramic dishes, woven cotton blankets, some rugs.

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

Southern California weather, friendly and helpful locals, cheap groceries and taxis, safe.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely and I was there for the revolution. It's a great country and the Tunisians are good people. They're going to pull through this tough post-revolution time just fine.

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

US voltage appliances, heavy winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Lawn furniture, sunglasses, tennis racket, swimsuit, french phrase book, reusable shopping bags.

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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:

I'm told part of the The English Patient was filmed in Tunis. Star Wars was filmed there of course.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you have patience while driving (lots of people walk in front of your car), don't get yourself upset over fresh, not-going-to-last-long produce, and get out and try the really good restaurants, you'll have a great tour. (Those things I just mentioned were what people complain about most.) Good restaurants are La Closerie, Le Golfe, El Firma, Villa Didon, El Babbousha, and Les Falaises. Be sure to visit the Ennasr I and II neighborhoods in northern Tunis for shopping and restaurants, the downtown Tunis medina, the restaurants in the Gammarth hills, the Berges du Lac shopping area, Sidi Bou Said hill shops, and the La Marsa plage beachfront. (Lots of Americans never get outside of the Embassy area to see these other great areas.)

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Tunis, Tunisia 10/28/11

Background:

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

No.

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

USA - depends on connections, but generally a couple of hours flight to Europe and then home from there.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived there in 2008-09 for approximately one year.

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

Following spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

La Marsa is probably the best all-round place to live. Nice amenities, schools, shopping, a decent beach, and still close to the rest of metropolitan Tunis. Carthage and Sidi Bou Said are of course wonderful, but even more expensive. Maybe some parts of Le Kram and La Goulette too. And of course Tunis itself ...

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

Locally grown or produced food items are cheap, whether you go to the local markets or to Carrefour and the other big supermarkets. Imported stuff is very expensive, and many items are simply not available. Imported items are predominately French and Italian.

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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?

Tunisian food is not bad, but the food served in most restaurants can be repetitive and mediocre. To make matters worse, there non-Tunisian restaurants (at least those serving decent food) are few and far between. You can get sick of the endless succession of chorba, tagine, couscous and brik pretty quickly. That said, there are a few restaurant gems in and around Tunis, though, as well as a handful of decent French places. Fast food/street food is mixed. The basics such as roast chicken and shwarma don't hold a candle to those in the Levant. But there are some nice surprises like lablabi, ojja, etc. One exception: The roadside barbecue places selling chunks of lamb that they cook up for you, usually with salad mechouia and some fries. Best fast food in Tunisia! Don't be scared off by the flies and the hanging carcasses! And don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. The little home-cooked food we had the privilege of eating was excellent. There are no major fast-food chains to speak of. If you like sweets, don't miss the pastries -- they are excellent, and go well with a mint tea with pine nuts.

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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?

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

Some mosquitoes, but nothing too bad.

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Daily Life:

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

Regular post worked fairly well, though it sometimes took forever for packages to get through. They were held at the post office, and they often forgot to send out notices saying we had a package.

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

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

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

They work fine. Best option for getting cash.

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

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

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

English is useless outside of a few tourist areas (and even in a few tourist areas). But you can get by with French. I'm embarrassed to say I learned very little Tunisian/Arabic. But I did pick up a good deal of French.

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

A lot.

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Transportation:

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

Train network is limited. Long-distance buses and louages go everywhere, and are relatively cheap if there's just one or two of you. We had two kids, though, and there's no child discount. Because of that, it was sometimes cheaper (or just marginally more expensive) to rent a car. Safety is generally fine. The local yellow buses in Tunis get very crowded, making them an easy target for pickpockets. The danger was not such that I was ever scared to ride them (even if I was actually pick-pocketed once! It was my own stupid mistake). The green buses cost more, require that passengers be seated, and are thus safer.

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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're coming from Europe, it's advisable to bring a car over on the ferry. It makes things a lot easier, both for getting around Tunis and for doing vacations and weekend breaks. A lot of tourists and expense-account expats seem to lug over big 4x4s, but in all of our travels, we saw perhaps one road where 4WD would have come in handy. Any old car will get you on 99.9% of the roads here. The 4x4 is only necessary if you want to go frolic in the dunes. Driving is somewhat chaotic, but far from the worse I've seen. After a little practice, you'll be fine. We had several visitors who rented cars and had no problems driving.

