Fairfax, VA, United States of America Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Fairfax, VA, United States of America

Fairfax, VA, United States of America 02/04/09

Background:

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

No -- Sweden, Manila, Bucharest, Moscow.

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2. How long have you lived here?

4 years - 2005-2009.

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

Husband is a U.S. Government Foreign Service Officer.

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

8 hours from Europe.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mostly single family homes. Many neighborhoods with townhouses, condominiums and/or apartments.

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

For a family of 5 I spend about US$850/month on food.

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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?

All fast food restaurants are available. I don't eat at them, so I don't know the price.

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

None, really.

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Daily Life:

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

US mail.

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

It's not cheap. Probably US$90- $100 to clean the house.

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

Lots of them. Cost is US$40/month & up with most around US$65/month.

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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 not a problem - ATMs are all over the place. It is wise to use your own banks ATM to avoid processing fees.

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

Everything is available.

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

Yes. About US$100/month for TV -- much less for newspapers

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

You must speak English.

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

Almost every business has accommodations for people with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

The metro is available to go into DC and costs about US$3.00 one way. Buses are available, but I don't use them. Taxis are also available, but I don't use them either.

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

The roads are good -- so really anything goes.

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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. Most internet is connected to the phone & TV. For all three services, including HD and DVR we pay about US$130/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?

Lots of options. A T & T, Sprint, Verizon.

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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)?

Terrific.

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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?

Work - suits for men & women.public - socially -- jeans.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

None.

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

Fairfax is very safe.

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

No concerns. Health care is comprehensive and very good.

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

Hot summers, lovely spring & fall, cold (but not too cold) winters with a little snow.

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't know of any International schools, but the Fairfax County public schools are top-notch.

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

The Fairfax County public school system has all kinds of programs for kids with special needs.

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

Lots & lots of daycare options available -- you can hire someone to come to your house (expensive), take your child to a licensed daycare persons home, or to a licensed day care center. There are a lot of preschool options.

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

Yes. FPYC & BRYC offer a variety of community team sports. All high schools have competitive team sports. Most elementary and middle schools have after school activities and sports of some kind.

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Expat Life:

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

Gigantic.

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2. Morale among expats:

Everyone I know likes it here.

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

You have to make an effort to get to know people in your neighborhood and at your school. People are really, really busy here and have to make an effort to entertain.

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

Yes. There is a lot to do for kids -- clubs for soccer, volleyball, football, baseball starting at a young age. There are a lot of restaurants in Fairfax and Vienna, and of course one can always go to Alexandria, Arlington, Ballston or DC for a change of scenery and some really fabulous food!

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

Yes -- this is not a problem here.

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

None that I have seen. The largest ethnic group (other than Americans) is probably Koreans.

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

Sightseeing in DC is #1, followed by the Shenandoah Mountain range, hiking, biking, ice skating, bowling, camping, kayaking on the Potomac in DC is fun, theater, movies...anything really. It's fun to organize a wine tasting tour through the Virginia countryside.

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

Virginia ham and peanuts are yummy. There is some lovely local pottery and brass. Clothes and jewelry are less expensive than in Europe. Mostly you would want to use your money to travel to other area of the U.S.The midwest & the west are absolutely amazing -- and New England, Florida --- lots to see & do.

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9. Can you save money?

Probably not.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Of course, America is my home.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Camera and sneakers for trips around DC & to New York, Boston, Philadelphia...

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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