Monroe, NC, United States of America Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Monroe, NC, United States of America

Monroe, NC, United States of America 03/18/11

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?

My home town is Montreal, Canada. It took me 24 hours on a Greyhound bus to get here.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Been living here for a year and a half

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

My new hubby comes from NC and works in Monroe

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The economy being down, lots of houses are for sale and there are few buyers. I live in the country, so I'm kinda far from everything -- and there are no buses. However, there are shuttles that pick people up in downtown Monroe to bring them into Charlotte, the biggest city around here ( a bit smaller than Montreal). Monroe being a small, town we don't have everything; but Charlotte is about a 45-minutes car ride, so everything is accessible if you have a car.

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

I think that the prices are higher here, but I don't really remember. Not everything is available, and fruits and veggies are expensive.

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

So many things: curd cheese, poutine sauce, yellow-pea soup, maple syrup, Laura Secord chocolate, Coffee Crisp chocolate bars, real French baguettes and real cheese fondue.

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

A lot of fast food places, but not enough decent family-oriented restaurants. And not enough international restaurants. The prices are alright, though.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Not much in the way of healthy food, unfortunately. There may be more in Charlotte.

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

Don't get me started with the insects, fire ants are everywhere, mosquitoes come out in March, cicadas that make me miss city noises, and giant crickets that never stop chirping.

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Daily Life:

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

Using USPS.

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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?

Debit cards and credit cards are often merged as one, pretty useful for internet shopping.

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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?

If you don't speak English or Spanish, you are screwed. And if you speak any other language, people have a tendency to look at you a bit weirdly.

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

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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?

Anything is okay as long as it has AC.

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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?

Easy to access and many company to choose from.

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

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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?

Not really, there are no jobs period.

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

Some people need to be reminded that pj's are inside wear, not appropriate for going to the store.

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Health & Safety:

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

Nothing I am aware of.

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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?

If you have health insurance you are okay, if not there are some clinics that offer service at lower prices based on your income. The service is great.

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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?

Compare to Montreal, it is fantastic, except if you have allergies, because there are many trees around here. The air quality is 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?

Short Winter, short Spring, way too long Summer and short Fall. Winter is not too cold (compared to Canada), not enough snow. Spring and Fall are amazing, temperatures between 60F and 80F (15C and 25C), and it starts in Mid-March and finishes in May for the Spring. It starts again in Mid-October to Mid-December for Fall. The Summers are way to hot, weeks of temperatures over 90F (32C) are a common thing.

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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?

The daycare and preschool are managed by churches and are pretty popular and relatively cheap. I haven't sent my daughter there yet, but I'm looking at it.

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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?

Nonexistent as far as I can see.

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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?

Nil, absent, no bar, no pool hall, nothing. Going to the mall is our weekly getaway.

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3. Morale among expats:

There are so few of us that we don't really talk.

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

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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?

Seeing blooming trees in March is pretty special for me.

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

Going to Myrtle Beach, but it's 3 hours away. There is not much to do around here.

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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?

Winter temperatures are gone by mid March.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, it's easy. There nothing to do, so you don't spend much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I would, as long as I can go have a nice snowball fight somewhere once a year.

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

Snow tires, but be ready to be stuck at home if you get an inch of snow.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, your pool and your AC. It gets too hot here even for born-and-raised Carolinians.

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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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