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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, but rather expensive when we were there. We also had those pesky censorship rules that the Ben-Ali regime imposed. No You Tube and weekly outages of sites like Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. That's obviously changed ...

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

Cheap pre-paid plans available.

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I didn't find any, though fluent French or Arabic would probably improve your chances a great deal.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

It was fairly safe at the time, under the iron-fisted rule of Ben Ali. Not sure how it is now. Police were everywhere, and on a long drive is was not uncommon to be stopped a few times. But 99 times out of 100, they would let you go as soon as they realized you were not Tunisian. This even happened once or twice when I was speeding or had broken some traffic rule. We had foreign plates, and the police obviously had specific instructions to leave foreigners (i.e., tourists) alone. This may have changed ...

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

No specific health concerns. If you need medical care, go to the private clinics. There are a few in La Marsa that are pretty good. Our limited experience with them was fairly good. Dental work was also decent and cheap.

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

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?

Expected it to be hot and dry, but it ended up being a pretty wet year! Once October rolled around, things cooled down quite a bit and the rain was quite heavy (2008-09 was apparently an especially wet year). Beach season ended early and started late. Down south it can get hot -- very hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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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?

The French expat community seems enormous, but the US expats probably number under 200. Brits are possibly the biggest English-speaking group here. There seem to be a fair number who retire and/or vacation here, as well as some who have married Tunisians.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. It was not very good in our group, due to a poor working environment, lack of employment opportunities for non-working spouses, and lack of any social scene or nightlife.

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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?

Not much. There are a handful of bars, but they tend to be male-dominated and rather expensive. Most entertaining was in people's homes.

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

Singles and couples might get bored, as there is little to no nightlife and it can be hard to get to know people. Many Tunisians seemed guarded in their public lives. This was a contrast to what we found in some other Arab-Muslim countries we had visited. Things are slightly better for families, we still did feel somewhat socially isolated.

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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?

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

Visiting all the Roman ruins, taking the ferry to Sicily, being close to family and friends in Europe, wine tasting, weekend drives to secluded beaches, trips to the desert, seeing the ksars and ruined villages.

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

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

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

Fantastic opportunity to see magnificent Roman ruins in a setting relatively unspoiled by mass tourism. There are also plenty of minor ruins which don't seem to see many tourists at all. Beaches are decent, though the beach season was shorter than expected. Europe is a short hop away, with short flights to Italy and France. Sicily can be reached by a 9-10 hour ferry, and there are boats onward from there. Ferries go to France as well. Unfortunately, connections to the rest of Africa were not quite as easy or cheap. Flights are limited and expensive. Overland to Algeria and Libya were both possible, but somewhat difficult and far. Not sure what the situation is like now.

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11. Can you save money?

Depends on your situation. We traveled a lot, including a trip to Europe (albeit mostly in budget mode) and still saved some money despite only one modest salary.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Tunisia is a relatively easy and pleasant place to live, but we also found it somewhat boring after a year. It's a small country, and there's a certain sense of having "been there, done that." In one year, we managed to see virtually every major ruin, beach and tourist attraction in the country. Also, the lack of work opportunities for me, as the trailing spouse, makes returning here unlikely.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tunis, Tunisia 07/11/10

Background:

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

No.

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

Washington, DC - All flights went through Europe, most commonly Rome or Paris. It was a one-hour flight to Rome and two to Paris, then 7-8 from each of those back to DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2008-9.

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

Government (US Dept 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?

Most embassy housing is in the northern suburbs, although there are some houses downtown and in the newer development of Berges de Lac. Of all embassy houses that I saw, they were plenty big - mostly in attached or some stand alone houses. All are fenced in. We had a 4-bedroom house, with multiple balconies and a pretty yard for which we hired a gardener for about $80/month.

