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Questions for those with Macedonian experience

 
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m27



Joined: 22 Mar 2009
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 7:05 pm    Post subject: Questions for those with Macedonian experience Reply with quote

Hello! I've been offered a job in the capitol of Macedonia and am trying to get a good idea of what life is like for an obvious foreigner in Macedonia, and Skopje in particular. I know that an earthquake in the 60's really knocked the area out, and that it's been a transitional country for some time now, but I'd have questions about the feeling and fun in the city/area.

Do you feel safe/comfortable walking around there?
Are there any job opportunities available for English speakers (my husband is coming with me)?
How did you get around there and was it safe/practical/cheap/etc.?
What do people do for fun?
Are accommodations there comparable to what we'd expect further west?
Are local folks welcoming to outside cultures?
Do many people speak English?
Learning Macedonian- impossible, just learn key phrases, or not so bad?
Can you find most things in stores or is availability a problem? Price?
When you are walking/riding thru the city, do you feel like you are in an up and coming, charming, interesting sort of place or a somewhat depressing post-communist still struggling sort of place?

Thanks for any answers!!!
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csfek



Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Posts: 41
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I lived in Skopje for a year, so I can hopefully answer some of your questions.

I felt very safe walking around Skopje. I mean, you need to take normal precautions that you would take in any big city, but in general, I never felt unsafe.

I think there are some language schools in Skopje, if your husband is interested in teaching. Also, for teaching, there is a private university called FON and an American high school called NOVA ( I think). Otherwise, I think there are quite a few NGOs and governmental organizations that your husband could look into.

I took taxis or walked everywhere when I lived there. Taxis are very cheap. When I had to leave Skopje, I took the bus.

For fun, you can travel and see the country. In Skopje, I thought there was a pretty good nightlife. There are a lot of bars and clubs, and more traditional places called Kefanas. There are quite a few places to eat out, including an Indian restaurant, a few chinese places, one or two mexican places, and possibly a Japanese place. There also traditional Macedonian places to eat.

I had a beautiful apartment when I lived there which I loved. I was making more than the average Macedonian, obviously, and they definitely charged me the "foriegner" rate, but I lived in a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees and I had a really nice apartment that was brand new with everything you would expect further west.

Local folks aren't super friendly to strangers at first, but I think that once you get to know people there, they are very friendly and hospitable. I had quite a few Macedonian friends, and my students there were also very sweet and friendly. But random people on the street or in stores might seem a bit cold or unfriendly at first, because they don't tend to smile a lot. I can also remember being stared at a little bit at times. (Of course now I live in Turkey and the staring is much worse here).

A lot of people speak a few words of English. I learned a few phrases in Macedonian and was able to get by. I think it is a learnable language, I just got demotivated and didn't learn as much as I should have.

For your last question, I definitely felt like Skopje was up and coming, but it is not a pretty or charming city. The river is nice and you can walk or run along the path by the river, but if you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing city, then Skopje is not for you. The buildings are mostly of the concrete high-rise variety. However, that being said, I had a really great time living there and I loved it. I was very sorry to leave, and I wouldn't rule out going back there one day.

Let me know if you have other questions!
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m27



Joined: 22 Mar 2009
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your insight csfek! Teaching in the Balkan region is so much less common than in other places that it's tougher to get a real idea of what life there is like. It's very heartening to hear that you enjoyed your experience there. I hope that life in Turkey is treating you well. Do you like it there?

Do you mind if I ask what kind of program/school you were working for in Macedonia? Did you run into other expats while you were there?

I'm also really interested in travelling in the area while we're there. What were some of the best travelling experiences you had while there? Both inside and outside of Macedonia. Thanks for any info!
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csfek



Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Posts: 41
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I worked at a university when I was in Macedonia.
There seemed to be a lot of expats in Skopje, a lot of government and ngo type people, and I think there are quite a few people who work in Kosovo during the week and come to Skopje on the weekends. There were also other foreign teachers at the university where I worked. And there are a lot of Peace Corps volunteers in Macedonia.

There are some really nice places to travel in and around Macedonia. When I was there, there were direct flights to Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Serbia, and Turkey. You can also take the bus to the neighboring countries. I went to Bulgaria a few times and had a really nice time. There's a train that goes to Greece as well, although it is always late and takes awhile. There are buses to Serbia and Albania too. Inside Macedonia, probably the most famous place to go is Ohrid, but Struga is near there and it is also very nice. Near Skopje, there is Lake Matka and you can walk up Mount Vodno. I think there's also some good skiing in parts of Macedonia, but I'm not too sure about that since I'm not really into skiing.
Macedonia is such a small country that it's not too hard to get around and see most of it.
I hope you enjoy it there!
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boxalldr



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 13
Location: Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you feel safe/comfortable walking around there?

I used to go walking by myself at three in the morning. I don't anymore, mainly due to the numerous stray dogs, who seem to become more aggressive and territorial at that hour.

During daylight hours, the beggars downtown can also be quite aggressive and pestilential.

How did you get around there and was it safe/practical/cheap/etc.?

I walk or take buses. You can walk from one side of the city to the other in just over an hour. The buses are cheap (25 or 30 denars) but definitely superannuated. When taking a taxi, be sure that it has a working meter. If it doesn't, demand to be let out.

What do people do for fun?

Go to cafés and talk; Macedonians are passionate talkers. The energetic go hiking on Mt. Vodno, which overlooks the city.

Are accommodations there comparable to what we'd expect further west?

They can be. I was told that if I paid less than 200 euros a month rent, I should expect roaches. Maybe it's inflation, but I just moved into a 350 euro a month apartment and I still had roaches. Until I kicked some roach butt. Then they decided to leave me alone

Are local folks welcoming to outside cultures?

Yes.

Do many people speak English?

Less than 25% of the population speaks English. In Skopje, most people I've encountered speak it astonishingly well, despite never having set foot outside the Balkans.

Learning Macedonian- impossible, just learn key phrases, or not so bad?

Depends on what you know of Slavic languages already. If nothing, then it could be a long process, despite the fact the structure of Macedonian is the simplest of all the Slavic languages. I speak Macedonian fairly well, but I almost never need to use it. Almost everyone at the local supermarket speaks English. On the rare occasion when I have needed to see a doctor, I have found she (it usually is a she) speaks English, too

Can you find most things in stores or is availability a problem? Price?

There are three things I have had to import: measuring spoons, a measuring cup, and Ziploc storage bags. The last two have now appeared in some stores, but I find that Macedonians simply don't understand what a measuring spoon is: "Oh, we just guess."

When you are walking/riding thru the city, do you feel like you are in an up and coming, charming, interesting sort of place or a somewhat depressing post-communist still struggling sort of place?

I love this place, always have. Being here is a privilege.
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