Miami, FL, United States of America Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Miami, FL, United States of America

Miami, FL, United States of America 03/26/08

Background:

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

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2. How long have you lived here?

Almost 2 years.

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

I am the spouse of a State Department employee.

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

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

It is pretty expensive to live here, with rent on a townhouse or single family home starting at around $1,500. Some friends lived close to the beach in a 2 bedroom apartment with a 20-40 minute drive to the office, and paid $1,900 plus parking. Down in Homestead, you can get a 4 bedroom townhouse with a garage and a 30-60 minute commute for $1,300.The closer to downtown and Broward county, the rent increases significantly. However, living in Broward gives you the same commute time. Traffic is AWFUL, but the commute can be okay if you leave early enough.

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

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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?

Everything, and then some. The Cuban restaurants are great! It's easy to try new things here, because there is so much variety.

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Daily Life:

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

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

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

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

Everything is available in just about any language you want.

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

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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?

Spanish is helpful if you know it. My husband uses it everyday at work. You can get by just fine without it.

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

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Transportation:

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

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

Whenever I have to get downtown, I drive to a station and take the train in. It seems affordable, and is fun for the kids. Buses are everywhere, with a lot of people using them. The system seems pretty extensive.

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

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Phone & Internet:

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

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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?

Being in the U.S., every cell phone company and then some are here. However, we came fully intending to use our cells for our long distance and only use a land line for the internet and satelite. We soon learned that was not completely possible. Everything down here is built out of concrete block, and reception inside homes is hit and miss.

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

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Pets:

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

Great. We kennel our dog whenever we head out of town, and it costs about US$28 and day.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

At work, my husband wears Dockers and button-down shirts, and a suit only for court. The office is very casual. In public, there is no dress code. It's shorts and flip flops all year round.

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Health & Safety:

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

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

Typical for a U.S. city, of course depending on the area you live.

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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?

Medical care is good, with any specialist you need. There is a medical school at the University of Miami that is excellent. However, if you schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor, expect to be in waiting room for an hour before you're seen. We have had this problem at several doctors, and it's something you just have to get used to. Also, just be prepared that all office staff will be rude and unhelpful, but the doctor is usually very friendly. I don't know why, and just chalk it up to a Miami thing.

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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?

Winter is cool to warm.

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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 have our children in the public schools. We have been able to get them into a school that offers a full-time gifted program, and the school is fabulous. The principal knows every child's name, and the office staff is wonderful. Last year we were at a different school, and it was completely the opposite. I have found that the more I'm involved in the school, the better experience we have. There are also a lot of magnet programs at the schools that children can get into.

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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?

VPK (Voluntary Pre Kindergarten) is free and offered at all public schools and day care centers in Miami-Dade County. My son did VPK at La Petite Academy, and it was a great experience.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

Most that I talk to can't wait to get out of here. Miami is so different that any other part of the country you have ever lived in, and feels more like a foreign country sometimes.

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

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

There is a lot offered for everyone. You will be able to find something to do, no matter your status.

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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?

It's hard to tell, as we are in the true Latin American and Caribbean melting pot, and I have a very small view of a very large picture.

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

There are so many things to do here! The beaches are fabulous, with great night life. The zoo is fun, and there are lots of museums and performances to see. We have major league baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Key West is about a 3 hour drive south. Orlando is 4 hours north with Disney, Sea World, and Universal Studios. Tampa is 4 1/2 hours across the state with Busch Gardens. There are so many touristy things to do here, it's hard to fit everything in. Also, most cruise lines that depart from Miami will offer super cheap last minute fares to fill cabins, so it's easy to go to the Caribbean while you're here.

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

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not. We thought coming to this field office would be cheaper for us than New York, but I think we would have been better off there. We bought a home, and property taxes are outrageous, and hurricane insurance is very expensive.

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

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, flip flops, and PATIENCE.

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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?

This is a very rude city, and it takes a while to get used to. Courtesy by anyone in a customer service position is totally non-existent. I have stopped shopping at certain stores, because it would take an hour just to check out. I always just plan on appointments taking my entire morning or afternoon. Also, as soon as you get here, buy a SunPass and a GPS. Both will help you get around so much faster.

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