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

Mostly pretty cheap - especially produce from the local markets. Almost all the fruits and veggies were locally grown, which made them incredibly fresh and tasty. You have to learn to work with the seasons when certain things aren't available. We ate a lot of fennel from Jan-March! Other household supplies are quite affordable as well. The big Carrefour, while a complete mad-house most of the time, was convenient because you could get everything you needed in one shopping trip.

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

There's a commissary at the embassy which had most grocery items that we couldn't get at Carrefour or Monoprix - so I don't think we necessarily would have shipped anything.

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

There are no international chains in Tunisia - it's great. The main form of fast food is a road side shwarma or bowl of lablabli. Restaurants in general were pretty poor, although sometimes they are in a beautiful setting so it's worth going once in a while. Absolutely everything comes with tuna on it, so if you don't like this, get used to saying "without tuna!" in either French or Arabic. In general Tunisians do not tend to eat out, which likely explains the lack of good restaurants.

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

Nothing serious.

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Daily Life:

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

APO/dip 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?

Plentiful and fairly inexpensive - we paid ~$17/week for a housekeeper to come for a full day and clean our house, do our laundry and ironing.

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

The embassy gym is excellent. There are other gyms as well that are not bad. We ran outside a lot - especially along the American Cemetery road in La Marsa.

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

ATM machines are everywhere and easy to use. We used cash otherwise, but some restaurants took credit cards.

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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?

None that we remember. An occasional International Herald Tribune

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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 many people speak English, so it definitely helps to have some French or Arabic. In and around Tunis most people speak at least some French. It's a bit tougher with French when you get out of Tunis. Arabic speakers might be frustrated by how much French they mix into any given sentence.

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

It would be quite difficult - the sidewalks are often non-existent, and if they are there, they are not kept up and/or a car will be parked on them. There are definitely no wheelchair ramps anywhere.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and cheap enough - it's about $5 to get from La Marsa to downtown (~15km).

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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?

Tunisian drivers are atrocious, so bring your beater. An SUV is not necessary but couldn't hurt on pot-holed streets (of which there are many) or if you head down south to the desert.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, and it was fairly speedy, although nothing compared to the U.S. We paid about $80/month. Many sites were censored (such as Youtube), so we used a proxy to get around them.

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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?

It's easy to buy a SIM card at Carrefour and be up and running immediately.

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are some international companies that hire expats and the African Devt Bank has some work opportunities depending on your skill set.

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

Mostly pretty conservative for women, although not stiflingly so.

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Health & Safety:

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

Some petty theft - I saw a woman get her purse snagged by two guys on a motorbike as she was walking down the sidewalk downtown (she held on until they let go!), muggings in the medina - the usual.

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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?

Health care is supposed to be pretty good at some of the private clinics, although luckily we never had firsthand experience with this.

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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 in the northern suburbs. A bit polluted downtown, but never a real problem.

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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 muggy in the summer, cool-ish (50s) and rainy in the winter. A day could change from bright and sunny to raining and then back again within a 10 minute time span.

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Schools & Children:

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

We don't have children, but the American School in Tunis appeared to be excellent. There were other international schools as well.

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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?

Bigger than one would expect because of the African Development Bank, which temporarily relocated to Tunis in 2003 because of the war in Cote D'Ivoire. It will eventually move back, but as of 2009 the timing for this was unsure.

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2. Morale among expats:

So-so - there was a wide range here. We were incredibly happy, but can also admit that it was a fairly boring town. I think the post works great for families for the reasons I've mentioned above. Singles seemed the most disgruntled.

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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?

Our social life consisted almost entirely of parties/dinner parties at our friends' houses. We found it incredibly difficult to make Tunisian friends. The culture is very closed in many ways, so the Tunisians really stuck to themselves.

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

I don't think this would be a great city for singles. Although there is a fairly sizable expat community, largely because of the African Development Bank, there are not tons of places to go out (bars, restaurants, etc) - as mentioned earlier. It's the ideal post for families because of the good schools, numerous outdoor activities, affordable household labor and slower pace of life.

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

Certainly not - the Tunisians are quite conservative.

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

Not on the surface, necessarily, but that's because religion is rarely discussed in Tunisia, which is essentially a dictatorship. There is some harassment of women, especially foreign women, but nothing too offensive.

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

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

Walk around La Marsa, Sidi Bou Said, Tunis medina, Tunis central market, beaches or old city in Hammamet, the ruins at Dougga, El Jem and Carthage (among many others), visit the south (especially the oasis of Ksar Ghilane), rug shopping in Kairouan, visit Djerba (an island in the south).

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

Pottery, rugs, airline tickets to Europe (one hour to Rome!)

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

There are many beautiful parts of Tunis, including where most embassy people live in the northern "suburbs" (formerly summer retreat area from downtown) - especially La Marsa or Sidi Bou Said. The country also has many beautiful towns and natural beauty, including Cap Bon, Hammamet, and the desert in the south - all within a day's drive of Tunis. We took several weekend trips while there and also had many fun times just riding our bikes around our neighborhood in La Marsa, going to the market, walking along the La Marsa corniche, sitting in cafes, etc. One other huge advantage to this post was our ability to save money. Groceries are pretty inexpensive, and unfortunately there are not tons of good restaurants. Food in the markets is excellent - first and foremost the fresh produce - but what happens to it between the markets and the restaurants remains a mystery. So as a result we ended up cooking at home a lot and having friends over, which was a real money saver. This gets to the heart of Tunis in many ways - it was "pleasantly boring" one might say. Not tons of exciting nightlife (restaurants, bars, clubs), but still quite a pleasant lifestyle overall, especially (I imagine) for a family with young children.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, for a short tour - I wouldn't be sad when my 2-3 years was up though.

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

sexy going-out clothes, and any desire for a crazy night out on the town.

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3. But don't forget your:

ability to embrace all the good things Tunis has to offer, despite its shortcomings (remember: pleasantly boring).

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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:

La Goulette, the English Patient and Star Wars (both filmed in Tunisia!)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tunis, Tunisia 05/03/10

Background:

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

2nd expat experience.

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

DC to Paris to Tunis.

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3. How long have you lived here?

4 years. We will leave in June of 2010.

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

My spouse works at the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Standalone homes with tiny yards (so don't expect nice gardens) and newly constructed apartment buildings.

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

Crazy expensive if you shop at the US Embassy commissary. Not too bad at Carrefour or Geant; but cheap at local shops and the sunday market.

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

Pecans, cake mixes, a nice grill, all baby-related stuff.

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

Only local stuff, like shawarma and kefteji. These are cheap, too. One or two dinar (approx 70 cents US to the dinar) will get you a good sandwich.

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

Ants and big roaches.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch. I wouldn't recommend sending any other way because they will try to tax the heck out of you and you'll pay a LOT!

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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 find it expensive compared to asia. It is expensive for what you get. Most women who work as housekeepers consider 8am-2pm to be full time.

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

Yes. There are many, including the recreation center on the embassy grounds.

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

They usually work, but sometimes they ALL are down.

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

Many Christian services are available (catholic, 7th day adventist, pentecostal, universal church of christ, protestant).

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

With satellite you can get anything on TV, but to get that and AFN (which is provided by the embassy) you will need two dishes on the house. The receivers for hotbird are cheap to get locally (less than $50).

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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?

You need to know at least some French. Arabic is nice to know but not totally necessary. You will have a hard time if you speak only English. The embassy has a good language program.

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

Many. There are no usable sidewalks, and cars do NOT wait for pedestrians. Elevators work sometimes. It was funny to see the elevator broken that we needed to take to get to the orthopedist. He was on the same floor as the cardiologist at the top of the stairs :)

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Transportation:

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

Taxis: yes, and cheap, too. Buses - too crowded and not safe. I've never taken the train.

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

Anything is really fine. The roads are good. It's the driving that's the issue. Recently there have been issues registering vehicles with tinted windows.

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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. Less than $50 per month.

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

Here they are pay as you go. Easily available. Just take your passport with you to get a sim card.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

Vet care is available and cheap, but I wouldn't ever kennel a pet there.

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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 at all. Tunisians will work for MUCH less than Americans, French or Italians. Plus you have to be fluent in French AND Arabic.

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

Not formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Home break-ins, but if you have a dog, you will most likely be ok. Plus all embassy homes have alarm systems. Use 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?

Decent care is available, but cleanliness standards in hospitals are lacking.

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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. It can be quite dusty with all the construction going on. Plus the winds from the Sahara in the summer bring the finest sandy dust you can imagine.

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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 summers, rainy winters which are colder than you may think. No snow, but you still need a coat in winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

American Cooperative School, International School of Carthage, and Lycee Francais Paul Verlaine.

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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?

There are many french-speaking schools and one english-speaking.

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

Yes, through the American School. There are also local soccer programs as well as dance lessons, riding lessons, and martial arts.

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Expat Life:

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

Not very big, as there aren't too many NGOs here (Tunisia doesn't need anyone's help). Mostly French and Italians.

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2. Morale among expats:

It's ok but not as high as I expected. A lot of people are frustrated with how hard it is to get anything done when it comes to work, but happy with the simplicity of life outside of work.

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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 many clubs and restaurants, but nothing gets started until really late compared to in the US. And expect Tunisians to be late ALL the time. If a wedding invitation says it starts at 8pm, don't show up until 10 at the earliest or you will be waiting around all alone.

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

This is a good family post. It is good for single men. Not so good for single women.

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

No, because as everyone knows, there are no homosexuals in Tunisia :)

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

Although the Tunisians say they are tolerant and not sexist, it is very clear that is not the case.

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

The proximity to the beach and cheap travel to Europe.

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

The beach, horseback riding, cheap trips to europe, Matmata (the site for Star Wars filming), Tozeur, the Sahara.

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

Olive tree wood, hand-blown glass from Sadika, carpets from Kairouan.

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

Despite what most Americans say, you CAN save money if you shop at local markets rather than the US Embassy commissary and Carrefour. If you eat a lot of meat, though, it can be expensive, but local produce is CHEAP - but keep in mind that almost nothing is imported, so veggies are seasonal but super cheap when they are in season.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel to Europe too much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

We have had fun and our children liked their school, but I can think of somewhere else i would rather go. it wasn't an incredibly enjoyable tour, but it wasn't bad enough to hate it.

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

expectations of meeting a deadline, tuna, and olive oil.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen, patience, and defensive driving skills.

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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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Tunis, Tunisia 01/13/10

Background:

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

First expat experience

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

Washington, DC.Trip is approximately fourteen hours long with one connection in Rome, Paris or Germany.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Eight months of a two year tour.

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

Spouse of State Department Employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most embassy employees live in stand-alone homes closer to the Mediterranean (note: there are only a few homes over looking the sea- don't get your hopes up).The homes tend to be spacious, with small yards full of fruit trees and just a bit if grass. Singles might be assigned to duplexes or condos. New housing assignments are coming up in the neighborhood across from the embassy in an area called Berges du Lac II.While the proximity cannot be beat, the current major construction projects in the area make that neighborhood undesirable. Beware.

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

The produce in Tunisia is amazing and cheap. Everything is seasonal. Groceries are of the local variety with some knock-off American cereals (not good) and imported European stuff (good but pricey).

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

Healthy cereal, snacks for the kids, good coffee, English literature, reasonably priced clothing, shoes. If you will have access to the pouch, all this can be ordered on-line. If not, bring it all with you as you will have a difficult time finding any of these items here.

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

Schwarma and pizza is everywhere here, and quite good. You'll find your favorite schwarma spot and stick to it. There's not much in the way of American fast food here however.

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

Mosquito problems in August, ant invasions all summer.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the DPO pouch. Stuff from amazon.com takes about a week via DPO.

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

Cheap. We pay $300 a month for a maid/nanny. She is technically full-time but often works until early afternoon unless needed for additional hours.

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

The embassy has a gym for American embassy employees. There are several local gyms as well. Additionally, there seems to be an increase of yoga and pilates classes at the school and people's homes lately. There's also a Hash group that runs/walks.

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

You can use them, but you're better off carrying cash.

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

Yes, I understand there is Greek Orthodox, Catholic and some other services available, some in English.

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

No, I get all of my news on-line.

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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?

You must speak French or Arabic to survive in Tunisia. The Arabic is different from standard Arabic but will serve you well here, with some minor tweaking.

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

Many. There are very few sidewalks and ramps in this town.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are plentiful and cheap and as safe as you could expect to be driving here in Tunis. The buses are not recommended because of unsafe conditions, and the train is fine although I haven't used it.

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

Any sort. All the cars in Tunisia appear to be small four-cylinder cars. Insurance is based on horse-power so the smaller, the cheaper.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, about $100 a month for internet.

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

Get a cell phone. They're cheap and useful.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

The vet care is okay but not high tech- our cats were never weighed, no lab work completed. But, we found a lovely caring vet to whom we bring our cats.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No. It's difficult to find work here unless you teach or are in nursing. I've seen quite a few nurses land work at the embassy and school.

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

Work dress code - same as in Washington, DC.In public almost anything goes. Tunisians are very open-minded and you will see a range of styles from fully covered to scantily clad. You can be yourself here.

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Health & Safety:

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

Generally the air seems quite clean. I've had several colds & conjunctivitis during the fall and winter months which I can only assume is related to the air quality and allergens here in Tunis. I don't think I'm alone; many ex-pats report getting sick frequently during the fall and winter.

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

None. Tunisia is a police state and you will feel safer here than you did back in the States.

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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?

The healthcare is fine. I've seen a few local doctors for minor problems and the care has been good- and the doctors are English speaking in all three offices. If you have a serious issue however, you will be medevaced to London.

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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 weather is hot and dry all summer, mild and rainy during the fall and winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

My children are elementary-aged and attend ACST, an American School directly across the street from the embassy (although not quite walkable due to poor sidewalks and construction).The school has about 600 students, most from the African Development Bank. The school seems to be doing a fine job although does not seem as challenging as schools in Northern Virginia. Additionally, if your child is above his/her grade level, there are few opportunities for them. The school offers French, Arabic and German classes as well as after-school activities and sports programs. The kids seems happy and the teachers seem devoted. I've got no complaints.

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

Uncertain but I doubt it's extensive.

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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 many pre-schools in the area. My child attends a Tunisian school for half days, five days a week and we pay about $120 a month. ACST has a pre-k for four-year-olds. There's an English Montessori for ages three and up and a new "British" school with an English curriculum that is double the price that we pay for our Tunisian pre-school.

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

Yes, ACST offers sports programs. Our kid plays baseball but there's soccer, baseball and swimming and I'm sure other sports as well.

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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. The European, particularly French community is huge. There is a small group of Americans, some from the U.S. embassy and some who live/work here in other capacities.

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2. Morale among expats:

High if you have a positive attitude. I've heard some grumbling of unhappiness from some, generally related to the fact that Tunis can be a bit boring and that the Tunisians are not friendly. The new ambassador has brought a positive attitude and good leadership into the embassy so I understand that morale is good at the US embassy.

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

Most entertaining is done at home. There are a few great restaurants and nice local hotels where you can have a great time.

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

This is a great city for families. I think it's a challenge for singles and married couples with no children as the night life is mediocre and there are not a ton of things to do after-hours.

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

I know a few gay folks who seem to do fine, although I wouldn't call this the hub of gay life.

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

Not that I have seen although I have heard some murmuring about people with darker complexions being discriminated against. I'm imagining that it's infrequent and subtle.

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

Roman ruins, Roman ruins...did I mention Roman ruins?In the summer, the beach, the embassy pool, exploring the medina, hamam, outdoor restaurants, trips out of town, excursions to the south.

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

Gorgeous rugs, ceramics.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't get out o Dodge too frequently.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Sure. This is a gorgeous, safe country with tons of history.

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

Skis, dreams of warm and fuzzy locals, olive oil, olives.

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3. But don't forget your:

Tolerance for bad driving, sunscreen, and walking shoes. There's a lot to see here if you get out of town.

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

The Lonely Planet Tunisia, The History of Modern Tunisia

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Tunisia is a great post. The Tunisians are interesting people and there's is a lot of history here. However, the Tunisians are closed off if they do not know you/your family. This might be attributable to the restrictive nature of the government here. Be prepared for this. Also, the day-to-day bad driving and bad customer service can wear you down. Get out of town and enjoy all that Tunisia has to offer.

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